August 21, 2013 Scouting trip to Yellowstone National Park

Washed the car and the motorhome first thing this morning to try to remove whatever the clear glaze that was sprayed all over both while going through the construction zones yesterday ( calcium chloride? ). Fortunately, though hardened and yet still sticky to the touch, it did seem to come off. Kind of neat to be able to wash vehicles in a campground, especially since this campground’s well sits above a geothermal hotspot and the water comes out of the spigot warm, works well for car washing but would take some getting used to for drinking.

Decided to head to Yellowstone to check out if there would be any chance of getting into Mammoth Hot Springs campground for the next couple of weeks. I knew it would make for a long day, but with the temperature hovering around 90, I figured why not spend the day in the air conditioned car. So I took 287 south to 191 south into West Yellowstone, a very pleasant and interesting route, especially along the shore of Hebgen Lake. Then 20/287/191 into the west entrance of the park, then north up 89 ( Grand Loop Road ) to Mammoth Hot Springs Campground.

Checked out two National Forest Campgrounds on the way in just north of West Yellowstone to see if they might be viable options. Spoke with the attendant at Mammoth and she said it normally is not a problem getting in if I were to show up at 11 AM . Looks like there are a few nice sites for rigs my size here.

Quite a rack, Yellowstone bull elk
Quite a rack, Yellowstone bull elk

On the return trip home I stopped for a bull elk shot, but couldn’t help but notice the lack of all types of wildlife while driving through the park today. I assume the elk are just now probably starting to descend to the lower meadows for the breeding season. I have never been here this early before so the lack of elk and bison was a bit of a surprise ( did encounter one bison grazing along the road ). I was also a little surprised that the traffic in the park really wasn’t all that bad at this time of year.

Lesser Scaup
Lesser Scaup

 

Stopped at a beaver pond on the way back home for some shots on what I think are Lesser Scaup, a new duck to me.

 

 

Lesser Scaup, mom and ducklings
Lesser Scaup, mom and ducklings

Back on 287 about 25 miles south of Ennis, I drove into a couple more National Forest campgrounds to check them out. One was completely empty and the other had but two tent campers set up.

Sandhill crane pair, Montana
Sandhill crane pair, Montana

One was on a bluff looking down on the Madison River ( this is where I was surprised by the sandhill crane pair ) and the other had sites that back directly up to the Madison River. Also stopped to check out one private campground of Hebgen Lake that had full hookups for a now shoulder season rate of $35.

 

Sandhill Crane, Montana
Sandhill Crane, Montana
Sandhills in the sagebrush
Sandhills in the sagebrush

 

August 20, 2013 On the Road

Glacier National Park to Ennis, Montana

Well, finally it’s moving day so off we go towards Yellowstone. I figured to try to make it to Ennis, Montana for today and then have just a short trip to the park left for another day. Weather has turned quite a bit warmer and as I headed south, it became quite hazy and downright hot, low 90’s.

Took 464 back to Browning, then 89 south to Choteau, where I picked up 287 south to I-15 south to Helena. Route 287 had a 5 or 6 mile stretch of construction where you were traveling on fairly rough gravel detour road, otherwise not a bad road for big rigs. Stopped at the Walmart Super Center in Helena ( easy access right off Exit 192 ), without a doubt the largest, most highly stocked Walmart I have ever been in, and stocked up on staples for the next month of camping in Yellowstone. There is a 5 mile stretch of construction on I-15 as you approach Helena where you are forced to drive on the rumble strip for the entire 5 miles. This zone has several spots where it really gets quite narrow for a big rig and it is a little stressful trying to avoid the freshly sprayed oil and the guard rails while rattling along on the rumble strip.

Stayed on I-15 until I picked up 69 south and then 359 south that once again connected to 287 south and took me to the Ennis Rv Park, right on 287 just short of the small town of Ennis. It was very interesting watching the terrain and geology change as you proceeded south on this route, and, other than the construction zones, the roads were in pretty good shape.

This fairly new RV park turned out to be a very nice place to stop and I probably will stay here a few days to ride out the heat wave. This place is very well thought out, sites are still fairly close, but there is well maintained small grass lawn on each site, a choice of two sewer connections ( for the convenience of different length RV’s, I presume, but a nice touch ), picnic table, actual usable Wifi, a great laundry room, a very friendly and helpful staff, and the absolute cleanest restroom and showers I have seen anywhere. And all this for $33/night with my Good sam discount. The owners obviously take pride in this place. The place is pretty full and there are a lot of what appear to be seasonal rentals, I assume staying here mostly because of the proximity to the ( famous for its trout fishing ) Madison River, since I do see a lot of dories and float boats on trailers in the park.

August 19, 2013 Trip to Waterton Lakes National Park

Decided that today was the day to zip up to Waterton Lakes National Park ( Canada ).

Blonde Grizlzy on alert
Blonde Grizlzy on alert

 

 

Couldn’t help myself and drove into many Glacier ( since it is on the way ) to check on any early morning bears.

 

 

Vehicle challenged cow moose at Many Glacier
Vehicle challenged cow moose at Many Glacier

 

Had a very close call on the road back out of Many Glacier when a cow moose trotted full speed down a hill toward the road ( from my left ) keeping her eyes on me as she came close and not watching for traffic approaching her from the opposite direction. A small motorhome was approaching from that direction and it looked like a collision was unavoidable, but the moose, at the last second saw the motorhome, reared up on her hind feet and turned, all in one motion, and retreated back up the hill. She stopped at the top of the hill as if trying to figure out what just happened and then retreated back in the woods.

 

Osprey Family
Osprey Family

 

Weather was great and traffic up to the park almost non-existent. On the drive in, I had to stop for a shot of an osprey family on their nest.

 

 

 

Paid my $7.80 park entrance fee and poked around the small tourist trap village for a bit, then checked out the in town campground. Campground appears quite nice for what it is, in town, and would be able to handle big rigs, sites fairly close together, but appeared well kept and clean.

Prince of Wales Hotel, Waterton Lakes N.P. Canada
Prince of Wales Hotel, Waterton Lakes N.P. Canada

Took some shots of the Prince of Wales Hotel and then headed out to Red Rock which happened to be the only place you could go since the other main drive ( Akamina Parkway ) in the park was closed for construction. Didn’t find any wildlife or breathtaking scenics going to Red Rock, so decided to head back to Glacier.

Not much question that the Glacier Park portion of the International Peace Park is where you want to be.

 

August 17, 2013 Glacier National Park

There were no posts for the last two days since I had nothing worth posting, no animals, no scenics.

However, that all changed today!

I decided to try Logan Pass again this morning since the road construction closing doesn’t happen on weekends. Got going around 6:15 and only encountered two or three vehicles heading up the mountain at that hour. However, I did not see a thing anywhere and decided to head down the west side a ways to maybe run into some goats or sheep there. No luck.

Went back up to the Logan Pass parking lot and glassed the slopes for sheep or bears, again, nothing. The sky was starting to blue up and the sun beginning to peak over the mountaintops, so I stopped just down the east side a little way past the tunnel and figured I might try some landscape shots.

The kindness of strangers

While turning my car inside out looking for my neutral density filters, a man stopped and asked if I saw the bighorn sheep above us on the uphill side of the road, slowly trudging toward Logan Pass. Immediately I stopped the search for the filters and grabbed the 200-400mm lens and concentrated on the sheep.

Bighorn ram heading up to Logan Pass
Bighorn ram heading up to Logan Pass

 

It was apparent that he was headed towards Logan Pass, so I turned around and drove back to the parking lot to await his arrival.

 

 

 

Bighorn ram and wildflowers
Bighorn ram and wildflowers

 

Within a few minutes, he showed up and three more young rams joined up with him in the parking lot, all of them looking for antifreeze spillovers and/or salt. Not terribly photogenic!

 

 

Soon they tired of this and departed the parking lot and headed up the mountain, posing very nicely along the way.

Three young rams follow the leader
Three young rams follow the leader

 

Bighorn ram posing
Bighorn ram posing

 

Three bighorn rams
Three bighorn ram
Glacier N.P. bighorn sheep along stream
Glacier N.P. bighorn sheep

 

 

 

 

 

 

After spending an hour with them there, I decided to head home, but on the way down ran into another bachelor herd of four browsing their way up a hillside of grass and wildflowers.

Four bighorn rams grazing amongst the wildflowers
Four bighorn rams grazing amongst the wildflowers

Got several more nice shots of mature rams here. I owe a big thank you to that stranger who kindly alerted me to the first big ram that I probably never would have seen without him pointing him out to me. And if I hadn’t seen him, I wouldn’t have reversed direction and gone back up to Logan Pass, and if I hadn’t spent an hour up there taking pictures of those sheep, I would have been too early going home to catch the next batch of sheep. Kindness of a stranger.

Also, because of the extra time I had spent up on the mountain, as I descended and passed the Goose Island observation point, I couldn’t help but notice that finally, the light and sky were right to perhaps get some good shots of this iconic landmark.

Goose Island, Glacier National Park
Goose Island, Glacier National Park

On top of that, while I was taking shots of the Goose Island landscape, I had the opportunity to see, up close, my very first Western Tanager. What a beautiful bird! Unfortunately, no photo though, since I was working with the wrong lens shooting scenics.

Out of the park by 10 AM and back home for some photo processing. Getting in that early led to a great trip and I managed to miss most of the crowd. Around 6 PM I decided to go in to Many Glacier hoping to spot some bears after my recent dry spell. No such luck though.

Reflections on Upper St. Marys, Glacier National Park
Reflections on Upper St. Marys, Glacier National Park

 

Hidden lake Trail, Glacier National Park
Hidden lake Trail, Glacier National Park

 

 

 

 

 

Goose Island, Glacier National Park
Goose Island, Glacier National Park

 

Goose Island, Glacier National Park
Goose Island, Glacier National Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bighorn portrait
Bighorn portrait
Bighorn portrait
Bighorn portrait

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bighorn ram scratching what itches
Bighorn ram scratching what itches
Bighorn ram and wildflowers
Bighorn ram and wildflowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two bighorn sheep crossing the stream
Two bighorn sheep crossing the stream