This year I spent 5 nights at Gros Ventre campground in the Tetons before going up into Yellowstone NP. The weather in the Tetons was cold with sleet nearly every day. The first clear day I ventured out to see what I could find and ran smack into a bear jam. This one I stuck around for because it was about 399 and her 4 cubs. Last spring this grizzly sow had 4 cubs. They all survived the winter and appear to be doing well. She is 25 now and nearing the end of her breeding life.
The Tetons had a lot of snow on them even late in May this year and there were still quite a few patches on snow on the ground.
From the Tetons I headed up to Canyon Village campground in Yellowstone. I generally use that as a base and spend my time in Hayden Valley. On the drives between the two locations I did manage to see a couple of bears, both times I was driving and did not have a place to stop. One had already started a huge bear jam with no rangers around so I called that one in.
Most of my days in Hayden Valley were spent watching a wolf pack in the far distance using my spotting scope. I did take a few photos with my camera and long lens and will post them but they are cropped a lot and just not great. Getting photos using my phone and the scope was tricky and not very successful. I need to practice that a lot more!
The wolves were fascinating. There are 12 adults and 9 pups in the pack. Sometimes an adult, often one of the black ones, would bring the two older pups out to play. They romped around on the snow, played with the adults, etc. They were very adventurous exploring. I did get to see them playing with a large bone, too. They would romp around and then collapse, worn out. Only once did I see the smaller pups out on the grass. Some of the adults spent a lot of time just laying around in the sun, sometimes on the snow because it was pretty hot.
The last evening I was watching them I saw the 5 that were laying down suddenly get up and run up the hill into the sagebrush. They were greeting the rest of the adults who had apparently been away on some mission. What a joyful greeting that was! I wasn’t able to capture it with the camera but got a couple of images as they relaxed a bit.
Yellowstone in the spring wouldn’t be complete for me without the Milky Way so I was out late one night to capture this image of it over the Yellowstone River.
I was looking for a new spot to camp for 2 or 3 nights and remembered a review of a place called Indian Bread Rocks, BLM dispersed camping. It’s not too far off I 10 and just 3 miles of dirt road so I decided to check it out. So glad I did!
On I 10 in AZ there is an area with rest stops on both EB & WB sides called Texas Canyon. The boulders there are so big, many of them balanced
precariously. Truly different from your typical desert scenery and I’ve always thought it would be fun to really explore them. I was pleased to find that this BLM area is very similar!
I walked around close to sunset and then again in early morning taking a few photos, trying for the best light.
I was pleased to find the dirt road in and the road with all the camping spots off it were nice hard packed dirt with very few rocks. Nothing like a lot of other places out west.
I’ve seen the Gambels quail and a few rabbits and lots of hoof prints (and cow patties) so I know the animals are out there. Last evening just before it got dark I heard a rather loud moo so I looked out, there was a black calf bawling, Concho looked out the window and started barking so it took off.
This past week I returned to Whitewater Draw in AZ
Many many Sandhill Cranes!
to view the Sandhill Cranes. I understand over 20k are there and I can easily believe it.
A typical day for them starts out between 0600 and 0700 when they fly out to the harvested fields to feed. The farmers receive a supplement from the AZ G&F department to leave some for the cranes. I was out each morning by 0630 to hear and watch them. They are all making noise and it is
Before sunrise, many had already flown out
almost a roar as they start to leave. Of course the temperatures were about 20º so bundling up was required, there was ice on the water in spots! Until the sun rises it’s almost pointless to try to get any decent images but I always had my camera with me.
Early morning sun lights this one up
Between 11 am and noon the birds return by the
Returning at mid day
thousands, literally! You see them in the distance as they fly towards you and their roosting place to rest and get water. As the groups of cranes get closer they fly at different elevations, swirling around preparing to land.
Different groups of cranes at different elevations as they return at mid day
It is an awesome sight! They hang around for a few hours then may fly out again, returning around sunset.
I recently stayed at a campground right on Roosevelt Lake in AZ. The site I picked had a wonderful view to the south of the lake.
Nearby was Tonto National Monument, with the ancient cliff dwellings. I was up and out so I could be there right at 0800 when it opened. The walk up is nicely paved with good traction but it is still a 350′ elevation. Lost os switchbacks and a few
View from part way up to the cliff dwelling
places to stop and rest along the way. I didn’t sit down but I did stop to take some photos. What a view!
Saguaro cactus with a “crest” or “crown”, the arms all grow out of the top, very rare.
The whole area has loads of real bug Saguaro cactus including one with a crest, very rare!
Ok, the cliff dwelling. Very interesting. The Salado lived in it probably between 1200 and 1300. They farmed in the valley along the river (now disappeared because of the dam that created Roosevelt Lake). They had irrigation, grew things like squash, other food and some cotton.
This volunteer answered all my questions and pointed out some unique features
The cliff dwelling itself is pretty small compared to houses today that hold one family and this one held more than one family or it was quite an extended family.
Hand prints left behind by workers applying original adobe
The volunteer was most helpful, answering my questions and pointing out features that I would never have noticed or understood. For example hand prints left by the ancients when they were applying the original adobe.
Early one morning I found this bull and cow at the far end of the campground, between the trees and the road. He was patiently courting her, with not much going on, really. Then along came a younger bull. The mature bull chased that would-be suitor away to the west and then both he and the cow laid down.
The younger bull was not discouraged and tried another approach, going behind us and easing through the trees to the east of the bull and cow this time. The mature bull was up and
after the persistent one yet again. The younger one backed off.
Then from the west came another bull, this one was big and mature and definitely not one that would simply turn away. This time they went through their ritual of walking near each other while tilting their heads. This seems to be a bit of a threatening action, very slowly done. This went on for a few minutes then each turned 90º towards the other and they were engaged instantly.
The action went on for a few minutes then the loser disengaged and left. It was very intense while they were together and it ended as quickly as it began. There wasn’t a second go ’round that I saw.
There is a great deal of respect demonstrated between all the moose, between the bulls and cows, bulls and bulls or cows and cows, though the latter will mix it up a bit once in a while. Not sure if that is jealousy, competitiveness or protecting a calf.
The moose have arrived! These days I’m up and out by 0700 and back to the trailer about 10 am, getting in lots of steps following the moose. This year,because of the high number of cars parked in the overflow area (really the amphitheater parking lot) they seem to be spending more time between the campsite loops and the river or at the river. Usually the grove by the amphitheater is a regular hangout for them.
Early morning (once the sun is up) provides nice light and sometimes tender moments cam be seen. Once a bull comes around the cow is distracted by him and often the calf is left to catch up when it can. Sometimes crossing the river isn’t enough, the bull follows and the cow takes to the river again.
The last evening in September I went back to see the elk and was rewarded with quite a
show as two handsome bulls battled for the cows. They came so close to me I was thinking I’d soon be jumping into my van but the settled on a spot just far enough away so I was not too worried. They moved around quite a bit and engaged 3 times we were able to see.
Last Saturday it was very overcast with rain every once in a while.
Barn on Mormon Row
Rain down here in the valley often means snow on the mountain tops and sure enough there was fresh snow up high. Since Sunday night was very clear I headed out to see if I could capture the moonlight on the mountains at a couple of favorite spots. The effort paid off with a couple of really nice images.
A friend who was camping here told me about a good spot for viewing elk. She said a good time is early morning so I went there so early it was too early for photos. But as I parked I could hear several bulls bugling and even the sound of antlers clashing. Wow! Where’s that sun when you need it?! Once it got lighter and I had the camera out I did see a bull with his harem. There were a couple of other bulls nearby but all were rather far away.
Chasing in interloper off
I went back last evening and the elk were out but again rather far away. I will return to the location.