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Max's Full Spring 2018 Trip Report (May 25 - June 7)

Posted: Mon May 28, 2018 5:16 am
by Max
I will be posting links to my annual spring trip report in this thread over the next two weeks, so check back for updates.


May 25, 2018

My annual spring trip to Yellowstone didn’t start until Memorial Day Weekend for the second year in a row. Other trips (in this case, our family trip to Ireland a few weeks ago) are preventing me from heading over as early as I’d like, but I’m still trying to fit in at least a week or so before the start of my photo tour.

Because it’s the holiday weekend, which entices hordes of visitors to Yellowstone, I once again chose to delay my arrival. With the intent of driving to Idaho on my first day, I started out from Seattle at 5:30am. Progress was slow. After only a couple hours on the road, I had to pull over to rest. This was my first solo road trip since last year’s marathon following the solar eclipse, but even so, normally I have plenty of gas in the tank before I need a break. Perhaps it was the lack of sleep the night before. Or I’m just old. Or I’m suffering from Exhausted Daddy symptoms. Most likely all three.

I tried to stay alert as I sped eastward. The surrounding landscape looked more green than normal. Maybe it was my later-than-normal spring start. It also looked more brown. Silty rivers were gushing and threatening to flood. And there was more orange: nearly twice as much road construction as normal, which slowed me down even more.

Late in the morning I received a text from a friend inviting me to make a detour to northwest Montana, where he and his fiancé had recently moved. I had not had a chance to visit yet, and I’m going to miss their wedding due to fall tour obligations. With no set schedule, I decided to change things up and went north off I-90.

Oh, and it may have helped that he had found a very photogenic fox den near his house...

Read the full trip report in my blog.


Re: Max's Spring 2018 Trip Report: Prologue (May 25 - 27)

Posted: Mon May 28, 2018 1:04 pm
by Dorothy
Great report! I've never tried Market Lake or Camas National Wildlife Refuges but they sound like a lot of fun. Wonder if we should try a quick detour to one or the other (or both) on our way up to Yellowstone for our upcoming trip. I looked it up and it doesn't seem like a really long detour to spend a few hours there and then continue up to Yellowstone. It sounds intriguing! Thanks for the little report about it.

And thanks for the Bison Jam info. We've been caught in more than one and found your suggestions sound (we've tried to do some of those things when we're close to the front of one of these). Hope the rest of your trip is great!

Re: Max's Spring 2018 Trip Report: Prologue (May 25 - 27)

Posted: Mon May 28, 2018 1:37 pm
by lah
Thanks for the first report Max. Wish I'd known you would be in Idaho Falls Saturday because I drove through there then on the way home. Hate to miss you.
Can't wait for more reports.

Re: Max's Spring 2018 Trip Report: Prologue (May 25 - 27)

Posted: Mon May 28, 2018 5:36 pm
by Kat
Thanks for another great report, Max. Hope your times both with and without clients are filled with good animal sightings so you can share many more of your experiences!

Re: Max's Spring 2018 Trip Report: Prologue - Day 2 (May 25 - 29)

Posted: Tue May 29, 2018 8:47 pm
by Max

May 28, 2018

If there’s one word to describe Yellowstone right now—aside from “crowded”—it may be damp. Plenty of rain has been coming through recently. The rivers are high. Areas like the Confluence and Pelican Creek look more like lakes, and there are even little waterfalls draining from the floor of the Lamar Valley into the river.

It was certainly damp Monday morning as the park tried to dry out from last night’s rain. Low-hanging clouds lined the hills and valleys of the northern range as I drove through...

Read the latest report for Days 1 & 2 in the blog.


Re: Max's Spring 2018 Trip Report: Prologue to Day 4 (May 25 - 31)

Posted: Thu May 31, 2018 7:33 pm
by Max

May 30, 2018

How would you feel if the alarm went off at 3:45am? Yeah, that’s about right.

I was on the road by 4:15, meeting a friend who was coming out of Cooke City, with a goal of reaching Yellowstone Lake to find some grizzly bears. I hadn’t done the lake journey in the morning yet, missing the roadside show being put on by a couple of popular bears down there, so I figured I’d better get at least one early trip south under my belt while they were still around.

Naturally, it was dark much of the way. You spend most of your time behind the wheel on these Wee Hour drives attempting to wake up, watching for creepy glowing bison eyes in your headlights (often the only clue a living roadblock may be present), and trying to avoid crunching all the little mice hanging out in the middle of the road...

Read the full report from the last two days in the blog.


Re: Max's Spring 2018 Trip Report: Days 4 - 7 (June 1 - 3)

Posted: Sun Jun 03, 2018 10:10 pm
by Max

June 1, 2018

My final “free” day before the start of my photo tour activities wasn’t quite as easy going and relaxed as I’d like. I did make it out in the morning, knowing that I’d have to return home to tackle some obligations at midday. Wolf watchers were gazing intently toward the lower hill in the Soda Butte Valley. There was no room to pull over, so I continued (later hearing the wolves walked down the road shortly afterward, though likely farther from the small crowd). Part-way through the Lamar, another group was watching a grizzly high in the hills. I went on.

Two coyotes trotted across the floor of the Lamar Valley as I drove past.

Overall, it was really quiet. Seems like things have slowly died down following Memorial Day Weekend (which may as well be considered a 6-day weekend based on the crowds), but it’s been a slow decline in tourist numbers over the course of the week. Maybe the scary weather played a role.

Regardless, I thought something was occupying people’s attention somewhere, because the roads from the west were pretty empty. I suppose I was right. There was a small group of cars pulled over past Calcite Springs, where a black bear grazed right near the road...

Read the latest trip report in my blog.


Re: Max's Spring 2018 Trip Report: Days 8 & 9 (June 4 & 5)

Posted: Wed Jun 06, 2018 12:45 am
by Max

June 4, 2018

I came this close to missing both of my alarms Monday morning. Can you blame me? It was 3:30am. I stumbled around, found my clients and our van, and we hit the road bound for Yellowstone Lake. Grizzly bears were on the agenda on this morning, and there’s really only one place to look for reliable grizz photo ops in the park right now.

At least, I thought they were reliable, since Raspberry and Snow had been seen consistently in the morning for at least a week. This morning, however, I didn’t find any of the usual bear-stalking crowd. Then, at Lake Butte Overlook I was told that the bears had gone a mile or so “inland” away from the lake the previous day, so our odds suddenly seemed diminished.

I walked up the hill to look for grouse in the meantime, as I often do at the overlook. Instead of a grouse, in a moment of deja vu a Peregrine falcon flew in and landed on a nearby tree. This is exactly what happened during last year’s spring tour, and I even had two of the same clients with me to witness this...

Read the full report in the blog.


Re: Max's Spring 2018 Trip Report: Prologue to Day 9 (May 25 - June 5)

Posted: Wed Jun 06, 2018 11:14 am
by lah
Love the reports, Max, Looks like you're getting a lot done.
Wow, big cinnamon bear, and at Sheepeater. I would for some reason not expect a black bear there.

Re: Max's Spring 2018 Trip Report: Prologue to Day 9 (May 25 - June 5)

Posted: Wed Jun 06, 2018 8:17 pm
by yellvet
Thanks for the report, Max. Sounds like you did pretty well considering the water has been so high. Still is, on the north slope of the Beartooths. But the River should be cresting any day now. Got lots of sunshine in the forecast for next week so I hope you'll do well spotting the critters.