Yellowstone National Park

June 28, 2008

After spending some time in great comfort up in the Rockies, it was time to go back to basics. One trip to Wal Mart later I was armed with a $26 tent and was ready to go. I headed to Denver airport where I picked up my car (A 4x4 Grand Vitara Jeep). This might have seemed a little over the top to begin with.....little did I know how handy this car would be!

I drove for 8 hrs and had an overnight stop in Lander, Wyoming before another days driving took me to the South entrance of the park, via the Grand Teton Mountains. The Grand Tetons were absolutely spectacular and I really didnt think it could get any better until 70 miles through the mountain roads when I finally entered Yellowstone.

If Nature were an artist then this place would be her finest masterpiece. Glorious snow capped mountains, lakes as vast as oceans, valleys, plains...this place has it all for someone who takes great pleasure in beautiful scenery, a photographers paradise!

To explain everything I acheived/expereinced/enjoyed in Yellowstone would take forever, so instead I'll write a diary style entry to what was a genuinely typical day.

  " Got up this morning freezing my ass off as usual (despite having a 3 season sleeping bag) at around 5.30am. Closed up the tent and stumbled bleary eyed over to the car to make my way to the local cafeteria. After a bit of breakfast I felt ready to go. After many days of searching and conversations with the experts (including an animal biologist filming for the discovery channel), I made my way to my favourite spot in the Lamar Valley. The Lamar valley stretches for 2-3 miles and is bound on each side by steep wooded hills, whilst at its centre runs a river stretching maybe 60yds wide.

It wasnt long before the first arrivals. I had been staking out a 2 day old bison carcus which was approx 100m from my lookout spot. Around 6.30am I spotted two of the fabled 'Slough Creek' wolf pack come over the brow of the hill, one black and one smaller grey. They meandered down towards the carcus and began feeding. These beautiful creatures glide along the plain and were completely undetected by pretty much every animal and photographer alike. It wasnt long before they had company however, a yelping sound approx 25m behind me announced the arrival of a pack of Coyote. I scrambled back into the car as they ran down the hill directly behind me and headed towards the carcus. However, even though the pack was 5 strong, they were never going to trouble the two wolves, who by this time had already stripped what was left of the carcus.

After an hour or so, I decided to head to the end of the valley where my friend, the animal biologist, had informed me was a popular spot for grizzly bears. Moments after arriving at the trailhead I noticed a small group of people, binoculars in hand, gazing down a hill towards the river. As I approached I was politely told to keep quiet as we were in rather close quarters. Close quarters to what I thought? Another five yard walk and I was to get my answer. A huge grizzly bear was standing no less than 40-50m away (1/2 of the distance which any ranger would recommend). I was so excited and through my binoculars (Thanks Les and the gang back at the NBS!!!), I was able to check out this brute of an animal. It was walking straight towards a small group of bison, left to right from my perspective, and I thought it was fireworks time. But with great courage (or stupidity), the larger male bison in the herd walked head on with the grizzly and stood its ground - a phenomenal stand off!!

All this carcus spotting had me hungry so I jumped in the car and headed back for lunch. I stopped once on the way back to catch a glimpse of a black bear right beside the road with a cute little cub. It must have been a climbing lesson as this tiny cub was hauling itself up the nearest tree much to the spectators delight. We were all careful not to get too close though, theres no more dangerous a situation regarding bears than disrupting a mother and cub.

After lunch I whacked the jeep gearbox into low ratio and headed off road to Slough Creek, a quiet and relatively unknown spot which harbours many jewels of the animal world including a golden eagle nest and the den of the 'Slough Creek Pack'. Sure enough, around 8pm just as the light began to dim, the wolves emereged for their evening feed. A fellow watcher and wolf enthusiast had a powerful scope which he kindly let me look through, it was like standing right next to them - fantastic. We were also lucky enough to spot both the golden eagle and the bald eagles swooping into the creek attacking various small prey, usually ground squirrels.

The night ended with the 30 minute drive back to my tent as the sun went down. The view of the sunset from Mount Washburn was spectacular (see photos)."

These were just a sample of the animals and birds I managed to observe. To quote a local wildlife expert, I was a "lucky bas*ard" to have seen so many of the wonderful species here in just under a week. Other names to add to those above were the beaver, antelope, moose, deer, badger, elk, osprey and lots and lots of mosquitos!!! I got to drive, hike and also horse ride (Thanks Melanie ;-) the beautiful valleys and got to see so much more than a typical visitor riding through in the car.

This has to go down as my favourite leg of the trip so far and I will put a selection of the photos I managed to snap onto here as soon as possible. Big thanks to all of the experts who shared their park knowledge with me and to all of the guys and girls whom I shared many an early morning and late night with.

What a fantastic and beautiful place.

 


2 Comments

James Adie:
July 7, 2008
was the beaver similar to type of species seen in sportex?
Les:
July 23, 2008
This has been my favourite place you have been to so far. Wildelife episodes are always the best. I am very excited that the binos have spotted such a huge mysterious beast.
Les
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