Yellowstone Jaunt

Two young male bison playfighting in Yellowstone National Park.

We are staying in Livingston, Montana before we head to a campground near the Beartooth Highway tomorrow where we will be boondocking (no utilities) for 4 days in bear country and we will have no cell phone service. Our stop in Livingston is only 55 miles to the north Yellowstone National Park entrance, so we thought we’d drop in for a couple hours. We know the park is extremely busy in the summer and it is best to get out of there by 10:00 when the crowds really start to come in. Also, the wildlife viewing is best at sunrise.

We woke up way before the sun to head on our short stay in the park. Our goal was to head to the Lamar Valley early. It is my favorite wildlife viewing area. Regis decided to do the driving and I reminded him to be careful since it will be dark. He said “oh because of the wild animals?” and I said “because of the domestic animals also. This may be range country.” Not too many miles after we left the campground, we came upon two huge white horses in the road. If they had not be white, they would have been more difficult to see. I don’t think either one of us considered the possibility that we would encounter horses in the middle of the road.

The sky was just beginning to lighten as we were about 3/4 of the way to the entrance when we started to see elk. Lots and lots of elk. There were hundreds of them and many babies. The road was too dangerous for a stop and it was still pretty dark, so taking pictures was not a safe or good option. We arrived at the park at 5:44 a.m. Once inside the park, we saw about a half dozen elk. Is it safer for the elk outside the park in the summer?

As we headed toward the Lamar Valley, we came upon a black bear. The sun had not yet come up over the mountain, so there wasn’t much light. Therefore, the picture is very noisy but it was darn cool to see the bear. We were able to stop the car and I stood outside the passenger door with the car between me and the bear. I had a 100-400mm zoom lens, so we are not as close to the bear as it appears and I think it would have walked right by us if cars didn’t show up coming the other way. They scared the bear and it turned into the woods.

Black bear in Yellowstone National Park.

When we arrived in the Lamar Valley we founds lots of bison. They were everywhere and there were many babies. I have a video below of some of the bison. At the beginning of the video, there are two young males play fighting. The bison were too close to the road to get out of the car and use the tripod, so I had to balance the lens on the car door with the window open. We went to the northeast entrance of the park and turned around and stopped at the bison again and got more video on the tripod. There were a lot more bison sleeping when we returned.

Baby and mama bison in Yellowstone National Park.

I was hoping to get an elk picture on the way back. My goal was to get out of the park by 10:00 and we left at 10:02. The line of cars to get into the park was backed up into the town of Gardiner. We have no problem experiencing Yellowstone with other people, but when too many show up, it reminds me of my congested commutes to work. We had to get up early for our amazing short experience in Yellowstone, but it was worth it. But, we didn’t see a single elk on the way back. All those hundreds of elk that we saw on the way to the park were gone. We don’t know where they went, but it was like they all transported someplace else. Unbelievable! We are now on a quest to get a picture of an elk before we get back home.

Regis got the following pictures of a violet-green swallow at our last campsite. I’m am behind on processing photos. When we arrived in the campground, we saw there was an active nest in an outbuilding. Regis took the time to stake it out and try to get some pictures.

Violet-green swallow bringing food to the nestlings.
Violet-green swallow removing a fecal sac from the nest.
Sunrise view at the Blacktail Plateau in Yellowstone National Park.

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