Smoke from forest fires was really bad in British Columbia and Alberta on my way south so getting to Glacier NP was my destination. Unfortunately there was a bad fire on the west side of the park with the east side covered in smoke. That made for unpleasant conditions and I left after just a few days. From there I went to Mammoth Hot Springs CG in Yellowstone. The cg is all first come first served which works out fine for me. I got a favorite site and settled in for nearly 2 weeks. I haven’t been to the upper terraces for several years so I went there one morning while the sun was at a nice angle and the crowds hadn’t yet descended
I went to Lamar Valley a few times but didn’t get much in the way of images. Managed to get out one night up to Bunson Peak Trailhead for the Milky Way. Good friends from TN joined me at Mammoth for a few days. It’s a spot they’ve never been to and I think they enjoyed relaxing and seeing the sights. Always fun to spend time with Lynne and David.
From Mammoth I moved down to Canyon Village cg, another favorite place. From there I explore Hayden Valley and a few other spots. This year I didn’t spot but one bear but I made good use of my new spotting scope in the evenings watching the bull Elk come down into the valley with the cows. Fascinating to see them in action though I wish they had come a bit closer. The first evening I took a few images but after that I just watched them with the scope.
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My route north from Yellowstone had to go through Bozeman this time meaning I would be taking some new roads. What an amazing state Montana is! I passed through many miles of wheat fields and pastures, not much traffic but what country to see.
After that it was on to Dawson Creek and the Alaskan Highway. I stopped one night at a long rest area next to Muncho Lake. It was sunny then rained, then sunny and an rain again. Met some other folks traveling to AK, including one couple from France who had their small RV shipped to the souther tip of South America. They have been traveling from there north with a year and 4 months allotted for the travel. What an adventure! When I left that spot the next morning I saw a caribou, some woods bison, stone sheep, and assorted small bears, no grizzlies. When on the road even though I am always on the lookout it is very hard to stop to photograph the wildlife.
This trip I stayed in free spots(except at the ice fields), mostly larger rest areas with other travelers. The last night before I got to the Fairbanks area I had a rest area to myself, sort of. Around 9 pm I happened to look out the window facing the woods and saw a snowshoe hare….then I saw another one. The windows were really dirty so photographs were pointless. When they seemed to leave I went out and cleaned the windows. Then I checked again, they were back with their buddies. The day had been totally bereft of wildlife until then so I had some fun photographing the hares. They’re now in their summer coats, thought their feet are still white. I don’t know if they stay white or are just the last part to change color. Anyhow it was fun and of course the next morning when I walked the dogs they smelled the critters all over the place.
The route I regularly take to Yellowstone means passing through the Tetons, this trip was no exception. Looks like they had a good winter and the later snow added to the cover.
Mammoth Hot Springs cg is good place to use as a base for visiting Lamar Valley. The Bison calves are old enough to be easily seen, they’re often called “red dogs” at this stage. I was surprised to see the Pronghorn Antelope so frequently. In the past they have seemed pretty skittish but not this year. Of course there were some bears out, but they were generally so far away a spotting scope was needed. I did see sow with 2 cubs,and took a few images,but they are greatly cropped.
There were quite a few elk cows around but it did’t look like they had started calving yet. Back in the campground one elk cow has been chasing people around. Turns out she has good reason to be concerned, she has a very new little wobbly calf. She was very near my trailer when I took a series of images yesterday. She’s moved to the far end of the campground but i’m always on the lookout inn case she comes back this way.
After seeing some bears but too far away to photograph decently i decided to invest in a good spotting scope. I figure even if I can’t photograph the critters I’ll be able to watch them, something I really enjoy. Once I settled in the one I wanted I found for a little more I could get an attachment to take photos with my iPhone. Mind you nothing has arrived yet and there will be a learning curve. The photos I get, if any, will be fun ones, not serious stuff. It should be interesting as the trip progresses.
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I moved up to Mammoth Hot Springs campground the end of August for several days. The fires in both ID and Montana are causing a lot of smoke to blow this way. It’s rare to see a blue sky and when the moon rises it is orange. This makes a good base to head over to Lamar Valley in search of wildlife so I’ve been there a few times and expect to return before I leave here. There is a small herd of Pronghorn Antelope that is sometimes visible so I took advantage of that one day.
I’ve heard of and seen some photos of the Big Horn sheep that live on the cliffs on the road to the North Entrance. Finally spotted them on the way back from Gardiner so I stopped and spent quite a while watching them. I wanted to see where they would go on the cliffs. They moved across the cliffs then went up and around out of sight.
Back in Lamar the bison are all over the place it seems. Yesterday morning I stopped to watch one group and was pleased to also see a Coyote hanging around them. They didn’t seem particularly worried about it but finally one of the bison chased it off. Before that happened I watched a calf following a raven around for about 5 minutes. The calf was always about 6′ behind the raven and seems quite curious.
Then I moved further into Lamar Valley and saw that some of the bison were on the move from up in the hills to down by the river. I parked where I thought a group would be crossing and sure enough, I was right there, too close for many photographs as it turned out.
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Friday May 26 I was up bright and early to drive from Mammoth Hot Springs campground down to Canyon Village campground. That was the day it opened for the season and I had no idea if there would be a long line of folks waiting or not. I had to take the road on the west side of the park down to Norris then across to Canyon. It snowed a bit and I encountered a group of Bison with some calves making their way along the road. Eventually I got to the campground and was surprised to find I was one of the first to arrive and check in. Good thing they weren’t facing a rush of folks because their computers were not working right. The campground had obviously been plowed out and there were great piles of snow everywhere. When I first pulled in it was like backing the trailer into an icebox. As the days warmed up a bit the snow started to melt. I was assigned a nice site with good exposure for the solar panels which I set up promptly. This year I was pleased to see a few other trailers also had solar panels of one sort or another. It was extremely cold and snowed off and on the first couple of days I was there and I was amazed at the number of tenters. So glad I had the trailer even though the furnace was not working consistently.
There were some Bison in Hayden Valley, along with lots of Elk. I stayed at Canyon for 9 nights and didn’t see any Elk calves until late in my stay. The Bison were often close to the road but the Elk tended to stay on the other side of the Yellowstone River, a long ways away, even with the telephoto lens I have.
One afternoon while hanging around at a pullout I saw a black Wolf. It it was by itself, sort of chasing some Elk. I lost sight of it quickly and moved to another pullout later on. Lo & behold I saw movement and realized it was the Wolf, directly across the river from me. Managed to get a few shots of it, what you see here are greatly cropped.
Late one day as I was headed back to the trailer I came up to what was a growing “bear jam”. There was a pullout with no cars in it so I swung in and grabbed my camera. Just had time to catch it as it ran across the road and across a small open area into the woods.
One afternoon I was surprised and dismayed to see some obviously foreign visitors using a drone. Drones are not allowed in the park and it is stated plainly in various info sheets handed out. These people, along with the make and registration of their vehicle,were reported to the Rangers. I really hope they were caught and that the drone was confiscated.
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A variety of animals can be found in or near Lamar Valley, From the large Bison to the more delicate antelope, all are fascinating to watch. This time of year a lot of them still have not shed out their winter coats so they tend to look a bit shaggy or moth eaten compared to later in the year.
On my last trip out I was able to watch a black bear with her
cubs for a short time and then a grizzly with a yearling for a quick few minutes before she left. Click here for more images
Recently moved from the Tetons up to Yellowstone NP and was able to get a campsite at the Mammoth Hot Springs cg. This will work nicely as a base and Gardiner, MT, is close by for supplies. I plan to head over to Lamar Valley at least once a day. It isn’t a whole lot warmer here than it was in the Tetons but at least the only snow (so far) is on the ground, not falling.
Went over to Lamar Valley and got a few shots of some of the critters, most are quite a ways away, near or across the river.
One afternoon on my return trip to the valley I came
across a typical “bear jam”, but I was able to park at a turnout right near the action. Not much action for a long time since the black bear was lounging behind a tree. He got up and moved about 20′ then laid flat out, with one foot braced against a tree trunk. Once in a while he’d stretch a foreleg up.
Since I had a prime parking spot and nothing planned I
decided to hang out there and see what the bear would do next. He rested for about an hour but a coyote came along so it wasn’t totally dull.
Finally the bear got up and wonder of wonders he moved towards the little pond, nearer the road, not off into the woods. I guess the water was appealing or maybe it looked easier to swim by the rock scree than to climb over it to get to the other side of it. He did swim the pond then got out a did a great job of shaking the water off. This was a nice way to spend a few hours.
Since then on my trips to Lamar I’ve seen two more black bears, many elk cows, a few bull elk, a moose, some bighorn sheep ewes, antelope and lots more bison. As is often the case, the opportunity to take photographs was severely limited or impossible to do safely but I’ll keep trying.
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Been here in Canyon Village campground for a few days now, they’ve resurfaced a lot of the road and as usual the campsites are in excellent condition. It is at a pretty high elevation
(over 7900′) so it can get very cold this time of year. Labor Day brought several snow showers but nothing lasted long. I did get a nice evening shot of the snow on the Absaroka mountains.
Tuesday morning was very frosty and provided some nice images.
The bison are plentiful in Hayden Valley right now, causing many “bison jams” but the park has rangers now who are out and about in SUVs patrolling. They have loud speakers and tell people ” do not stop in the roadway”, “get back in your vehicle”, etc.
They also do a bit of herding to get the bison off the road and have a loud sort of clicking sound on the speaker that the critters don’t seem to like.
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Nightscapes, astrophotography, dark sky images, to me they all mean a very interesting time out in the dark, standing in awe of the night sky. Finding places that are dark enough and yet have an interesting foreground can be challenging sometimes, at other times nature provides wonderful features. Here at Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone NP the terraces of the hot springs make an interesting foreground and the nearby commercial area provides just the right ambient lighting so there is no need for light painting (which would be frowned upon because it might disturb animals). This time of year the Milky Way is in just the right place to make an interesting image even better.
I’ve made several trips to Lamar Valley from this base, spending lots of time watching a bison carcass in hopes of seeing a bear or wolves. The best time is at sunrise but the thing is too far away (close to a mile it has been estimated) for me to get any decent images so I opt for a bit later time and still enjoy watching whatever critters can be seen. Yesterday there was a pack of 10 coyotes running and playing below the carcass but still on the far side of the river. A herd of Bison moved by us and I enjoyed watching them graze and interact. A couple of bulls were sparring, maybe practicing for the future? The mature bulls can get up to 6′ high and are quite impressive as they move slowly along.