Our First Few Weeks in the Park 2014

As I mentioned in my last post, we arrived in the Yellowstone area several days early so we could do some exploring before we started work.  That was a wise decision on our part as we not only got to see some neat stuff, but we also were able to preview areas to visit with our first visitors of the year.

In my last post I shared an image of a bear I had identified as a black bear who didn’t appear to be too healthy.  Well, I need to now publish a correction.  The pictured bear was in fact a 22 year old grizzly bear who had apparently entered the den last fall severely injured.  What we could not see in the photo or through our binoculars was that he had two rather large puncture wounds on his right shoulder and an open wound on the inside of his front left leg.  That wound was infested with maggots.  The bear had lost over 50% of his body weight while in the den and was not eating well after coming out.  Sadly and yet appropriately, he died either the day I took that photo or during the night that followed.  As was seen in the photo he was a monitored bear (radio collar), so the resource management folks had a lot of data on him including some fairly recent weight records.  Because of his location at death the authorities relocated his body so there would be no danger to visitors as other carnivores consumed what remained of him.  As part of the final chapter on this animal the authorities collected the final bit of data including his weight and apparent condition at death.

So, here he is one more time.  I apologize for the miss-identification and may the old boy rest in peace.

As we continued our pre-duty tours around the park we encountered a Ruffed Grouse near Joffe Lake.  This bird was about as brave and aggressive as any bird I have ever encountered.  It acted as though it wanted to attack the car.  At first I thought maybe there was fresh protein attached to the front in the form of smashed bugs, but the creature never made a move to pick at them.  At any rate I was able to get a few good images of him or her.

 He/She was truly an inquisitive animal.  The coloring and feather pattern provides a good clue as to why these birds are so hard to see while roaming among the leaves.  When we spotted the bird it was in the middle of the road.

We also saw a good number of bears as we drove around the park.  All of whom were much healthier than the poor guy pictured above.  One of the easiest to see if not the easiest to photograph was at the Hell Roaring Trail-head paying absolutely no attention to the visitors who were preparing to hike the trail.

This rather young black bear was much more interested in dining on various grasses and flowers than the people who were safely observing his activities.

Our first memorable sunset of the season occurred while we were still camped in Gardiner.  It didn’t last long and in fact while getting my camera out and changing lenses the colors had already begun to fade.  However, this image does it reasonable justice.

Possibly the highlight of our early adventure occurred one afternoon right in the Mammoth area.  As we drove into the old fort area we noticed a pretty good crowd of folks near the Justice Center looking at something.  That something turned out to be a cow elk who by the time we had arrived on scene had given berth to a calf.  The calf was still wet and being licked dry by mom as it struggled to get its legs under it and stand up.

We watched the new addition for over an hour.  By the time we left he had finally gotten to his feet.

And figure out where the food supply was located.

While we watched this little guy/gal get it together there was a visit from a Magpie who wanted everyone to know how pretty he is.

The next morning we moved into Mammoth Campground where we spent the next two nights before going to Indian Creek.  However, Connie was in need of a trip to the hairdresser in Livingston, so our pre-work travels in the park came to an end.  While in Livingston we decided to have an early dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, The Montana Rib and Chop House.  This restaurant is located adjacent to the railroad tracks.  While we were enjoying our dinner a train came into town and stopped with part of it next to the restaurant.  On those cars near the parking lot were:

Boeing 737 fuselages making the journey from the Boeing plant in South Carolina to Renton, Washington for what we assume to be final assembly.  What a surprise.  However, as we learned by listening to the conversation at the table next to ours, this is a common shipment to be seen in Livingston.  Pretty neat!

Ron and Bonnie Wartman, Connie and I spent parts of the next few days getting the campground ready to open and attending our annual radio training course and other administrative activities.  Then, on Friday, June 13 we opened the campground.  Connie and I worked the first three days in order to make the rotation work out so we can travel to Columbus, Ohio in August.  The first night we came within four sites of filling the campground and we did fill the second and third nights.  If this fast start is any indication of what the summer is to bring, we will be busy early and have easier afternoons as we should be filling early in the day.

Immediately following our first work rotation our friends Jan and Gary Dugan from Ohio came to see the park and visit us.  Strangely we met them at the laundromat as we were finishing our laundry.  That was hopefully the least glamorous part of the their visit.

As has been our policy every time someone comes to visit we tried to show the Dugans as much of the park as is possible in the time available.  Complicating that goal for this visit was some less than wonderful weather and the road construction which will be with us all season.  However, using the weather forecast I tried to put together travel plans that took advantage of the weather conditions while affording us the best chances of seeing neat things.

Spring time in Yellowstone means lots of baby animals.  The Dugans were not disappointed with the many elk calves they saw and the incredible batch of baby bison.

It is funny how these little bison look like little red lambs from this perspective with their ears flopped out to the side.  What cannot be seen in a still shot is how they run and jump around just as you would expect a young child to do.  They are far too cute. 

That same day we had a real treat as we were entering the Lamar Valley.  There were a lot of cars parked alongside the road with people looking to the high side of the road. As we looked up we saw a beautiful black colored wolf was making its way along a ridge adjacent to and parallel with the road. I was unable to pull over, but was able to creep along slowly enough that Jan, Gary and Connie and I were able to get a real long and closeup look at this magnificent animal.  Sorry, there are no photos.

As an additional treat for all of us, Cristina Eisenberg, researcher, professor, author of The Wolf’s Tooth and The Carnivore Way , and personal friend of ours came to Gardiner to give a talk about the latter book at the Yellowstone Association and teach a course at the association’s facility at the Buffalo Ranch within the park.  We were honored to have dinner with her before her presentation.  Gary has a great interest in the wolves and had many questions that Cristina seemed to enjoy answering.  It was a wonderful evening.

A few years ago we were made aware of the fact that there was a nesting pair of Peregrine Falcons along the Tower Road.  We were able to find them two years ago, but due to the road construction in the area last year we didn’t see them then.  With Jan and Gary on board we stopped to see if they were nesting in the same place as before.  They were not.  However, Connie kept looking for them and soon found them directly across from where we were standing.  Although the distance to the present nest is a good bit further, the vantage point is 100% better.  The picture below is the best I could do with about 650 MM of lens.  Sorry!

As you can see the image isn’t real sharp.  That is because the retaining wall prevented me from using my tripod.  What you cannot see in this image is that the left wing is shielding two chicks.  At one point while we watched the adult flew off for a few short moments and we were able to see the fluffy little chicks who could not have been more than a few days old.  Nature is so wonderful.

The day we visited Yellowstone Falls was not the most perfect of days.  It was cool, breezy, cloudy and at times is rained, sleeted or snowed.  However, Jan and Gary thoroughly enjoyed the view.

There is a lot of water going over the falls this year.  
As I tell anyone who asks, it is illegal to visit Yellowstone and not see the falls or Old Faithful.  Our visit to Old Faithful while wonderful did not produce any great photos of the eruption due to the very cool temperatures and breeze.  There was just to much horizontally traveling water vapor to get any really good photos.  However, watching without the camera to my eye the old geyser remains as majestic and magical as ever.  Later that afternoon we walked around the entire lower geyser basin and I was able to get this image of Old Faithful Lodge in the background with the runoff from a geyser in the foreground.  I had never seen the lodge from this vantage point.

We also toured many of the other thermal features on the one really clear skied day we had.  The views were as good as the cool weather would allow and Jan and Gary were like most first time visitors in awe of this natural wonder.

The Dugan’s fifth day in the area was our first day back at work, so we gave them driving instructions to visit Grand Teton National Park for the day and then a drive out the Northeast Entrance on day six so they could see and experience the Beartooth Pass.  A follow-up text message from Jan confirmed they were duly impressed with their entire visit.  

As always, we welcome any and all visitors.  As long as you are here for a minimum of four of our days off, we will do our best to get you to see as much as possible.

Stay tuned for more images and more adventures as this season is just getting started.



1 thought on “Our First Few Weeks in the Park 2014”

  1. Thoroughly enjoying your blog and picturing areas I visited last year. Spring is definitely the time I must visit next time. More wildlife.

    Good advise to your friends to travel Bear Tooth Pass. That pass and highway was awesome. No words can express the feeling you have when you stop and look out over everything. I look forward to more pictures.
    Terry Herbein

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