Yellowstone Trip Report - June 13 thru July 12, 2019

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

Yellowstone Trip Report - June 13 thru July 12, 2019

Post by yellvet » Mon Jul 29, 2019 3:24 pm

This was one of the most unusual Park trips I've ever had. Spent June 12th and 13th at the Mammoth CG where I shot a few elk pix but nothing special. From Mammoth, we moved over to the Slough Creek Campground on June 15th. Because of the brutal weather in the GYE last winter and spring, there was still a high amount of snow pack up in the mountains when we arrived in the Park (130% of normal). That being the case, we noticed several things that were not characteristic of most of our previous June/July Park trips. Here are the highlights along with some personal observations about law enforcement and bear management.

Weather. Most days, we had pretty lousy weather. It was unseasonably cold, 40's, 50's and low 60's with rain, sleet and/or hail almost daily. We even had snow at Slough Creek on the first two days of summer, in the latter part of June. It almost felt like Ole Man Winter would never give up. The weather in the Park really didn't begin to normalize until about mid July when the sun and warmer weather arrived.

Fishing. The Gibbon River has always been one of our favorite streams for early season trout fishing and for finding rare and unusual wildflowers on the forest floor near Beryl Springs. Although hubby managed to catch a handful of smaller trout on the Gibbon, the water was still too high high and far too cold for the fish to be actively feeding on the surface. Fishing at Slough Creek was pretty much non-existent until the end of the first week in July. FYI: A #16 brown body, Parachute Adams or a Green Drake were the flies of choice and worked fairly well. It was the size, shape and color (in that order) that were the keys this year to catching hefty trout in July in the 18 to 24-inch range. Trout fishing was turning on by the time we left the Park on July 13th, so good luck to all the anglers! Just make sure you've got plenty of bug repellent. The biting flies and mosquitoes were bad by the time we left the Park.

Lastly, if you're going to be fishing in the Park this year, be sure that you read the 2019 Yellowstone fishing rules and regs VERY, VERY closely. There's a major change in the 2019 fishing regs that you need to be aware of. For years, Yellowstone Park told anglers that they should release all rainbow/ cut-throat/hybrid trout. This rule was put in place several years ago in order to help the Park's restoration of the native cutthroat population. However, if you release them in 2019 be aware that you might get a citation for releasing a rainbow or a hybrid trout (cutbow). We didn't see any rangers enforcing the new rule or issuing any citations while we were in the Park. But, in 2019, anglers are supposed to kill all rainbow trout and any rainbow that has any orange markings (rainbow/cutthroat hybrid). Apparently, the Park's fisheries management made a mistake several years ago when it introduced millions of non-native trout into Park waters. You can read more about the Park's shocking "boo boo" in the very back of the 2019 Yellowstone book of fishing regs. One would think that the new reg would appear front and center in the 2019 fishing regs because of the high number of anglers who have been faithfully releasing Yellowstone cutbows (hybrids)for several years in accordance with the Park's fishing regs. I strongly suspect that the long-time Yellowstone anglers are not going to be pleased when they find out about the Park's new fishing regulation. After all, anglers have been releasing cutbows for several years in accordance with the Yellowstone fishing regs in order to help with the Park's effort to restore the native cutthroat population. However, in 2019, the Park has has done a 100% turnaround. Now the Park is telling anglers that they must kill every rainbow and all rainbow/cutthroat hybrid trout that they catch. Huh? What the heck is going on? This new 2019 fishing reg is not only shocking but it also putts into the question the competence and credibility of the Yellowstone fisheries leadership. If you're as stunned as I am about this new 2019 fishing reg, then I encourage you to voice their concern to the Yellowstone Superintendent. For years anglers have been releasing cutthroat/rainbow hybrid trout to help with the Park's recovery of the native cutthroat population. Now, without any advance warning, except to say that Park's former management made a mistake, anglers are now supposed to kill the hybrid trout that the Park originally told them to release. How dumb is that? IMO, the Park and the top leadership of the Park's fisheries has some serious explaining to do. Are we now to believe that just because the Park has acknowledged its mistake by including a short paragraph on the Park's "boo boo" in the 2019 fishing regs, that the current fisheries management is competent to oversee the current and future of the precious Yellowstone fisheries? As far as I'm concerned the Yellowstone fisheries leadership has lost its credibility. I suspect that many long-time Yellowstone anglers who are just learning about the new regulation, will likely feel the same way. <br/>
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Fishing in the SC meadows was excellent after July 4th. But most of our time was spent waiting for the high muddy streams and rivers to go down and clear. Fishing really didn't turn on until mid July....just when the winter weather and rain subsided and we had to leave. Soda Butte and the Lamar were totally blown out when left the Park but they should be fishing now.

Wildlife Sightings - Saw a number of black bears this trip: near Phantom Lake, Floating Island Lake, south of the Tower, a couple of black bears around Slough Creek and a few along the Slough Creek entrance road. Some were bears that we had seen multiple times during our stay: ie: the male black bear that skirted the perimeter of the campground and the black sow and her two cinnamon cubs that were frequenting the Slough Creek area in June and July. Saw the SC pronghorns a few times in the SC and Little America areas. Bob and Ray, the two resident bison that have been the Slough Creek icons for several years, took a shine to our campsite this year and spent quite a bit of time rubbing against tree trunks AND scratching against our canopy poles. They also spent time watching hubby fish along lower S. Creek the day before we went home. Not only were Bob and Ray sacked out in the sage behind him, but the black sow and cubs also showed up, quite unexpectedly, with the family swimming across the Creek right next where my hubby was fishing. That was a pretty special moment for hubby...not to mention a bit scary. I had a total of 3 encounters with the black sow and her two cinnamon cubs. Once early in our stay, when mama was trying to get the cubs to swim cross Buffalo Creek, another time when mama brought the cubs through our campsite on her way to the water and the last time when the threesome showed up, unexpectedly, behind hubby and they crossed the Creek very close to where he was fishing. I didn't see any grizzlies this trip but our friends saw two big grizzlies walking through the trees at the upper end of the campground and a wolf pack right off the trail when they hiked up to the 3rd meadow to do some fishing. Fishing was fairly good in the meadows after the Creek had lowered and the sun, bugs, flies and mosquitoes arrived in mass, right after July 4th.
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Because of the cold weather, rain and hail, the bloom of the wildflowers was very late this year... about 6 weeks. And the flowers that were blooming were stunted in growth and looked drab and very pale....so I didn't take many wildflower pix this year. But I did get some nice water lily shots along the Gibbon.

Overall, our trip was fairly disappointing. The cold, dreary weather combined with all the rain put a damper on most of our activities. That being the case, we went home two days early. When we got home our neighbor said that Nye (northeast of Slough Creek) had received the same lousy weather as the Park. The only thing that was different, was the tall grass on our property that had grown over 3' while we were in the Park. I don't have many pix to post of the trip (about half the usual number). But, I'll post them on Flickr next week. The photo sequence that covers the black sow trying to get her 2 cubs across Buffalo Creek in June are very sweet. The real small cub I fondly refer to as "Tiny". That little cub was absolutely terrified of crossing Buffalo Creek. I got shots of it screaming and crying out for its mother, along with shots of Tiny clinging to the leaning, water-logged bush that was in the middle of the Creek. The cub was absolutely terrified of the raging water and was clinging to the bush for dear life. There weren't many people around who were watching the high drama of the bear family. So I think the pix will tug at your heart strings. It took over 2 hours for the sow to get both cubs across the Creek. She went back and forth between the banks at least 4 times before she could finally get Tiny across the Creek. Suffice to say that Mama was getting fairly annoyed that Tiny had refused to cross the Creek. In the end, mama swam over to the bush, growled at Tiny, crouched down and directed the cub to jump on her back for a ride across the Creek. It's this type of a wildlife behavior that has always left me in awe. After two hours of trying to get Tiny to cross the Creek on its own, I could see that the sow was getting annoyed with Tiny for being such a wuss and, more importantly, for being so disobedient. But, in the end, the sow's nurturing motherly instinct won out. So here's the rest of the story which had a happy ending. The sow swam across, back to the bush to get Tiny and carried the cub across the Creek on her back. It doesn't get any better than that! This was one of those special wildlife moments when I wish that I had my big glass, pro setup to properly photograph this experience. Unfortunately, I still have some carry-weight and stability issues so I had to use my Lumix P and S camera. But I think you'll immediately recognize and appreciate the plight of Tiny. The little cub had tried and tried, to cross the Creek. But Tiny's fear of the raging Creek was more than the little cub could handle due to its small size, age and weight. Tiny probably weighed less than 20 pounds and was just a few months old. After two hours of trying to get Tiny to cross the Creek on its own, the black sow finally had to rescue the cub and carry it on her back, to safety. What an amazing afternoon and what a happy ending. Hope you enjoy the pix as much as I enjoyed taking them. I'll post them on Flickr site in a few days.

Yellowstone Law Enforcement<br/>
We were in the park for close to a month, yet, we saw very few LEO's. And the ones we did see, were not enforcing traffic speeds nor were they looking for campground violations or doing any crowd control or handing wildlife jams on the road between Tower Junction and the Lamar Valley, which in mind opinion, should have at least one or two LEO's doing nothing but driving back and forth between Tower and the Lamar Valley, looking for wildlife traffic jams and moving the visitor vehicles off the roadway. The traffic jams were absolutely awful with visitor vehicles parked every which way, even in the middle of the road. We did note that there two rangers in the patrol car that was monitoring the Slough Creek Campground every day in the mid afternoon. Since the SC CG doesn't have many campers around at 3pm in the afternoon, it seemed to me that one ranger on patrol was enough. Seems that the other LEO could have made better use of his time, patrolling the road between Tower and the Lamar Valley. The thing that bothered us the most was that all the ranger did on its SC route was a drive through and were not looking for bears or for campground violations. Considering that the Park claims to have a severe funding shortage, we saw several food storage violations by campers and traffic speed violations by visitors that could have easily added a significant amount of money to the Yellowstone coffers. So why weren't campers cited for the improper storage of food, beverages and cooking and eating utensils or at least be given a warning. In light of the fact that Slough Creek had been having frequent bear visitations during our stay, where were the rangers? And where was the campground host who should have been alerting campers about the bears that were wandering through and around the campground? From what we observed, the hosting couple was gone from the campground on most days. But they sure were quick to wake us up at 8:30pm after we had already gone to bed, wanting to know if we were going to stay. When we first arrived at the SC Campground, we told the host exactly how long we were planning to stay along with the dates. We also told the host that we would pay for our site every four days and would fill out the NPS fee envelope with the appropriated dates written on the envelope and would also include our payment. Sounds simple, but the hosting couple woke us up at least 3 times between 8:30 and 9pm, after we had already gone to bed, wanting to know when our site would be open. We were so mad that we ended up cutting our stay by 2 days and left the Park on July 13.</t>



rzrpirate
Posts: 30
Joined: Tue Jul 25, 2017 4:14 pm

Re: Yellowstone Trip Report - June 13 thru July 12, 2019

Post by rzrpirate » Tue Jul 30, 2019 3:44 pm

It does sound like a strange trip. Even in Florida the weather was very different this year until mid July. Messed up my April, May and June fishing. Maybe they need to hire some different campground host. I will take it :D



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

Re: Yellowstone Trip Report - June 13 thru July 12, 2019

Post by yellvet » Fri Aug 02, 2019 7:13 pm

Update on my trip report - June 13 thru July 12, 2019

I thought that I had included these observations and comments in my original trip report for Bill and Karen but they don't seem to appear. So I'll do my best to recount the details in this updated post.

Hubby and I noticed a number of parking pullouts that were closed during our visit. The pullouts by Floating Island Lake were closed and one of the fishing pullouts along Slough Creek was also closed. These were always my favorite pullouts for spotting and photographing birds of prey, ducks, geese and shore birds from the parking area. But this year, I couldn't to that. Why? While I appreciate the fact that many birds nest in these areas, I have found visitors to be most respectful of birds, nests, bears and other wildlife and have never seen anyone knowingly getting too close to a nest, a bear or a wolf in either area in all my 40+ years of going to the Park. It's been my experience, that most people love the Yellowstone wildlife and would never do anything intentionally that would compromise their own safety, the safety of another Yellowstone visitor or the safety of Yellowstone wildlife. With that in mind, I'd like to recount an incident that I had with a female Park ranger on July 12th. Hubby was fishing at the lower end of Slough Creek. We had parked at the fishing pullout where the big dirt pile was. Hubby walked down the footpath that goes from the pullout down to the Creek, while I sat in our car at the pullout. Hubby was standing in the water casting to rising trout on the other side of the creek when I noticed the black sow and two cubs. They were walking through the sage and down to the willows, close to where my hubby was standing in the water, casting to rising trout on the other side of the Creek. I knew that he hadn't seen the sow and cubs so I got out of the car so I could scope out the area with my long lens to see if my hubby was in any danger. This was the same sow and cubs that we had already seen a number of times (at the CG and in the area around Slough Creek and Buffalo Creek). The sow had always struck me as being very habituated to humans and seemed to be very tolerant. But I also knew that bears were unpredictable. So I stood in the parking pullout, right next to our car door, so I could keep a close eye on the bears and my hubby. As soon as people saw the bears, a young female ranger pulled up and parked next to our car. Without even a hello, she ordered me to get back into our car. To say that I was miffed, is an understatement. I was standing at least a quarter of a mile away from the sow and cubs (maybe more). Moreover, I was standing right next to our car door and, at the moment, I was a bit more concerned about the safety of my hubby who was standing in the Creek unaware that the bears were approaching him, from behind. Afterwards, hubby said that he hadn't seen the bears until the sow began swimming across the creek with her cubs, right next to him. He said that she was carrying Tiny on her back just like she had done, previously, when the bear family had crossed Buffalo Creek. He said that she crossed the Creek and when the bears got to the other side of the Creek, the sow stopped, turned for a moment to look at my hubby and then walked up and over the ridge with the cubs. For us, it was a wonderful sighting although a bit disconcerting and the fact that I never got a shot off. Looking back, I wonder why the ranger had singled me out when there were other anglers and visitors who were also parked in the same pullout. I don't like to think this way but I can't help but think that maybe it was my long telephoto that had made me a target for the ranger. Had she spent a few moments to find out why I was using my long lens and hadn't taken any pix at all, maybe the outcome and my opinion of this young ranger might be different. I had never seen this ranger before, so I want to give the ranger, the benefit of a doubt. She might have been new and overzealous in her duties or perhaps she doesn't know how far a quarter or half mile is, when you're out in the field. Anyway, I blew off this unfortunate encounter and chocked it off to the ranger's young age and lack of training and/or experience. But based on Bill and Karen's comments about their own recent Park trip experience, Bill might be right. Perhaps the Park has returned to the mindset and policies of the old Yellowstone hierarchy who often made the assumption that Park visitors were the enemy and could never be trusted to do the right thing and, particularly, those who were holding a long lens.

Gosh, with a new Superintendent, I had such high hopes for the Park and that we'd see a better rapport between rangers and visitors. Personally, I still would rather see a ranger error on the side of safety. That's why I got back into our car, even though I was mad. As an end to my trip report, I'd like to make a suggestion. Perhaps the Park could use some of its funding to equip rangers with a range finder so they could get the actual viewing distance of bears correct, when they're out in the field ....before they start ordering visitors to go back to their vehicles, unnecessarily.



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

Re: Yellowstone Trip Report - June 13 thru July 12, 2019

Post by billandkaren » Fri Aug 02, 2019 10:39 pm

Yellvet, thanks for your post and perspective. The closing of the pullouts is mystifying to me. Why stop the public from doing what they are supposed to do to observe wildlife?

We were in the park the past few days with friends who came for a visit and observed some stupid behavior especially with bison. So I know the rangers have a tough job. But I agree that many times their priorities are not where they should be.



RikWriter
Posts: 230
Joined: Tue Jul 25, 2017 8:36 pm

Re: Yellowstone Trip Report - June 13 thru July 12, 2019

Post by RikWriter » Mon Aug 05, 2019 4:42 pm

The rangers are always less tolerant and more uptight in summer. Another reason I don't like to go in summer.



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

Re: Yellowstone Trip Report - June 13 thru July 12, 2019

Post by yellvet » Mon Aug 12, 2019 1:59 pm

Rik, I was planning to go back to the Park after Labor Day. But I've decided to forgo the trip. Until I see a change on how rangers treat Park visitors and photographers, I really don't have any desire to go back, at least, not this year. Besides, I've got plenty of fall scenery and wildlife to photograph, right around our house, without having to worry about being subjected to a negative encounter with a Yellowstone ranger.

Be sure to let us know how your Sept. trip goes. I'd be curious to know, from your perspective, if the Park has made any wildlife viewing distance enforcement policy changes. September has always been one of my most favorite months to be in the Park so I know that I'll miss my Sept. trip. At the same time, I won't miss being a target for some over-zealous, inexperienced ranger. Bill was right. Why on earth would the Park rangers close visitor parking pullouts when they were designed and intended for the safe viewing and photographing of the Yellowstone wildlife? It makes no sense. But then again, the Park has done a lot of questionable things over the years, that have never made much sense. So, this year, I plan to give the Park and the new Superintendent a pass with the hope that things will change for the better next year. But if they don't, I fully intend to contact the Park Superintendent, both our MT senators and the Secretary of the DOI, who is also from Montana. The DOI Secretary has already made some significant changes to the Yellowstone infrastructure because of the inappropriate/unethical behavior by some of the Park's previous management. So we'll see how or if these changes have been successful or if they've, actually, done harm than good.



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