Since Yellowstone is such a big place, and since we ended up taking many pictures over vacation I have decided to post pics from the vacation primarily in three posts. This first post will cover the first couple of days. We did most of our driving to the park on Friday. Thirteen hours of driving got us to Billing, MT where we stayed the night. Saturday we got up and drove the last three hours to the park. We were not in too much of a hurry because of the gray rainy skies. The weather forecast had rain every day for the entire week and my mood was as gloomy as the skies. I had a bad feeling that this vacation was going to end up as a train wreck. Looking back I was kind of right but not in the way in which I was thinking
We arrived at the north entrance of the park around 10:00am and headed right out towards the Lamar Valley. As we came to the bridge into the Little America area there were many cars parked on the side of the road so we stopped to see what everyone was looking at. Down the slope near the river a black bear was munching on the grass. I took a few pictures and then heard someone mention that there were male big horn sheep a bit further down the road.
Since we think that big horned sheep rams are more interesting then a black bear trimming the lawn, that is probably because we have a good population of black bear in Minnesota and absolutely no wild big horned sheep, I ran back to the car and we moved down the road. We found about a dozen or so rams with a few female and young ones mixed in. We have seen big horn rams in the park before but never so many in one group. We watched and photographed their behavior, including some head butting, for a while and then decided to continue on, since we still had not been to our motel yet.
On our way back around the park, the road between Canyon and Tower does not open up until Memorial Day weekend or later because of all the snow in the mount Washburn pass, we spotted a wolf running parallel to the road between Mammoth and Norris. I pulled over grabbed the camera jumped out of the car and began to follow and photograph the wolf. About two miles later the wolf met up with another wolf, I found out that the other wolf had been a couple of hundred feet ahead of the one that I was following, and the two shortly disappeared into the trees. Fortunately for me Michelle picked me up with the car because I was not looking forward to running another couple of miles to get back. With all of that running after the wolves I slept pretty soundly that night.
We started out back into the park early the next morning. The skies had cleared as the day progressed on Saturday and the nice weather continued on Sunday morning. I had talked with several photographers on Saturday and found that many people had been seeing grizzly over by Yellowstone Lake so we headed over through Canyon on our way to Fishing Bridge. On our way we found another jam up of cars so we decided to stop and find out what was going on. It was another bear, but this time it was a grizzly and it was eating at a carcass. I made my way through the trees and snow to where I could photograph the bear from across the river. I found out later that the bear had been eating on the carcass for days, though I am not sure that the bear killed the bison or whether it had just found a convenient meal. We continued to check the carcass for the rest of the trip but I guess that there was not enough meat left to entice another bear.
At Yellowstone Lake we did find another grizzly but it was kind of far away and sleeping so after waiting a bit we decided to continue south on the loop and hook around to Old faithful. We usually do not see that much on the south end of the park, this could be because it is a bit higher elevation, but as we turned the corner and began going north again we were treated to an osprey perched on a tree over looking the Firehole River.
After the osprey took off in the opposite direction in search of a fish we continued north. When we got to Mammoth I decided to check out the North Entrance before heading back out towards Tower and Lamar Valley. I was primarily looking for golden eagle, since we did see them nest in the area a few years back, but the only thing that we found was a female big horned sheep hugging the cliff wall far above the road. I thought that it would be cool to get a picture of the sheep in its natural habitat so we stopped to take a pic and that's when I noticed a small lamb clinging to mom's side. We found out later that the lamb was only hours old when we took this pic.After a few minutes the ewe and her lamb laid down to get some rest and it was very difficult to so the lamb so we decided to move on back into the park. On our way into Mammoth we spotted this mule deer on a hill overlooking the road. Normally I do not spend much time photographing deer but since the sun was on its way down the light was very good. With no place to pull over I jumped out of the car and snapped a couple of quick pics before any cars came up behind us.
With night approaching we decide to start heading back towards West Yellowstone. As we drove between Mammoth and Norris I saw something moving in water near the road and so I stopped. We had seen beaver here in the past, including the day before, but usually they were much further away. This one was munching on a twig pretty close to the road. The only problem was that the setting sun made the lighting tricky.
A little further down the road from the beaver we ran into the same wolf that we had photographed the day before. This time it was heading south towards Norris. Again I grabbed the camera and jumped out of the car. This time the wolf kept to the road, which was unfortunate because people were chasing it down the road in their car. On several occasions people came close to hitting another car or the wolf as they tried to race ahead to catch up to or get a head of the wolf. I kept following on foot for several miles until it was getting dark. Finally Michelle was able to catch up to me with the car and we decided to leave the wolf in peace and head back to our hotel. Even though it had rained on both days we also had periods of blue sky and after only two days I know that my fears about this vacation had been proven wrong, at least as far as the shooting opportunities were concerned.