Summer Vacation Part X – the Journey Home!

Our last day in Yellowstone Park and we woke with mixed emotions. We were sad that our Yellowstone adventure was over, but we were excited to be heading home. Imagine my surprise when I opened the cabin door to get the truck and found this…

…Elk calf enjoying a little breakfast just outside our door…and then I noticed the white stuff! SNOW on June 8!

Just a dusting by our standard, but fun and exciting nonetheless.

After brushing the snow off the truck, we loaded up, got a little breakfast, and headed out. Our route took us up the hill south of Mammoth Hot Springs and we saw the sign to drive the Upper Terrace Loop. We decided on a little side trip adventure. Holy cow – were we in for a surprise!

In this view, Mammoth Hot Springs is on the left just outside the frame. The road you see is headed to Tower Junction.

Looking down to Mammoth Hot Springs…with the snow, the colors were wonderful.

And then we found the Upper Terrace. This view through some trees…

…and this view of the Upper Terrace. This image went viral on the ‘Wyoming Through the Lens’ group on Facebook. I printed it as a triptych (3 panels, each 13″ wide x 19″ high) and display it in my home.

Having gotten in the habit of taking pictures of our ride each day, I couldn’t pass up the PhotoFun50 in the snow!

Continuing down to Madison Junction, the scenery and wildlife did not disappoint. We found several herds of Elk close to the road.

We had pulled off the road and I walked back to where we saw several Elk. When I came back to the truck, I saw this pair – closer – with a nice view of the river in the background.

This Elk cow was a little further down the road…and something on my left had her attention.

I love the new green grass under the snow cover, with a little frosting on the trees.

Beautiful scenery everywhere you look.

Of course, the Bison were looking for something to eat.

Leaving the Park by the west entrance, we passed all the Saturday traffic trying to get in. Some of our friends from the Yellow Bus were headed east and some were headed south to catch their plane at Jackson Hole. We’re not sure how their trips went, as the storm had closed the roads to the south, east, and northeast entrances to Yellowstone. The storm also closed Bear Tooth Pass, where we had traveled the week before (the day after that road had opened from the winter snows). Obviously, we got home safe and sound, a couple thousand miles added to the odometer of my pickup.

Thanks for sharing our adventure. Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Summer Vacation Part IX – Yellow Bus Tour Day 4…

Day 4 is the final day on the Yellow Bus. We will depart Lake Village and proceed north through the Hayden Valley, Canyon Village, past Mt. Washburn to Tower Junction, and on to Mammoth Hot Springs. We parallel the Yellowstone River and make our first stop at Artist Point – the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

We stop briefly to see the Upper Falls. We crossed the bridge at the top of the image on our way to this view. Mother Nature gave us a beautiful rainbow to enhance the shot.

The Yellow Bus at Artist Point parking lot.

The iconic view of Yellowstone Falls, with an obliging sky.

In portrait orientation.

Tour guide Nancy helped us out. She’s pretty good with a camera that also makes phone calls. Even on June 7, it was jacket weather.

My lovely bride with Matt, our Yellow Bus driver…

…and Nancy, our tour guide.

This is Lower Yellowstone Falls from the other side of the Yellowstone River, and a little closer than Artist Point.

A view of the Yellowstone River looking downstream from the Falls area.

After a lunch stop at Canyon Village, we continued north through Dunraven Pass. Throughout the day, we saw lots of wildlife: Sandhill Cranes, Blue Heron, many small birds, Osprey, a Bald Eagle, and Great Horned Owls in a faraway nest.

Of course, Bison were common. An artsy Bison shot.

After seeing several Coyotes from some distance, I finally got the chance for some up close shots of this one hunting. We had been watching a couple Coyotes at some distance when, as usual, I turned around to see what was behind me. This hunter was just across the road and intent on getting some lunch.

Even with all this wildlife around, the focus of the day turned out to be (drum roll please) the Bears.

This big guy was walking through a thermal area which explains his wet appearance.

We pulled into the Tower Fall parking lot and heard everyone talking about the two Black Bears just down the path.

I grabbed the big camera and ran down the path. Sure enough, a young Black and this Cinnamon Black were playing together in the trees across a ravine.

Since I had run from the Yellow Bus with the big camera, all I had for a picture of the Tower Fall was my trusty mobile phone.

I had been trying for pictures of a Great Horned Owl nest some distance away, when my tour buddies started talking about the Bear in the trees below the nest. (Matt had his spotting scope out and was checking to see what was around.) This Black Bear sat on this rock and watched the people watching him!

I grabbed this shot out the Yellow Bus window as we crawled along with the rest of the traffic. We encountered six Bears in a brief stretch of road.

Another of the many Bears we saw that afternoon.

The Yellow Bus was alive with chatter about our unusual luck seeing bears that day. Nancy and Matt deemed us the luckiest tour that either had ever been on.

We arrived back at Mammoth Hot Springs for our last night in Yellowstone. We all gathered in the Mammoth Dining Room for one last meal together, recounting our wonderful week with newfound friends. As we arrived back at our cabin, all was right with the world.

This Cow Elk was grazing just across the street from our cabin.

We repacked the PhotoFun50 for the trip home and got to bed, still discussing our lucky Bear Watching day.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Summer Vacation Part VIII – Yellow Bus Tour Day 3…

We departed Old Faithful and headed east towards Yellowstone Lake. We stopped at the Continental Divide and had a couple nice surprises.

This is a Barrows Goldeneye. He swam around and climbed on this log for me. A beautiful bird and very accommodating for the camera.

I found this gorgeous scene across the road from the parking lot. A quick shot with my ‘camera that also makes telephone calls.’

Yellow Bus at the Continental Divide.

Our next stop was the West Thumb Geyser Basin on the west shore of Yellowstone Lake.

To protect the fragile landscape, the Park Service constructed boardwalks from the parking lot to the shore. I made this image from the boardwalk.

An interesting feature – a geyser in the lake.

We were fortunate to see wildlife there. This cow Elk was across a geyser field.

We enjoyed our lunch in the lobby of the Lake Lodge.

Matt posed with the Yellow Bus at the porte cochere.

After lunch, we headed to the Yellowstone Lake Marina for a hike but the trail was closed due to bear activity.

We walked around the marina. The tour boats were not operating yet, but we saw the boat operators getting their safety and other training to start operating tours the following week. The Park staffs up during the summer months to handle the increase in visitors. Of course, much of Yellowstone is closed during the winter months.

We stopped into the Marina Visitors Center and had a wonderful guided tour through the displays there.

Since we couldn’t go hiking, Matt drove the Yellow Bus towards the east entrance to see what we could see. Near Lake Butte, we found lots of vehicles parked along the road and people were looking down the hill. We saw two Grizzly Bears engaged in, well, an intimate moment.

We’ve all heard the old joke that asks what bears do in the woods, but never this version…

After a half hour or so, the sow kicked him off and they just rooted around for a while…

I have many friends who regularly take pictures in the Yellowstone ecosystem, and through them I learned that this sow is named Raspberry…

With our hike canceled, we had some extra time on our hands, so we watched these two for another hour or so. They eventually moved off and the crowd dissipated. We drove up Lake Butte and found this stunning view.

The versatility of my iPhone helped me have success on this trip. This is a panorama from my iPhone, and can be printed at 48″ wide by 12″ high.

A different view of the Yellow Bus on the north shore of Yellowstone Lake.

From Lake Butte, we drove west across Fishing Bridge (where you can’t fish from the bridge) and turned north, following the Yellowstone River to the LeHardy Rapids. We saw a pair of male Harlequin Ducks doing a little fishing.

Harlequin Ducks are found in the United States along the Washington, Oregon, and northern California coasts, in a narrow section of central Washington into Oregon, and from Yellowstone Park north along the Montana-Idaho border, into Canada (British Columbia and Yukon provinces) and then into Alaska.This fella’ stepped out of the water for his close up.

After a little more sightseeing along the River, we headed back to the Lake Lodge for the night. Our accommodations were in the Cabins.

Very nice inside. A little bigger than the cabins at Mammoth Hot Springs. Matt was good enough to drop us off and pick us up literally at the door.

We had a wonderful dinner with Nancy, Matt, and the others in the dining room at the Lake Lodge.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Summer Vacation Part VII – Yellow Bus Tour Day 2…

We checked out of the Mammoth Hot Springs Lodge, parked the PhotoFun50, and loaded our bags into the Yellow Bus.

Our first stop was the Yellowstone Heritage Center in Gardiner MT, where we got a private tour of the collections there. Pictures were not allowed, but it’s a wonderful facility. We returned to Yellowstone National Park through the Roosevelt Arch. We took a few minutes to record our visit.

These cow Elk were on the hillside near the Roosevelt Arch.

Our group picture under the Arch. I set the timer on the shutter release and ran to get into the picture. This is the back of the Arch. The morning sun had the front of the Arch in shadow.

We were headed for Old Faithful, traveling south on the west side of the Park. Our first stop was the Golden Gate.

A gorgeous view. The engineer in me was interested in the bridge.

I usually read the information signs and then move on, but the engineer in me had to save this information.

Turning around from the gorgeous view, I found Rustic Falls.

Our route took us past Roaring Mountain and Obsidian Cliff. We were approaching our lunch stop when we ran into a Bear Jam, caused by this happy camper.

This Black Bear was not bothered by the onlookers at all, and enjoyed its dandelion snack before disappearing into the trees.

We ate our lunch at a quiet spot along the Gibbon River.

We found this herd of Bison as we continued our journey.

Our next stop was the Madison Information Station, a short hike from the parking lot.

Nancy shared the story of National Park Mountain (behind her). Legend has it that the Washburn party camped nearby around 1870 and discussed the creation of a national park system. Yellowstone National Park was created in 1872.

With National Park Mountain on the left, this is the view down the Madison Valley towards Mount Haynes – spectacular!

For our next stop, Matt dropped us at a trailhead and we hiked about a mile and a half to see this!

Grand Prismatic Spring as viewed from an overlook.

Nancy took a few pictures for us.

Headed back to the Yellow Bus, we saw Rabbit Creek meeting the Firehole River.

Tired from our busy day, we arrived at Old Faithful. We had time to check into our room in the Old Faithful Snow Lodge before watching Old Faithful put on a show.

The Yellow Bus at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge.

I shot a video and will figure out how to pull a frame from the video.

After the geyser show, we headed to the Old Faithful Lodge for a wonderful dinner.

This is the fireplace in the dining room. The painting is gorgeous and resembles the spark screen on the hearth.

What a fantastic day! Gorgeous scenery, Bison, a Bear, Old Faithful, and great friends.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Summer Vacation Part VI – Yellow Bus Tour Day 1…

WAHOO! Our Old Times on the Grand Tour (aka Yellow Bus Tour) is finally here! We woke up in our little cabin full of excitement for the day. As we walked to the dining room for breakfast, we saw our only bear for the day – on the hillside above the cabin. But that’s okay, we had an incredible day.

Matt had the bus at the front door of the hotel, ready to hit the road.

Our route today took us back to the Lamar Valley.

First stop at a small lake to see the wildlife. The Yellow-headed Blackbirds were in fine voice.

A quick panorama with my camera that also makes phone calls. Beautiful skies all day!

The Lamar River, with some Pronghorn in the distance.

Our new friends were from Maryland, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Thailand. Most had never seen a Pronghorn before.

We stopped by the Osprey nest again. Two birds on the nest today.

Our morning in the Lamar Valley was wonderful. Our tour guide, Nancy, has worked in Yellowstone Park for several years, including a winter doing seminars in the Lamar Valley. At one stop, we saw a Golden Eagle but, sadly, the light doomed my photographic efforts. After a box lunch at a picnic area, we hit the trail for some hiking. Our route took us along the Yellowstone River.

The views were, of course, stunning. This one looking east towards the Bear Tooth Mountains.

And the wildlife did not disappoint. This Pronghorn passed by at about 50 yards. Note that even on June 4, there’s still a winter coat.

As we hiked, we started seeing holes about a foot in diameter just off the trail. Matt grabbed my arm and pointed to dirt flying about 20 yards from the trail. The dirt stopped flying and this guy backed out of the hole.

We continued our hike and reached our destination. Nancy told us something about the geology of the area – I was keeping my eye out for wildlife. We started back to the Yellow Bus. I saw the biggest Marmot I’ve ever seen standing on a rock. He had to be 3 feet tall standing. By the time I got glass on him, he had sat down.

As we approached the area where we had seen the Badger, Nancy suddenly stopped because on the trial just a few yards away – there he was. He ran away, but then returned. I was kneeling down shooting when he started our way. About 20 feet away and closing, he disappeared from view. Note the fresh dirt in the foreground. We gave him a wide berth.

All the while, we heard the Prairie Dogs chirping loudly. Warning each other of the danger nearby.

At one of our stops, a modern bus parked by our Yellow Bus. I like our bus much better!

Still basking in the glow of the wonderful day, we headed to the dining room for dinner. Our dinner was delayed, however, as one of the locals was enjoying their evening meal. A Ranger was nearby, ensuring that the locals were not disturbed the the visitors.

What a glorious day! One more night at Mammoth Hot Springs and then off to other areas of the Park.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

My Summer Vacation Part V – Yellowstone!

We chose to enter Yellowstone through the northeast entrance, from Silver Gate MT. We drove over the Chief Joseph and Bear Tooth Highways (see Part IV) again. Boy, was that tough to do.

The road from the northeast entrance into the Park parallels Soda Butte Creek, past the Yellowstone Association Institute to the Lamar Valley. The Lamar Valley is famous for the Bison herds and other wildlife. The Lamar Valley is wider than the Madison Valley near the west entrance, with grander vistas. And the Bison were very photogenic!

My Bison wildlife panorama.

Obviously, these Bison were crossing the Lamar River. There were several babies (more appropriately called calves, I’m sure) with this herd.

Watching the calves was very entertaining. They run and play just like happy children should.

As we continued our drive across the northeast portion of the Park, we encountered lots of wildlife. We saw a Wolf, but from too great a distance for pictures.

The Pronghorn were still shedding their winter coats.

This Osprey was nesting on Lava Creek, I think.

We saw some Bear in the distance in the Lamar Valley, but this one was napping in the trees within camera range.

A final Bison shot with my ‘camera that also makes phone calls’ just a few minutes away from Mammoth Hot Springs.

We arrived in Mammoth Hot Springs shortly after noon. We scouted the area, visited the Visitor’s Center, and found the hotel and some lunch.

The Elk are plentiful in and around Mammoth Hot Springs. As it was calving season, the Cows were very sensitive to people.

Happy to be out of the car but too early to check into the hotel, we explored Mammoth Hot Springs. The mineral springs are a marvel.

A shot of the Lower Terrace with my trusty Canon PowerShot G9X Mk II, a compact point and shoot camera that I always carry.

I walked the path to this spot above the Lower Terrace, looking back towards historic Fort Yellowstone.

Of course, my lovely bride and sometimes model also enjoyed the walk to the Terrace. Even though we arrived on June 3, temperatures were cool for most of the week.

After our walk up the hill to the springs, we were able to check into the hotel. We met our tour guide and the other members of the Old Times on the Grand Tour (aka the Yellow Bus Tour) that evening. Nancy, our tour guide, reviewed the itinerary and provided other information. Our group included visitors from Illinois, Maryland, Wisconsin, and Thailand. We became good friends with them over the next week. Our accommodations in Mammoth Hot Springs were a ‘cabin’ – half of a duplex a nice walk away from the main hotel. Clean and comfortable, but no TV or internet. Pretty good shower, tho’. In the other side of the duplex were Stephanie and Carol, new friends also on the tour.

This is Cabin A26 with my favorite model relaxing on the porch.

The end of a very exciting day, but the beginning of a marvelous adventure! Stay tuned and enjoy – PHOTOROGR

My Summer Vacation Part IV – On Top of the World!

After a very successful wildlife picture day, we headed into the high country for some gorgeous scenery. Traveling northwest from Cody on the Chief Joseph Highway, we were headed for Bear Tooth Pass. The views were stunning and the light cooperated nicely.

This area is known as the Sunlight Basin, for obvious reasons.

The view from Bear Tooth Pass, elevation 10,947 feet. The road had just opened the day before we were there (June 1), and then closed again a week later (June 8) by a late spring snow.

Sometimes, one must let the images speak for themselves. Enjoy – PHOTOROGR