Our Special Place

The land retains an identity of its own, still deeper and more subtle than we can know… Our obligation toward it then becomes simple: to approach with an uncalculating mind, with an attitude of regard…To intend from the beginning to preserve some of the mystery within it as a kind of wisdom to be experienced, not questioned. And to be alert for its openings, for that moment when something sacred reveals itself within the mundane, and you know the land knows you are there.

~Barry Lopez

I just returned from eight days in my favorite place, Yellowstone National Park. If you follow this blog, you know I have a love affair with this park and its wildness. I have been to the park over 40 times in the last 30 years, in every season, and still can’t get enough of the scenery, wildlife, and the big skies of Wyoming and Montana (a small part of the park is also in Idaho). Melissa is out there right now with a group of educators on a museum trip, and I know she feels the same way.

I arrived a couple of days ahead of a group of friends and their family, and we spent the first part of our trip in the wildlife-rich area of the Northern Range. My first day, I soon encountered what turned out to be a bear jam at the bridge over the Gardner River. The next morning, there was another bear jam at this same location. Now, look at the first two images and decide what type of bears I saw.

Grizzly 1

My first animal in the park- a blank bear (click photos to enlarge)

Cinnamon Black Bear

My second bear – a blank bear

So, what did you decide? The first sighting was a grizzly bear. Note the shoulder hump and dished facial profile. The second bear is a cinnamon-colored black bear. The facial profile is much straighter from the forehead to the nose, and there is a lack of a shoulder hump (although that can be tricky depending on the angle you see the bear and how it is standing). Unlike here in North Carolina, black bears in Yellowstone vary quite a bit in color. The park web site states that “about 50% of black bears are black in color, others are brown, blond, and cinnamon”. Later in the week we saw a black bear sow (black in color) that had two cubs of the year that were cinnamon.

Red fox at YRPAT

My second animal upon arrival in the park was a beautiful red fox

It turned out to be a very good week for fox sightings with a total of 8 (one or two may have been the same fox on different days). The reduction in coyotes after the reintroduction of wolves in 1995 has apparently led to an increase in the red fox population. Again, from the park web site – there are 3 native subspecies of red foxes in the western United States. Most foxes in the lower 48 states (especially in the eastern and plain states) are a subspecies of fox introduced into this country from Europe in the 1700s and 1800s for fox hunts and fur farms. As luck would have it, a couple of us had the sought-after “three dog day”, where we saw a fox, coyote, and wolf on the same day. Several of us saw the pups at the wolf den along Slough Creek, and I watched the Junction pack chase a herd of bison (but give up after failing to catch a calf twice). But all the wolves were too far away for decent photos.

Pronghorn buck 1

Pronghorn buck

The population of pronghorns seems to have increased in the 30 years I have been visiting the park, especially in the Lamar Valley and Little America areas. This time of year, bands of bucks tend to hang out together in small groups, often practicing their skills for future battles for females. Both sexes have horns, but bucks have longer horns, a black cheek patch, and black nose.

Pronghorn with twins

Pronghorn doe nursing her twin fawns

Pronghorn does are giving birth now and we saw a few females with fawns, most often twins. Mothers nurse their young a few times each day, then leave them laying in cover, in grass or sagebrush areas, and go off to feed, usually staying within a hundred yards or so of the young. Young pronghorn supposedly have no scent and will lay still until you almost step on them before running off. This particular doe may have lost one fawn to a predator (coyotes, wolves, and bears, among others, prey on pronghorn young) as we saw only one young with her later in the week (she was using a particular stretch of sagebrush near the road all week). Adult pronghorns use their keen eyesight and running ability (they can run up to 60 miles per hour) to escape predators.

Uinta squealing

Uinta ground squirrel scolding me from the right…

Uinta squealing 1

from head-on….

Uinta squealing 2

and from the left.

One of the most abundant mammals in the park is the Uinta ground squirrel. These little rodents inhabit open habitats throughout the park and are particularly common in the Mammoth area and out in the sagebrush flats of Lamar. They live in burrows and you see the holes they make scattered throughout the sagebrush flats. Larger holes indicate where something, often a badger, has dug out a ground squirrel for a meal. I think everything preys on these little guys (raptors, snakes, coyotes, badgers, foxes, bears, wolves, and anything else with a taste for meat). That may be why they often perch atop a prominent rock or bush and scan for danger. When they see something, they let out a high-pitched squeak or trill. The fellow above certainly did not approve of me parking so close to his boulder, and he let me, and the rest of the world, know it.

Coyote

Coyote that was being followed by…

Badger

a badger.

A case in point was a coyote I spotted one afternoon near the road in Lamar Valley. When I slowed for a look, one of the teenagers in our group spotted a badger trailing close behind. These two predators will sometimes work in tandem, one taking advantage of anything scared up or missed by the other. We watched the badger for several minutes as it furiously dug a hole in the bank and disappeared. They often dig a new sleeping den every night, and can make short work of that, or digging out a ground squirrel, using their powerful shoulders and claws.

Yellow-bellied marmot watching fox

Yellow-bellied marmot assumes the pose as it watches a red fox nearby

Another, larger, rodent in the park is the yellow-bellied marmot. It looks and acts somewhat like our groundhog, but prefers rockier terrain. This one had spotted a hunting red fox and alerted the area with a sharp whistle, and this somewhat laid back pose.

Red fox at Junction Butter

This red fox just finished caching some food

This fox had caused the marmot to be on alert, but did manage to catch a small rodent (probably a ground squirrel or vole) while we watched. It gulped down its catch and then trotted off. We saw it again a few minutes later with something else in its mouth, which it proceeded to cache by burying it in the dirt. After digging a hole with its front legs and stashing the prize, it used its long nose to scoop and shovel dirt into the hole. The fox even used its nose to pound down the disturbed soil to help hide its future meal. Unfortunately, we also saw foxes that were being fed in one of the towns just outside the park. As is usually the case, this often leads to tragedy as the animals become habituated to humans.

Canyon

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone on a rainy day

I admit, I have a preference for the northern part of the park and its wide open vistas, waterways, and abundant wildlife. Once you head into one of the more developed sections around the famed thermal features, life can get a bit more (actually, a lot more) hectic. But, as a ranger once told our group, no matter what you thought you came to see in Yellowstone – the wildlife, the scenery, the incredible skies – you actually came to see the geology. That’s because the incredible geologic past (and present) of this landscape is what has created all of these features and allowed them to be preserved for us to enjoy as the worlds’ first national park. As we headed south, we did, indeed, pick up more crowds, although our stop at Canyon was rather tranquil due to a light rain keeping most people away. In fact, this was probably the second wettest trip in all my years of going to the park. We even had two days with snow! I would definitely trade this NC heat for some of that cool June weather.

Old Faithful crowds

The bleachers at Old Faithful are full, waiting for “the show”

Our day in the geyser basins proved more typical of summer – large crowds, limited parking, and some not-so-great visitor behavior including walking off boardwalks in thermal areas and getting way too close to large animals for selfies.

Mud pot bubble

Bubbling mud at Fountain Paint Pots

Mud pot bubble 1

Aliens in the mud

Fountain Paint Pots continues to impress me, partly due to my fascination with the mud pots and my obsession to photograph interesting shapes as the mud bubbles pop. I was unable to walk my favorite thermal feature, Grand Prismatic, because there was no parking, so I had to drop off my folks and let them walk while I waited down the road to return and pick them up. Still, even from several hundred yards away, the prismatic pool lives up to its name with rainbow colors rising in the dense steam above this, the largest hot spring in the park.

This is the first of a couple of posts about this trip that I will try to get to this week. Looking through the images helps me to relive those moments, to find peace in knowing that these wild creatures and wild places still exist. And, in spite of the crowds, Yellowstone is a place where we can all find something we need now more than ever – a chance to experience the best that our planet offers to those willing to just take the time to walk, watch, and listen. Below are a few of the other wild creatures we encountered last week. I’ll post something about the birds and the ubiquitous bison soon.

Chipmunk with dandelion seed head close up

A chipmunk grazes on wildflower seeds

Red squirrel and cone

Red squirrel with a mouthful outside my cabin in Silver Gate

Columbia spotted frog

A Columbia spotted frog, one of only 5 species of amphibians in the park (in 2014, a breeding population of Plains spadefoot toad was found in the park, raising the number to 5)

Bull elk laying down

Bull elk in velvet taking a siesta

Bull moose

One of many moose we saw in the northeast section of the park and vicinity

Yellowstone in Feathers

 ‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—
~Emily Dickinson

It has been a busy week, but I finally had a chance to wrap up some images and thoughts about my recent Yellowstone trip. Like every trip out there, this one helped me see the world as it should be, at least the wild parts do. Being there is an experience of feeling free – free from the drumbeat of the daily news (and it has been a particularly steady drumbeat this political season); free to feel the joy of sharing a place I love; and free to feel that there is hope in this world. I usually don’t take quite as many images when I have other folks with me as I spend more time trying to get them to places to see the things they want to see. But, I still managed some shots, especially of birds. Plus, I had a couple of days by myself before the others arrived and decided to spend some of it just watching some of the smaller wildlife the park has to offer.

Great Horned Owl nest with three young

Great horned owl chicks in nest in Lamar Canyon (click photos to enlarge)

It seemed it was the season of the owls this summer, especially great horned owls. I had seen reports online of a nest high on a rock face in Lamar Canyon and was delighted to see it on my first evening in the park. The three chicks were quite visible in their seemingly precarious perch across the Lamar River. I checked on them every day I was in the area, and they all apparently fledged by the time we left the park.

Great Horned Owl chick under eave

Great horned owl fledgling in Mammoth

I also checked in on another nest that is usually in a tree in the Fort Yellowstone area of Mammoth. It was in the same conifer as last year and the  two chicks fledged within a few days. Much to my surprise, one of the chicks ended up about 200 feet from the nest up under the eaves of a three story building. I guess it must have some flight ability as I can’t imagine it “branching” and climbing up the side of that stone building.

Great Horned Owl adult

Great horned owl adult sitting near chick

Just a few feet away was one of the adults, calmly sleeping under the roof overhang. The next day both birds were gone, but we found the chick in a nearby cottonwood tree.

Great horned owl with chick in nest in Beartooths

Great horned owl nest in Beartooths

The day we went up the Beartooth Highway, I checked a nest I had found last year along the road. Sure enough, another active great horned owl nest. These chicks seemed a bit further behind developmentally than their counterparts from the lower elevations in the park.

Great Gray owl fledgling

Great gray owl chick

I was fortunate to once again tag along with my friend, Dan Hartman, as he checked a great gray owl nest he has been observing outside the park. Great grays are the largest owl in North America, and it is always a pleasure to spend time with these magnificent birds in their forest home. When we walked in, I spotted a chick that had just fledged and had climbed a leaner to perch above the ground (a much safer place to be in these woods).

Great Gray Owl chick

Great gray owl chick high in branches near nest

We soon spotted another fledgling high in the branches just beyond the nest. A third, smaller chick, remained in the nest.

Great Gray Owl female

Female great gray owl

The adult female was nearby, watching over the chicks. A northern goshawk nest was not far away, and we soon witnessed an encounter between an agitated hawk and the female owl. The hawk came screaming through the trees as the owl took flight, striking the owl from behind. The owl went down to the ground. But, other than missing a few feathers, the owl seemed fine, and soon continued to hunt while the hawk disappeared into the forest. Soon, the male owl showed up and we witnessed a simultaneous feeding of the two fledged chicks by the two adults.

Great Gray chick with prey 3

Great gray owl chick with food brought by male owl

I was near the first owl chick, which was closer to the ground than its sibling. The male owl flew in, clung to the side of the tree trunk next to the chick, and transferred a small mammal to its begging beak. It was a mouthful (looks like a northern pocket gopher, a favorite prey of great grays). The chick struggled with it, and in the dim light, I managed a lot of blurred images and a few decent ones.

Great Gray chick with prey

Going down…

The chick finally managed to swallow the food after a lot of gulping and head shaking.

Raven nest

Raven nest on cliff

Several other nests were spotted during our visit, including the highly visible raven nest that is usually on the cliff wall in the area known as the Golden Gate, just outside Mammoth.

Sandhill cranes at sunset

Sandhill cranes at sunset

 We saw several pair of sandhill cranes with their young (called colts), feeding in wet meadows along various waterways in the park. It is always a thrill to see, and especially hear, these majestic birds.
Male and female green-winged teal

Female and male green-winged teal

Green-winged teal male

The male is distinguished by a cinnamon head with a beautiful green eye mask

One afternoon I was fortunate to spend about 30 minutes alone with a pair pf green-winged teal just behind Soda Butte. We were hidden from the road by the formations of this old thermal feature, and it was a pleasure to just sit and watch this pair as they fed in a side channel of Soda Butte Creek.
Ruddy duck male

Male ruddy duck with his Carolina blue bill

Eared grebe

Eared grebe

Floating Island Lake provided good views this year of several species of water birds, including some ruddy ducks and eared grebes that were busy courting and fussing.

Harlequin duck

Lone harlequin duck at LeHardy Rapids

American dipper on rock

American dipper bobbing on a rock before diving in…

American Dipper feeding

…looking for dinner underwater

LeHardy Rapids once again provided some good bird watching with a single harlequin duck out on the usual rock, and a very active American dipper feeding in the rushing water ( I never tire of watching these unique birds and their amazing feeding style).
Clark's nutcracker with bison scat pile

Clark’s nutcracker picking through some bison scat for who knows what

Cliff swallow nests

Cliff swallow nests under roof overhang of pit toilet

Trumpeter swan on Soda Butte Creek

Trumpeter swan along Soda Butte Creek

Trumpeter swan with leg band

It wasn’t until I looked at the image on my laptop that I saw the swan has a large leg band

Mountain Bluebird male 1

Mountain bluebird

 While most people are more interested in the charismatic mega-fauna of Yellowstone, I find some of the smaller forms of wildlife, especially those with feathers, to be just as interesting and fun to watch. It is a treat to be able to spend time with these feathered beauties each time I visit this incredible wonderland.

 

Here is the bird checklist for this year’s trip:

Canada Goose, Trumpeter Swan, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Mallard,   Cinnamon Teal,  Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Lesser Scaup, Harlequin Duck, Bufflehead,  Barrow’s Goldeneye, Common Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Wild Turkey, Eared Grebe, Western Grebe, American White Pelican,  Osprey, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Peregrine Falcon, American Coot, Sandhill Crane,  Killdeer, American Avocet, Spotted Sandpiper, Wilson’s Snipe, California Gull, Great Horned Owl, Great Gray Owl, White-throated Swift, Northern Flicker, Gray Jay, Stellar’s Jay, Clark’s Nutcracker, American Magpie, American Crow, Common Raven, Tree Swallow, Violet-green Swallow, Barn Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Mountain Chickadee, American Dipper, Mountain Bluebird, American Robin,  European Starling, American Pipit,  Yellow-rumped (aka Audubon’s) Warbler, Green-tailed Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Red-winged Blackbird, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Brewer’s Blackbird, Western Meadowlark, Brown-headed Cowbird, Purple Finch, Cassin’s Finch, Pine Siskin

 

We Need Places Like Yellowstone

Contemplating the flow of life and change through living things, we make new discoveries about ourselves.

~Ansel Adams

I just returned from another wonderful trip to Yellowstone National Park. It is still beautiful, still magical, still a place you must reckon with and not take lightly. It is as it should be, wild.

Wolf watchers at Slough Creek

Wolf watchers at Slough Creek (click photos to enlarge)

At times, it may not seem that way, especially in the some of the more popular spots like Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Even my favorite part of the park that includes Little America and Lamar Valley, can be crowded with wildlife seekers, especially where there are wolves, as is the case this year at Slough Creek.

Lake pano at sunset

Shoreline of Yellowstone Lake at sunset

But, if you try, you can find a peaceful spot to just watch and listen as the natural world goes on about its business, seemingly uninterested by our comings and goings.

Sunset on Soda Butte Creek

Sunset sky along Soda Butte Creek

You can pause and look at the sky, listen to water flowing by, and think about your place in this world.

Grand Prismatic

Grand Prismatic Spring

Or marvel at the life and beauty in extreme environments, and ponder whether these conditions may exist elsewhere in our universe.

27352349580_d75a6c6562_b1

Bison cow and calf

You can spend time enjoying peaceful scenes like herds of bison with their newborn calves.

Coyote pups and parent playing

Coyote with playful pups at den site

Or watch the family life of predators like these coyote pups tugging at their parent’s tail or a group of nine wolf pups tussling in a grassy meadow. Scenes of predator and prey, sky and water, life and death, scenes of beauty, moments of peace, time to reflect…that is some of what an experience in a place like Yellowstone provides. It is something we need in times like these, what we all need, to help us see the good in the world, and in ourselves.

More peaceful scenes from Yellowstone, June, 2016…

Grand Geyser in eruption

Grand Geyser in eruption

Grizzly in Round Prairie

Grizzly in Round Prairie

Littel T on ridge at sunset

Black wolf of the Lamar Canyon pack near bison carcass

Mud bubble at Fountain Paint Pots

Mud pot bubble

Pronghorn doe

Pronghorn doe in Little America

Reflections at Grand Prismatic overflow

Reflections at Grand Prismatic Spring

Moose in Soda Butte Creek

Moose in Soda Butte Creek

Sugar Bowl

Sugar Bowl, a type of clematis

Nule Deer in mud in Lamar

Mule deer doe feeding in muddy spot in Lamar Valley

Baby Uinta Ground Squirrels

A group of baby Uinta Ground Squirrels

Bison along the Yellowstone River in Hayden Valley

Bison along the Yellowstone River in Hayden Valley

Trout Lake

Trout Lake

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me

And I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be

I go and lie down where the wood drake

Rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

Who do not tax their lives with forethought

Of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

Waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

~Wendell Berry

 

First Bison

There’s so much for you to see outdoors. The one requirement, you have to be there to see it.

~Greg Dodge

The first bison calf of the season was reported yesterday from Yellowstone National Park. It is the first of many hundreds to be born over the next couple of months. Act now and you can join me to view these babies, and much more, on the trip of a lifetime to one of the great wildlife-viewing areas in North America. Join me June 2-9, 2016, for another great trip to explore the world’s first national park. Details and registration information are on my trips page.

Baby bison profile

Spend time watching wildlife in one of the world’s great natural areas

 

Yellowstone in June!

I believe the world is incomprehensibly beautiful — an endless prospect of magic and wonder.

~Ansel Adams

Join me, June 2-9, 2016, for an unforgettable experience in an incomprehensibly beautiful place – the world’s first national park, Yellowstone! This year marks 100 years since the creation of the National Park Service, and there is no better way to celebrate than by visiting Yellowstone. We will spend our days exploring Yellowstone’s unique thermal areas, beautiful landscapes, and wildlife-rich valleys. I offer small group (4 to 6 participants) field experiences that take you beyond the typical roadside views of this incredible park. Visit my Trips page for more information and to request a registration form. Space is limited. Previous blogs from Yellowstone trips can give you an idea of the wonder and beauty you will experience.

Here are a few images from past trips to entice you.

steam at Grand Geyser

Steam at Grand Geyser (click photos to enlarge)

Calf head

Baby bison will be abundant in early June

_-12

The beautiful Lamar Valley

gray wolf male 2

Gray wolf in Lamar Valley

Mountain Bluebird male

Mountain bluebird

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Hot spring

 

Yellowstone this Summer

…you will remember these fine, wild views, and look back with joy to your wanderings in the blessed old Yellowstone Wonderland.

~John Muir, 1898

Reflections in Lamar

The landscapes and wildlife of Yellowstone are spectacular (click photos to enlarge)

Join me, June 2-9, 2016, for an unforgettable experience in the world’s first national park, Yellowstone! Next summer will mark 100 years since the creation of the National Park Service, and there is no better way to celebrate than by visiting Yellowstone. We will spend our days exploring Yellowstone’s unique thermal areas, beautiful landscapes, and wildlife-rich valleys. I offer small group (4 to 6 participants) field experiences that take you beyond the typical roadside views of this incredible park. Visit my Trips page for more information and to request a registration form. Space is limited. Previous blogs from Yellowstone trips can give you an idea of the wonder and beauty you will experience.

Bull bison chewing cud 1

Bull Bison, the iconic symbol of Yellowstone

Did you get a new camera or binoculars for a gift? Yellowstone is the perfect place to learn how to use them!

elk cow silhouette

Cow Elk silhouette on a ridge near Mammoth

Bison calf 1

Early June is prime time for observing Bison babies

Shooting stars 1

The meadows will be blooming with Shooting Stars and other wildflowers

Great Gray Owl in top of pineg

We will be on the lookout for birds such as the elusive Great Gray Owl

Pronghorn bucks on ridge

Early morning is a great time to observe wildlife such as this band of Pronghorn bucks

wolf at Soda Butte Creek 1

We hope to see Gray Wolves in Lamar Valley

pattern in mud pot

We will visit many of the park’s unusual thermal features such as these mud pots

sunset in Lamar after storm

Join me for an unforgettable experience in the wilds of Yellowstone

Celebrate America’s Best Idea with a Trip to Yellowstone in June!

Sky with Clepsydra Geyser

Clepsydra Geyser (click photos to enlarge)

Join me, June 2-9, 2016, for an unforgettable experience in the world’s first national park, Yellowstone! Next summer will mark 100 years since the creation of the National Park Service, and there is no better way to celebrate than by visiting Yellowstone. We will spend our days exploring Yellowstone’s unique thermal areas, beautiful landscapes, and wildlife-rich valleys. I offer small group (4 to 6 participants) field experiences that take you beyond the typical roadside views of this incredible park. Visit my Trips page for more information and to request a registration form. Space is limited. Previous blogs from Yellowstone trips can give you an idea of the wonder and beauty you will experience.

Here are a few images from last year’s trip…

Rocky Mountain Goat

Rocky Mountain Goat in the Beartooths

Great Gray Owl female

Great Gray Owl

Clouds at sunset along Slough Creek

Beautiful sky over Slough Creek

Bison calf out car window

Bison calf from the car window

Pronghorn doe at sunrise

Pronghorn doe at sunrise

Double rainbow in Hayden Valley 1

Double rainbow in Hayden Valley

The Power of Yellowstone

Mindful of different ways of being, our awareness as a species shifts –

We recognize the soul of the land as our own.

~Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve, unattributed

Back from Yellowstone, back from paradise. Thirteen days, some alone, some with my group, some with old friends. Why is it so special? Why do I long to return when there are so many other places to explore? Is it that it was here, so many years ago, that I first knew the power of wild places? Is it that I have seen the magic of Yellowstone in the faces and thoughts of the many people I have guided over the years? I don’t know for sure, but it is an influential place for me, and always will be. There is something to knowing a wild place too, knowing its rhythms, knowing where to look to find its secrets. And there are the lucky ones, the friends that call this place home – Dan, Cindy and Kelly, Beth, Laurie, Jan and Leo. And others who love it like I do that I frequently see in my travels – Parks and his group, Melissa and Megan and the North Carolina teachers, Bill the wolf interpreter, Bob. It certainly is also the wildlife, so abundant, so different from that at home. Perhaps it is the soul of the land, a feeling I have of being connected to something grand, something far bigger and more powerful than what I experience back home, something that demands respect and awareness. I may never truly know, but that may be just fine. Maybe I should just accept that there is something special about this place…

Whatever evaluation we finally make of a stretch of land, no matter how profound or accurate, we will find it inadequate. The land retains an identity of its own, still deeper and more subtle than we can know. Our obligation toward it then becomes simple: to approach with an uncalculating mind, with an attitude of regard. To try to sense the range and variety of its expression – its weather and color and animals. To intend from the beginning to preserve some of the mystery within it as a kind of wisdom to be experienced, not questioned. And to be alert for its openings, for that moment when something sacred reveals itself within the mundane, and you know the land knows you are there.

~Barry Lopez

I do know this…every time I leave, I know I will be back. Until then, some images to remember it by….

in the road

Traffic control in Lamar Valley (click photos to enlarge)

Grizzly Lodge

Appropriately named lodging in Silver Gate

Grizzly eating dandelion 2

Grizzly Bear dining on Dandelion flowers

Rocky Mountain Goat

Rocky Mountain Goat surveying his domain

Snake River overlook

Snake River overlook, Grand Teton National Park

Elk antlers

Elk skull that has been in this same spot in Little America for at least 4 years

sunset at Slough Creek

Strange clouds at sunset at Slough Creek

Bison coming out of river

Bison emerging from a swim across the Yellowstone River

Great Gray Owl female

Great Gray Owl out toward the Beartooths

Black Bear and cubs

So many Black Bears and cubs this year

Bull Elk in velvet 2

A rarity to photograph these days – a mature bull Elk

Pronghorn doe at sunrise

Pronghorn doe at sunrise

Uooer Geyser Basin

View down the Upper Geyser Basin

Western Tanager

Western Tanager male

Rainbow in Hayden Valley

After the storm in Hayden Valley

sunset at Roosevelt Arch

Majestic sunset at Roosevelt Arch

Yellowstone Skies

My group was tired last night so I  dropped them off at the lodging and then went back out to just spend some time alone in my special place. We spent the day in the geyser basins, a highlight of a visit to Yellowstone for almost everyone. But, everywhere we went it was crowded, so many people. It started me wondering why other people come to this special place? What is it they take away with them when they leave?

 

Sunset in Hayden Valley (click photos to enlarge)

As I drove into Hayden Valley, the sky reminded me of one of the reasons I love this park. There is freedom here.  Freedom to be who you are, to think big, to be inspired to reach for something bigger than yourself. It is vast and wild. I truly believe that helps me put things in perspective. There is beauty in the simplicity of the cycles of life that are so evident here. There is so much to understand and appreciate.  It makes me want to learn, to try to understand how everything fits together. But most of all, it gives me a sense of peace. I want that for the other people I see, but I’m not so sure that some of them are finding it. I watch as people take selfie’s near a bison or geyser. I hear complaints about the food at the restaurants or about the traffic jams (I guess I might be guilty of that last one). But this is Yellowstone, the world’s first national Park. I want them all to appreciate it.

 

Double rainbow after the storm

A brief storm moved across Hayden Valley the other night as I contemplated all of this. The sky was soon electric with color.

 

Rainbow in Hayden Valley

I wish everybody here could take a moment and look at the sky, to take in it’s beauty. We should all look up every day and see how it changes in both bold and subtle ways. I think the skies of Yellowstone have a lot to say about why life is good and why we should make the most of it. So, wherever you are, take a moment and look up, and try to learn what the sky is trying to tell us.

Here are some of the sky messages I have seen this week.

Sunset in Lamar Valley

 

The Beartooths peeking out of the clouds

 

Sky reflection at Grand Prismatic Spring

 

Brilliant sunset at the North entrance to Yellowstone

 

Looking across Yellowstone Lake at sunrise to West Thumb Geyser Basin

 

Pink clouds in Lamar Valley

Faces of Yellowstone

There are so many people here this week. So many faces. Many are international visitors. I guess many are in Yellowstone for the first time. I realized how important faces are to us humans, how that is what we usually look at first in another person, and how it can often tell us so much. I have seen tired faces climbing the boardwalk steps at Mammoth, hot faces of people out in the intense sun this week, and surprised faces when a one ton Bison bull suddenly steps in front of someone’s car. But mostly I have seen happy faces, smiling faces. In watching the wildlife I started wondering about their faces and what they might tell us. They look wise and strong. I think I will look more closely and see what I can learn from and about them. Here are some of the faces of Yellowstone wildlife…

Yellow-headed Blackbird (click photos to enlarge)

Pronghorn doe… Check out those eyelashes

Great Gray Owl outside the park toward Beartooths

Western Grebe

Lesser Scaup female with male close behind

Bull Elk in velvet

Bison bull

King of Lamar Valley

Mule Deer doe

Raven that just brought a chunk of meat to young

Elk cow

Elk cow

Pronghorn buck – note black cheek patch as aid in identifying males

Note…this may be my last post until I return due to limited cell service