There and back again, Sept. 26-Oct. 3, Part I

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Dorothy
Posts: 62
Joined: Sat Jul 29, 2017 7:45 pm

There and back again, Sept. 26-Oct. 3, Part I

Post by Dorothy » Fri Oct 05, 2018 11:14 pm

<t>We're baaaaack! Made it through our annual fall trip to Yellowstone/Grand Teton and had a great time, as usual. Not perhaps the volume of wildlife sightings that we've had at other times, but still, as we look back, there were lots of great moments and really lots of animals. This was a bit later than we usually go, but it was absolutely great!<br/>
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So, will try to go day-by-day but will probably mix up some things. Do have photos, but no way to get them online, so will have to do with word descriptions. Sorry I missed Wendy and Sherpa -- didn't see the pickup with the Nebraska army plates, but hope you all had a great finish to your trip. It's fun to connect online, if nowhere else! Will do this is two parts and it's rather long and wordy.<br/>
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So, here we go.<br/>
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Wed. Sept. 26<br/>
Got off work about noon, and after picking up car rental and packing and such, got on the road about 3:30 p.m. We decided to head to Seedskadee in Wyoming (it's only about 3 hours or so to the refuge). Got into the refuge about 6 p.m. and spent an hour or so driving around. Love this place -- always see something interesting and it's so QUIET. Very little traffic and so a chance to really enjoy any encounter you have. There were some pronghorns, deer, peilicans, swans and an absolutely spectacular sunset. Great start to the trip!<br/>
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Thursday, Sept. 27<br/>
Started out fairly early so got to the refuge still early in the day. Best sightings were a swan family (parents and four cygnets, still grey but pretty big and close enough to really enjoy watching them swim down the river. Bald eagle, sage grouse, hawks, other nice birds and ducks, deer in the water, more pronghorns and a golden eagle. Lovely time, but had to get going because we were planning to drive to Yellowstone via Cody and the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, as we were staying in Cooke City for the first time. <br/>
Long but lovely drive up, some interesting ducks and birds along the way and some stunning vistas along the scenic byway (some nice colors on the leaves). Got into Cooke City about 6:30 p.m. and decided to just check in and get ready for the next day.<br/>
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Friday, Sept. 28<br/>
Came into the park early, hoping for wolves (heard they'd been pretty active in the upper part of Lamar) and whatever else. Not much going on in the early going -- a cute chipmuck at Slough Creek, various birds and some nice autumn colors, and some interesting clouds along the mountains. Headed up to Mammoth and spotted some elk -- one really big bull lying down. We found the "old Mammoth-to-Gardiner road (had heard about it before, but never knew where to find it. It was a lot of fun! Spotted a couple of coyotes and some pronghorns crossing the road. Really had fun on that old dirt road.<br/>
Spent some time in Gardiner then back up to Mammoth -- and there was now some activity -- LOTS of activity! Lots of cows and calves up and around, and a nice-looking bull who was trotting around and looking important, chasing a few spike bulls around. He would stretch his neck out and open his mouth -- but never make a sound, except an occasional grunt. We couldn't figure out what was going on until ... Mr. Big arrived. Now THIS was a really big bull! The other guy immediately moved over into the housing area and remained silent, while Mr. Big (he had a No. 18 ear tag) marched around, bugling importantly and rounding up the cows. He was very impressive -- but suddenly, there was bugling from the other end of town, and ANOTHER huge bull appeared. Mr. Big rather disappeared -- we drove around a bit and found him, with quite a few cows rounded up and herded in behind a stone wall area by one of the buildings. He was quiet, just keeping track of the cows he had. The other guy paraded around and rounded up some cows, but there was no showdown. But a really interesting time -- we had a lot of fun. <br/>
Headed up toward the Swan Lake flats -- and spotted (well, joined some folks who had already spotted) a couple of mountain goats. Had heard of people seeing them near Golden Gate, but never seen any. This was a mama and baby across the canyon, but close enough to really see nicely, even without binocs, and so happily watched them for a while going in and out of the trees. Nothing much going on there, but spotted another pair of goats a ways further down on the way back, and found Mr. Big and his harem in Mammoth on the way back through. Then there was a black bear up under a tree near Hellroaring on the way back -- he was way up under a log, but at least we DID see him, so we were sure we'd see at least one bear on this trip! Missed any wolf activity in Lamar by the time we went back through, but it had been a full and happy day.<br/>
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Saturday, Sept. 29<br/>
A cold, frosty morning -- no snow (yet), but a frost on the windshield. Got an early start and headed into Lamar, hoping to see wolves this time (again, had heard of some good wolf activity in the area). A few frost-covered bison on the way (really photogenic!) and some mountain goats on Baronette (but after our "closer encounters" the day before, we didn't stop to watch, as these were waaayyy up on the mountain). No wolves in Lamar (had been there the night before, folks waiting and hoping to see them in the morning, but nothing yet, so we moved on). Did spot an injured bison a little ways along -- looked like maybe a 2- or 3-year-old, and it was limping badly. It made it way very laboriously and (it appeared) painfully up a hillside -- we pulled over to watch it (and wonder if maybe some wolves would be following along, as may they were the reason for the injury), but after about 20 minutes the poor thing finally made it up the side of the hill and joined a herd of bison there. Safety for perhaps a little while, but we were pretty sure it would be providing food for some predator in the days to come. <br/>
Continued on up over Dunraven (a nice hawk there) and down into Hayden. Did see some pretty swans in Hayden and some ducks around Indian Pond (as we headed toward Lake Butte Overlook). Another big hawk, but no bears. Sigh! Headed back toward Hayden, with nothing much going on, and then back out into Lamar in case the wolves were around. No go, so back up toward Mammoth, when we saw a really incredible sight. Just getting to the end of the Valley and ready to head back up to the hills when we saw there was a bison jam ahead -- several cars stopped both ways as some bison meandering across the road. We stopped, too, of course, and saw the herd was about 100-200 strong -- a few across the road, the rest in large and smaller groups up on the hillside to the right, walking or trotting toward the road.<br/>
Then, for some unknown reason, they ALL began to run toward the road -- as in, a bison stampede. It was amazing to watch -- a true thundering herd! Each group was running by itself, and some joined up with others. They thundered toward the road and shot through the opening (thankfully a pretty big one) to the other side. Other groups thundered through other openings in the car lineup (some in front of our car). It was awe-inspiring. As they reached the other side of the road, the vast majority joined a running line of bison that raced straight to the river to the "fording" area and, in a solid line 4-8 bison wide, raced through the river, over to the other side and up the side of the hill. Almost the entire herd was across the roads in only a few minutes -- we moved on before the last 4-5 groups ran across the road. <br/>
What an experience! Just wow!<br/>
Back up to Gardiner, again taking the "old" road, and again, it was a fun ride. A small harem of elk bedded down, and then a "flock" of bluebirds! At least 6-8 eventually settled into a dead tree near the road for some fun photos. Yay! Love to take photos of bluebirds, and just watch them flit around. More pronghorn, this appeared to be a "family" group of a nice buck with several females and a few young ones that crossed the road. And a couple of swans in one of the small ponds. We LOVE this road!<br/>
Returning from Gardiner to Mammoth, we didn't spot Mr. Big, but the other big guy was VERY active (bugling, "sharpening" his antlers in a bush and in the trees, posing imposingly!). He was near the south end of town and stalked around listening to another bull bugling from in the hills. Never spotted the other guy, but DID spot a huge harem of cows/young ones on the hills outside of town. DId NOT see the bull with them, but he must have been over the hill, as I can't imagine a bull leaving such a big harem even for a few minutes. <br/>
Light was starting to fade a bit as we came down through the Elk Creek drainage area -- and there was a bear in the valley! A nice-sized black bear feeding down there, browsing through the small trees. Double yay! An actual sighting where we could really SEE the bear moving around. Smiles all around! <br/>
Nothing going on in Lamar -- even wolfers weren't around, so no wolves. Sigh. But a GREAT day!<br/>
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Sunday, Sept. 30<br/>
Up early to ... SNOW. Several inches on the car and some stuck on the ground through Cooke City -- but nothing much as we got near the Park, and it was clear once we got in the Park -- but it all looked SO beautiful and clean and washed. It was lovely and smelled SO good. Made a quick trip to Gardiner to go to church, then back through Mammoth to start heading down to Grand Teton for the last few days of our trip. Not-Mr.-Big put on another show as we were leaving Mammoth (hadn't see No.18 Mr. Big since that first day) -- again tearing through trees and bushes with his antlers and chasing cows around (some really fun photos!). <br/>
A nice big elk bull laying down in the sage near the Gardiner bridge, a pretty hawk over Dunraven AND a black bear across the canyon on a hillside, absolutely booking it across the hillside. No idea why it was in such a hurry, but it was running full out. Only visible at times through various open meadows, but it was sure running hard.<br/>
Some goldeneyes around Gull Point Drive, and FINALLY got some nice photos of the gray jays that had been flitting around all over the place as we traveled. A BIG bull elk grazing by the road near West Thumb, and some GORGEOUS colors coming down to the South Entrance and into Grand Teton. We took the inner loop and didn't see anything. As it was starting to get toward darkness, we took a quick spin up Moose-Wilson (well, not quick -- it's NEVER a "quick" trip up Moose-Wilson!). And just up the road a little ways from Sawmill Pond (with nothing there), the car ahead of us stopped, so we did, too -- and there, a few feet up a small path heading up the hill, was a cinnamon bear! It stopped and stood up and began grabbing branches from the nearby berry bush and pulling off berries! We watched it for a few minutes (SO much fun) and then moved on to give those behind us a chance to partake. YAY! A REAL bear sighting, and one in the berry bushes along Moose-Wilson (the place we first fell in love with Grand Teton in the fall with the bears "hanging out of the bushes" -- haven't had many of those experiences lately as Moose-Wilson hasn't been quite the same quiet, intimate place it was 10 years ago or so). Anyway, big smiles on our faces as we finished our trip up the road and came back (bear gone by that time) and headed to our hotel.<br/>
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lah
Posts: 104
Joined: Thu Jul 27, 2017 12:47 pm

Re: There and back again, Sept. 26-Oct. 3, Part I

Post by lah » Sat Oct 06, 2018 10:55 am

Glad you got so much elk activity. That sounds like more than I saw last week when it was just No. 18 and his cows. He did some bugling, but I never saw another mature bull.
And it's neat you saw the mountain goats. I looked there around Golden Gate, as I've seen them there on past trips, but I never saw any last week.



Dorothy
Posts: 62
Joined: Sat Jul 29, 2017 7:45 pm

Re: There and back again, Sept. 26-Oct. 3, Part I

Post by Dorothy » Tue Oct 09, 2018 9:24 pm

Thanks, lah. We were really excited about the elk activity we saw (and heard). Yellowstone is just such a magical place -- whenever you go, you see something fun and exciting and inspiring -- and different! I always appreciate your reports.



lah
Posts: 104
Joined: Thu Jul 27, 2017 12:47 pm

Re: There and back again, Sept. 26-Oct. 3, Part I

Post by lah » Wed Oct 10, 2018 5:19 pm

Thanks, Dorothy. I love the place for the same reason. Every time you go around a corner, you don't know what will unfold in front of you. It's so great.



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