Worth it: Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, West Yellowstone, MT

Just a block from the West entrance of Yellowstone National Park, the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center is worth a stop. And you might find you’ll want to stay a while and even come back the next day. And that’s okay because the  admission fee (just $13 for adults, $8 for kids 5 years and up) is good for 2 consecutive days.

The not-for-profit wildlife center takes in orphaned grizzly bear cubs and adults from as far away as Alaska and as close by as Yellowstone Park. Most adult grizzlies are those that have become habituated to human food due to campers and hikers not following proper food storage requirements. At the outdoor exhibit, you can watch the beautiful, massive beasts foraging under rocks and logs for the fruit treats that the caretaker hides for them.  In order to rescue more bears and provide habitat variety for the existing bears, the center will be creating a new exhibit called bear meadows that will feature mini river rapids and a trout-stocked pond. Note, because they are fed all year round, the bears don’t hibernate so you can see them all year round.  And any day you want because the center is open every day.

The outdoor wolf exhibit and information about the trophic cascade was well done too.

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There’s also an extensive, interactive bear exhibit inside and plenty of programs for kids and adults, including:

  • Bear-Resistant Product Testing (I would have liked to see that one.)
  • Keeper Kids (Kids get to help the caretakers hide food for the bears.)
  • Yellowstone Park Ranger Talks
  • Live Bird of Prey Presentations (A must! The naturalist delivers an engaging, incredibly informative, hands-on presentation.)

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In the works is a River Otter Riparian Habitat that will highlight the interrelations of the critters who make up that ecosystem.

Young or old, you won’t leave the center without learning something new about the wild animals and birds of the region and the impact humans have on them and their habitat.

Why? Because it makes me feel alive.

I’ve often been asked, “Why climb that mountain, or slog through a grueling hike?” Is it the accomplishment, the vistas, the solitude, the workout, the total immersion in nature? Yes, but more. Doesn’t it get old? No, never.

After a vigorous day hiking the Pioneer Cabin Trail in Big Sky, my partner summed it up when he said, “That was something, I really felt alive.” Later, apparently suffering from fatigue induced amnesia, he asked me if I ever get tired or bored of hiking. I replied, “No, and you know why? It makes me feel alive.” If you’re reading this post, chances are you’re a kindred spirit and you get it. It’s primal, natural and great way to nurture our minds, bodies and spirits. Of course, hiking is not for everyone, luckily the options we have to get physical in the great outdoors are virtually limitless. What’s your favorite pursuit?

What makes you feel alive? 

Big Sky, MT: Beehive Basin Hike

Big Sky,  unlike Anaconda, has a name that captures its essence as you can see. This vista above was a big highlight on an otherwise fairly unremarkable first couple miles. I’m a bit surprised that this out and back hike in the Gallatin National Forest was rated one of the top 10 in the world.  (Guess I’m becoming a bit of a hiking snob.) In wildflower season, I suspect it blossoms beautifully, bewitching its visitors. November is not her best month. It’s either dry and reedy or muddy and icy, but there are shimmering sights at the basin that do reward those with the  tenacity to trudge through the thick slime and slog through the snow in the off-season…(Yes, that would be me.)

In my first video, I mistake the first, unnamed lake for the destination lake.

 

 

As for equipping myself with the bear spray, I learned that the “griz” are the most active before hibernation and there have been recent attacks in nearby  Ennis and Yellowstone National Park. Not to mention that the sign at the trail head was difficult to ignore.

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You may notice that I’m wearing a bell around my neck to alert bears of my presence. (Let’s see a bell, chocolate in my pocket -you got it, I’m a walking, talking bear toy.) Have you heard the rangers joke about how you can tell black bear scat from grizzly scat? The grizzly scat has bells in it. I’ve stopped wearing the bell as they say the bears might find the ringing intriguing (or perhaps annoying). They say it’s better just to talk loudly and make a lot of noise in areas with limited visibility. You don’t want to surprise a griz. Supposedly, they’ll hear you coming and go the other way.

 

 

The panoramic views were breathtaking. And slogging through mud, ice, and snow mean I’m getting a more intense workout. What’s not to like, right?

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Topped off a fantastic day with a feast at the Gallatin River House Grill, what a great spot on the river with outdoor seating, a band stage and volley ball court. Their Famous Flank Steak Sandwich is as outstanding as is their riverfront view. One day, I will return to see the trail in its wildflower splendor and for post hike festivities and another feast at the River House.

Road trip: Taking the scenic route Sandpoint to Libby, MT

Highlight: Kootenai Falls

Got a tip from a coffee purveyor in Sandpoint to take the scenic route route 200 and 56 to Libby, Montana  before jumping on the 2 to Kalispell, Whitefish, and beyond. After all, aren’t road trips all about the scenic route?

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Scenery was fantastic along the way and Kootenai Falls is a must stop. Breathtaking views and a cool suspension bridge just a short, easy stroll off the freeway!

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The bridge and the rushing turquoise waters remind me of New Zealand.

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Next stop was Kalispell, which I found a bit underwhelming. It seemed unremarkable, caught between old historic  and the not so nice of new (chain retailers). Perhaps I was expecting too much as I’ve always fantasized about these storied Montana towns, and after all, what can live up to ones imagination?

Whitefish, on the other hand, closely matched my expectations. I was surprised by the lake – an added bonus of this idyllic western ski resort town. Drove up Big Mountain, an easy  6 miles from downtown. Tiny in comparison to CA ski resorts, but so accessible.

Day 2 No guts, no glory.

I resigned my corporate position last Friday. Today is Tuesday, Day 2 of not “working for the man” as they say. I’m taking the plunge, much as I did into a couple of refreshing alpine lakes last month on a hiking trip in Mammoth.

Day 1 was quiet, I spent hours on internet researching various destinations, following my mind’s whims across the globe and closer to home. Montana has always called to me and I’ve heard great things about Idaho so perhaps I’ll start with a trip there before the weather changes too drastically…

Today, I had the luxury of swimming with the Master’s group during the lunch hour and enjoyed a post workout Jacuzzi. (Normally, I would be with the morning crew at 5:45 AM,  forgoing the Jacuzzi, and with the masses on the freeway fighting traffic by 7:20.) Enjoying my improved quality of life already. I spent the afternoon getting this site up and running. Definitely a work in progress, but I’ve made progress and hey, it’s only Day 2.

Do you have a day 2 in your future? Share it with us.