Late May/early June trip

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Dorothy
Posts: 128
Joined: Sat Jul 29, 2017 7:45 pm

Late May/early June trip

Post by Dorothy »

Thanks to everyone for their trip reports and photos! I have really been enjoying them. Thought I'd contribute what I can, although I still have no way to include photos.

We headed to Grand Teton by way of Seedskadee on May 29, my sister and I with our 30-something niece who had NEVER been to either Grand Teton or Yellowstone, so this was an adventure for her (and us!). Saw lots of birds of many kinds, including several bald eagle nests with chicks -- one in particular is really easy to see from far away and we really enjoyed watching the (what appeared to be) one chick in the nest flap around and such. Toward the end of our watching, we saw there was actually at least one other chick, much shyer than the other. Lots of fun!

We had told our niece that was almost always saw moose at Seedskadee, but hadn't seen one when we went a few weeks ago with her. Again, we just seemed to be missing moose, as we hadn't seen one as we started our last pass up through the front part of the auto tour route on our way to Jackson. BUT, as we passed over the bridge and started toward the headquarters, all three of us at about the same time noticed something in the water and ... yes, it was cow moose in the river. Yay! We were all so thrilled. She walked toward the shore, ate a few willows and disappeared in the willows. We were all SO excited! Our last past around Dodge Bottoms netted that bluebird that loves car mirrors (hovered right outside our windows trying to see itself in the windshield and rearview mirrors -- REALLY fun! -- and some kestrels.

Didn't get the Jackson until about 5:30 or so, and by the time we checked into the hotel and rested a moment or two, decided we didn't have time to go to the north end of the park and look for bears, so we went up Gross Ventre, around Antelope Flats road and up Moose-Wilson. A good choice -- saw a mom moose with a year-old calf, several birds and a lovely sunset!

Next morning up to the northern end of the park, hoping to see grizzlies (particularlly 399 and cubs). Nothing on our way up, but a quick stop at Oxbow got a nice photo of niece in front of good reflection of Tetons, a gray squirrel taking a snooze in a tree by Colter Bay. some merganzers and a flicker. On our way back, we hit the jackpot with 610 and her cubs (year old? 2 year old). They were grazing out a ways in the Pilgrim Creek meadow, and then started moving north toward the trees. As we moved up that way, too, we spotted what looked like it might be another griz in the trees much nearer the road than the grizzly trio. As we got a closer look, it turned out to be a dark cinnamon black bear -- a pretty big guy until we the grizzlies started to get closer and it was clear 610 was MUCH bigger and the cubs close to the same size as mr. black bear. He stayed there quite a while -- maybe unaware the grizzles were there? -- before he disappeared in the trees. Grizzlies also moved to where they were tough to see, so we moved on. YES! Grizzlies (and a black bear) for us (and for niece, who had never even seen a bear) at one time. Pressure off a bit (we DID want her to see a big diversity of animals, especially bears, on this first trip). Went back down to Jackson area, spotting a beautiful hawk (rough legged?) on the ground, a coyote crossing the road around Antelope flats, and another nice diversity of birds.

Quick lunch then back up toward the top of the park. Another moose along Gross Ventre and some nice birds along Mormon Row, then back to Pilgrim Creek, and we hit the jackpot with Blondie's two subadult bears along the road -- a ways out first time, then right by the road on our second pass. We parked a ways down and niece and I walked down toward the crowd -- the bears were very close and rangers kept moving the crowd and the cars back as they grazed alongside the road, looking as if they might want to cross. As we moved back further and further, finally came to the car, where my sister was able to get some great shots of the bears as they came closer. We ALL got really nice shots of the bears before we were asked to move our car -- I assume the bears crossed the road later, but we didn't try to turn around and go back into the crowd. On the way back down the outside loop we saw beavers on the side of the creek just outside of the Moran entrance along 189. Really fun!

Decided to see if Two Ocean Lake road was open the next day, and it was! Saw a couple of big bull elk (grownig a nice set of antlers) and a bull moose that came down through some trees, crossed the road and went down into the willows. Also a flock of merganzers, and noticed a great blue heron nest (that must have been there all along) at Oxbow with a heron on it. Always see new things when you look! Up at Colter, some beavers had made a "lodge" on two different docks in the marina by the visitor's center by stacking some logs over them. SO funny! One of the docks was the National Park Service dock! We saw one big beaver on the side of the bay and a smaller one swimming. Also got the "beaver-tail slap" with VIGOR by the big one when he was frightened by someone walking by. THAT was fun! (The last time we went by, on June 1 on our way up to Yellowstone, they had removed the logs and I assume relocated the beavers -- bummer!) :) Saw another coyote and a beautiful what I assume was a cross fox (it was black and red) hunting near the Taggart Lake parking area. Went up Two ocean again -- no grizzlies (which one lady there said were quite common up by the lake) but more birds (including a beautiful ruffed grouse hen that posed for all of us for a few moments -- yay! ANOTHER great see for niece) and elk, and more moose along Gross Ventre -- then a bonus of a tree FULL of cedar waxwings along Moose WIlson. Another cinnamon brown bear near Pilgrim Creek road (maybe the same one, just on a different side of the road) and some marmots (but no pika, rats!) up near Lewis Falls.

No 399 with cubs, no Blondie with COY -- in fact, this was a COY-less trip for us -- seems like COYs have avoided us the past couple of years. Sigh. Still, lots of good bear sightings, so can't complain.

On to Yellowstone! We were lucky that they opened the Montana entrances on the very day we were scheduled to stay in Gardiner for our three days in the park. Went up the "thermals" side on the way up so niece could see Old Faithful -- also went to Black Sand basin and Midway basin (such incredibly beautiful pools and such, including Grand Prismatic, of course) and the Firehole Lake drive (Castle geyser obligingly went off for us!). Just past Norris (which we stopped at on another day, just to look over Porcelin Basin and trek down to Steamboat to see if it would go off for us -- it didn't! :) ) there was a nice big griz in a meadow that we watched for a while, with some sandhill cranes up the way a bit. Nothing at Sheepeater.

Checked into our Gardiner hotel and decided we had enough time to head down toward Lamar -- figured just to go to Tower and turn around. There was a black bear at Petrified tree, and then another one coming down the hill behind the ranger station -- we were allowed to park in the ranger area and watch it pass by quite close. Wow! But unfortunately Roosevelt to Tower was closed (guess it's going to be closed for the whole couple of years while they work on Dunraven -- sigh, such GOOD bear, mountain sheep, etc., area. Ruddy ducks on Floating Island lake and a baby owl at Mammoth.

A great introduction to Yellowstone!

Next few days were lots of fun. We told our niece we almost always saw a bear at the "bear hammock" (our name for it, the place where you come out of the trees to an open area with a big pullout on each side of the road, a ways above Floating Island) and it delivered again, as we saw a black bear there one way. Saw several black bears, including one up Slough that had two year-old cinnamon cubs. (Everyone was up toward the front end of Slough, with spotting scopes on the wolf den -- we were never there when the pups were out -- and we decided to head on down toward the trailhead to turn around -- couldn't find a good place up further, so continued down and noticed a car with emergency blinkers going -- somehow forgot what that means in a national park -- guess I was thinking that why would someone have lights flashing on a little gravel road if it wasn't in trouble -- so continued on and saw one car parked kinda in the middle of the road with lights flashing and another parked a bit up further pulled off a bit more. Thought oh, well, whoever is in trouble has help, THEN saw three folks set up with big cameras on tripods pointed down into a gully. OOOOHHHHH, boy! Parked OFF the road as far as we could get and quietly went over to one of the photos to ask what they were seeing (I wasn't seeing anyting in the gully yet). Were told there was a bear with two cubs down there, up under the lip of the gully, but she was on the move, so went back to tell the others in the car and she moved up the gully and right across the road not far in front of us. WHAT fun! Two little year-old cinnamon cubs were SOOOO cute! So glad we went down to see if we could help!

Also saw a very active badger near the wolf spotters at Slough one day -- perhaps a younger one, as it was pretty brown and not as big as some of the others I've seen, but it was running all over the place and put on a great show. Another notch in the "you are SO lucky" belt for our niece -- you don't often see a badger! A griz with grown cub on the side of a mountain in Lamar, lots of oh-so-cute red dogs (also watched a bison herd crossing the Lamar, which was VERY full and swift -- afraid a couple of the red dogs we saw get into the water may not have made it. Several frantic moms were swimming over, then swimming back, looking for missing calves. We saw one mom running back to the river with THREE tiny ones following her -- she flung herself into the water and two of the little ones did, too -- mom made it safely over and was running up and down the shore, obviously looking for her calf, while these two little ones struggled and struggled -- we saw one get out safely, but lost track of the other. Sigh. So sad to see this, but know it happens every year and it's a normal happening -- but you just want to go down and help those little things!

Had another great experience of watching something pretty far up the side of the mountain (just into the actually Lamar Valley up above a curve in the river) -- a grizzly was in front of a rock with what appeared to be a bison kill in front of him -- and off to the north, a black wolf was sneaking up and trying to get a piece of the action. Griz chased it off once or twice, but at least once while we watched the wolf managed to sneak in and grab somthing (there was something trailing from its mouth as it ran off). After it finished whatever it was, it began again moving in closer, then stopping for a bit, then moving in closer again ... we left before we saw if it managed to get another something, but it was sure fun to watch!

We did seem to be on the wrong side of the park at times, tho -- lots of reports of wolves in Hayden on Tuesday, when we couldn't get down to Hayden, so went out to northeast entrance (bought some great fudge) and saw lots of nice things, but not wolves. Went down to Hayden on Wednesday and DID see a griz near Lake Butte overlook (Snow? we had been told that "if you drive 3-4 times between Mary and Sedge Bay, you WILL see a grizzly with three COY), but not griz with cubs. Got a few harlequin ducks (LOVE those!) at LeHardy (and niece and sis got a stellar jay -- I had already headed down to the water and they saw it in the parking lot), but certainly no wolves. That day, of course, there were griz with cubs in Lamar ... oh well, we DID see lots of great things (just frustrates you when you apparently choose the wrong day to go to a certain place).

Were hoping to see baby elk, and DID get one tiny one on Tuesday night, then several really cute ones up at Mammoth on Wednesday. ANOTHER great get for us and the niece. They are SO adorable!

Also got to Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Mud Volcano, Sulpher Cauldron on the Hayden side, so that was fun.

Overall, a great time and some great scenery that just awed our niece over and over -- we perhaps don't appreaciate the scenery as much until we get someone who's never seen it.

Anyway, headed toward home on Thuesday -- took a quick stop at Market Lake. Had a great experience there as we were leaving. Heard what almost sounded like a gobble as we were driving along one of the canals headed toward Robert. Stopped to check it out and spotted a sandhill crane -- it was REALLY making a lot of noise and looking around and around. We stopped to watch. Eventually spotted a second one, and IT was also acting kinda weird, looking around and dipping its head down behind the berm. We figured there MUST be young around and we watched for awhile and sure enough, eventually we spot a tiny yellow thing walking along the berm, disappearing in the grass or behind the berm. The trio walked down the berm toward a little gravel area that bisected another pool. Any noise or anything strange and the little one would disappear and mom and/or dad would look around and cry out. Eventually got to the little gravel area behind a barrier and we could see it pretty well. SOOOO cute! It wasn't even as tall as the adult's knee joint. It couldn't have been very old, and mom and dad were SO careful with it. We'd been wanting to see some baby sandhill cranes but this was SUCH a surprise and a wonderful end to a wonderful trip. Several long hourse to get home, but all worth it.

We feel so blessed that things worked out and we were able to get there -- it wasn't very crowded at either park, other than the grizzly jams in Teton -- and see so much and enjoy ourselves so much. Can't wait to do it again!



RikWriter
Posts: 275
Joined: Tue Jul 25, 2017 8:36 pm

Re: Late May/early June trip

Post by RikWriter »

Glad you had a good time! I envy you the badger! Really sucks about the road from Roosevelt to Tower being closed. Are they allowing people to hike up it or is it closed to all activity?



mdtrot
Posts: 81
Joined: Tue Jul 25, 2017 7:57 pm
Location: East Texas

Re: Late May/early June trip

Post by mdtrot »

Thanks for the great report! Just curious about Two Ocean Lake Road. What manner of vehicles can drive on it? Thanks much.



RikWriter
Posts: 275
Joined: Tue Jul 25, 2017 8:36 pm

Re: Late May/early June trip

Post by RikWriter »

mdtrot wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 3:49 pm
Thanks for the great report! Just curious about Two Ocean Lake Road. What manner of vehicles can drive on it? Thanks much.
I think nothing above two axles.



mdtrot
Posts: 81
Joined: Tue Jul 25, 2017 7:57 pm
Location: East Texas

Re: Late May/early June trip

Post by mdtrot »

RikWriter wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 5:14 pm
mdtrot wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 3:49 pm
Thanks for the great report! Just curious about Two Ocean Lake Road. What manner of vehicles can drive on it? Thanks much.
I think nothing above two axles.
Lol, thanks, but what I'm trying to get at is, do you need 4 wheel drive or all wheel drive? Can you do it with a front wheel drive CUV?



RikWriter
Posts: 275
Joined: Tue Jul 25, 2017 8:36 pm

Re: Late May/early June trip

Post by RikWriter »

mdtrot wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 5:27 pm
RikWriter wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 5:14 pm
mdtrot wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 3:49 pm
Thanks for the great report! Just curious about Two Ocean Lake Road. What manner of vehicles can drive on it? Thanks much.
I think nothing above two axles.
Lol, thanks, but what I'm trying to get at is, do you need 4 wheel drive or all wheel drive? Can you do it with a front wheel drive CUV?
It's not that rough unless it's been raining. I've seen people drive sedans up there all the time.



mdtrot
Posts: 81
Joined: Tue Jul 25, 2017 7:57 pm
Location: East Texas

Re: Late May/early June trip

Post by mdtrot »

RikWriter wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 5:34 pm
mdtrot wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 5:27 pm
RikWriter wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 5:14 pm


I think nothing above two axles.
Lol, thanks, but what I'm trying to get at is, do you need 4 wheel drive or all wheel drive? Can you do it with a front wheel drive CUV?
It's not that rough unless it's been raining. I've seen people drive sedans up there all the time.
Thanks, that's what I needed to know.



karenandbill
Posts: 44
Joined: Thu Apr 30, 2020 10:55 am

Re: Late May/early June trip

Post by karenandbill »

Dorothy, What a marvelous trip you had! We have not seen any beavers yet this year and you had several encounters. Isn't it neat to take a first timer (your niece) into the parks, especially when you see so much? Sounds like you are becoming quite the birder. Good for you! Thanks for sharing. When will you be making your next trip?



Dorothy
Posts: 128
Joined: Sat Jul 29, 2017 7:45 pm

Re: Late May/early June trip

Post by Dorothy »

About Two Ocean Lake road -- it's a gravel road, narrow and winding, and sometimes is pretty rutted, but this year it was actually pretty good. It's only about, what, 2-3 miles long and ends up at the lake, which has a trail leading to Matilda Lake, I think. I'm told that it's one of the areas with the most grizzlies in the park, so tho' I walked part of the trail once, I'm not sure I'm ready to take it unless I'm with a group of people who all have bear spray! I've passed sedans, jeeps, suvs, trucks, pretty much all kinds of vehicles, going, coming or parked in the little parking area, so it's accessible to just about anything.

We've been up it many times, with cars/SUVs with 4-wheel drive and a few without, and haven't had much trouble. If it's wet (soupy with melting snow or with big puddles) it can be a bit problematic as it gets a bit slippery and, as mentioned, soupy. But overall, it's a really nice drive through several different habitats and there's a chance for some nice wildlife sightings. At the lake, there is the aforementioned trail to the other lake and a trail around Two Ocean Lake, so many places to hike. The lake is pretty. It's narrow, so you may have to kinda scrape the side of the road when you're passing others, but everyone seems to be pretty good about give-and-take to pass.

And this WAS an especially special trip to take someone who had never seen any of it -- we felt truly blessed to see so many "rare" type sightings and to have it fairly uncrowded, as well. As always, tho', it just makes us want to be back there. Please, everyone who goes, keep writing reports, so I can live vicariously through you! It always makes me happy to read about the parks.



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