Once again, I traversed the upper loop road from Mammoth to Tower, out to the Lamar Valley, and then on to Hayden Valley, then back to Norris, then home to Mammoth Campground.
I encountered a couple of bison jams along the way and a few scattered elk. Though unable to get any photos of him because of the distance, I was able to observe the grizzly that has been camped out on a carcass on the far shore of Swan Lake for the past three days.
I got a few nice predawn shots of the bull elk in town, controlling his ever growing harem of cows, going out over the hills to drive a stray back to the harem if she wandered too far to graze.
In the late afternoon, while I was at the computer processing today’s shots, I heard a bull bugling just outside the campground and it sounded like he was heading my way. Sure enough, I looked out the windshield and there he was cutting through the site directly in front of me and heading for the main road. I gathered up my camera and shot out the door after him and managed to get a couple of decent shots of him before he disappeared over the hill, apparently looking for some company.
( As always, just click on any image to get a larger, sharper photo )
Today I had an appointment for the Prius’ 15,000 mile checkup at Ressler’s Toyota in Bozeman, 92 miles away. I have been seriously considering adding a Honda 2000 generator for my motorhome even though I have an onboard 5500 Onan generator, the reasoning being fuel efficiency since the generator is almost always running full bore simply to charge batteries, not terribly efficient. Where the large generator burns 1.1 gallons of gas an hour, the smaller Honda would get 4 hours of run time on a gallon of gas while still doing the same battery charging. Whether that 4 to 1 fuel savings could ever justify the initial $1000 purchase price remains to be seen, it all depends on how many days I am able to find camping without shore hookups versus the more expensive campgrounds with hookups. The more I boondock and use the Honda instead of the Onan, the more viable buying the small generator becomes.
The trip into Bozeman gives me an opportunity to once again visit Walmart and stock up on staples. After getting the Prius serviced I found my way to a Murdock’s store ( don’t know if this is a chain or not ) and purchased my Honda 2000 along with a bunch of dog treats. Great store with very helpful staff and huge selection of hardware, tools, work clothes and pet supplies!
Headed back to Yellowstone’s north entrance and went through the gates around 3 PM and encountered a very pleasant surprise! Although I had my photo gear with me, I had sort of written today off as far as getting any kind of wildlife shots since the round trip to Bozeman was all highway driving, but just a half mile inside the park I came across a 6 ram bachelor herd of bighorn sheep traversing a near vertical slope on the west side of the road across the river.
I watched as they looked for a place to cross the river, then descended down to the stream and paused for a drink.
They then made a few false starts to crossing before finally finding a spot they deemed suitable for a rock to rock jump across the river.
They then gathered up the troops and looked for the best way up the slope and across the road to some higher ground.
A very interesting 45 minutes spent observing their cautious approach to this crossing and producing some of my favorite shots of my stay here in Yellowstone.
Woke up to more rain and threatening skies this morning. Off to the southeast, towards Lamar Valley, there appeared to be a somewhat lighter sky, so, suffering from a little cabin fever from yesterday’s rainout, I decided to chance it and head to Lamar Valley. As I drove through town in the rain, I noticed they had all kinds of traffic barricades up and “elk” control rangers and volunteers all around the common, where there were several cows and calves bedded down on the lawn, with one bull wandering the sidelines. Things apparently are continuing to heat up, elkwise.
The turn in the weather may be what is prompting the elk to move into town in greater numbers. As I headed toward Lamar Valley in the rain, I noticed that the peaks of the higher mountains now had a mantle of white.
No wildlife to be seen on the way to Lamar, with the exception of a few bison herds, bedded down in the meadows. Nothing in the way of wildlife in Lamar either, again except for the bison.
The sun flirted with dark, threatening skies and there was a dramatic bit of lighting on the hills above the valley.
Then the skies opened up and it poured for half an hour or so, then broke just enough to reveal a rainbow. It attempted to form a double rainbow, but didn’t quite make it. This is the third rainbow I have had the opportunity to photograph here in my two weeks in Yellowstone, if only I could have gotten a bison or elk instead of the car for a focal point.
Or maybe this falls under the category of “ be careful what you wish for “.
First, after some early evening thunderstorms, it turned unseasonably warm and humid by 11 when I retired, then some inconsiderate idiot pulled into the campground in a bus with a busted exhaust system, sounding almost as bad as a pack of lawless bikers, idled for 10 minutes about 100 feet away, probably trying to figure if he could find an open spot ( this despite the “ FULL “ sign at the entrance ), then proceeded to do a circuit of the campground, not once, mind you, but twice, finally departing with his noise machine after more than half an hour of waking the 300 people in the campground. Then, a really loud, though brief thunderstorm, which brought Jenny up onto the bed from her normal spot under the dresser, desperately trying to get under the covers and away from the storm, and next, under the careful what you wish for saying, the bull elk showed up to start scouting the campground to build their harems.
Now I think the bugling of a bull elk is one of Mother Natures best works, but, of course I had never heard it before at 2 AM , 15 feet from my open bedroom window. Just about bounced off the ceiling with that little wakeup call.
A few cows and calves have been showing up in the campground to graze pretty regularly of late, but this is the first I have heard of the bulls coming in. I guess the action continues to pick up pace.
There are a few sparse bushes between my motorhome and the road through the campground. I was awakened sometime a little later in the night by what felt like a slight bump against my bedroom slideout wall, my headboard rests against the wall of the slideout. I then distinctly heard some rustling in the bushes that are only about 3 feet from the bedroom window located right at my head. I glanced out almost eyeball to eyeball with a cow and her calf ( this is around 3 AM ) who were nonchalantly munching on leaves. I was thinking that it really is kind of neat to be that close to a beautiful wild animal, but then the pungent aroma of the byproduct of that leaf munching slowly wafted in through the open window.
They had left their calling card.
Got a little bit of sleep after they departed but was once again rousted by the bull elk’s bugling return on another round of the campground around 4 AM ( I really don’t know if it was the same one ). I wouldn’t mind all this activity so much if it occurred during daylight hours, but since I am here to shoot bull elk battles, this is just part of the price one must pay to get what I came for.
Just after daybreak, but still too little light to get a photo, I did see a bull come cruising silently through the campground, cutting through the site next to me on his way out of the campground. Around 8 AM another round of thunderstorms came through, so it looks like a day of computer work. A little sun broke through around 2, but then another series of thunderstorms moved right in, all in all, a total washout today.