Grizzlies, Wolves and Travertine

 Grizzlies, Wolves and Travertine

Grizzlies, Wolves and Travertine 15The land of contrasts that is Yellowstone also applies to the weather. The overnight temperature dipped to 34 degrees and we awoke Sunday to an overcast sky. This was a day we dedicated to the big things of Yellowstone.

Grizzlies, Wolves and Travertine 16Before heading into the park, we spent some time at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, a not-for-profit wildlife park and educational facility in West Yellowstone, MT. There, I spent a lot of time photographing the giant hump-backed bears, and a couple of wolves that were dozing in the mid-morning warmth.

Here's the center's description:

The bears at the center were all what is known as nuisance bears, or orphaned cubs of a nuisance bear. Nuisance bears learn to obtain food from people, damage property in search of food or become aggressive toward people and are usually killed. Instead of being destroyed, the eight bears that reside at the center were rescued and are ambassadors for their counterparts in the wild.

Grizzlies, Wolves and Travertine 17The center is also home of  8 wolves that live in two different packs. The wolves were born in captivity and are unable to live in the wild. The facilities where they were born did not have room to keep them and the center was able to provide them a home. Here, the wolves give visitors an up-close look at their normally secretive lives. The wolves eat, play, reinforce their dominance hierarchy and howl right in front of the viewing areas.

Grizzlies, Wolves and Travertine 18We had mixed feelings about the place. The animals were beautiful. But it's really a zoo. Nice conditions, to be sure, compared to most zoos, but hardly the wild.

The nuisance bears lives were saved. But they got a life sentence.

Grizzlies, Wolves and Travertine 19There was a beautiful bald eagle. In a big cage. The sign said she was found as a chick along and may have suffered neurological damage from chemicals or a fall. So the animal perches on a piece of wood. Ravens and other birds fly overhead. It sits there. Caged. Unable to fly. And stared at all day by crowds of people just on the other side of the wire.

Still, the animals would not be alive were it not for the center. The staff clearly love the animals and care for them well. And it does research, based on their observations of the their behavior. The wolves could not survive in the wild. They were rescued from other places. They know no other life.

From there, we headed back into Yellowstone in search of the real thing.

Every time a wild animal is spotted in the park, a traffic jam forms. As we headed upon the park's upper loop, we were slowed by one of those traffic snarls. People literally stop right where they are, even though they are not supposed to. This picture is of one of the traffic jams that developed when someone stopped to take a photo of what they thought was a bear. There turned out to be no bear, but that didn't stop people from looking.

My favorite wildlife viewing today was along the Madison River. I spotted an elk cow and her calf and got a couple shots of them as they nibbled the tender green grass along the riverbank. Grizzlies, Wolves and Travertine 20

But our main destination was the park's northern stretches and the scenery quickly drew our Grizzlies, Wolves and Travertine 21attention. I couldn't resist getting some beauty shots of our Roadtrek as we entered the high country.

Again, our Type B Roadtrek took us places where no other RV could go. Some of the park's best drives have signs prohibiting Type A and C vehicles. Our Roadtrek navigated narrow, winding mountain roads and took us to secluded vistas too small for anything larger.

The day stayed overcast and the mountains were less distinct without the sun and blue skies.

But then we hit the Mammoth Hot Springs area and we encountered the most surreal landscape we have ever seen. It looked like snow and ice. What we were seeing was the effects of hot springs that bubbled up from deep beneath the earth's surface through buried limestone. The boiling water then deposits the mineral calcite above ground. As it cools, the calcite hardens and becomes a beautiful white rocklike substance called travertine. The colors are amazing. If you look close, you can see beautiful blues and aquamarine in the cooling calcite beneath the biggest hot spring, which cascades down as a superheated waterfall.

We've been based in West Yellowstone and the Grizzly RV Park, one of the nicest campgrounds we've seen. My spot backs up to the Galatin National Forest. each spot has full hookups, a patio, picnic table and landscaping. All but two of the 20 campgrounds in Yellowstone are without hookups. The two that do have hookuos are jam packed. Starting Monday, we're moving in and will try to find one of the more isolated campgrounds. Our Roadtrek has everything we need. So, we'll be offline for most of Monday and Tuesday, moving deep into the park where there is no cell coverage, and thus no Internet. We'll emerge sometime Wednesday with a new post as we begin roadtreking back east to Indianapolis at the Family Motor Coach Association annual reunion starting next week.

Here's some more of our favorite photos from Sunday.

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Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.


  • Ahh, you’ve got some great photos here Mike! Yellowstone is gonna be awesome for us. I can feel it.

    How long would you recommend staying for? Megan and I will be first timers 🙂

  • You need at least one full week to see it. Slow down. Stop look listen. There’s so much. don’t try to see it all in a few days.

  • Keep ’em coming Mike. We will be there in our RT 190P in a couple weeks so we are learning from your posts. We are planning to just dig into the remote camp sites in Yellowstone so I’m looking forward to reading your next post.

  • Years ago we camped in the northeast section of Yellowstone. we were told, no bears; just moose on the other side of the river. Nice spot.
    About ten years ago we stayed in one of the newer lodges. We had our granddaughter with us. After arrival to the room, our granddaughter sat up on the bed and asked “Where’s the tv?” It was a quiet evening with an early to bed.

  • Hope you are considering going through Beartooth Pass when you leave Yellowstone. It is amazing! We were there last year. We saw Roadtreks on the road, so you should be able to make it. You can reach it from the northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park. There is more info at

  • Sooooo enjoying your reports Mike. I’ve been researching Class B for about 1 1/2 years and hope to be able to start travelling our magnificent continent next year….me and my 2 pups. I’m loving the RT…just have to decide which model. Looking forward to more stories.

  • Your photos of Yellowstone are great. I was wondering how you got the griz photos, until you explained.
    I’m sure you are happy to proceeded with your trip after your difficult start!!

    Good traveling,

  • Mike and Jennifer, We are reliving our Yellowstone visit with you. We stayed in the park campgrounds spending a few days at one and then moved to a different location for a few more days. We were there in September, not crowded and had no problem finding openings within the park CGs.

    I hope you have the time to see the Grand Teton’s while you are so close. Unbelivable beauty.

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