The Season Begins to Wind Down

In my last post I inadvertently implied that we spend an inordinate amount of time separating people from bears.  That really isn’t the case at all.  We do spend a good deal of time ensuring that people do not put themselves in a position where near contact with bears can become a reality.  But even that is done only two days out of every six.  In fact we spend much more of our time enjoying our environment than we do protecting people from themselves or the perceived threat of this wonderful wilderness we call our summer home.  I appreciate the comments and concerns many readers privately shared with me following my last post.  You can rest assured that this remains one of the most rewarding experiences that both Connie and I have had throughout our lives.
As last season rolled along we decided that this year we should try to capture several images of specific sites to chronicle the changes that take place from the beginning through to the end of a season.  Well, we have not done that and there is a reason for not.  When we arrived last year there was a great amount of snow remaining throughout the park.  The snow slowly diminished as the days grew longer and warmer.  In parallel with the receding snow we saw too many shades of green to even comprehend.  I remember commenting more than once that there were areas that were so vividly green it hurt one’s eyes to look at it.  Finally, there were great numbers of wildflowers everywhere we went.  Although yellow was the dominant color of the millions of flowers we could see, nearly every color on the color wheel was to be seen as time passed.  This season has been a near perfect contrast to last in that there was very little snow when arrived, the greens of late spring and early summer while very beautiful were nothing like what we witnessed last year and finally, the volume, variety and crispness of the wild flowers was just not up to our expectations.  Therefore, the desire to take comparison photos just sort of faded away.  That said, we took hundreds of photos and I intend to share many of those in this look back at our summer. 
Like most of the country, Yellowstone has been very hot and dry this year.  In fact the fire threat has been very high to extreme for a great part of the season.  There have been concerns that the dryness and warmth that existed in 1988, the year of the great fires, was being matched this year.  The big difference is that the “fuel load” of the forests is much lower than during 1988 due to the fire management changes that resulted from those fires.  These environmental conditions explain why the greens weren’t so brilliant and the wildflowers were so limited.  We are hoping for  much more moisture this  winter and next spring as is most of the nation.
We will close Indian Creek Campground on Tuesday, September 4th, one week earlier than usual.  The early closure is because of a scheduled bridge replacement where our entrance road crosses the Obsidian Creek.  The contractor really wanted more time than he is getting, but believe it or not there was a compromise reached by all parties.  After closing Connie and I will leave for Texas as we will have closed on our new home in Kyle by then and are quite anxious to see what it looks like finished.  Of course we want to get moved in so we can enjoy decorating and furnishing before we start making plans for our return to Yellowstone next summer.  So, we will not be going to Mammoth Campground for the fall season as we did last year.  We hope to be able to get our spot back there in future falls as we thoroughly enjoyed that experience.
The images that follow are intended to summarize our experiences this summer.  If there are duplicates from previous posts, I apologize (sort of).  I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed capturing them.
Everyone has to eat.  This Raven was ripping large pieces of meat from an Elk carcass.  Actually, the Raven was getting these morsels from a large piece of the Elk that had been cached by a much larger predator.
After getting a good sized piece of fresh Elk steak the Raven would fly it back to an undisclosed location to feed it to young Ravens.
This is what remained of the Elk just a few days after it was taken down by what was likely wolves.
This is one of the first adult bull Elks to make an appearance in Mammoth.  Notice he still has velvet on his antlers.  This image was captured on August 8th.  We saw this same bull today and he has polished and sharpened his antlers.
This is a closer look at the same bull’s head.  Note the downturn to his snout.  Apparently this fellow was in some sort of accident and wound up with a broken nose that didn’t heal very well.  He seems fully functional.  I would like to see how he does during the rut, but we won’t be here.
This is a view through what is known as “The Golden Gate” of Yellowstone.  It is so named because of the golden hue to  the mountain cliffs that form the gate.  Many tourists think this is the way to San Francisco.  Go figure.
For years now, I have been trying to get a look at an adult Bighorn Mountain Sheep ram.  This young adult was the first one I believe I have ever seen that wasn’t mounted on a wall somewhere.  While not the largest in the park, he will do for now.
We took a little road trip with our friends Rick and Donna Dumar and spotted this Osprey perched on a warning sign.  I couldn’t get him to turn around for a better shot.  We were on the road to Quake Lake off of US 191 in Montana when we saw this bird.  There was a turnout just up the road, so I stopped to get this picture.
These were the best variety of wildflowers we saw in one location in the park all summer.  We saw these at a rest area on the road to Dunraven Pass.
We had some foggy mornings early in the season.  That is the sun trying to burn through the fog.  My head has felt like this from time to time.
This a look at Joffe Lake, one of the places hordes of visitors don’t go to as it is off the beaten, read paved, path.  It is a really pretty little lake and the only place in the park that young anglers can wet a worm in hopes of catching fish.
A couple of White Pelicans on the Yellowstone River just below Yellowstone Lake.  I thought it was cute how this big bird was scratching its neck.
Indian Paint Brush near Tower Falls.  Compare the color of this flower to the ones that follow.
This is one of the views that campers who can tolerate Slough Creek Campground get as a conciliation for the isolation.  Actually, the people who camp there absolutely love it.  The scenery and the location in the Lamar Valley are just two of the many draws to this very rustic campground.  From a hosting perspective, it is just too rustic for us.  There is no electricity other than solar and it is miles upon miles to the grocery store.  Only one couple is hired as campground hosts, so the camaraderie we share with our fellow hosts could not exist there either.
We took a trip to Sheridan to visit my Aunt Rose and several cousins.  On the way back we found a group of hang gliders just above Dayton, Wyoming.  We stopped and watched for awhile and I got some pretty neat photos.
The wildflowers on the western slopes of the Bighorn Mountains were much more brilliant than in the park and there were so many more of them.  Most were in draws or gulches that scar the slope, but create the right environment to produce these great flowers.  See the difference in the Paint Brushes from the ones near Tower Falls above?
I think I shared this with you in an earlier post.  This Snowshoe Hare spent a good part of the summer right outside our motorhome keeping the grass and what few flowers we had trimmed.  I share it again in contrast to our latest visitor pictured below.
This is a Badger.  This specimen is quite large and much more beautiful than this early evening photo shows.  He is probably the size of large Beagle or Basset Hound.  He spends most of his time sniffing around the ground to see where the Uinta Ground Squirrels may have dug their winter burrows.  Then in a matter of minutes it digs down a few feet and apparently eats the little critters before they have a chance to wake up and try to make an escape.  Badgers are known for their ferociousness, but this one seems oblivious to us and our campers.  We hosts are on alert while it is around as we are fearful he could take a swipe or bite out of some small child who may think it is tame.
            Well, that is about it for now.  One last thought about the wildlife.  If any of you are thinking about a visit to this or any area where wild animals are abundant, please remember that we are visitors to the homes of these wild creatures and we being the more developed species have an obligation to let these creatures live in peace.  Don’t pester them or taunt them in order to get the perfect photo.  Follow the published rules for the areas you visit and live and let live with the animals present.  NEVER ASSUME they are tame just because they seem so.  They are not and they do not understand what we humans are all about.  Give them space and they will give you the enjoyment of observing them without the threat of attack.



1 thought on “The Season Begins to Wind Down”

  1. Great photos, Frank!!! Can’t believe your summer is over already, seems like you just got there. Hope to see you (and play some golf) in Katy soon. Carla

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