After a flight to Jackson Hole, WY and a rental car ride, we arrived at Yellowstone:
It didn’t take long to encounter our first wildlife: a male elk. Elk were rutting at the time, so we kept our distance. As we were leaving this elk, some future Darwin Award winner walked up to about 5 feet from him and started taking his picture. There were a lot of future Darwin Award winners at Yellowstone.
Here is another male elk we saw a short time later. While taking his picture I saw a black bear walking in the trees behind him. The elk saw the bear too and gave him a warning bellow. We saw several black bears on the trip, but getting a photo of them proved very very difficult.
Pronghorn are pretty common in the park. The guy on the right is the male of the group and is herding his females together. One of the females tried to run away, and he chased after her and put her back into the pack.
Lots of bison in the park, of course.
One bison using another as a scratching post.
Yellowstone traffic jam. A somewhat common occurrence.
A very old bison brings up the rear.
There are a ton of elk in the Mammoth Hot Springs area. A large group hung out on the grass area around the lodge/hotel there. As I said before, it was rutting season, and the dominant male was being very aggressive and head butting cars. So the rangers were there to keep people a safe distance away (and to answer our questions). Elk shed their antlers every spring and then grow them back. These are all cows, though.
At the Mammoth Hot Springs.
This bit fell down from its original spot a few feet up and is now upside-down. It looks like a bottle cap to me.
The minerals and bacteria create interesting patterns and colors in the hot springs.
Liberty Cap cinder cone.
A black bear running along a ridge through the trees. Not a good picture, but black bears are hard to photograph.
Can you spot the three wolves in this photo? They were a LONG ways away. There was a dead bison not too far from here and many photographers spent all day for days camped out there waiting for the wolves to come by to feast on it. We didn’t have that kind of time to spare, but it would have been neat to see.
Fall colors. We were there at or near peak color for the aspen trees. Very pretty.
People watching the wolves with spotting scopes. They were too far away to get decent photos, but the spotting scopes worked well.
These are mountain goats. This time of year, their hair is short and darker. At other times (in the winter, I assume), it is thicker and white. These two were eating lichen or something off of the rock.
Baby mountain goat.
Some dumbass (and probably a future Darwin Award nominee) crashed a drone into the Prismatic Spring so now drones are not allowed in the park.
One of the geyser basins. Looks like an alien landscape.
Crystallized sap on a pine cone.
Boardwalks throughout the geyser areas keep you safe. Except for the Darwin Award winners who venture off of them…
Porkchop Geyser. It got clogged enough that it had a violent eruption and blew rock out of the top.
Vixen geyser. Very small. People were very excited that it erupted while we were there.
Bear claw mark?
Bubbling mud pools. Here, one of the bubbles is mid-pop.
An unlucky toad hopped into the wrong pool of water.
Another bison traffic jam.
A male elk chilling in a meadow. It was raining at the time.
Hail on the ground when we woke up the next morning.
Beautiful blue colors in some of the hot springs/geysers.
Small geyser right on the lake. In the old days, people used to like to pose with a fish on their hook dunking it into this geyser. So they could say “you can catch and cook your fish at the same time”.
One of many waterfalls. We spent most of our time looking for wildlife and checking out the geothermal features of the park.
Coyote is not amused.
Waiting for Old Faithful.
Not as impressive as we were expecting, to be honest. The lodge there is nice and the bathrooms are top-notch, though.
Bison rubbing on the ground.
Lots of tourists even at the end of the season. They mostly walk from point A to point B and do this. (Or walk where they aren’t supposed to or get too close to a wild animal and almost become a Darwin Award winner.)
Boardwalk around Prismatic Spring area. Can you spot Yuching and her mom?
Someone made a peace sign out of wood at the base of the falls.
When tourists aren’t busy trying to get themselves killed or taking selfies, they pee in inappropriate places. Come on, man, there are bathrooms all over the park.
Woke up to a small herd of deer around our cabin.
Very cold this morning with frost everywhere.
Our last day at our lodge was the day that the lodge was closing for the season. That meant that breakfast was the last meal being served for the season. The person serving breakfast wanted to rebel against her manager, so was making huge breakfast burritos with everything at her disposal in them. In general, the people who work at the restaurants in the park were very nice, but the food was very expensive and pretty sub-par. This breakfast burrito was pretty darn good, though; the gravy inside was a huge bonus.
While leaving Yellowstone we saw this guy. A Great Grey Owl. When I first saw it, I thought it was one of those fake owls you buy to scare rodents away from your garden. But he was very real. Ironically, there is an owl box a mile or so from our house, but the damn owls there never come out. So I had to travel to Yellowstone to see my first owl in the wild.
Another elk for the road…
Burned trees from the Berry fire.
Approaching the Teton region.
More fall colors.
Oxbow Bend Turnout. Famous photo spot.
Moose. Yuching for scale.
Bison near Mormon Row. Certain birds ride on the backs of bison and eat insects that they find in the bison’s fur. The insects irritate the bison, so it’s a nice symbiotic relationship.
Bison with the Grand Teton behind him.
We went on an early morning wildlife expedition with Tetons Science Schools. They are an organization that teaches people about the park. They raise money by giving these tours. The guide was great and I have no complaints about the tour, but we saw more wildlife (and closer) on our own. It was good to go on the guided tour to learn about more spots we could visit on our own, though. Here is a moose we saw on the tour.
An elk that was soon scared off by a dumbass who got too close with his camera.
Our guide using a spotting scope to find some elk.
Elk “bugling” in the early morning. You can see the steam from his breath.
The three of us in front of the Tetons.
A plane approaching the Jackson Hole airport, which is located inside the park.
An osprey. We saw two of them flying around. One was probably trying to attract the other.
The other osprey had what we thought was a fish in its talons. Now I’m not so sure. Could be a fish, or maybe a turtle?
So we drove passed this sign. With “moose rossing” lingering in our head, we came up on… a moose! Just kidding. Someone had put a life size moose cutout at the side of the road (not shown). Did they do it to trick people? I don’t know, but it tricked me. Bastards.
Went to popular moose spot on our own that evening. We were told to get there between 5:30 and 6:30. (We went to the same spot the previous evening at the same time and had no luck with moose; we were told it was a bit of “hit or miss” and that a bull and 4 cows had been there that morning). When we arrived (at 5:25) there were ~50 or so photographers hanging out. I asked if they saw any moose and they told me there was a moose in the willows where he had been holed-up all day. Right on schedule, a moose got up and walked out of the willows at 5:30 (more on schedule than Old Faithful was).
When we were taking photos of beaver (see below), I was chatting with a photographer who said that a few of the moose had been given names by a popular wildlife photographer who lived and worked in the area. From his description, I think this is “Custer”, but can’t be sure.
Some of the dozens of photographers who were there to take photos of the moose (in the shade on the left). We were on the ridge above the moose and it was steep enough that we felt pretty safe from the moose. Only an idiot would go down to be on the same level as the moose to get better pictures…
Or a future Darwin Award winner! The phrase “I don’t have to be faster than the moose, I just have to be faster than you” was uttered several times (by me). Several middle aged, heavy-set guys encumbered with bigger lenses than mine were there, so I felt I wouldn’t be last up the ridge. Pretty sure anyway 😉
As he got closer, I decided that since discretion was the better part of valor, then cowardice must be the better part of discretion. So I valiantly got the hell out of there to avoid becoming a Darwin Award winner myself 😉
So Jackson is pretty expensive, but the food is pretty good. Bubba’s BBQ has large portions of comforting food for pretty reasonable prices. The guide from our tour recommended a few other places. This photo was taking at the Roadhouse (I think the name is technically “Q Roadhouse”) about 10 minutes outside of town. Beer selection is strangely limited in Jackson, but this place brews their own beer and has good food. They give you a bucket of peanuts and you dump the shells on the floor. And they had sports on the TVs. So a brew pub, but with better food than most brew pubs. We also went to a tapas/wine bar called “Bin 22” that was very good. I recommend all three places. (This isn’t a very good photo, I am just using it as an excuse to talk about the restaurants.)
Up early again for some classic shots. First up: the classic Mormon Row shot.
Slight variation that I like better with the little stream leading your eyes to the Tetons.
The other classic barn shot. Both barns are call the Moulton barn (owned by brothers). The previous one is the T.A. Moulton Barn. This is the John Moulton barn. They replaced the roof of this one with new shingles. I get it: they want to preserve the barn for years to come. But the new roof is a bit anachronistic to me; I wish they somehow were able to make the new shingles look aged.
And here is my definitive Mormon Row shot. The world’s best outhouse. (Except they put the door on the wrong side. It should be facing the Tetons.)
Here’s another picture postcard spot. Schwabacher Landing. It used to be a spot where you could launch your boats, but beavers put in a series of dams, so now it is an awesome spot to take photos of the Tetons and get awesome reflections in the water.
That is a beaver lodge on the far edge of the pond.
This was “the” spot to take photos here.
The two photographers sitting closest to the water were camped out taking photos and waiting for the perfect cloud to come by or something. They were not friendly and were not moving. The guys behind them were waiting for them to move. One thing I learned on this trip: female photographers tend to be very nice and you can chat/joke with them. Male photographers seem to think of photography as a competitive sport (and with flying elbows, sometimes a contact sport). I met several nice male photogs that I could joke with, but most men were kind of jerks.
We went back to the same spot in the evening to watch the beaver. They are not active in the morning, but they are very active in the evening.
They mostly just swim from their home to some distant place and then come back with a small branch or something.
This one hung out on the edge of the stream and ate a bunch of the grass. You can see his flat tail just above the water line on the right edge of the photo.
Beaver have orange teeth. Apparently it is from the iron in their food source.
We met a really nice guy taking photos (see, they are not all jerks) and he showed me a tree the beaver had been working on.
Late night moose. I think this one is missing her left eye?
They call this ridge the “Sleeping Indian”. He looks like he is on his back with arms folded on his chest and is wearing a headdress. (Ignore the right-most tree.)
We were up way early again to try to see more moose. No luck again, but I happened to see this bald eagle fly by. It was pre-dawn (very low light) and I wasn’t expecting it, so the quality is not good. But, hey, a bad photo of a bald eagle is better than no photo of a bald eagle.
First light on the Tetons on our last day.
Photo taken while boarding our plane home. Most photogenic airport? One of the stewardesses laughed and asked if I got a good shot of the fuel truck? “Um, yes. Yes I did.”