We woke up and took some time to pack up camp as this was move-out day. We were basically just going to head out the Northeast entrance to the park stopping for whatever we found along the way.
First find, ignoring the road side bison that we shot some pics of along the way, was a pile of people in one of the pull-offs (#7) watching a black bear who was foraging and (briefly) taking a swim in the river. We stayed there taking pictures for a little while. It was amazing how much camera equipment was on the ridge. I felt very under-cameraed… but most of these people were shooting pictures with the hopes of selling them.
Second stop was to see another black bear – this one cinnamon colored. We didn’t get nearly as good of views of this one as it was back in the woods a bit.
We were told that the pass had just opened that day, so we headed back south. We stopped briefly along the drive to go to Tower Falls. There was a hike to the bottom, so we descended only to find that you couldn’t see anything from down there – completely useless. The upper overlook was decent.
We continued on to Mt. Washburn (#8) since it was the first day it was officially accessible. The path up is divided into two sections – one is a dirt road up to the parking lot and the other is the standard hike. The gate was closed at the main road, so we just parked there, loaded our packs and headed up. I think, with the drive closed it was supposed to be a 3.4 mile hike up assuming we had followed the trail. There was a woman there who was apparently doing the same thing, but we passed her after a while and didn’t see her again, so she must have turned back.
There were sections of the trail that were still well buried in snow where we had to kind of guess our way through (surprise, it was the direction that went up). Toward the top, we quit sticking to the trail and instead ended up on some elk path across the mountain, then crossing a large snowy expanse and finally hiking up the ridge to the peak. We saw one other person hiking above us, but he had snowshoes. We’re pretty sure we were the first ones to hike the mountain this year without snowshoes.
At the top there is a small ranger outpost, with living quarters for one person. There was no one stationed there for the season yet, but the visitor area was opened so we got to go in and rest for a while out of the breeze.
We descended uneventfully other than seeing a small herd of elk and headed out of the park when we got back to the car.