Welcome to the GIO Blog!
(L-R) My son - Jared, Me and Bill
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!
We had breakfast one last time at the Bearclaw Bakery. We bid the staff Good Bye. We will see them again in June when I return with 12 MPEGers and spouses.
We took our time doing some landscape/street photography in Cooke City on the way to the Park. It was a beautiful sunrise, blue sky day!
On our way through the Park going westward, nothing too terribly exciting... a coyote hunting along the Soda Butte Creek, the big horn ram was still hanging around the Hitching post area. I stopped to speak with well known Wolf Watcher, Doug McLaughlin. Doug lives in Silver Gate, MT and manages Silver Gate Lodging. We spoke about the Yellowstone wolf situation and 06'. Doug informed me of a new pro-wolf website he is working on. The website is: www.warof754.com Be sure and check it out and please help support Doug and this great cause! The wolves need every voice they can get! Help Save the Wolves!
We proceed west looking for bull elk but nothing but bison and cow elk. We see another coyote near the old elk carcass. Then we come upon yet another coyote in the road just walking along going from Point A to Point B. We drove up ahead of him... waited and took video of him just walking by us with no fear. I will post the video soon. We proceeded to Gardiner and there was a large crowd at the pull out just before the Park exit (North gate). There were wolf watchers and some photographers observing the 8 Mile Wolf Pack (7 wolves) up on a ridge close to a mile away but you could clearly see the wolves bedded down. Some wolves were up and about. I took images at 1300 mm. They are documentation images, but not suitable for print or posting. The Pack started moving west and so did some of us (along the road outside the north entrance). The wolves began howling which is music to my ears and everyone there. It's an awesome experience! We never found them again but maybe they will hang in the same area tomorrow. We spend 2 hours with the wolves. We decided to go up in Gardiner to look for mule deer and whatever else may pop up. We found several mule deer does but no bucks. I snapped a few nice mule deer images I can't wait to show you....
We had lunch in Gardiner and the proceeded back east for one final loop ride. Much of the same (elk cow, bison) and we almost ran over an ermine as it ran across the road in front of us. Those buggers are fast!
We found a beautiful coyote in Lamar in a snowy, rock setting and snapped this pretty picture! Then we had another bison jam (about the 4th one today) and snapped some pics of bison in the snow, etc. Another photographer spotted a golden eagle land in a tree behind us. By the time I got set up and ready to snap his picture, he flew off! Dang it!
We proceed through Lamar and Bill spotted 2 bull elk (finally) on the hillside . We took their picture for several minutes. See image posted in this blog post. We left there and proceeded back to Gardiner for the night. We had a pizza for dinner and called it a night!
Well folks, tomorrow is Day 7 (the final day). It has gone super fast as it always does. My final blog post will be tomorrow night, February 8, 2013.
I have way over 100 GB of RAW images (so far) so I will have a "just a few" images to edit when I get home. I will be posting a few images on Sunday on my website and on Facebook but the bulk of the editing will have to wait until I return from a business trip to TN/Arkansas next week.
Stay tuned for Day 7 (The Finale) tomorrow night!
Jared and I will be headed back home on Saturday afternoon.
We started this morning with breakfast at..... (you know where!). The skies were partly cloudy and expected to be partly cloudy/sunny all day.
We started out to the Park around 7:45am. We proceed west through Lamar (no wildlife along the way except for bison). We arrive in Lamar Valley and come across a coyote (with his mate) who just woke up.... we got some cool images of him yawning and stretching. His mate was in the sage brush and we left before she appeared. It is our understanding after we left, he was trying some hanky panky with her but she wasn't in the mood.
While we were photographing the coyotes, we heard the beauty of wolf howls. They appeared to be coming from the west so we hightailed it westward. We came across the wolf watchers but they lost the signal and surmised the wolves they were following went North. They were not aware of the howls we heard. They suspected it was 755M and his new mate. We were told there were some bull elk on the hill in Lamar but they went over the ridge before we arrived.
We stopped at the Yellowstone picnic area and we were surrounded by bison. I got a beautiful image of a bison with a snowy face and he turned towards the light at the right time. Snap!. We were told of a big horn ram at the next pullout so off we go. We pull in and there is this beautiful big horn ram with the perfect pose in perfect morning light by a tree with a mountain background.. and I am looking at this scene and staying, "OMG, thats perfect"... I admired too long and by the time I started to get out and photograph this scene, he moved..... I kicked myself all day for the missed "Golden" opportunity. I am sure when I am back in June and see that tree, I will kick myself more......
We proceeded westward and only saw cow elk and bison. We stopped at the Wraith Falls pull out and spoke with two other photogs who saw and took photos of the two alphas of the Blacktail wolf pack when they crossed the road. We missed them by an hour or so (figures....)
We then proceeded back East and saw nothing (did some landscapes) until we were back in Lamar Valley. We were photographing a big horn ram when a photographer told us that the Blacktail Pack brought down a elk cow by Undine Falls (way off the road) but it might be worthwhile to check out. So we go back west to Undine Falls but all the wolf watchers were gone. We were told the Pack ate their meal and bedded down.
Then we were told about a coyote at Blacktail Lakes. We found him with Ralph's help but he was far out. We drive on and a coyote is walking up the road right at us. We brake and left him move by safety. Nothing significant on the way back to Lamar. We drive by the elk carcass and there is a Golden eagle feeding on it! I decided to do some "drive by shooting" and snapped a few pics of the Golden eagle. This was, IMHO, a Golden hit! (pun intended).
We headed east with our hotel in Cooke City as the destination but we stopped along the way to do some landscape photography with evening light. The image in this blog is some "snow pillows" we found.
As we are driving out of the Park, it started snowing heavily (remember that partly cloudy/sunny) forecast? We come across a accident, the truck doing some National Geographic work in the Park slid off the road and was tilted sideways. There were two rangers and a tow truck there. The roads were slippery from the fresh snow.
So, overall, a "slower day" for us vs. the previous 4 days but still a good day as we got many images we never had before!
Tomorrow is Day 6. We are moving out base of operations to Gardiner for the final two nights in preparation for our departure Saturday am
Stay tuned for Day 6!
We LOVE the Bearclaw Bakery! (Next to the Super 8 hotel in Cooke City, MT). We had breakfast there again this morning. It was snowing (light) this morning then stopped by the time we left for the Park around 7:45am. It was cloudy most of the day this side of the Park (east) but on the west side (Gardiner) it was beautiful.. blue skies, sunny.... Tomorrow's forecast is mostly sunny....
We started the day driving through Lamar Valley and saw nothing...then we come upon another coyote (snow/ice on his face) in the road. He looked at us (unfazed by us) , posed and then went into the snowy sage brush looking for something to eat. We watched him as he followed a trail (probably his from previous days). It so happens we positioned ourselves at the end of that trail...he came right at us, we snapped away, he walked right past us (within 10 feet) making his way down the road (east). Jared was already down the road and the coyote just walks towards him, Jared kept walking away, the coyote kept walking his way....The coyote then went to the left side of the road and continued on his merry way. We got some really nice images of him. We surmised the coyote was headed to the elk carcass which was 0.3 mile down the road.
We continued on to Gardiner. We saw some cow elk along the way. I really want to get some bull elk. Maybe tomorrow? We saw Lamar Canyon Pack 755M and his new Mollie Pack girlfriend resting through a spotting scope. I am told the rest of the Lamar Pack is in Wyoming somewhere (out of the Park). Everyone is expecting 755M and his GF to mate this season and start a new Pack this year.... Hopefully. So far, we have had no close encounters with wolves yet.
Once in the Gardiner area, we noted no big horns in the canyon. We came across a huge herd (30-40 at least) of pronghorn (just before leaving the park) and they stampeded across the road and went up on the hills to feed. We got some nice images of these guys. We proceeded out of the Park and went down a little known road and found more bison, more pronghorn (these pronghorn were along the road and never budged as we drove by) We snapped more pronghorn images. We continued on the road and came across a lone bald eagle sitting in a tree by the Yellowstone River. Snap. Snap. Snap. He then flew off and was joining by another bald eagle plus we saw two more bald eagles soaring for a total of four...
We then ventured further out of the Park up another road and found some beautiful horses in the snow, a young mule deer posted for us with a snow / mountain back ground and then we took some overlook landscape images of Gardiner / the mountains around Gardiner. It was sunny, blue skies and the cloud formations were great! We had lunch at Subway. Snapped a pic of 4 mule deer in someone's front yard by the road. Very tame mule deer.
We made out way back to Lamar and again, saw some cow elk but not much otherwise....until we came across a stunning big horn sheep ram in Lamar in the perfect setting! I mean this boy was a "Gorgeous George"!
No golden eagles seen today but I want one of those too!
After the big horn ram encounter, we moved towards Cooke City and came across four (4) moose at Pebble Creek. Two of the bulls shared a friendly moment then they started sparring. You could hear the antlers clacking as these two toyed with each other. The image in this blog post is the "Moose Smooch" before the sparring. It was low light, cloudy. The posted image was taken with the Canon EOS 1D Mark IV, 700mm, ISO 3200, f 5.6, 1/1600 and + 2 plus EV. I have number images of the sparring. Fun stuff! The moose encounter ended our day.... with a great dinner at the Bistro Cafe in Cooke City.
3 more days to go!
Can we top the last 3 days?
Stay Tuned for Day 5 tomorrow!
Another Day in Paradise...
Today, started with a great breakfast at the Bear Claw Bakery at 6:30 am.
We geared up and left for the Park around 7:15am. It was cloudy which eventually turned to partly cloudy in the afternoon despite the forecast of cloudy all day. We did experience some snow flurries in Lamar Valley for short time.
Except for bison, we didn't see much wildlife before noon (compared to yesterday) . The wolf watchers said wolves were up on the ridge (north side of the road in Lamar ) but we missed them (of course...). We drove the route out to Gardiner and saw some big horn sheep there in the Canyon but they were way up there. We proceeded to Gardiner to gas up and did some landscape photography around the Arch entrance. We did see several elk today whereas we saw 1-2 cow elk yesterday. We photographed more landscapes then proceeded back to Lamar, scoping out landscape ops and looking for wildlife... we made a return trip out towards Gardiner (but only went past Petrified Tree a little bit and then turned around).. we were all grumbling about how slow it was wildlife-wise was when suddenly, a beautiful coyote appeared in the road in front of us.
We moved closer (in the car) assuming he would veer off into the field to the right but the snow was deep and he just stood there looking at us. We were maybe 20-25 yrds away. He wasnt concerned about us, he was listening with those big ears (thus hunting for food). The food was more important than us guys from the Midwest. He was cocking his ears, trying to locate his prey under the snow.. then he took his stance and he was about to leap in the air (as they do) to pounce on his prey.... He leapt and we lowered the hammer on the shutter button capturing the "leap sequence"... He missed his prey and he continued to dig in the snow trying to find it. Fun stuff! He continued to hang around close but we decided to move on. We got some very nice images of bison with front light as well.
We proceeded east..... and upon entering Lamar Valley , another coyote was hunting and he got his prey. We have images of him walking away with his prey in his mouth.... Boy, the place went was "dull" to "action packed" out of the blue BUT if you ever been here, you know this is how it works...you never know!
As we continued east, we came upon about 10 big horn sheep rams grazing next to the road on the hill side. We captured a few images of these guys. It was close to 4:30pm so we decided to make our way back to Cooke City and hoping for more cool stuff...
Our wish was granted...
As we approached the Soda Butte/Soda Butte Creek area, the sun broke through the clouds and poured golden sunset light right smack on the Soda Butte rock formation and small area around it but no where else. The rest of the valley to the right and behind it remained dark, leaving the Soda Butte rock formation illuminated on its own..... a real lucky event. It looks as if the Soda Butte formation is "light painted" but it was Nature's natural spotlight that did the job. We just snapped the pictures. (see image inserted). It you look closely, you can see a lone bison at the 3 o'clock position (on the right).
We all jokingly remarked that we are the only 3 humans in the world who witnessed and photograph this event. Actually it was kinda magical.
If you are unfamiliar with Soda Butte formation/creek, click here for more info!
Tomorrow is Day 4 and we can't wait to see what we witness.
Trust me. In this Park, no two days are alike and just when you least expect it.... something cool pops out at you.