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?
Monday morning, I took a trip west through the Norris geyser area and on to the west entrance to the park and the town of West Yellowstone. Went through town and then north on 191 to Baker’s Hole Campground to check this place out as another place to stay closer to the meadows on the park road east of West Yellowstone. I was surprised to see that some of the sites in the campground have utilities and, all in all, though a bit tight and set in a wooded area with no great atmosphere, it would do, except that it is, of course, full, and apparently usually is so.
Saw no elk in the meadows east of West Yellowstone where, in the past, these meadows have usually had several groups of elk, must still be too early.
Sun and clouds in and out with rain showers off and on today. It was a long day on the road with no elk sitings during the 200 mile drive, so guess what is blocking traffic as I waited to turn into my campground?
This rainbow appeared just as soon as I got back home tonight.
Up at dawn on Tuesday and finally got my first really nice elk shots just east of town on the park loop. A very handsome, and as it turned out, aggressive bull was feeding along the top of a hill with a cow and her calf, just east of town. As I was taking these shots a ranger came upon the scene and, as we talked, the bull finally descended the hill, crossed the road and made us take cover behind his truck. This bull then spotted people coming down the road, stopping their cars in the road to get out and take some photos. But this bull would have no part of that and chased one couple back to their car and, for good measure, gored the car. Not as much damage done to the car as I would have expected from those antlers, but still left the vehicle needing some body repair work.
Arrived at Mammoth Campground around 11 AM and, surprisingly, got right in. Nice pullthrough space ( #5 ) where it is in the open for solar and TV. Unfortunately, I have only a weak but still sort of useable internet , OK for email, but not able to do any blog work.
Headed right out Friday afternoon and went west towards Norris, got some shots of bison along the road.
Heading back through the Mammoth townsite, I got a chance to see my first nice bull elk escorting his harem through town. It always has amazed me that these huge elk roam around a heavily trafficked area like the middle of this town, but I suppose all the great green grass in town is much better feed than what they find in the wild. Probably cuts down on the number of predators they have to dodge also.
Saturday morning I headed east toward Tower and took a side trip out to the Lamar Valley on the way. Despite seeing that there was construction work on the road to Tower, I decided to chance it, since I really wanted to make it down to Hayden Valley, big mistake. It took almost an hour to get through the 6 or 7 miles of roadwork. Of course, with no way to stop going through the construction, I ran into both grizzly and black bears, no photos, plus it then ended up being too late to make it all the way to Hayden.
Drove over to the Tower area since there would be no road work early on Sunday AM.
Went all the way to Hayden Valley, but other than some bison and mule deer, saw nothing worth shooting. On the plus side, it did only take 10 minutes to get through the road construction work.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.