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.
Time to finally leave the Ennis RV Village, a nice place to stay, featuring the only truly usable Wifi I have ever encountered, clean and well kept, quiet and convenient, with a reasonable price of $35/night. Filled up the motorhome with gas and propane and then headed south to Palisades BLM Campground on the Madison River, only 24 miles south of Ennis on 287.
My hoped for spot on the turnaround was taken so I settled in on Site #3, unhooked the dolly so I could park head first in facing the river and angled to accept the cooling breezes. Since there are no hookups here, I will be living off solar only, if possible.
A very nice large, flat gravel space with a picnic table, bear proof storage compartment, and a metal fire ring with cook grill make this space, less than 30 feet from the river’s edge one of the nicer spots I have encountered yet. Oh, and the price of $4/night, with my senior discount, is pretty hard to beat. Two small tent campers about 100 yards upstream and the pickup truck camper the same distance downstream, are the only other people here.
Read for a few hours and took off south down 287 around 5 Pm to see if there were any roads heading east into the hills above 287 ( there aren’t ).
Got some nice shots of an osprey pair in their nest on a nesting platform along the highway just south of the campground.This Madison River valley must be paradise for these fish eaters.
I continued down 287 looking for a gas station so I could fillup the Prius before I headed into West Yellowstone with its inflated prices.Only problem was that I had to go all the way into W. Yellowstone before I came across a gas station.
Since I was already there, and since I already had made this a much longer trip than I had planned, I decided I may as well venture into the Park to see if the elk are gathering yet in the meadows on the road on the way in from W. Yellowstone. An absolutely gorgeous evening as I drove along the Madison River inside the park. Quite a bit of traffic heading out of the park, but very little going my way. One small band of cows and calves with an escorting bull were plodding along the edge the river bringing traffic to a standstill with people simply parking their cars in the middle of the road, getting out and taking photos, completely ignoring park rules, of course. There being no shoulder to park on, I did not take any shots since I couldn’t stop and besides, the lone bull with this band really wasn’t that great a specimen, I would doubt that he will be holding on to this little harem when the big guns get here.
It is encouraging to see at least one group of elk here, maybe by the time I get into the park, there will be more. The outgoing traffic was backed up, parked, for more than half a mile, and since I had to reverse direction and retrace my steps back to the campground, I decided to continue on into the park, rather than just sit in that line of parked cars for the next half hour, so on I went. Nothing more to be found, though, so I finally turned around hoping that the traffic jam would be breaking up by the time I got there.
My little jaunt to find gas turned into a 4 hour 150 mile trip, not what I was planning to do, but it was beautiful evening for a ride, even though it didn’t produce any great photos. Got home around 9, turned the inverter on and watched a movie. Took the dogs out around 11 to do their thing and marveled at the moonless night sky. With no street lights, houses, or other campers leaving their outside lights on, it was absolutely dark and you could see forever in the overhead sky. Makes me think about doing some night sky photography, if only I didn’t have this bear proof food container sitting here reminding me what can be out and about on these pitch black evenings. Maybe tomorrow night.
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.