Yellowstone 2008 - January in June

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Lower Falls in the Snow

Its June again so it must be time to go to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.  Seven nights in Yellowstone and 2 in the Tetons.  This is our third straight trip.  The weather forecasts call for 50 during the day and 28 at night so that isn't so bad.  We'll take all of our layers and hope for the best.  After all, its June so how bad could it be.  Its going to be 95 here in Virginia.

We started on June 7 with a 6:00AM flight on United Airlines.  We left on time and didn't have a problem at all.  There was a 3 hour layover in Denver but we knew that.  What we didn't know was that there would be around another hour waiting for United to get the pilots to Denver so we could leave.  No wonder their on-time stats are poor.

We finally left and headed to Jackson Hole, WY.  The flight was uneventful.  Getting to the terminal wasn't.  The wind was howling and there was a light snow.  What happened to June?  Oh well, we're where we want to be.  We picked up the car from Thrifty Car Rental in Jackson and loaded up with stuff for the ice chest.  It was raining / snowing but we were still happy. 

Grand Tetons in the weather. As we headed north, the Tetons were beautiful.  At least when you could see them.  Many clouds and weather around.  As we got closer to Moran Junction, you could see how dark it was up Yellowstone way.  We stopped at Oxbow Bend and couldn't even see Mt. Moran.  Not long after Jackson Lake, it was snowing like crazy.  The roads were OK but visibility wasn't.  We were heading to Lake and a cabin so at least it wasn't a long drive.  Long enough though in that kind of weather.  You could still see deep snow along the side of the road.

Our cabin at Lake.  We checked in at Lake and there was no power in the hotel.  The staff at reception did a good job of quickly adapting to paper records.  We at least we had power in our frontier cabin.  We were warm.  We walked over to the lodge to look around and take some pictures.  I thought you had to come in January to see all the snow.  Dinner was from the ice chest since we didn't have reservations at the hotel and the lodge wasn't open.  By our standards, it was a successful start to the trip.  For what it's worth, the cabins are nice by park standards.

We got up early Sunday morning to head up through Hayden Valley.  We were spending the next threeGrizzly Overlook in the snow. nights at Roosevelt.  Snow on the car and no scraper.  At least it wasn't frozen solid.  Hayden Valley was a little strange in the snow.  Sort of pretty but too overcast to get decent pictures.  We also didn't see anything other than a bison walking down the center of the road.  We did stop at Artist's Point to get some pictures of the falls but they're prettier in the sun.  It was the first of 3 stops there and all were different.  There wasn't too much snow but the pictures were interesting.

Dunraven Pass was closed so we had to get to Roosevelt by way of Norris.  Not much to Part of Mammoth Hot Springs.see.  We did make a quick stop at an elk jam.  People were walking way close to the elk to get pictures with their point and shoot cameras.  Breaking the law and messing up our pictures.  There's a picture of one lady in the albums.  If you know her, suggest she get a bigger zoom lens.  When we got to Mammoth, we stopped at the hot springs.  It was still snowing but not much.  We walked around them some but didn't climb to the top.  Too lazy I suppose.

We stopped at the Petrified Tree on the way in.  We didn't see anything at the parking area so we turnedMoose at Petrified Tree. around.  On the way back out we saw three moose.  The two we got pictures of were male.  Not sure about the other one since it hung out behind the trees.  It would have been better with actual sunlight but it was OK anyway.  Several people stopped to take pictures but shared the space nicely.  There wasn't a ranger around be everyone kept it worked out anyway.

We were able to check in at Roosevelt at 11:00AM.  That was great since we could unload Rosie and her cub.a lot of the stuff.  This year we had Rough Rider cabin with 2 double beds so we had more room than last year but it was chilly outside.  Last year it was warm and we didn't need the little, inadequate stove so I don't know which is better.  We were supposed to take the horseback ride for the cowboy cookout.  They cancelled the horseback ride due to lousy weather so we cancelled too.  They still had 100 people ride the wagons out to the cookout.  After we checked in and unloaded, we were off to Calcite Springs and Tower Fall.  We saw big horn sheep at Calcite Springs but not Rosie the black bear.  When we went a little further, there was a jam.  Turned out it was Rosie and the cinnamon cub.  That was the first time folks realized there was a cub left.  The suspicion was that a boar attacked and killed the smaller black one and maybe both.

When we got back to Tower, we headed into Lamar Valley.  It was raining and there wasn't a lot to see.  We stopped at Slough Creek.  Some of the folks there showed us where the wolf den is but we didn't see any thing.  Almost to hazy / snowy to see the hill, much less the den.  We did see a badger behind us though.  That was cool since it was the first one I've seen.  All in all, Sunday was a good day.  But then in Yellowstone, they're all good days.

Monday morning we were up early but didn't get to Slough Creek until 6:30AM.  We missed most of the pack waking up and heading up the hill.  What we did see was cool anyway.  Looking through our new Swarovski scope, we saw a black wolf, a grizzly sow and two yearling cubs near the den.  While watching, two elk walked behind them.  The grizzlies were too near the den and making the wolf nervous.  The wolf couldn't do much with the grizzlies but stayed there anyway.  Nothing came of it but it was fascinating to watch.

Yellowstone Picnic area. Later on we saw two grizzlies at the foot bridge turnout.  One looked huge.  They were a ways off but the scope saved us again.  We watched the big male scratch his back against the tree up on the ridge.  Must have been a heck of a tree.  We're thinking we like this new scope for sure.  We headed back and had lunch at the Yellowstone Picnic area.  We hiked part of the Specimen Ridge trail but got lazy again.  It was nice to see part of it.  Nice wildflowers too.

As we headed back to Calcite Springs again we got caught in a bear jam.  All for a sleeping black bearDunraven Pass finally open. that you could barely see.  He finally woke up to the delight of the crowd.  The folks and rangers kept it all worked out.  We found that Dunraven Pass opened too.  We drove up there just to look around.  Large mounds of snow along the road but none on it.  Unlike last year, we didn't see any bears on the way up.  Time for dinner and back to the lodge.  I like Roosevelt and their restaurant is my favorite.

Wolfwatchers all lines up.On Tuesday, it was back to Slough Creek.  This time we got there at 6:00.  Nothing much going on.  We did see two bald eagles together on the ground and we got to watch a solo female black wolf.  We were told she had been kicked out of the pack.  It was still fun to meet some of the people hanging out there to watch the wolves even though there wasn't much action.


Next order of business was at the Foot Bridge turnout at the end of Lamar.  We missed the bears today but saw a black wolf.  It was apparently one of the Druids.  It wasn't doing anything but wandering around.  At one point it sat down and howled while we watched.  It was neat so see and hear that.  There's also a badger den there so we watched 3 little ones playing.  We made other stops there but this was the only time we saw them.

After all that, we had lunch and went out to Floating Island Lake.  We saw the Sandhill Cranes again withSandhill cranes and the moose. the chicks.  A young male moose showed up.  We watched him for a while and he wandered up the shoreline.  We even got a picture of the moose and the cranes together.  Neither seemed to care about the other.  The moose kept walking and then started running.  The last time we saw him he was still running over the next hill.  Not sure what spooked him.

We didn't see much else until later in the afternoon.  We were leaving Slough Creek and a coyote jumped into the sage ahead of us.  We then noticed an elk herd off to the right.  They suddenly came to attention.  They closed the circle with the calves in the middle.  Many adults looking our direction.  After a while, they finally split.  I guess the coyote had their attention.  It was interesting to watch the herd's reaction to a threat.  We tried to get some pictures of them but it was snowing and not much light.  You could barely tell they were elk.

Snow at Roosevelt. As we got back to Roosevelt, the snow turned into a blizzard.  Visibility was very poor.  It was pretty to see but hard on wildlife looking.  The temperature was dropping too.  We decided to give it up for the day since it was getting late anyway.  We enjoyed the snow and walked to the lodge for dinner.  Seemed like a good day for a bison sirloin.  That evening we built a fire in the little stove but it didn't last long enough.  They did have enough blankets though.  I think the cabins were in were hard to heat since they were a little larger.

Wednesday morning was cold.  It was 28 degrees outside and 38 inside.  The fire went out during the night.  We slept warm enough and just got dressed quickly.  Very quickly.  At least we didn't have to go down the path to visit bathroom during the night.

We headed out at 5:30AM or so.  Nothing at Slough Creek so we kept going.  We ran into the wolf people further out in Lamar.  We grabbed a parking spot and headed up the bank with the scope.  There had been a kill by the Druids the night before.  We couldn't see it but could see the ravens and the occasional wolf.  As we watched, a bison herd moved on up the valley.  The four wolves started probing the herd for weaknesses.  There weren't any.  We saw the bison circle the calves and another time watched two bison chase a wolf back into the sage.  It was fascinating to watch.  Its worth another mention of the scope.  Without it, we wouldn't have seen much of this at all.  While were watching, coyotes started howling very close behind us.  I'm sure I  jumped because they sure startled me.  We weren't able to get any pictures but sure had fun watching.  I need a new lens (and a job).

Falls behind Roosevelt Lodge.This was all we really had time for since this was move day.  We went back to Roosevelt to check out.  It was snowing pretty hard and that set the tone for the restSnowy drive to Norris.  of the day.  We looked at the small falls behind the lodge and headed down the road.  The road to Mammoth and Norris that is.  Dunraven was closed again.  The snow was falling hard most of the way between Mammoth and Norris.  The had snow tire warnings between Norris and Canyon but the roads were in good shape.  We checked in to Canyon and just chilled for the rest of the day.  It was nice having a heater and bathroom in our Frontier Cabin, no matter how much snow there was.  Actually, there wasn't as much snow as we expected.

Our cabin in the snow. We slept in Thursday morning.  The forecast was for more snow.  When we got up, there was 4 inches of new white stuff on the ground.  We went into Hayden Valley first thing after breakfast.  Nothing going on.  Just snow and a fair amount of it.  We stopped at Artist Point to see the falls in the snow and took several pictures.  From there it was off to Old Faithful.  That was pretty much a bust too.  We saw Old Faithful erupt from a distance and the Upper Geyser Basin had nothing going on.  We normally see Old Faithful twice and 3 or 4 smaller ones erupt.  Not this time.  I guess our timing was off.

On the way back, we headed into Hayden Valley again.  This time there were two sows with cubs at TroutGrizzly sow and yearling cub. Creek.  We were able to see both with the scope.  A boar showed up later to make 5 bears on that hill side.  After dinner, we were able to see one the pairs fairly near the road and get some pictures.  Another nice day in the park.  If you know what the bowtie or butterfly snow fields are, you may have been there too.

Watching the bears. Friday was our last full day in Yellowstone before moving to the Tetons.  We did our usual thing and headed into Hayden Valley.  We stopped at Trout Creek and watched a big male for a while with the scope.  There was a nasty cold wind blowing across there so we moved on south.  We went to Fishing Bridge for coffee.  When we got back to Trout Creek the same bear was still there.  We watched for a bit and then headed to Lamar Valley the hard way.  Dunraven was still closed.

We didn't see much on the way.  We passed a small moose jam but didn't stop.  WeSheep on the hill side. stopped at Sheepeater Cliffs but they had closed the area where the kill was in the water.  We kept going and did stop at Floating Island Lake.  This time we knew the chicks were there.  (They were there the last time but we didn't realize it until seeing the pictures at home.)  We were able to get some decent pictures.  No moose this time but all was good anyway.  We stopped in Lamar Valley but didn't really see anything.  Dunraven finally opened so we we headed that way.  We did see a family of big horn sheep near Tower Fall so that was fun.  Not much else on the way back to Canyon.

After dinner, it was back to Trout Creek.  The sow and cub were out again.  The cub really liked the snow but mom not so much.  One time the cub seemed to go "Yeehaw" and took off for the snow.  Just like any kid I imagine.  We saw a different male grizzly from a nearby turnout but he disappeared.  We also saw a herd of elk that seemed freaked out.  I think they lost a calf but can't be certain.  There were 4 left behind as a rear guard or they were looking for something.  You couldn't tell from where we were.  Fun to watch, in any event.

Saturday was leaving day.  It was finally warming up some and was time to leave.  We headed back intoBison at Roosevelt. Hayden Valley before leaving.  We saw the same bears again but not much more.  Last year there were large bison herds here but not this year.  There appears to be a couple of reasons for this.  These bison migrate west to look for grazing at lower elevations.  Some of them probably hadn't seen the reason to migrate back yet.  The bison kill during the winter had to contribute to it as well.  Between 400 and 700 bison died during the hard winter.  Another 1600 were killed on lands outside Yellowstone.  This represents roughly half of the bison population in the park.  The conflict causing the slaughter is a fear of brucellosis being transferred to the cattle in the area.  The Buffalo Field Campaign has interesting information on this topic as does the article linked above.  It was more interesting last year with the bison herds around since the calves are so much fun to watch and photograph.  None the less, we had a great time.

From here we headed to Grand Teton National Park.  That story is separate from this one.  If you'd like to read it and see the pictures, you can click here or use the menu button at the top of the article.  There's pictures from that part of the trip as well.