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April 17th Through April 29th

Posted: Thu May 09, 2019 3:19 pm
by Mike
As like last year,I was tasked with bringing a group of people that had never been to the park,so much of the time was spent showing them all the "sights" that everyone should experience.There was so much going on I kind of lost track of wildlife sightings but I will try my best to give you a more overall picture of what,and where things were going on.To my surprise I took very few photos,mostly because many sightings were at long distance and beyond the reach of my 500mm lens.

So off we go,we were traveling in a RV and I had my truck for driving around the park.The plan was to be in West Yellowstone on Thursday for Fridays West Gate opening,my friend driving the RV had checked the websites of two RV parks(the only two) that said they were open.We arrived late on Wednesday and to our consternation both parks were still covered with about two feet of snow and not open.The woman that answered the phone in the Island Park RV park was kind of uncaring that her web site was giving false info so we ended up "camping" for the night some where near Henry's Lake south shore road,not a great start,we were entertained in the morning watching hawks hunt in the deep snow in the large opening across the highway.
On Thursday we got up and headed up the Gallatin River which is a nice drive that I rarely do travel.Lots of early season fisherman were in the river,did not see anyone catching anything,after Bighorn Pass we experienced our first "jam" with a large group of big horns had taken over 191.Finally we were headed down hwy 89 toward Gardiner taking note of the large,and I mean large amount of deer,elk,and antelope still taking advantage of the plentiful feed on the farm and ranch fields.My plan was to get in the park because it was not only the west gate opening but it was also Easter weekend and I had previously almost been shut out of a camp spot at Sequoia National Park when I was surprised to find out of season and character crowds on a Easter Weekend.While Mammoth campground was full most of the week you could get a spot if you arrived before 10:00 am.All of this was mute since my party decided that they wanted to have RV hookups and Wi Fi so as not to miss any Seattle Mariners games(and me with my Dodgers games) so we stayed at the Rocky Mountain RV park on Jardine Road,nice place with very nice owners,small store,laundry,and showers.

A few things before getting into the park,most of the Park Street construction appears to be done with a new cut off to bypass the arch,I also noticed that the Sinclair gas station on the corner of Park St. is gone,leaving the CONOCO station the only gas in town.

Last year I was in the park one week later and there appeared to be more snow last year even though this year was supposed to be much greater snow pack.Construction on the Mammoth Hotel goes on with a new wing being built,another change was the stop sign in front of the hotel is now a three way stop but I saw so many people blowing right through it,I trusted no one to stop.

Elk were just starting to move in to the Mammoth area with most down around Rye Pond and between the HQ and the bridge over the Gardiner River .Driving out toward the Lamar not much was going on,most grazers were in the Little America area,mostly bison then antelope,and a smattering of elk,bighorn ewes were at the pond at the picnic area were they would be most of the next two weeks,no bears at the moment at the YPA.Out to Slough and the wolves were out with lots of comings and goings of adults and yearlings,probably going to a bison carcass that the wolves and numerous grizzlies had be feeding on from the week prior to when I arrived.

The Lamar Valley the first three or four days had very little in the way of wildlife or snow,the rivers were mostly low and clear depending on the weather at that time,the day alternated between sunny and about 59°/low 30°'s and on cloudy days low 50's/low 30's.By the end of the week the rivers grew higher and and a little more turbid as the snows melted.


Sunday was our day to go down to Oldf Faithful,being Easter Sunday there was no construction on the road active and it appears that they are close to finishing the work here and moving all the delays and such over to Fishing Bridge area.Nothing out of the ordinary at OF,they enjoyed seeing the geysers and hot springs,unfortunately Old Faithful Lodge was closed so I could not show them the interior but we did peek inside where it appears they are doing some interior fixing up with new flooring and such.The benches at OF were about 1/4 of the section close to the Snow Lodge being replaced with the plastic boardwalk and new bench seats.A trip over to the falls was next,still lots of construction there with some of the north side roads and trails closed.

Monday we started to spend more time in the Lamar,on the way out there were people at the Blacktail Nature Trail looking way,way out across the plateau at what I believe was the Wapatai pack,even with a scope it was just too far away,on other days everyone had turned around and were viewing wolves toward the Yellowstone River where the 8 Mile Pack had been frequenting the area.Hellroaring Overlook had very little action,probably the only thing seen were wolves in transit through the area and maybe a grizz sighting.On Tuesday things started to really pick up,a black sow with 1 1/2 yo cinnamon cub was in the trees across from the pond next to the picnic area,there was also a another juvenile cinnamon hanging pretty close to mom and cub,maybe related as he was tolerated to come close to them.


Bighorn rams up on the slope at the confluence and moose,lots of moose.From the confluence all the way to Barronette moose were hanging out,many in groups,a couple at the Lamar,two at Soda Butte,a single male at Trout Lake TH,a couple out in Round Prairie,four together just above the Pebble Creek bridge,mom and calf at Soda Butte Creek bridge and reports of more moose near Cooke City.


Tuesday had more wolf watchers at Blacktail and started to see bears everywhere,Pantom Lake had a big black bear sleeping underneth the trees not moving at all,black mom with the cinnamon cub was now at the Yellowstone bridge,both the Wreckers side and the other side which has a big bump where the bridge connects,this requires autos to slow down to a very slow speed or risk damage to your car.Grizz started to show them selves around Slough Creek cleaning up carcasses from the wolves,another on Specimen Ridge,one off off Dorthy's.At Mid Way high up on the "fingers" a grizz sow with a 1 1/2 yo cub that were very entertaining,between digging for food the sow and the cub would roll around in the snow and slide down and frolic about in the snow.Just below them in the trees at the creek level a lone black wolf (uncollared) was bedded down in the trees before heading off toward Trout Lake,I would later get reports of the wolf in the open at Round Prairie but was never quite sure what pack he was from as there were wolves in the area that were from outside the park for Around three days.

Wednesday brought more bears,a small black at Icebox Canyon,a black sow with two COY up Tower Rd(reported but not seen by me)black bear at Roosevelt,another black at Elk Creek,a sow with two COY about 3/4 mile west of Hellroaring where the road drops down to the little grassy area which caused a bear jam that stopped traffic both directions,grizz out off of Amethyst and once again the sow with the cub up on a different "finger" at Mid Point,again very entertaining to watch,mom was digging and froze ,then cocked her head to the right and pounced head first in the snow coming up with some kind of rodent,the cub tried to get it away but was given a right claw to the head from mom which made to cub crying out in protest,you could hear him making that bawing sound all the way from where I was standing.,Went back to Gardiner and then did some sightseeing out of the park exploring the Tom Miner Basin,hiking up Cinnabar Creek,and over to the area where they have the bison hunt which is littered with animal parts.Checked out the charcoal kilns at Aldridge,and up to the end of Jardine Road including walking around the cemetery where between post holing in the snow or falling on our backsides on the ice I spotted a some scat and immediately knew lion ! as I walked a little further there in the snow was a nice crisp lion tracks,and then a lot of deer hair that had been pulled out,boy would I love to get a pic of a lion,I would return later that night to see if anything was happening but saw nothing but eye shine from the large amounts of deer in the area but it is a perfect ambush spot,lots of lodgepole trees and lots of deer.Also did notice while in the lower Paradise Valley there were some deer that did not fit in with the other deer,darker,more reddish coat and sure enough when they turned to run they were whitetails,a nice treat for me as living in the west whitetails are not seen very often.

Thusday my party left back to Washington state and I moved to Mammoth for the last four days.The days were about the same with the Junctions coming and going,always with a least one member at the den,started to see red dogs,first one then another the next day,the whole trip I probably did not see more than six at most eight red dogs at all.Bears everywhere
Friday brought out more black bears at every turn,grizz mom and the cub were out again on the Mid Point fingers,also at Mid Point 30 feet off the road were some new badger holes with good prints in the mud.Up the road a boar grizz with a nice blonde coat was out across Round Pareie,I watched him for a while until he took off back into the woods.Just about any searching of the cliffs in the area were big horn rams and goats hanging out,got reports of a red fox there too,the description made it sound like he was a little worse for wear,red fox also at the YRB Picnic area.
Later in the day you could feel that the weather was about to make a big change,that night the temperatures dropped down in to the twenties.

On Saturday I woke up to about two inches of snow and the temperature reading on my truck said 13°,low visibility hampered wildlife viewing and I was caught in a heavy hail storm by the time I reached Pebble Creek.On the way out a bear jam at Blacktail Ponds but no where to stop so I kept going.Stopped to watch the Mid Point sow for a while and then not more than a half hour after leaving I heard over the radio that the bear and cub had crossed to road about half way between Soda Butte and Trout Creek.By this time I was at Slough trying to get photos from Bob's hill in very cold,very windy(30mph +)and very snowy conditions,if it was not bad weather conditions stopping me from getting a shot it was people kept walking down to the gravel pile where overnight the wolves had taken a young bison with the pack feeding or trying to defend the carcass from different grizz that were coming in to feed.Now I think that everyone has the right to go where ever they want but twice this happened with people walking right up to the carcass and pushing the wolves off on one occasion and a grizz off on the other occasion so back I went to the Mid Point sow and had much better viewing from about 150 to 200 yards off the road,mom and cub had some fun interactions where she did her impression of a dead bison as junior watched
and then did some stand up

Temps never went over 29° for the day but the snow did melt so back to Slough where I took a lousy shots of two different wolves feeding on the carcass


Sunday was not my original day to leave but I had some damage to my truck,broken windshield,broken key in the shell of the truck,wind damaged a brand new REI tent and with temperatures very cold at around 30° to 35°for the high and a relentless wind blowing at 25 to 35mph I had enough,had some great viewing once again and on my last pass that evening through the Lamar I was going to turn around at Pebble and head back to camp and home in the morning.As I approached Footbridge the Jeep in front of me tapped his brakes and caused me to look to my left and there was Mid Point sow and cub coming right at me toward the road.Being late and pretty much empty I was able to get some decent shots as the bears worked their way from Footbridge west to Hichting Post,at times walking down the middle of the road




Re: April 17th Through April 29th

Posted: Fri May 10, 2019 9:34 am
by timv
Thanks for the comprehensive report. Lots of bears and moose! Good to know the road construction is finishing up on the west side.


Re: April 17th Through April 29th

Posted: Fri May 10, 2019 2:58 pm
by yellvet
Wonderful report and pix, Mike! Sorry to hear about the damage to your vehicle and about your broken car key. Been there myself a time or two. That's why I now keep an extra car and trailer key on a leather shoe lace lanyard that I wear around my neck whenever I'm in the Park. I never take it off. You can also use a soft cotton shoe lace instead of a leather shoe lace for the lanyard. It's a little softer on your neck and works just as well. Ever since I started wearing my home-made lanyard on Park trips, I have never lost a key.....just an idea that you and other forum members may want to try. Now for some weather info.

I know all too well how brutal , unforgiving and depressing the Park weather can be at times (snow, sleet and damaging hail). The weather here NE of the Park has been nothing short of ugly for over a month....lots of rain, snow and sleet. Luckily, we've haven't had any hail damage yet (knock on wood). But the upcoming weather forecast is looking a bit brighter. This weekend the temps are going to be close to 70 with sunny to P/C skies. Yea!!!

Looks like RikWriter has timed his Park visit just right. Can't wait to see his pix and report. By late May, it looks like the weather is going to turn ugly again with quite a bit of rain in the forecast. So if folks have a May Park trip planned, be sure to bring your rain gear, not only for yourself but also for your cameras and lenses. And, if you don't have a rain cover for your camera/lens set up, a plastic garbage/grocery bag will also work. Just cut an opening in the bottom of the bag that's just big enough for your camera lens to peek out. Then cover your camera with the bag and tie the ends of the bag under the mounting plate for your camera. Works just as well as an expensive camera rain jacket. This is a light weight and a cheap solution to fighting the lousy May weather that, all too often, isn't very accommodating to Park photographers. Just keep in mind that it's all the moisture in May that brings out all the lush and spectacular wildflowers in June.

Lastly, it looks like I won't be able to make my solo May trip to the Park. :cry: With all the cold weather we've been getting, I'm going to stay home and keep our pellet stoves burning, so our water pipes don't freeze. However, hubby and I are going to the Park in mid June for our annual extended trip. So if you're going to be in the Park between mid June and mid July, I hope you'll stop by and say hi. We have a Chalet A-frame trailer and will be staying at Mammoth and Slough Creek. Safe journeys everyone, be safe and happy clicking!

Re: April 17th Through April 29th

Posted: Sat May 11, 2019 8:28 am
by Mike
I almost forgot to mention the birds,I think that the weather kept bird sightings down,my friend wanted to see swans but there were none to be found,Swan Lake was still frozen over and about a foot of snow,only made one trip down to the Madison and did not see any there also.

I did take note of the lack of bald eagles,probably because of lack of fishing opportunities,I saw three balds ,two on carcasses,and one in the cottonwoods at the Old Picnic area.The canyon ospreys were on the nest,and did see a few mountain blue birds and a smattering of sandhills,mostly breeding pairs feeding in the standing water on the floor of the valley.I do love to see them flying around,so graceful in the air.There were some ducks,mostly mallards,goldeneyes,and pintails,did not have access to the lake area so no harlequins even though after I left I heard of good sightings at Le Hardy's and Canada geese were as usual.

On Sunday just before running in to the grizz sow as I passed Hitching Post a golden eagle flew real low right over the top of me and circled for awhile over Druid Peak,I am not a big bird person but that was quite a sight to see.One other note was the amount of large red tails in the park,they seemed to everywhere hunting rodents feeding on all the new grass.

I do not know if the swans are still there but just before I came into the park I heard that there were about 3000 swans near Rigby at Menan Slough where the Idaho F&W were feeding them this winter.That number is about 25% of North America's total population.

Re: April 17th Through April 29th

Posted: Sat May 11, 2019 4:44 pm
by Dorothy
What a great report with wonderful photos! Thanks so much for posting. You saw some amazing things and your pictures made me feel like I was there (and I wish I had been!). Thanks again for posting.

Re: April 17th Through April 29th

Posted: Sun May 12, 2019 6:14 pm
by billandkaren
Great report. Karen and I are here now and I will post a trip report for the last couple of days. But just to let you know, the weather has drastically changed to summer like conditions. No rain in the forecast for the next two weeks. I hope this doesn't indicate a hot dry summer.