I travel 100 miles a day and put in my 6 to 10 hours a day searching out magnificent bull elk, while this guy just rolls out of bed and opens the window.
I had initially figured to get back down to Hayden Valley today, since I wouldn’t have to go through the road construction on a work day, and thus avoid the frustrating delays there. But since yesterday was a total loss ( first rainout in quite some time ), I decided to make it a trip around the entire Yellowstone loop road today. The weather was in and out all day with intermittent showers. Didn’t really see much other than the occasional roadside bison and a few herds of bison in the distance as I made my way to Hayden.
Surprisingly little in the way of grazers in the northern portion of Hayden Valley, just a single bison here and there. I stopped at one of the large turnouts that was packed with cars with people out scanning with binoculars. About a mile out I could just make out a dark shape moving through the sagebrush, so I joined the others and got my binocs out. The dark shape turned out to be a black wolf soon joined by a white wolf. Now, I suppose this was a little exciting, though I can’t get real worked up about spotting wildlife that I can’t photograph.
Just below Hayden, I came on a minor traffic jam at a roadside meadow and stopped to investigate. The subject of everyone’s attention was a very healthy looking male coyote hunting down meadow voles or mice in the roadside meadow. As you can see, he was a very cooperative subject, except that every time he did his leaping in the air to dive for a rodent, he insisted on doing it facing away from the camera.
Since I was in the area, I checked out the Fishing Bridge campground. This campground is restricted to only hard sided rigs because of bear activity in the area and also is the only campground in the park that has hookups, for which you pay a pretty hefty premium. After driving around a couple of the loops, I would have to say that you would want to have the hookups pretty bad to want to stay here, the sites are wedged in so closely that one’s slideouts would all but be in contact with your neighbor’s, the spaces are really, really tight. Looks quite rundown and dated also, but it does offer hookups.
Stopped at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and walked around a bit at a couple of the lookouts. Pretty amazing colors in the canyon, but with today’s rain and overcast skies, I guess I will have to come back another day for pictures.
Out early before 7 even though there really is not enough light at this hour to actually get any good elk shots. Drove through town ( Mammoth ) and found a large group of cows and calves, probably 20 or more, grazing around the employee housing and workshop area, that looks promising, it seems there are more elk moving around every day now.
Figured I would drive south towards Norris a ways to look for some bulls, but caught sight of a single bull right on the edge of town with a cow and her calf, very near the hot springs area. I decided to park and wait with them as the the sun slowly rose over the hot springs area. As you can see from some of these images, this time my patience paid off.
With the rut starting any time now, the park service has at least two trucks out, with two rangers in each, to monitor Bull elk locations around town and help keep elk/human conflicts in check. I really enjoyed spending about an hour or more talking with one pair of these guys this morning while taking photos of the elk around the hot springs. It was early and we were in an area where it was difficult to see that I was taking shots of the elk, so there were almost no other people around, and the rangers tend to stay with any bull they come across close to or in town, so we got to spend time talking about their experiences with elk and tourists, very interesting, a couple of nice, helpful, friendly guys.
I must admit that am not really that much into the hot springs themselves, or all the other geothermal attractions in the park, just not my thing, but in the early morning light, I must admit the hot springs in Mammoth are much more photogenic than I had realized. Just may have to spend a little more time around them the next few mornings, I hadn’t realized just how much color there is here. The image of the springs with the elk on the ridge in the background is one of my favorites so far here in Yellowstone.
Back to the motorhome around 11 AM to process images and finally finish up my 2012 taxes ( about time, right? ). Rain moved in around 2 PM, so no evening photo shoots today, but I guess now I won’t have to miss any of the Patriots/Jets game.
Out before 7AM and decided to go back and do Blacktail Meadow dirt road before anyone was up and about.
One small bison herd was grazing up toward the road so I waited for them to get close and got a few shots, but bison are a difficult subject in any kind of light, even early “golden hour” light.
However, toward the end of the road, I did come upon 3 mulie bucks feeding on a hillside and got some decent shots of these small but nice looking deer.
Back on the main road heading back to Mammoth, I stopped at the scene of the traffic jam I drove past last night to see what the fuss was. There already were several cars and people in the same spot, so I stopped and started up a conversation with one of the more serious looking photographers there. The cause of the jam was a bison carcass about 120 yards off the road in a clearing just below the woods, and that bison had been drawing in bears and a couple of wolves to feed. Nothing there yet this morning though and as I waited with the others, a crew of rangers arrived and moved out to the carcass to move it up into the woods and out of sight of the road. Can’t say as I timed that too well!
As promised yesterday, this morning I decided to concentrate on the colorful hot springs in the early morning light. I drove around the upper spring loop and got out and did the boardwalks, but didn’t get much in way of good shots.
However, it was a different story when doing the lower springs, closest to the town. The colors and textures, with the dead trees thrown in, do make for some interesting shots. I have been driving by here everyday for more than a week at 7 AM and see almost no one out on the hot springs boardwalks as I go by. By 10 or 11 AM, the parking lots fill up and there are hundreds of people on the boardwalks. I wonder if any of them realize how beautiful the colors are early in the morning as opposed to latter in the day?