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

Babes in Paradise

This may not be what you expected if this came up in a Google search. My last post was about being back in Yellowstone… my paradise. It being early June, the park is full of babes… of the wildlife kind. I have seen many in my first couple of days, many too far away to get a photograph, but cool to see nonetheless. Of those eluding a portrait there have been Rocky Mountain Goats on high cliffs, Ravens that apparently fell out of the nest, a Chipping Sparrow nest with hungry babies, and Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep sleeping on what looked like a vertical wall of rock.

Thus far, three species have allowed me to grab some baby pictures.

  

The orange – red baby Bison are common in Lamar Valley (click photos to enlarge)

Baby bison are everywhere in Lamar Valley. They spend much of the day sleeping, and then have bursts of energy and playfulness. I can sit and watch them for hours.

 

These three yearling Black Bear cubs and their mother are causing a lot of traffic jams near Tower

 
One set of siblings of a famous bear family provided some great viewing, but not so great photographs. Driving south, there was a huge bear jam near Tower, and when I saw that there were three 1-year-old cubs, I knew it was the same group I had seen last summer as cubs of the year. Their mother seems to have a preference for meadows close to the road and probably enjoys the huge backups of cars she causes. I drove through and parked in a pull out some distance away and then walked back toward the group of bears. I stopped well ahead of the 100 yard minimum distance required for bears and wolves and set up my tripod in the shade of a tree. Rangers were already on the scene directing traffic and trying to manage the crowds. There was a lot of contrast between the shady areas in the bright sunlight grasses so the photographs were not all that great, plus I was pretty far away. 

 

Bear cubs playing in a tree

 
At one point all three cubs climbed a small tree and begin playing in it… the tree was shaking back-and-forth, but I have a feeling most of the people in cars that went by never even saw them. Finally, mom climbed a short distance up the tree and must have scolded them, as all three came down and followed her up the slope (to take a nap no doubt).  The bear jam began to break up, and the ranger closest to me walked straight towards me. I was wondering what I had done when suddenly he spoke up and thanked me for obeying the rules and being a respectful photographer. He said it isn’t often that he doesn’t have to tell someone to get back. I appreciated his comments and thanked him for what he does.

 

Pronghorn mothers typically have twins


My favorite baby animal thus far has been the Pronghorn Antelope. Yesterday, one mother had twins following her through the sagebrush flats. Twins are actually normal for Pronghorn, but there is a high mortality rate to predators. The youngsters were so cute as they followed along in their mom’s footsteps. 

 

A mothers’ work is never done

 
Mother Pronghorns clean the droppings from their fawns’ rear end as a way to reduce scent that might attract predators.  Being a mother is never easy.

 

Thanks, mom

 
The mother often leaves the babies hidden in some sagebrush for long periods of time as she wanders off to feed. 

This morning I saw a female with only one fawn. The baby laid down next to some sagebrush and the female and another doe crossed the road and started feeding several hundred yards away. It is amazing that they can relocate their baby in this landscape that looks so similar to our eyes. 

Baby Pronghorns in Little America

I am looking forward to seeing what other new life greets me in the coming days.

 

Back in Paradise

 

Sunrise

 
A quick post from my favorite place. Arrived yesterday in Yellowstone. Surprisingly hot for this time of year here… 87° in Bozeman. But, the park continues to amaze.

 

Bison calf from the car window in a bison jam.


Relatively little wildlife on my way in yesterday save for the usual bear jams near Roosevelt. But then late in the day… two wolves in Lamar Valley.  Too far for an image, but beautiful light. Bison everywhere in Lamar. Lots of road blocks, of the Yellowstone kind. 

 

Yellow-headed Blackbird perched on Big Sagebrush.


This morning there was a coyote feeding on a Bison calf carcass down by the river. A Bald Eagle and a few Ravens waited their turn for breakfast. Standing alone on Slough Creek watching Pronghorn… Just another morning in paradise.

Spaces Still Available for Yellowstone in June

But if one steps off the road, even a few hundred feet, and listens, there is a calm to the land, a certain wild rhythm that is closer to the surface than in most places.

~Renee Askins, speaking of Yellowstone

My favorite place had a birthday this week. On Sunday, March 1, Yellowstone turned 143 years old. Looking pretty good for that age, I must say. It was the beginning of what Ken Burns called, America’s Best Idea, the National Park System. Help me celebrate this grand idea by joining me on an unforgettable outing this June in Yellowstone National Park. Details are available on my Trips page. There are still spaces in both trips, but I will need to finalize details soon. Please contact me for additional information or to request a registration form. And please share this with others you think might be interested. Join me, step off the road a ways and listen, feel that calm and wild rhythm for yourself.

Here are a few more images to whet your appetite…

20140522-054059-20459655.jpg

Foggy sunrise in Hayden Valley (click photos to enlarge)

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Yellow-headed Blackbird

wolf departing carcass

Gray Wolf departing Elk carcass with a scrap

Castle Geyser

Castle Geyser

Bison with background

Bison in Little America

Gray Wolf at Soda Butte Creek

Gray Wolf at Soda Butte Creek

Mountain Bluebird at nest cavity

Mountain Bluebird at nest cavity

elk skull and antlers

Elk skull and antlers

Bull Moose browsing on aspen saplings

Bull Moose browsing on aspen saplings

20130615-225040.jpg

Harlequin Ducks at LeHardy Rapids

20130608-114926.jpg

Great Gray Owl

20130607-140339.jpg

Pine Marten

20130608-121506.jpg

Double rainbow near Mammoth

 

Yellowstone in June!

reflections in Lamar in evening

Lamar Valley sunset (click photos to enlarge)

Join me for an unforgettable experience in the world’s first national park, Yellowstone! I am offering two trips this summer  – both in June. One includes an extra night in the park’s Northern Range plus an overnight to Grand Teton National Park. Both trips offer small group (4 to 6 participants) field experiences. We will spend our days exploring the unique thermal areas of the park and the wildlife-rich landscape of the famed Northern Range of Yellowstone, home to many of the park’s large herds of Elk, Pronghorn, and Bison. And where there are prey, there are also predators such as Coyotes, Grizzly Bears, and Gray Wolves. Visit my Trips page for more information and to request a registration form. Hurry, space is limited.

Here are a few images from previous trips…

steam at Grand Geyser

Steam at Grand Geyser

Shooting stars 2

Shooting Star in bloom

Red fox eating 1

Red Fox snacking on a rodent

Grizzly standing bandw

Grizzly Bear checking out the surroundings

Mud pots

Thermal feature known as mud pots

Calf head

Baby Bison

Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring

Bison and approaching storm clouds

Bison silhouette

sunset in Lamar after storm

Sunset in Lamar Valley after a brief thunderstorm

Barrow's Goldeneye male 1

Barrow’s Goldeneye

Badger at Slough Creek

Badger

Gray Wolf

Gray Wolf

20140522-054100-20460478.jpg

Old Faithful

 

 

Yellowstone Reflections

This place, this Yellowstone, comes in through the nostrils, swims into the blood, to alter your very constitution, leaving the familiar skin a sage-scented facade for the wildness running beneath.

~Liz Hinman, a teacher that participated in a Yellowstone Educators of Excellence Institute

Reflections in Lamar

Reflections in Lamar Valley (click on photos to enlarge)

It usually takes me awhile to readjust after returning from Yellowstone. As I sat out by the garden this morning, sipping coffee and watching birds, I thought about that magic that is always with me in Yellowstone. A feeling of freedom and peace. But what makes it so special? And why do I keep returning?

wide bison view

Bison herd in Little America

sunset in Lamar after storm

Sunset in the Northern Range after a storm

Lamar Valley, Little America, the Northern Range – these are the places I think of when I think of Yellowstone. That is where my experiences in the wilds of this incredible national park first began some 30+ years ago. It is also the area I associate most with the large numbers of wildlife – the herds of Bison and Elk, the bears, the packs of wolves – and the wide open spaces and vibrant skies, that epitomize the West to me.

steam at Grand Geyser

Sunrise through steam cloud in Upper Geyser Basin

Mud pots

Mud Pots produce fantastic shapes and sounds if you sit, and watch, and listen

patterns at Grand Prismatic

Thermal features produce a variety of colors and patterns

downed trees in geyser basin

Ghostly skeletons of trees caused by their absorption of silica in the thermal areas

But Yellowstone is so much more. It was set side as the world’s first national park, not for its expansive views and wildlife, but for its unique geology – the world’s greatest concentration of geysers and other thermal features that seem born of another planet. And they still enthrall people from all over this planet today, with over 3 million visitors coming to the park each year.

cloud over lake bandw

Snow squall developing over Yellowstone Lake

frozen lake

Ice breaking up on Yellowstone Lake

ice on Yellowstone Lake

Patterns in the ice on Yellowstone Lake

It is also home to the largest high elevation (greater than 7000 feet) lake in North America – Yellowstone Lake. And on this last trip, the lake went from winter to spring in just a few days time, creating a vast sculpture of patterns and colors along the way.

fog on river in Hayden

Foggy morning on the banks of the Yellowstone River in Hayden Valley

Brink of the Lower Falls

Looking down over 300 feet and seeing a double rainbow in the mist at the brink of the Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

From the lake flows the longest free-flowing (no dams) river in the continental U.S., the mighty Yellowstone River. It flows through the park and beyond for almost 700 miles before joining the Missouri River in North Dakota. Along the way, it plunges over two spectacular waterfalls in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, one of the parks’ most visited tourist attractions.

Shooting stars 1

The unusual flowers of Shooting Star dot the sagebrush flats in the Northern Range

Prairie Smoke

The flower is delicate and beautiful, but Prairie Smoke gets its name from the seed tufts which look like puffs of smoke

Yellowstone is home to more than 1350 species of flowering plants. A walk through the forest or sage flats in spring and summer offers a kaleidoscope of colors.

Red fox eating 1

Red Fox eating a Pocket Gopher

Grizzly standing bandw

A young Grizzly Bear stands for a better look at a person who has walked out on a nearby hill

Elk on horizon

Cow Elk panting as she crosses a hillside

bison skull 1

The skull of an old Bison bull in Lamar Valley

The abundant wildlife is now one of the main attractions for visitors. Yellowstone probably has the greatest concentration of large mammals of any place in the continental United States. Because of the diversity and abundance of animals, it is a place where you can witness behaviors that most people generally only read about or see on television. And seeing it first hand helps us to begin to comprehend the notion that all things are connected, a critical component to fostering a land conservation ethic.

bison and clouds 2

A cow Bison silhouetted against brewing storm clouds

Yellowstone is, indeed, many things to many people. It gives me a feeling of awe and wonder better than any place else I have traveled. And it stirs something in my soul, something I do feel in many other wild places, but something that is so close to the surface in Yellowstone that it is palpable…I breathe it in, I taste it. It is that feeling of oneness with the world around me, a feeling of belonging. A feeling of peace and freedom. This is why I keep going back, and why I keep sharing it with others. And I think there is one other reason it is so special. It is protected, and should remain as it is, as long as we as a nation continue to value our parks. And that is critically important.

Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring

Looking back at the hundreds of images from this last trip brings back a flood of special memories. I believe it is the gradual accumulation of moments like these that helps create who we are, defines what we believe in, and gives us purpose. It has helped me value time spent outside learning about nature and sharing that passion with others. And while I am over 2000 miles away as I sip my morning brew, I know Yellowstone has helped shape my view of the world, and for that I am grateful.

young moose

Young Moose checking on the whereabouts of its mother

Mallard landing

A Mallard lands in a quiet pool in Lamar Valley

Bull bison chewing cud 1

Bull bison chewing its cud

reflections in Lamar in morning

Morning reflections in Lamar Valley

Calf head

Bison calf checks us out as it crosses the road with the herd

American Avocet and reflection

An elegant American Avocet in Little America

Bison reflection

Bison bull and its reflection in Lamar Valley

ice at lakeshore

Ice has broken up first along a thermally influenced shoreline in Mary Bay on Yellowstone Lake

elk cow silhouette

Elk cow silhouette

reflections in Lamar in evening

Sunset in Lamar Valley

Time and space – time to be alone, space to move about – these may well become the great scarcities of tomorrow.

~Edwin Way Teale