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.
This last image shows how much smoke has been around.
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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.
Bison do swim, not going to win any awards but they can get from one side of the river to the other, with some drifting in the current.
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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When I’m this far north I regularly check out a website that gives info about possible Aurora Borealis sightings. On May 23 when I was staying at Mammoth Hot Springs campground the possibility for seeing the aurora was good so I went out at about 10 pm. The ideal spot would be as high as I could get, but unfortunately the folks at MHS don’t see to understand about light pollution. The view from the parking on the Upper Terraces was compromised by the lights below so I found a better spot on a pullout just below there with trees to hide the lights. The yellow plume in the image is steam from one of the hot springs that is lit up by the lights. Once I was satisfied with that image I turned more to the east and was able to get a nice image of the Milky Way.
Three days later I got a notice that the Aurora might again be visible. O10:15 pm on the 27th I left the Canyon Village campground and headed south to Hayden Valley. When I had parked and got out to check the view I could immediately see some lights high above, Bingo! Quickly got the camera and tripod out. Wow! Had to put the 14 mm lens on to capture the sight. The vertical spectre was amazing and moved slowly from north to northwest then faded out. This phenomenon is called “Steve” in Aurora circles for lack of a better name.
After that I concentrated on the Aurora down near the horizon and moved to different spots to get different views of it with the Yellowstone River in the foreground. In some of the images you can see a bit of the Milky Way, but the moon is waxing and it isn’t the best time for that.
I went out the next night but didn’t see any lingering color. Once the moon was down low I did manage to capture the Milky Way, though not as good as it would be with no moon.
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A good scratching post
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
Grizzly sow & cub (on the left)
It’s been quiet around home as I’m getting things done and looking forward to the next outing. Making plans, checking out possible places to visit and routes to take is almost as much fun as the actual trip for me.
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
Evening light on snowy Absaroka Mountains
(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.
Bison bull on a frosty morning
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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Yellowstone geyser area has many interesting features which attract thousands of visitors. Fortunately there are some that are off the beaten path and less crowded. The colors in the hot springs are beautiful.
Great Fountain Geyser goes off every 9 to 16 hours, making it a hard one to see. I didn’t catch it during the day but one night it was supposed to go off at between 8 pm and 1 am so I arrived plenty early. Needless to say it took its time and erupted at about 9:30 pm, in total darkness. A factor hard to figure into it was the amount of steam produced by the hot water and cold air. That made it very hard to photograph any water being sent up. The eruption lasts a pretty long time and by the end of it there were some stars visible so I capture a bit of steam lit by a light I had and the Big Dipper.
One of my favorite geysers is White Dome Geyser since it goes of frequently (every 20-30 minutes) and is usually pretty free of spectators. The first evening I was at Madison campground I went over and got a nice sunset image of it.
Then I went back that night to see if I could get the Milky Way above it. I did, though there were clouds and smoke so the images weren’t as clear as in the past. The difference this year was the forest fires in the park, they reflected on the clouds and made the images very unique.
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