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After our first pandemic Yellowstone visit in June 2020, we decided to return in mid-May 2021 to try to beat the crowds. Even more friends joined this time! In the end we all drove, 4 different cars (one local from Idaho). Eric and I left about 10 am Thursday the 13th, spent the night in Fillmore Utah, then on to Signal Mountain Lodge for Friday thru Sunday night. They just reopened on our arrival day, and with a spring special we got a good rate on a lake view room with separate bedroom and kitchen/living area.

Driving up Moose-Wilson road, it was quiet, just birds to see. We walked along the river a bit then went to check in and relax a little, then a drive found us a fox at Colter Bay and beaver at Oxbow Bend. Then a bear jam revealed two younger grizzlies hanging out together, a 2 year male offspring of bear 610 and a 4 year female offspring of Blondie. He was collared, got in trouble for eating birdseed. She wasn’t thrilled he was following her around.

On the 15th we started at Oxbow Bend to elk and more beaver. Next was a walk at Schwabacher landing with birds and Uinta ground squirrels. Back in the bear area we saw famous 399 and her 4 yearlings briefly. A moose entertained us at the dam, then we met with our friends and had lunch at our room. In the evening more birds and beavers and muskrats at Oxbow, the same 2 bears, and some elk.

The 16th had a bald eagle, elk, same two bears, birds, and a posing bald eagle. A hike at Colter Bay to Swan lake and Heron pond brought a pine marten that I followed into the woods via the gray jays harassing it. After hanging out at the room again, several of us went to Gros Ventre road and found moose, marmot, fox, osprey, and pronghorn. Sunset had a bison baby cloud.

The 17th was moving day, quick look at the beavers then up to Yellowstone. Chipmunks at the entrance, frozen lakes, another pine marten ran in front of the car at Lewis Lake. Lake Butte Overlook had dusky grouse, and harlequin ducks at le Hardy rapids. Hayden Valley was very quiet, as was a walk along otter creek. Just another chipmunk at Sheepeater Cliffs. After checking in at Mammoth and a rest we headed to Lamar, with a black bear, herd of female and yearling bighorn sheep, bison with red dog babies, stampeding bison and nervous elk due to a distant black bear, some distant grizzlies (mom with 2 yearlings), and another black bear at Tower.

The 18th brought another good bald eagle sighting, this time with a raven. Next we met the whole gang of 11 at Slough Creek and watched wolf dots for a while, the puppies were cute. A gray adult walked right past a bison. At the grizzly mom with yearlings we saw our first coyote of the trip, then had ice cream in Silver Gate. A brief walk at Thunderer, super distant grizzly with two coy, and a redtail hawk were seen before a small traffic jam at a muskrat den near Yellowstone Picnic Area. We met everyone at Petrified Tree and did Lost lake the easy way, although we shred the trail with a bison. We headed back east afterwards and at the muskrat the bighorn sheep came through and then two black bears, male following a female. There was a moose towards the end of Lamar, and a wolf snoozing on the sandbar near Two Trees.

The 19th was geyser day, we all headed south, lead car got a good grizzly sighting, we just got a glimpse. Lots of steam at Grand Prismatic, but we caught an osprey and a bluebird catching a worm. At Old Failthful we caught a show and walked to Morning Glory and caught another show on the way back from the hill. And osprey flew overhead with a fish. Heading north was a ridiculous bison jam, then a black bear near mammoth with some deer. An evening drive to Lamar brought 2 more black bear, the bighorn sheep herd, a beautiful coyote at Slough Creek, pronghorn, another coyote in Lamar, and the grizzly mom with yearlings was by the confluence and put on a show playing in the water. Yellowstone River bridge had a bison crossing, then clack bear at Elk Creek along with a moose, another black bear further on, 3 male elk, and a rainbow (Eric did not go on this drive, we hiked Beaver Ponds and had a grizzly sighting).

The 20th started very quietly, all the way to Pebble Creek for a poor moose sighting. We hiked to Trout lake and Buck lake, noisy Canada geese. Returning west we met some friends at Two Trees and chatted for the perfect amount of time to arrive at Slough Creek just as 1229F was walking about, and then crossed the river and walked right by turnouts 2 and 3. Woo! A sandhill crane and nearly invisible black bear coy at Elk Creek finished that drive. We met the whole gang at Wonderland Café in Gardiner for a delicious meal and farewells. A last evening drive was highlighted by the momma grizzly with coys much lower down.

We left at 4 am Friday to snow, a slow start to an 18 hour drive home.

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