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Quick spring trip 5/8-5/12

Posted: Mon May 14, 2018 6:26 pm
by Dorothy
Hi all. Just back from Yellowstone/Grand Teton and wanted to share a quick report. No photos, as don't have a way to download them at this point, but want to share a bit of our trip. Weather was mostly really nice, cloudy quite often (which reduced glare when driving) and not too hot. Did have some heavy rain at times, but that's OK, it washes everything clean and makes things smell really good, too. It's VERY wet everywhere right now -- lots of swampy areas that are usually meadows, etc. Still, Yellowstone and Grand Teton wear all kinds of weather well.

We had a grand time. This could be called a "you just missed it" trip along with a "that's a bucket-list moment" trip. From what we heard at various places, we MISSED six moose at Round Prairie one morning, three another day, a grizzly with COY at that same place, a black sow with cubs at Elk Creek and at Rainy Lake (before that road was open, so a hike up to the spot and no go), bear at Floating Island, some wolves crossing the road near hitching post, and grizzlies here and there in Lamar. Also missed some moose and bears in GT (you know, the "they were just here a few moments ago ..." Sigh ... :(

BUT, lots of great sightings, as well. And some beautiful scenery -- not very busy, so it was nice and led to some lovely watching moments and some really calm and peaceful feelings. Sigh ... :)

Got some pretty blue sky with a few clouds behind our rare trip to Old Faithful -- a rather short and not all that high eruption, but really nice photos! LOTS of baby bison -- SO cute! Some were obviously not more than a few days or even hours old. There was even a bison herd (with tiny ones) in Mammoth for one evening and one morning -- I'd never seen them there (as a herd). The following evening they were gone and elk were back in Mammoth (no babies yet). The elk (and moose) were all pretty mangy looking as they shed winter coats for summer, but always so fun and impressive to see them. Ruddy ducks at Floating Island (and coots, of course), and female mountain sheep off and on near Yellowstone Picnic area. That first evening we saw a black boar down by the bridge. He was peacefully feeding down in a ravine and we enjoyed a nice 20-30 minutes of watching him. Yay! A bear right off the bat! Lots of really lovely looking pronghorn, as well. And bison babies -- SO cute, cavorting, running around, nursing, chasing each other ... just lots of fun. We kept saying, well, we have enough photos of baby bison, but we'd get to the next herd and there were more cute babies doing cute things, so out came the camera as the car was pulled off the road to watch. (And a good thing, too, as the next day the nursery herds had moved mostly away from the roads, so not nearly so many chances for cute baby bison experiences). A bald eagle flew right over our car in Lamar, and went back and forth over the car, then landed on a rock at the top of a hill before taking off again. Breathtaking! Went all the way out to the Northeast Entrance and up to Cooke City, but nothing going on (still lots of snow up there). Both parents on the osprey nest near Slough Creek, but didn't see any chick heads, A grizzly with two yearling cubs up on the fingers ... long ways away, but visible with decent binocs. Fun to see. Checked out the wolves at Slough Creek, but couldn't really pick them out up at the den. Were told some wolves crossed the road near Hitching Post, but we were there about half and hour after that. I hiked up to Rainy Lake as we were told there was a black bear with cubs coming down to drink every now and then. Photographers everywhere! Cameras 2-3 deep in some places. The road wasn't open yet, but was set to open in a few days (wonder how rangers will handle that, as there's no place really close to park very many cars, and with traffic on the road, photogs won't be able to stand 2-3 deep). Anyway, no bear while I was there, and as I hadn't come very prepared to stay long and my sister couldn't make it up, I went back down after just a few minutes.

Another beautiful bald eagle near Trout Lake parking area -- he flew over us, and perched in a tree for a while before taking off, great photo op and just impressive to see. A cinnamon blackbear crossed the road near the corner heading into Lamar Valley -- we missed the crossing, but got him swimming the river, eating a fish and climbing up the side of the mountain on the other side. Lots of fun! Caught a very nice looking coyote and a gorgeous bluebird who obligingly posed for photos on a tree branch nearby at Petrified tree. Some big elk herds at some places, a couple of bachelor smaller groups around and about. Also found out the owls are back at Mammoth -- spotted the mom (or at least, an adult) on the nest and at least two cute little fluffy heads poking out a couple of times. FUN!

FInally DID spot a wolf at the end -- a VERY nice guy with a spotting scope made sure both sis and I saw the wolf through the spotting scope and finally could pick her out with our binocs, as well. THANKS! Then, later on, saw several people pulled over in a couple of different pullouts, so we pulled into one spot we could get into and the very nice guy pointed out a wolf on the hillside. A WOLF! ON THE HILLSIDE! Close enough to actually see him with the naked eye, get pictures that are definitely a wolf ... SCORE! We've been wanting to see one "close" for SO long, and always just seem to miss them. This was so exciting! And we really enjoyed sharing quite a few minutes with this very nice wolf spotter as the wolf trotted along through the sagebrush before disappearing in the brush. Apparently some wolves crossed the road down further after a while, but we missed that. Still, who can complain when we actually saw a wolf just a bit earlier. NO complaints here!

Also caught a big herd of male mountain sheep above the confluence. At least 15-20 males with big, curly horns -- so impressive and so much fun to watch them feed. One REALLY big one, others almost as impressive. We see quite a few of the female groups, but this is the first time we've seen a big herd of males. Yay!

Had to go around to get to Jackson when we left Yellowstone, as South Entrance wasn't open until later. Took the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway and it WAS scenic -- enjoyed the falls. Got into a nasty traffic jam near Jackson -- apparently they were repaving the Y intersection and when we came out of Teton Pass canyon and turned onto 22 -- about what, 5-6 miles outside of Jackson, it took us literally two hours to go about 4-5 miles. It was AWFUL. Moose-Wilson was closed for some work until the end of the weekend. so couldn't get out of it that way. Came to Spring Gulch Road and I remembered someone on here suggested that road as a place to see owls, hawks and maybe porcupines, and said it went through to the golf course. We decided to try it, and THANK YOU whoever suggested that -- we didn't see any owls or hawks (although could see where it was a good spot of them), BUT made it to our hotel just outside of Jackson in about 20-30 minutes (by which time we wouldn't have even been to the intersection had we stayed in the jam).

Caught quite a bit of rain in Grand Teton, but had some GREAT moments. Saw Blondie and her two (rather small) yearlings near Pilgrim Creek -- they stayed out for at least 45 minutes (that's as long as we sat and watched, at least), not all that far from the road, moving closer and then back to the trees -- little ones wrestled, ran, chased, and were generally adorable, and mom fed placidly (and nursed them for a bit, too). What a wonderful experience! So many times, we've heard that this or that grizzly with cubs was out for a half hour, hour, etc., and we get there just after they have gone into the trees. Not this time. Intermittent rain, but who cared? Certainly not any of the large group gathered to watch. Very well-behaved crowd with rangers doing a nice job of keeping everything under control. We smiled all day! Also caught several moose in the sage flats up near the Teton School and a mama moose who got separated from her yearling calf after she tried to swim the river near Moose Junction. She was frantic, trying to cross the road and get back to where the calf was (apparently, it hadn't tried the river). She finally got across the road, but was still on one side of the river while the calf was on the other side. We never saw the outcome of that at the time, but did catch the calf on the "right" side of the river a few hours later, so hopefully they got back together. There was a carcass of an elk at Warm Springs (basically just a set of ribs with a little meat left), and a huge herd of elk in the field there late in the evening, but we never saw anything on the carcass but a bunch of ravens. It DID move from one side of a hill to another after a night, so something dragged it over the hill to the other side, but don't know what. It appeared to be mostly gone by the time we looked at it last.

Went down to Schwabachers Saturday morning -- no beavers (looks like it's till an active pond -- is it?) but some beautiful birds and just a gorgeous, peaceful moment, SO quiet and some really pretty ducks (wood duck? Goldeneye? Several pretty ones). Just a wonderful moment of peace.

And our really incredible "bucket list" moment -- went on the gravel road above Teton School at one point and coming back down, saw a bird in a tree and stopped. It turned out to be a grouse, and it flew down from the tree and onto the ground ... it came toward our car (seemed interested) and then hopped up on a log and walked along it until the found a spot it wanted ... and sarted drumming! We've always heard of people hearing (and seeing) this, but we never had and had always hoped to, but never figured we'd get to. This little guy was totally unconcerned by our presence (or maybe was showing off for us, too) -- at one point, we had to pull a bit off the road, closer to him, to let someone pass, and he was not at all bothered. He drummed at least 3-4 times (and I got pictures! Pretty darn good ones! Yay). It was magical. We saw another ruffed grouse at Leeks Marina a bit later, but he (or she) was just walking around, looking for a bit to peck at. This 10 minutes or so was one of the big highlights of our trip. It's why we keep going back to the Parks -- you always get something different, either in weather, in an animal you haven't seen before or in behavior you haven't seen before, or whatever. It's ALWAYS new and different and wonderful!

Caught Blondie and cubs one more time, quite a ways from the road and in the trees a ways away from where she'd been before before we left. A nice goodbye!

All in all, a really wonderful trip -- we thoroughly enjoyed our time there and, as always, wished it could be longer. Will be returning in a few weeks, when all the roads are open (will avoid that ugly Norris construction as much as possible!), and can't wait.

Re: Quick spring trip 5/8-5/12

Posted: Tue May 15, 2018 2:20 pm
by 12hoursfromhome
Thanks for the detailed report. Sounds like you had a great time. Will arrive there Friday and be in both parks.

Re: Quick spring trip 5/8-5/12

Posted: Tue May 15, 2018 3:40 pm
by yellvet
Dorothy, what a great report! I could feel your excitement and sense of awe and wonderment in every word. Bears, bison and playful little red dogs, grouse and eagles, moose, elk and wolves and the mighty bighorn rams. Oh my! It doesn't get any better than that! Sounds like you had a wonderful time, even though it was a short trip. Thanks so much for sharing your report, Dorothy, it was such a joy to read. Better yet, it sounds like the critters are in all their usual places. Just hope that the folks who are in the Park right now, read your report. It's a goody!

Re: Quick spring trip 5/8-5/12

Posted: Wed May 16, 2018 4:36 pm
by Mike
Sounds like a great productive trip,glad you got to see wolves at close range,that is always a memorable experience.where are the "fingers" ?

Re: Quick spring trip 5/8-5/12

Posted: Fri May 18, 2018 9:15 pm
by Dorothy
That's what folks called them when we stopped to watch. It was on the mountains just a little ways past Trout Lake trailhead pullout. There were three "fingers" of snow on the top of the hills, and the folks helping us find the bears said, "See those fingers (of snow) up there They are just a ways from the trees in the second finger." A couple of different folks referred to it that way, so we figured that was the way it was identified. Don't know if that's true or not, but that's what we heard.