April Bike Trip and Opening Day

Share your latest adventure in Yellowstone.

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timv
Posts: 13
Joined: Thu Jul 27, 2017 2:16 pm

April Bike Trip and Opening Day

Post by timv » Fri Apr 26, 2019 11:41 am

My daughter and I biked the part of the park that was open to human powered methods April 17-18th. Then we drove to OF and Canyon on Friday opening day. Prior to that we acclimated to the altitude by cruising the Upper loop road in search of wildlife. There was a lot going on in the park. By staying 10 days in Mid April we were able to see a big transformation from winter to spring particularly in the Lamar valley. Everything was covered in snow and most lakes were frozen on my arrival April 12th but by the time we left, the Lamar only had patches of snow in the valley floor. Here are some pictures from our trip.
I first stopped at Market Lake Idaho looking for owls. The trees they hang out in had not leafed out yet. That made it easy to find Great Horned Owls on their nests but I don't think the other owl species had showed up yet.

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I had not been back in Yellowstone since the 06 female of the Lamar pack had been shot. That must have been over 6 years ago? So it was good to find the wolf watchers and learn about the new pack names and personalities. Junction Butte wolf protecting his kill.

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Back in 2008 I had biked the park by myself and one of the big highlights was seeing a Bison give birth in Gibbon meadows. So this year I was happy to find a red doggie in the specimen area. The wolf folks told me it was the only one they had seen so far. About two days old in this photo.

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The pair of cinnamon brown bear siblings near the Yellowstone river bridge have been kicked out by mom but they were having a great time by themselves.
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They were seen quite frequently, still together, climbing trees, wrestling, and playing in the snow.

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The snow in Lamar was just at the right depth for the Coyotes to catch varmints near the road.
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The Mountain Bluebirds are always abundant this time of year.

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When the Junction Pack disappeared on a hunting foray, the Wapiti pack filled in nicely. The Wapitis made a rare trip over to the Blacktail area for a carcass pretty close to the road. Here is one member chowing on an elk leg while the other reclines after a big meal.

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Too full to stand up and howl.

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They moved closer to us for some better pictures.
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Couples portrait
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A mature Bald Eagle flew in to top off the scene.
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We took two days off from the Lamar area while we did our bike ride to West Yellowstone and back. I took a big lens with me but there were not a lot of wildlife opportunities.

Osprey with trout over the Madison river.

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Sandhill cranes in Swan Lake Flats
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Mostly just great vistas.

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The return trip from West was a beautiful clear day. I was biking in a tee shirt with no gloves on most of the day.
We had leftover pizza for lunch at Gibbon Falls.
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When you drive thru the Hoodoos above Mammoth it is always a tight squeeze to pull over anywhere. On our bikes, we could pull over wherever we wanted, to check out the vistas and all the crazy rock formations.
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Bunsen Peak from the Hoodoos
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We actually finished early so we drove over to Yellowstone Picnic area in time to see the cinnamonblack bears in backlight conditions.

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The next day was opening day so we drove to Old Faithful and Canyon.

At the upper geyser basin we lucked into seeing Beehive erupt! It was the first geyser I asked about when we entered the visitor center but the rangers had little data on it yet, so they did not post any predictions for it. We watched Old Faithful erupt on schedule then did a short walk, looking at hot springs. They really looked good in the clear crisp light.
Heart Spring
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As we walked past a quiet Beehive cone one of the geyser experts suggested we hang around a bit. He had seen something happen that gave him hope for a possible eruption. Sure enough, within ten minutes, the Indicator spout went off and the full eruption followed immediately after. I could not believe our good fortune. YNP magic had happened again!

Beehive and Indicator
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Next we drove to Canyon. The Canyon really looks good when their is a healthy covering of snow.

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We also went looking for the otter family near the upper falls but they were not out. Instead, we ran into a big grizzly jam. The grizzly was very close to the road but in the trees.

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On the drive back we had a good fox encounter near Gibbon meadows

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The next day Kelley was scheduled to fly out of Bozeman. She only had a half day available so we wanted to go check on our wildlife friends in the Lamar valley one last time. As we approached the Tower Junction area, this smaller young coyote was out in the open.
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Near the specimen ridge area, I spotted a big bison running downhill, straight down the fall line. I checked with the binoculars for wolves or bears behind it but instead I saw a little shadow, next to the adult bison. It was the little red dog and her mother, fleeing from some threat from above. They ended up coming right down to the road safely and posing in front of us.

We had not see any baby bison for 5 days and were relieved to know that this one was still okay.

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We continued on to the Slough Creek road and noticed all the wolf watchers had their scopes pointed away from the den site and towards the hill that our mother bison had just run down. The Junction pack was out hunting and evidently our bison mom was quick to react by getting her little one away from them.

Junction Buttes on the hunt

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Later that morning they may have made a possible kill, out of our sight. If you stop at Slough Creek and walk out to Bobs Knob you can look right into the den site with a scope. There was a grey female that would poke her head out every once in a while. This fine black wolf was possibly her nephew, returning to the den area, by himself, possibly to feed one of the 3 females that are believed to be pregnant.
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As we were about ready to start our return trip out of the park and towards Bozeman, I reminded Kelley what a Three Dog Day was. We had seen plenty of wolves that morning and the young coyote also....but we were missing the fox. I made one last turn into the Yellowstone Picnic area hoping to say good by to either our raven friend or the cinnamon black bears. We were not parked for more than a minute when a cute fox walked by our car. Yellowstone magic had struck again right on queue!

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So actually we had completed a Four Dog Day, with the Red Dog bison being included. This was all before 1pm. What a great way for Kelley to leave the park.

The next day I stayed and had one final encounter with the Yellowstone picnic Black bears.
The weather had turned grey and wet again so I decided it was time for me to start my long drive home. As I approached the bridge over the Yellowstone river there was a bear jam. The two bears were up in the trees just downriver from the bridge. I did not get any pictures of them but then they came into the open and came upstream under the bridge on the east side.

From the Bridge we were right on top of them watching them climb up the east slope.

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A ranger was out directing traffic and he suddenly asked us to clear off the bridge because a group of bison were crossing from west to east. We did as he asked as they took over the bridge.

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But then he asked us to get in a tight group because the bears were coming up near the bridge abutment and they might run into the bison!
Sure enough they came right up to bridge level and turned on to the bridge and started walking towards the approaching bison! It was going to be Chicago vs Buffalo on the bridge!

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They did not notice each other at first since there were still cars crossing but then.....

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The two young bears were too much for the approaching bison. The lead bison turned and the others followed!

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The bison started running, as a group off the bridge!
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The bears had won the confrontation. (Never run from a bear! As soon as the bison started running away you could see the lead bears instincts kick in and he starting running after them!)
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It seemed like the bears were just having a good old time.
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They scared the people back into their cars and then finished crossing the bridge.

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It was certainly the highlight of a lot of peoples day and probably the bison. The bears went into the woods like nothing had happened.
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I drove out of the Upper loop area and tried to drive straight home thru West Yellowstone but kept having to stop for more cool encounters. My last stop was for a pair of coyotes hunting near the Madison river.
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One of them had an injured front leg that he could barely stand on.
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They were having success near the river.

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I was feeling sorry for that coyote until I watched them both for many minutes. The darker injured one was actually catching as many mice as the light one. It was also the leader of the two.
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I wondered if they had puppies in a den somewhere. they finished and crossed the road back up the hill, probably their den site.

It was a great trip. Makes want to return in May when the cubs and puppies start to emerge.

I made a trip report about the biking portion of our adventure and posted it on this site.

https://backcountrypost.com/threads/bik ... ost-110630

It has more narrative and photos if you are interested.

Tim V.



yellvet
Posts: 195
Joined: Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:54 pm

Re: April Bike Trip and Opening Day

Post by yellvet » Fri Apr 26, 2019 7:12 pm

BRAVO, Tim! What a fantastic report! And your pix are exceptional... wonderful storytellers. I felt like I was tagging along, on your entire trip. Glad you had a chance to share the magic of Yellowstone with your daughter. For her, it will be more than just a memory....it will be a Yellowstone keepsake from her father that she'll treasure for the rest of her life. What a wonderful thing to do! :)



Dorothy
Posts: 87
Joined: Sat Jul 29, 2017 7:45 pm

Re: April Bike Trip and Opening Day

Post by Dorothy » Fri Apr 26, 2019 7:15 pm

Wowwowwow! What a great report -- I felt I was right there with you (and I wish I had been!). The bison/bear showdown was SUCH a great read and accompanied by wonderful photos. Thanks so much for sharing with us!



tlveik
Posts: 32
Joined: Mon Feb 04, 2019 3:59 pm

Re: April Bike Trip and Opening Day

Post by tlveik » Fri Apr 26, 2019 8:18 pm

Really enjoyed the photos and report. Thanks! What focal length do you generally use for your wildlife shots?

Tom



billandkaren
Posts: 102
Joined: Fri Aug 04, 2017 8:50 pm

Re: April Bike Trip and Opening Day

Post by billandkaren » Fri Apr 26, 2019 9:06 pm

Wow! what great shots and excellent narrative. Yellowstone was definitely magical for you and your daughter. Thanks for the post. It is getting us even more excited for our trip in May. :P

Bill



timv
Posts: 13
Joined: Thu Jul 27, 2017 2:16 pm

Re: April Bike Trip and Opening Day

Post by timv » Sat Apr 27, 2019 8:36 am

Thanks guys, I have been lurking for years reading all the YNP reports and only posting in the Non Yellowstone Discussions for a while now. So glad I could return to the park and actually share something in the Yellowstone Trip Reports forum.

I am using a 500mm Canon lens that I purchased from Bill Gussman, whom I met off this forum years ago. I also used the 1.4 extender and my Canon 7d MarkII. For the bike ride I carried a Tamron 150-600 on the same camera body. The landscape photos are mostly just off of our iPhones. Kelley used our Swaraski spotting scope to find the distant wolfs and then digiscoped some pretty impressive shots handholding her or my iPhone up the to eyepiece.



lah
Posts: 158
Joined: Thu Jul 27, 2017 12:47 pm

Re: April Bike Trip and Opening Day

Post by lah » Sat Apr 27, 2019 11:49 am

Wow, wow, WOW! What a great adventure you had! Congratulations on seeing so much, and thanks for posting the fantastic pictures.
Glad the two cinnamon cubs have made it this far. They were sure fun to watch as babies.



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DawnTheRoadAgain
Posts: 11
Joined: Sat Jan 06, 2018 12:15 pm

Re: April Bike Trip and Opening Day

Post by DawnTheRoadAgain » Sun Apr 28, 2019 6:58 pm

Great trip report and wonderful photos. Thank you for sharing.
-Dawn



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Max
Posts: 166
Joined: Sun Jul 23, 2017 12:27 pm

Re: April Bike Trip and Opening Day

Post by Max » Tue Apr 30, 2019 4:32 pm

Thanks for the report and photos, Tim. Quite fruitful for April... you got some great wolf stuff.

Max



Dorothy
Posts: 87
Joined: Sat Jul 29, 2017 7:45 pm

Re: April Bike Trip and Opening Day

Post by Dorothy » Tue Apr 30, 2019 10:59 pm

Thanks for the update, Max Sounds like there's lots of activity right now. Hope everything hangs around for a few more days as we plan to be in the park late this week. Can't wait! I'm looking forward to your photos and again want to thank Tim for his report and photos. I can't wait to join in the fun!



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