Today was the last day of our Yellowstone winter trip. This was the first winter Yellowstone trip for Jared and me. Bill has done the winter trip several times. He was kind enough to invite us along this year. We Thank Bill for his kind hospitality and the experience. Jared and I have visited Yellowstone in the Fall and Spring (June) so we have now completed the Yellowstone trip cycle! Which one do I recommend? All of them! .... as far as the abundance and variety of wildlife, June beats them all, however. Jared and I both missed seeing bears in winter but we did have a great time with the moose and big horn rams this trip. The coldest temp was 7 F and the warmest was 41F during the trip. This was a "warm winter" for Yellowstone.
We started the day by entering through the north entrance arch at 7:07 am. The forecast was cloudy/snow showers. The actual weather was sunny/partly cloudy and BEAUTIFUL! Another wrong forecast...
It was still dark/very low light and we decided to make the west to east trip (Lamar Valley). We get just west of Elk Creek and we see two vehicles in front of us stopped. We asked, "whats up" and the guy says" wolves!"..... We just missed the Blacktail wolf Pack by 30 seconds crossing the road heading north. We got out and looked but they were gone over the ridge. A herd of elk that was grazing to the east of the wolf crossing when they started running like crazy to "get out of dodge"! We never saw the wolves. We missed the Blacktail wolf Pack the other day by 30 minutes....crap! If any of you have been here, you know the game.... its called LUCK. You win some and lose many..... Timing is critical here.
We proceeded east with the usual bison and cow elk. Lamar Valley was quiet so we went further east to where the moose have been and BINGO! 3 Bull moose and a cow moose feeding, drinking, wondering through the snow, fairly close. We photographed them for 45 minutes or so.
We head back west and come across several big horn rams at The Confluence and snapped a few pics. We then come across 2 coyotes wondering through the snow and walking across the ice.... we got some cool (no pun intended) images of them. The elk carcass has been cleaned out even the antlers are gone. We went back towards Gardiner. We saw some wolf watchers but no wolves seen as I was told (except for the road crossing I mentioned).
We had lunch in Gardiner then headed out to explore a few roads outside the Park. We came across a nice bedded down herd of elk, some mule deer and a few winter landscape gems! We went back in the Park (numerous pronghorn grazing by the park north entrance) and made one last west to east-west round trip.
We snapped several more winter landscapes on the last roundtrip. The skies were beautiful! The evening light was great and the sunset was very colorful... we decided to stay out and photograph this beautiful sunset as the sunset light bathed the Yellowstone winter landscape.... We savored every minute until sun went down. On the way back to Gardiner, we reflected on the trip. We were pleased with the trip results and the weather was great 90% of the time! We had dinner with my photographer friends, Ralph Kerr and Jim and Debbie Chagares.
We had hoped for some close wolf encounters. We missed two by minutes and seconds, we saw the 8 mile Pack via spotting scope and our cameras but not close enough for a good photographic end result. We heard the wolves howl twice and they makes your spine tingle. Trust me. We loved the wolves like so many, but I will say this, Lamar Valley is not the same with the nonsense hunting losses of 06' and 754. There is an eerie silence. The Lamar Canyon Pack has dispersed since 06's death. It is now 755 and his new Mollie Pack lady. We are hoping they will start a new pack and maybe this Spring, there will be some good news!
Long Live 06' and 754!
This has been a great trip with a TON of images to edit. I will be posting some Sunday but many will come over the next several weeks. The NEW slideshow on my website, http://www.galloimagesonline.com will be based on this trip!
Jared and I will be returning to Grand Teton/ Yellowstone in early June with 12 MPEGers and 5 spouses along for a trip they will never forget!
Thanks to all of you (a few hundred) who have read the blog every day. Your interest and support is appreciated!
That's All Folks! We are on our way home in the morning!