Sept 4, Fri - day 29
Yellowstone National Park
Weather-low 45 (8C) high upper 70s (27C)
We decided that on today’s trip we wouldn't over extend ourselves, we'd keep the shooting to six- hours or less....it was a thought. We had a relaxing morning and then left for the day’s adventure around 10 am (PDT).
The ospreys seemed to be everywhere, but we couldn’t find any that were diving. One was eating a freshly caught fish, while a juvenile sat down stream calling to it, seemingly asking for a handout. Next we spotted a herd of elk (a dozen or so) in a broad grassy valley on the Madison, about seven miles or so from the west entrance, more keep appearing as we traveled up the valley.
There were photo ops for all photographers….scenery, flowers, trees, shrubs, insects, animals, birds, clouds, rivers and streams, people (candid shots and portraits), thermal activity…and the list goes on. It is hard to travel very far down the road without stopping because there is just sooo much to see. Sometimes we pass on possible shots, as we are trying to get to a certain destination. Today that destination was the Hayden Valley and the multitude of bison which are just in the final stages of the rut, or breeding cycle.
There was more traffic than we experienced last year probably because this weekend is Labor Day Week End (last US holiday of the summer), and the road closure on the west side. Driving manners have been far less considerate than last year, however we anticipate that may change after the Labor Day week end.
On the way to Hayden Valley, just beyond Fishing Bridge, there was a stop-and-go traffic situation. After a few minutes we saw the cause, there was a large bison leading the cars in our lane (bison jam!). Occasionally it ambled right down the centre line, however most of the time it stayed dead center in our lane. We were about ten cars back, with the line behind us growing steadily. Finally there was a long pull-off to the right and what a considerate bison, it just sauntered over into the pull-off and continued on its way. When the oncoming traffic cleared, several cars in our lane moved into the oncoming lane and hurried past the bison. At the end of the turnout, the bison veered back, dead center into our lane…sigh. When the on coming traffic cleared, it moved to the center line again. Finally….we got a chance to pass, moved ahead of it, pulled off the road and I jumped out and snapped a photo of the LONG line of traffic led by the bison. We quickly drove back onto the road before the bison caught up with us and were once again on our way to Hayden Valley.
Next stop, another traffic jam, we pull over to see out what the attraction was and found dozens of people watching a wolf (we think it is only a coyote, but said nothing). The animal swam across the river and continued on its way on the other side. We got some shots, but the animal was a long way off.
Next came the bison….no disappointments here. A thousand or so bison were stretched out for miles. We saw them on the road, on the shoulder of the road, and as far in the distance as you could see. Some were nursing, some were mating, some were fighting, some were swimming, some were dusting, and some were just lying around. GREAT light and great photo ops!
On our way home we spotted two, four point bucks in velvet (4 points on each side of the antlers), along with two does and three fawns. Racine got some quick shots, but as soon as we pulled off to stop so did everyone else and things got a bit congested….hope they got some good shots too.
Things got fairly quiet, with minimal wildlife sightings, so it looked like we would make it home for dinner. HA, ha, ha….not a chance. As we rounded a corner in the road, it looked like the parking lot for the Olympics and the surrounding area looked like the Fall Fair Carnival, people everywhere. We got the windows down, cameras ready and WHOA a huge bull elk is just lying in the grass on an island in the Fire Hole River. No park ranger yet. We pulled by and were lucky enough to find a super parking spot with a clear line of sight. It was so congested Rae decided to shoot from the car and I’m out and getting as close as I can….remembering of course the rule about wild animals: always be close to someone older and slower in case the animal attacks.
For the second day in a row it looks as thought I may to get a shot of someone torn to pieces by a bull elk in rut. When the elk finally got up he went through an “I’m in rut and getting excited routine” which includes tearing the ground and surrounding shrubs to bits. He then meandered to the east side of the island, crossed the river and as he got a lot closer to the highway….the crowds closed in (still no ranger). He stopped at the edge of the water, went through another of his “I’m in rut routines” and proceeded to thrash the river bank. The people got closer and I heard one young lady ask, “ Can I pet him?”
He started up the bank and the people were on three sides of him, boxing him in. It crossed my mind that if he swung his rack he would get three or four people with one swipe. This went on and on until finally, 30-minutes after we arrived, he finally exited up the road bank and disappeared into the forest. (The ranger never did show up…probably a good thing, they would have had a heart attack or at least a severe case of apoplexy.) We didn’t see any cows or calves, but figured the bull would be in a battle soon to collect his own harem. Wow….what a scene.
We packed up the cameras and headed for Gus. Along the way we saw several elk in the distance and just kept driving, still recovering from the last elk jam. What a day…and we made it home in just over nine hours :0). The adventure continues…
To see more of 'The Great Adventure 2009' images click HERE