Sunday, May 23, 2010

Yellowstone - May 23, 2010

It was a clear and a cold 25 degrees when we set out in the morning at 6:30AM. Our goal today was to try to get some good shots of the black bear and cub near Tower. But, we took our time getting there and were rewarded by spotting a black bear on Specimen Ridge and the usual assortment of bison, elk, and pronghorn that fill the Lamar Valley each day.

We got to Tower and were greeted by lots of people with lots of big lenses. Despite my obvious lens inadequecies and the lack of close parking spots, we decided to park at Tower and walk "a half mile" back to see what all the fuss was about.

We were glad we did since both bears were only about 50 yards off the road sleeping:

While we waited for them to wake up we chatted with the many familiar faces of folks that we had met in the park multiple times before. After about an hour and a half of waiting, the bears showed signs of waking so the chatting stopped and the picture taking began. Despite the low light and lack of a tripod, I managed to get a few decent shots:

Next, we headed off to Hellroaring since we heard a weasel had been spotted there. We staked out the mountain of rocks at Hellroaring hoping to spot the weasel but we didn't have any luck. However, the pika were out and about and they are always fun to listen to and watch:

We hit up Mammoth again for lunch (how many western chicken sandwiches can I eat on one trip?....a lot!). After lunch, we decided to burn off some calories by finally hiking the Hoodoo Trail. We had tried to hike this trail twice before during previous trips. The first time we turned around after less than 1/2 mile due to the wonderful sounds of wolves howling across Swan Lake Flats and the second time we turned around because there was too much snow. This time, we made the whole hike and were rewarded with some nice views and a few critters:

As we were coming down from the top of the Hoodoos Trail, we spotted a jam of people on Swan Lake Flats. We sped up the pace a bit once a couple hikers we passed said that the jam was caused by a fox. But, by the time we got into the car and up the road, both the fox and jam of people were gone.

Next stop was once again Hellroaring to see if we could find the weasel. On the way, the grizzly sow and 4 cubs near Mammoth were out, but we didn't stop due to the MASS of people everywhere. We did see two of the bears from the car. At Hellroaring, there was no weasel again this time, but we did have a few minutes with a Mountain Bluebird at its nest:

And some Shooting Stars:

Dunraven Pass was once again open, so we headed up to see what might be out in the snow. Thanks to some friendly folks at a turnout, we were able to scope a really nice looking blond grizzly high up on a ridge. On the way back to Silver Gate we spotted a black bear with two small cubs across the Lamar Valley. One of the cubs was cinnamon colored and we had great fun watching them chase each other and get up on their hind legs for some play boxing. This was a great way to end the day for us.

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