It's amazing what a difference there can be from one winter to the next.
When we arrived in Cody the first time (in March of 2011) the forest was completely blanketed in heavy snow.
Even a couple of months later there was still much snow in the forest and the East Gate of Yellowstone didn't open until the second week in June because of avalanches and mud slides in Sylvan Pass.
This year we had to drive almost right up to the road barriers (located two miles from the gate) before we ran into snow.
Sleeping Giant (the small local ski run area) only closed last weekend. I have no idea how anyone skied or snowboarded there over these past few weeks. I could see it being a very bumpy ride.
Heading back the way we had come...........
The grizzly and black bears have been up and moving around for well over a month now.
We stopped at many overlooks on the slow drive back to Cody, and both of us were armed.
About a month ago we met a man who had shot and killed a 180 pound wolf in the North Fork.
He had the pictures to prove it and the wolf looked huge.
I remember seeing a woman last summer traveling through the area with her two young sons.
They pulled into a picnic area that we had also stopped at, and LC and I watched in stunned amazement as the woman dug a lawn chair out of the back of her SUV, set it up and lay back relaxing in the chair with her eyes closed enjoying the sunshine and warmth and quiet of the area.
While she lay in the sun her young boys played on the play equipment.
It was all very nice and quiet and sweet, except that there are wild animals in this area and nobody was watching for them.
All the garbage cans are bear proofed, there are bear proof food containers, there are campgrounds that don't allow tent camping, there are signs posted in picnic areas and on the highway for a reason.............
The long and winding drive from Cody to Yellowstone parallels the north fork of the Shoshone River the entire way....................
I can always tell when LC is having a good time.
He smiles more.
On this sunny and extraordinarily beautiful day he was smiling often, and seeing his smile softened and warmed my heart..................
There is one buffalo that we first saw last summer, that spends his time alone in the forest.
When we first saw him last summer it was far too early for bison to be coming down to the lower lands for winter grazing. We thought at the time that he was likely old, sick or injured.
But after seeing him many times over the course of the next few months we realized that he was none of those things.
He appears to be perfectly healthy but for reasons unknown to us, also seems to be perfectly happy wandering alone.
We like him very much and look for him whenever we head out through the forest............