May 13, Day 13: You can read the entire blog and view photos on our website. If you enjoy the account, Please . . . share it with your friends. Photos from the trip can be viewed at: http://astilesphotography.com/f390536220 Thanks! The South Entrance was opened this morning, so we got up and departed West Yellowstone around 7:00 AM. Had breakfast at McDonalds, then cruised the Madison and Firehole Rivers without finding any animal activity. Drove on to West Thumb, and through Bridger-Teton Forest towards Moran Junction. Stopped at Colter Bay to have lunch from the cooler and got several landscape photos of the Tetons across the bay. On leaving there and heading for Jackson, we discovered we had just missed a Grizzly sow and her two cubs. Drove on to Moran Junction and took Highway 26 south towards Jackson. Stopped at Oxbow Bend for some shots, and again at Cunningham Cabin. Hoped to find some horses around Triangle X Ranch, but none were in sight. We checked into our rooms at the Motel 6 in Jackson. Bare essentials in these rooms; but we only needed a place to sleep that was dry and had a bathroom. This place fitted our needs just fine, and at about half the price of anywhere else. Discovered The Bunnery was no longer open for dinner, so we at a Mexican place next door. If you are ever there, make sure you allow some time to visit Thomas Mangelsen’s gallery in this same block. He is the best wildlife and nature photographer in my opinion. Stunning photos, all for sale. 144 miles 21 MPG
May 14, Day 14: We left the motel at 5:00 AM to catch the sunrise from Mormon Row. I had to promise everyone we would stop early and return to the motel for them to catch a nap. We drove north on Highway 26, turned off on Antelope Flats Road and were excited to not see many other people at the John Moulton barn. Before we could get out and set up, however, a bus load of tourists pulled up and began disgorging about 50 people at the northernmost barn, the John Moulton Barn. All were Asian, and unlike most Asian tourist we had seen, none had selfie sticks. They all had DSLRs on tripods, and proceeded to follow their guide out to where we had intended to set up. We moved south and set up to shoot the T.A. Moulton barn instead. One from the tour bus followed us; however, he never interfered in any way, was careful to stay out of our shots, and did his own shooting. What a welcome difference from the infuriating selfie-stick crowds! After sunrise, we drove down to Swabacher Landing for reflections in the morning light. From there, I drove back to Jackson to allow everyone to get breakfast at The Bunnery, as a reward for their early morning departure. We then drove back north on Highway 26 and discovered we had just missed another grizzly sow and her two cubs on Pacific Creek Road. Myself and several others thought she might reappear further down the road, but after a couple of hours waiting, we all gave up. We got back to the motel around 3:00 PM and everyone rested up some. 142 miles 25 MPG
May 11, Day 11: You can read the entire blog and view photos on our website. If you enjoy the account, Please . . . share it with your friends. Photos from the trip can be viewed at: http://astilesphotography.com/f390536220 Thanks! We left the cabins at 6:00 AM and headed into the park. We only found a few elk as we drove along the Madison and Firehole Rivers. Drove back to Old Faithful to allow everyone to reshoot it, then north to Norris Junction and east to Canyon Junction. From there we drove slowly through Hayden Valley, still finding very little animal activity. Decided to head over to the East Entrance since they had just opened the highway. We stopped and had lunch at the Fishing Bridge center, then up into the Absoroka Range, through Sylvan Pass, and down to the East Entrance. Saw a lot of beautiful scenery but no animal activity. Returning through Hayden Valley, we found a grizzly feeding on a winterkill about a mile from Canyon Junction. Stopped and took some photos, then headed back towards the cabins. Had dinner at the Outpost, which is a great place to eat. It is nothing fancy, but great service, very reasonable prices, and good food. I was happy to find that we had been moved to a single, unattached cabin, and looked forward to a good night of sleep. 198 miles 18 MPG
May 12, Day 12: We left the cabins at 6:30 AM. I had promised the others to take them to Mammoth Hot Springs to allow them to do some landscape shooting. While waiting for them, I found a Magpie and woodpecker to photograph. After a few shots, the others decided they were ready to go, so we drove back to Norris, over to Canyon and down to Fishing Bridge. Did not see any animal activity, so we drove back and stopped at Artist Point to shoot the Lower Falls. Then we drove back by the North Rim overlooks to allow some more shots, and headed back to the cabins to get packed up and move to Jackson tomorrow. 144 miles 22 MPG
May 9, Day 9: You can read the entire blog and view photos on our website. If you enjoy the account, Please . . . share it with your friends. Photos from the trip can be viewed at: http://astilesphotography.com/f390536220 Thanks! I mentioned an avalanche on Day 6, and about meeting the cinematographer. His name is Jeff Hogan, and you can see some sample clips at http://www.hoganfilms.com/STOCK%20FOOTAGE.html Today we got up and checked out of the Pine Edge Cabins and departed Silver Gate around 7:00 AM, since we were moving to West Yellowstone today. Stopped at the location of the abandoned bison calf and there was no evidence of it anywhere. Found the Grizzly boar on the winterkill again and stopped for some more photos of him. We also spotted another grizzly in the far distance, with a black wolf sitting on a hillside watching it. Both were too far away for decent photos. Drove through Mammoth and then south to Norris. From there we drove east to Canyon and then south to Fishing Bridge. On the return trip we found another grizzly feeding on another winterkill and took a few photos, then continued on to West Yellowstone. As we got checked into our cabins, the winds were getting stronger and the temperature dropping. Again, the Explorer Cabins in West Yellowstone are a great place to stay. I would recommend reserving a cabin that is unattached to any other cabins to ensure you do not have noisy neighbors. 160 miles 25 MPG
May 10, Day 10: We got up and left the cabins around 6:00 AM. We drove the Madison River, where we found a Bald Eagle and an Osprey. We took some photos. Drove down to Old Faithful and got a few shots, then back north to Gibbon Falls. It was very cold and windy today, and no animal activity at all. Had a family of Chinese move into the attached cabin, and they were very polite; however, they were extremely loud too. I spoke with the management staff and they told me that 10:00 PM was when their “quiet time” began. At 10:30 PM, I politely asked the Chinese to be quiet. They were very apologetic, but I went back to management and explained that I was a nature/wildlife photographer which required me to get up and out very early, and back to the cabin late. I told them I wanted a different cabin for tomorrow evening. They agreed to get me into another one and advised me to take everything with me in the morning, and that they would have the new cabin ready when I returned from shooting. 110 miles 22 MPG
May 8, Day 8: You can read the entire blog and view photos on our website. If you enjoy the account, Please . . . share it with your friends. Photos from the trip can be viewed at: http://astilesphotography.com/f390536220 Thanks! We photographed the Bison calves through Lamar Valley. As we left Tower Junction and headed towards Mammoth, we found a Grizzly feeding off another winter kill next to Blacktail Pond. A Coyote was wanting desperately to get down to the kill and feed; but he was not about to confront the Grizzly boar. The coyote trotted around near where we were set up, and eventually disappeared in one of the draws, leaving the grizzly to eat his fill. Did a few scenery shots and drove down to Old Faithful where we had lunch at the Old Faithful Lodge before heading back to Mammoth, and then on back to Silver Gate.
People often attribute human qualities to wildlife, and I am guilty of it myself at times like this encounter that made me think of a mother’s love. However, there is a limit to how far that should go, as we have seen time and again in incidents where tourists endanger themselves and the wildlife by not respecting the animals. About a mile past the Lamar Ranger Station, we found a Bison calf all alone in the sage brush on a small bluff beside the Lamar River. We pulled off the road with the intentions of photographing it; but it soon became apparent that something was wrong with it. After observing it, I determined that it was blind, and was panicking as it sought its mother. She had abandoned it and moved on across the river. Now I know that nature will run its course; and I am not opposed to that at all, believing it is the best way to let things play out in a situation like this. However, automobiles and misguided humans do not fit into that equation as I see it. We stayed at the location, and a couple of times I asked other visitors to not go out to the bison calf when they started out in that direction. Another person there drove to the ranger station to ask if they could send a ranger down there. His intent and mine were to prevent the calf from straying onto the highway and sustaining a non-lethal injury, thereby causing it more pain and suffering. We waited there for about 3 hours and finally had to leave and head back to our cabin to get packed up to check out the following morning. As I left, I could only hope that a ranger would come and euthanize the calf after everyone had left the area; or, that a wolf or bear would find it during the night. All that I could deal with, but not seeing it get hit by a car. Nature is not kind, nor is it cruel. It is simply balanced as long as we keep out of it. We insist on preserving human life at any cost, and to try and apply that to wild animals is going against the rules under which they have lived for thousands upon thousands of years.
After the little blind bison calf, I had to stop about a mile down the road because an idiot had parked his vehicle half on and half off the road. It was late evening, and he was outside the vehicle, squatting in the middle of the road, taking photos as two bison approached. His three passengers were standing at the front of the vehicle admiring him. The first bison moved off to the side of the road and went around him; but the second bison was becoming very agitated. I did not want to do anything to further agitate the bison, so I stayed back and sat quietly in my truck. Finally, the bison snorted, tossed his head up and down, and then wheeled and trotted back the way it had come. The idiot then noticed that I was waiting to get by and moved over to join his admirers. I slowly pulled up even with the people, lowered my window and told him he was asking to get killed. He sheepishly agreed, and my wife added that he was breaking the law being that close to the animals. His admirers looked astonished, as well as clueless. We had seen enough for this day, and left the park. 165 miles, 25 MPG
May 6, Day 6: You can read the entire blog and view photos on our website. If you enjoy the account, Please . . . share it with your friends. Photos from the trip can be viewed at: http://astilesphotography.com/f390536220 Thanks! We were out at 6:30 AM this morning looking for wildlife. It turned out to be a very productive day. We entered Yellowstone from the Northeast Gate and headed down into Lamar Valley. We found a grizzly boar foraging among the willows along Soda Butte Creek between Pebble Creek Campground and the junction of Lamar River. He was a long ways off; but was able to get a photo. We continued through Lamar Valley taking photos of the adorable little Bison calves, Elk, and Antelope. At Tower Junction, we headed towards Mammoth Hot Springs, and just beyond Floating Island Lake, we found two second year Black Bear foraging on the tender shoots of grass. Not much of a crowd had gathered and we were all able to get some decent shots . As we returned from Mammoth to Tower, we turned onto the road to the Petrified Tree and found some wild flowers and photographed them. Talked to a ranger that stopped and he gave us the names of them. A lady pulled up in a vehicle that had me drooling and in talking I found that she was from Red Lodge, MT and had come into the park in her Global X camper for wildlife photography as well. This evening there was an avalanche across the valley and river from our cabin. We had gone to Cooke City to get something for dinner; but talking with a man that produces documentaries for BBC and the parks, I guess it shook the whole valley and really produced a loud roar that lasted quite a while. 200 miles 26 MPG
May 7, Day 7: We left the cabins at 6:00 AM this morning and headed back into Lamar Valley. At the first clearing on the left, we spotted a couple of Moose and were able to get a few shots of them. A bison winter kill had been drug off into the flats near Soda Butte and there were two Bald Eagles among a flock of Ravens feeding on it. Spotted a pair of Marmots in the rocks beside the road and was able to get a few shot of them. Did a walking tour of the old Army post at Mammoth Hot Springs, then drove out of the North Entrance and into the town of Gardiner to purchase another case of water. On the way back to Tower Junction we stopped and did a short hike to Wraith Waterfall and had lunch beside a beautiful little stream before heading back through Lamar. At the bridge over Yellowstone River, we found a large crowd and stopped to find out what they were seeing. A Grizzly sow and two cubs had just left the area, so we drove on and were rewarded with a couple of Bighorn rams at a salt lick about a mile down the road. 150 miles 25 MPG