September 23-26, 2015, On to the Tetons

Grand Teton
Grand Teton

September 23rd

After unfruitful early morning trips to Many Glacier and back up the Going-To-The-Sun-Road, I decided to break camp and was off for Yellowstone National Park by noon. I made it to Bozeman and stopped at the Walmart there for groceries and decided to spend the night in their parking lot and see if I could get into M & W Repair tomorrow for a lube and oil on the motorhome.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Montana Rangeland
Montana Rangeland

This happens to be one of the better Walmarts for boon docking, what with it’s lush green lawns for the dogs to run around on and the convenient location on the outskirts of Bozeman and just off the Interstate ramp.

September 24th

Took a drive north on the back roads above Bozeman while the motorhome was getting it’s oil and lube done. Interesting farm country and horse range, but I didn’t really find anything to shoot and returned to pick up the motorhome around 4 PM and decided to head on for Yellowstone.

Left I-90 in Livingston and headed south on Route 89 towards Gardiner and the entrance to Yellowstone. I had been told by M & W that it appeared my rear running lights were not working so, as it began to get dark I found a fishing access area just off the highway to spend the night. Really nice spot, quiet, no lights, beautiful, cool, star filled night, and I got myself a wonderful night’s sleep.

September 25th

Greeted this morning by a flat tire on my tow dolly, really discouraging since the tires on the dolly were just replaced back in the Yukon, only weeks ago. I got it changed without any trouble and headed off for Mammoth Hot Springs, arriving there around 11 AM.

Yellowstone Traffic
Yellowstone Traffic

I have never had any desire to visit Yellowstone during the summer months and fight the millions of visitors there during the hectic vacation season so have always visited before Memorial Day or after Labor Day and have never had any trouble getting a spot to stay at the Mammoth Hot Springs campground. But today I am greeted by the attendant and told there are no campsites available !

Told that they have been full every morning by 8:30 since early May. I guess that means that Yellowstone will probably now never again be visited since winter visits are out out of the question with the motorhome and that would now seem like the only time the place will not be full.

Yellowstone Traffic Jammer
Yellowstone Traffic Jammer

So, I decided to head through the park to the Gros Ventre Campground in the Tetons and hope that Grand Teton National Park was not also suffering from late season overcrowding. Traffic was terrible on the northwest loop of Yellowstone due to road rebuilding, but OK once to Madison Junction.

I arrived at Gros Ventre around 4 PM on a hot afternoon and signed in for 4 days on Site #75. Really uncomfortably warm until the sun went down, then cooled off quickly. Unfortunately, the campground was all but full and I unfortunately had rude neighbors all around, lights, generators until 10 PM, car engines running at 11 PM and late arrivals nosily setting up camp at midnight. What ever happened to an “off season” ? These crowds are starting to get to me  !

September 26th

The campground was full last night … and Gros Ventre campground is almost never full, even during the summer ! I am out very early on an absolutely beautiful morning, yet am stuck behind a line of about a dozen cars at the intersection of Gros Ventre Road and the main highway, and it isn’t yet 7 AM. Even at this early hour the main highway is all but bumper to bumper traffic in both directions .. what is going on here ! I have never seen crowds like this here before.

Grand Teton
Grand Teton

Granted, it is about as beautiful a day as one could ever hope for, but, come on, this is supposed to be the off season.

Mount Moran from the Oxbow
Mount Moran from the Oxbow

I head up to the Oxbow and as I round the bend and this wonderful view of Mount Moran appears, I am blown away by the amount of cars and people here at this early hour. The large parking lot is full and vehicles line both sides of the road for half a mile or so. There are easily two or three hundred people here, and that is without any tour buses present. Photographers line the shoulder of the road, shoulder to shoulder !

Mount Moran from the Oxbow
Mount Moran from the Oxbow

This is just too much ! I have got to get away from all these people.

Grand Teton from the Meadows
Grand Teton from the Meadows

Cottonwood Creek Road is the answer. This very rough dirt road screens out the traffic and is about all that the Prius with it’s low clearance can handle, but it gets me away from the crowds, at least for now. Plus it has this wonderful perspective on Grand Teton, and while not today, it quite often also has large numbers of elk and pronghorn.

Having had enough of battling traffic, I head back to the campground and wait until very late afternoon to venture out again.

Young Bull Elk
Young Bull Elk

I find very little, other than loads of people, as I make a long loop of the park. This young bull elk and his little harem are all I find. Normally I wouldn’t bother to show these unremarkable images but I was pleasantly surprised at how well they came out, since they were taken in the dark !

Young Elk with Harem
Young Bull Elk with Harem
Young Bull Elk
Young Bull Elk

 

 

 

 

 

In fact, these elk images were taken at the same time as this shot of the brilliant full moon.

Full Moon
Full Moon

This happened to be the night before the lunar eclipse, an event that unfortunately was marred by cloud cover here. Really hoping the crowds clear out after the weekend and I get to enjoy this place, one of my favorite all time places to visit.

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September 24, 2013 Yellowstone to Tetons National Park

Bull moose
Bull moose

( As always just click on an image for a larger, sharper version )

Moving day as I leave Yellowstone National Park and head on down to Grand Tetons National Park, with the hopes of being able to add to my moose portfolio. I guess I was all but ready to move on anyhow, but the weather forecast calls for 3 to 9 inches of snow here Wednesday with more on Thursday, and temps in the low 20’s. While the forecast is pretty much the same for Jackson Hole, at least if I get down there today, before it starts snowing, I can get into a private campground with hookups to make it through what looks like a couple of uncomfortable days where I will be holed up inside, and it sure would be nice to have electricity for heaters and such.

Trip down to the Fireside Resort Campground in Wilson, WY., just west of Jackson Hole was a pleasant one, with nice weather and not much traffic. The campground is nice enough, though certainly tight, but no way worth the nearly $60 a night, but it will do to get me through the next few stormy days.

Storm brewing
Storm brewing

Took this image of a the threatening storm front coming over the mountains from a pullout along route 89.

Bull moose
Bull moose
Bull moose
Bull moose

 

 

 

 

 

After setting up, I still had an hour or two of daylight so I took a trip up Spring Gulch Road and into Tetons National Park. As luck would have it, I ran into a nice bull moose as soon as I went through the entry gates to the park, he was moving fast like he had somewhere to go and needed to get there before dark.

September 23, 2013 Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone fall color
Yellowstone fall color

Another trip to Hayden Valley

Headed out early this morning to do the same trip around the upper loop road and down to Hayden valley but in the reverse order of Saturday’s trip. Today was one of those days where I cover a lot of ground, at the proper time of day, but just pretty much come up empty. I may have set some kind of reverse record for wildlife sightings in Hayden Valley. I traversed the entire valley north to south and then again south to north and saw but one lone bison in the distance, no elk, antelope, bison herds, wolves, bears, or coyotes. If you have ever been to the Hayden Valley, you know how rare it is to have it virtually empty of wildlife.

Yellowstone swans
Yellowstone swans
Yellowstone swans and Canada geese
Yellowstone swans and Canada geese

 

 

 

 

 

I did manage to find these swans to photograph. I was excited to see some Canada Geese floating downstream towards the swans, for I seem to recall that the swans are extremely territorial, and will drive off other birds such as the geese. I was ready for some action! But these guys seemed like they were the best of friends.

Roadside black bear cub
Roadside black bear cub

I was rounding a sharp corner and saw this young black bear cub all but in the road grazing on the curbside clover. With no mother in sight and other people stopping and getting within 6 feet of the youngster, for once, I was almost hoping a ranger would come along and break this up before the cub was startled out into the road and struck by a car. At times, his head was only a foot or so from the pavement and he acted as if he didn’t even see or hear the cars only a couple of feet from his head whizzing by, and he was completely oblivious to the growing crowd of people all but reaching out to pet him. I hope he survived this, but with no mother and this lack of fear of traffic and people, it probably doesn’t look like much of a future for this guy.

Bison on the centerline of road
Bison on the centerline

Lastly, a couple more bison shots. I got a kick out of this guy, once again using the centerline of the highway to negotiate his way down the road. They do move at a very slow pace while traveling on the highway, but they can seriously unnerve you as they pass by at only a couple of feet from your vehicle.

Bison
Sharing the road

Especially if you are on a very narrow gravel road, such as the one to the fire tower, and you encounter a fellow like this coming down the road as you head up. At least he was using the shoulder of the road, I assume because there was no yellow centerline on the gravel road.

Yellowstone Bison
Yellowstone Bison

September 21, 2013 Yellowstone National Park

View from Mammoth looking south
View from Mammoth looking south

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.

Bison Jam
Bison Jam
Bison Jam
Bison Jam

 

 

 

 

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.

Mammoth Bull Elk
Mammoth Bull Elk
Mammoth Bull Elk
Mammoth Bull Elk
Mammoth Bull Elk
Mammoth Bull Elk

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Campground elk
Campground elk
Campground elk
Campground elk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Bison eyeing bus
To ram or not to ram
Bison walking road
Traveling the centerline
Mammoth Hot Springs
Mammoth Hot Springs

 

 

 

 

 

Yellowstone bison
Yellowstone bison
Mammoth Bull Elk
Mammoth Bull Elk
Mammoth Bull Elk
Mammoth Bull Elk

 

 

 

 

 

Mountain bluebird
Mountain bluebird
Cottonwoods Lamar Valley
Cottonwoods Lamar Valley