RFI: Western US mid-October

I find myself with a week off mid-October. I am trying to get my gf some days off so we can go somewhere. I’ve seen many of the eastern species so I am thinking going west makes more sense. We have a trip planned to Alaska next year so probably lower 48 US is good, nothing international (I lost my passport unfortunately and hers is expired). She’s probably a nogo for camping under 45F at night or any lengthy night hiking. I can get her out on trails early morning or road cruising at night. Looking to go anywhere where I’ll be able to look for mammals. Not picky anything larger than a mouse would be interesting, weasels, badgers, ferret, antelope, marmots, prairie dogs, various ground squirrels, any skunks other than striped, any bears other than black bear, any fox other than red fox, would all be of great interest to me. My concern is that I am end up taking us somewhere that roads are closed or roads at higher elevations would be closed or that the animals wouldn’t be active. Any suggestions for places I should consider would be most welcome.


  • Charles Hood

    Usual places come to mind: Madera Canyon / Cave Creek Canyon in SE’n AZ or Pt Reyes / Pinnacles / Monterey Bay.

    If you go to do tourist stuff in SF proper, leave rental car in a secure hotel lot and only use taxi or BART or Uber, given the tremendous amount of car break-ins. Thieves can tell rental cars by the small bar code in the window, plus they just break into all cars, often and aggressively.

    As of last night, parts of Death Valley are closed again due to washed-out roads, and I assume parts of Anza Borrego, though I didn’t check there. The “Kay” storm has hit Southern California hard. (I now have mini-gullies in my xeriscaped front yard, from the intensity of rain.) And leaving Los Angeles, parts of I-5 northbound are closed, due to a fire that burned up the timbers in the retaining walls.

    As the ancient curse says, “May you live in interesting times.”

    Charles Hood

  • Andrew Easton

    Have you been to Yellowstone? You can see a huge variety of wildlife quite easily there.

  • wildlife_watcher

    I was very young when I went to Yellowstone, so I’d like to go back but I wasn’t sure if the roads are open in mid October or maybe there is already too much snow and closed? I also wonder if the mammals in Bad Lands park are still visible then? I know my gf likes that park a lot. Olympic Rain forest sounds interesting. I don’t know if mammals are there but surely there must be a lot of salamanders.

    I will check into those places in CA and AZ, too. Surely it will still be a good time to visit those.

  • Charles Foley

    The Badlands NP in South Dakota are worth visiting at any time of the year. The Bison, Bighorn sheep, Pronghorn etc are around during the day and then at night you can work the road in the Conata basin to look for Badgers, Swift foxes, Coyotes, Porcupines and – if you are lucky – Black footed ferret. Your daylight hours will be shorter, so it’s best value if you are going to spend time looking for nocturnal species. Last time I was there I saw 9 separate badgers in 3 days.

  • wildlife_watcher

    That sounds perfect. I have never seen a badger and that would be one of the top species I’d really like to see. Will a rental SUV work OK for those roads? I’ll be flying in.

  • Charles Foley

    Yes the roads are really good so even a saloon car is ok, although a small SUV with a sun roof someone can stand up and spotlight is perfect. You cannot spotlight in the NP itself, although the Conata basin road is outside the park and you can spotlight anywhere around there (it’s a National Grassland). If you have a thermal imager you can use it to scan inside the park and then turn on your torch briefly if you see something interesting, but I normally spend most of my time on the Conata road. There is a lodge right night to the Park headquarters (which I’ve never stayed at) otherwise you can find cheap accommodation in Wall.

  • wildlife_watcher

    Thanks for the advice, I will be in SD the 9th through the 17th. I picked up a used TK75 and put new batteries in it. I am quite impressed with the flashlight compared to what I had before. Hopefully it will be powerful enough to illuminate animals even if some distance away. We will spend time in badlands, custer state park, and one day sight seeing at spearfish and devil’s tower.

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