July 31, 2011

Wildlife Jamboree

The next morning, our first full day in Yellowstone, we arose early and drove south on the Grand Loop for an expansive view of flower-festooned Antelope Valley. 
The flowers (I think they're showy goldeneye) turned the hills gold in the morning sun.  We didn't spot a bear or other wildlife, so we continued south toward Hayden Valley where we've often seen the bison herd crossing the road in the morning.  They tend to bed down along the Yellowstone River at night, then leisurely make their way across the road to the rolling hills of Hayden Valley.
Sure enough, a part of the herd was there, causing the usual traffic jam as they took their time hogging the road and observing the tourists.  No one seemed to mind the wait.   
A few people risked falling out of cars to snap photos. 
Just down the road from the bison, we came to another wildlife jam.  Tourists were standing on a hill and pointing their cameras toward Hayden Valley. We parked and joined the group to see what we could see.   
A grizzly sow with two cubs!  They were perhaps 300 yards away, but easily visible with binoculars or the camera zoom.   Mama was teaching the fine art of digging yampa roots and hunting rodents.
One cub stuck close to mom. 
The other didn't seem concerned until he fell behind considerably.  Then he hurried to catch up.
We watched until the trio disappeared into a shadowed gulch. 
On the other side of our viewing hill, undisturbed by humans or bears, a group of Canada geese swam in a regimented line along a small tributary of the Yellowstone River.

July 29, 2011

Bear Management

We stopped at this Antelope Valley overlook as evening shadows were creeping over the meadow.  We had seen bear watchers with scopes here before. 
The sign hints that bears might be present.
What's that down in the valley?  Yes, definitely a bear.  A grizzly, with his humped shoulders and dished face.  He was about 400 yards away, a good safe distance.  My camera's 10X zoom managed a recognizable image, but just barely. 
We watched him until he entered the trees, then went on our way again. 
At dusk, as we were driving the last few miles to Roosevelt Lodge, a small black bear crossed the road.  I barely (pun intended) got the camera up in time to take a blurry shot in poor light.  
We were exhausted after all the wildlife watching and picture taking we'd done while driving through the park. And we'd only been in Yellowstone for a few hours.
When we arrived at the lodge at dark, we were glad to have a tiny Rough Rider cabin waiting for us. 

July 28, 2011

Yellowstone Tourist Pleasers

Yellowstone National Park consists of 2 million acres, and only about 200 miles of roads.  The wilderness is vast!
Yellowstone Lake, located at 7,732 feet (2,376 m) above sea level, covers 136 square miles with 110 miles (177 km) of shoreline. Its deepest spot is at least 390 feet. Yellowstone Lake is the largest freshwater lake above 7,000 feet in North America.
The lake freezes by early December (except for hot spots on its southern shore) and can remain frozen until early June.
Lehardy Rapids is downstream from Yellowstone Lake.  In early summer, we have seen at least a Yellowstone cutthroat trout a minute jumping over the rapids, heading to Yellowstone Lake tributaries to spawn.  This time, we see only a few trout hanging out in backwater eddies.  Lake trout, introduced into Yellowstone Lake at some point in the past, eat young cutthroats in the lake.  The population growth of this non-native species has dramatically reduced cutthroat numbers between Yellowstone Falls and the lake over the last ten years.   
A handsome pelican puts on a show for the tourists.  He perches on a rock close to shore, occasionally scratching his head with a webbed foot or yawning as he waits for dinner to swim by. 
A spider makes a meal of a caddis fly on the tourist boardwalk.  I think we are the only ones who notice this gruesome, if small and unobtrusive, sight.
Further downstream, a lone bison bull lumbers along the Yellowstone River. 
A wily coyote hunts for rodents near the road.  Here, he looks like a trickster, as Native American folklore depicts him.
But here, he looks like the stalwart, honest fellow that we'll assume he is.

July 27, 2011

Teton Grandeur

Last Saturday, we packed up and headed for Yellowstone National Park.  On the way, we drove through Jackson Hole. 
The majesty of the jagged Teton range tend to make a camera bug become buggier than usual.
The view over a sparkling Jackson Lake deserved another photo session.
At the northern end of the Grand Teton National Park, we came to our first animal-related traffic jam.  People don't seem to mind traffic jams of this kind.  Mostly, they just park and get out their binoculars, spotter scopes, and cameras, often hugely expensive models with foot-long lenses attached.
This time we had a moose jam.  Two bull moose were chilling in a pond, paying no attention whatsoever to the avid tourists.
Bull moose are usually tolerant creatures, but still, don't you think these tourists were pushing their luck?

July 22, 2011

High Country Critters

As we were hiking near Leidy Peak, we heard a loud, high-pitched "eek, eek" sound, and Daisy started barking.  We rushed to where the sounds were coming from and found
a sweet little elk calf, all alone, trying to hide.  He did not want to come out and play. 
We took a few photos and then left, assuming mama elk would return for him soon.
Butterflies and bees were out in force, flitting from bloom to bloom: 
West Coast Lady
Western Tiger Swallowtail
The butterfly above seemed to prefer landing on rocks where he was well camouflaged. 
And of course our favorite critter was enjoying the day, too. Daisy likes nothing better than cooling her belly in an ice cold stream that flows straight out of a snowbank.

July 21, 2011

Pining for Alpine

Finally, the snow has melted (mostly) in the high country.  The panorama above shows Lakeshore Basin.
Today, we drove to the Leidy Peak trailhead (10,800 feet) and hiked to the top of Leidy at 12,000 feet.
On June 21, our last trip to the area, most of the mountain was still covered with snow. One month later, many wildflowers have already bloomed. 
Growing on the rocky slopes,we found:
Lewisia family (same as bitterroot)
bluebells and buttercups
Parry's primrose
Moss campion
Jacob's ladder (Polemonium)
 The moon smiled over the alpine setting.  Ah, there's nothing better than a summer day in the high country.

July 19, 2011

The Eaglet has Risen

When rain threatens in the mountains (as has happened a lot this summer), we ride in the cedars (arid sandy land with a sprinkling of pinyon-juniper forest) near our house. 
Wildflowers are still blooming.  Above are some primroses among what I think is a species of sunflower.
On a break, the horses enjoy feasting on Indian rice grass, one of their favorites.
Daisy digs a hole and settles into the cool, moist sand she uncovers.
We pass cliffs where we have noticed a huge nest in the past.  Compare the size to the swallow nests to the left and below the raptor nest.
This time, we see an eaglet perched on the edge!
Later we see both golden eagle parents, but they fly away too quickly for a photo.

July 17, 2011

Goat Ridge

We hiked on a trail that winds above Moon Lake.
As we climbed along the trail, we scanned across a valley to a rocky ridge, which we now call Goat Ridge because of what we saw there:

We watched the goat for awhile as he moved around looking for a sunny spot.  A 10X zoom isn't good enough for a clear photo, but it's not bad considering the distance.
After a walk through shaded woods,
and along clear mountain creeks,
we reached a meadow full of yellow flowers, buttercups and cinquefoil.


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