As I descended Mount Washburn on my last hike on the last day of my trip to Yellowstone in the fall of 2011, I met this black bear feasting on pine cones up in a tree beside the trail, the bear and I at eye level courtesy of the steep hillside. The bear was relaxed and hardly anyone passed by in the late afternoon so I sat down and spent a blissful hour watching it fatten up for the winter. At last it ambled down the tree and waddled off into the forest and I continued down to my ever faithful Subaru to start the long journey home. I couldn’t have known then it would be my last hike in this wonderful park, and as I recall my last bear sighting as well. At least I went out on a high note!
I’ve always taken great comfort in photographing the same scene over time so it was a delight on a visit to Yellowstone in 2011 to retake a shot from 2009, although this time with a difference: I used a telephoto instead of a normal lens.
As I sat beside the road, playing around with close-ups of the mothers and their young, the old bulls eventually ambled into view. These would be my favorite shots from this trip in the fall of 2011, what I love most about this one is that even though I often think of them as being one shade of brown, I am reminded, bison contain multitudes. As was often the case in Wyoming, many of my favorite encounters would be on the trails but many of my favorite pictures would be near the road. I hope you had a good life, not-so-little one.
An American bison calf gives me a quick look with mom as a backdrop. I had my big lens with me on that trip and was shooting the herd from the road so everyone was relaxed. Taken in the fall of 2011, it’s hard to believe that was my last trip to Wyoming but later trips were canceled due to government shutdowns and the occasional early storm. I doubt I’ll visit again for a long while as there are too many places closer to here I want to explore during my limited time off, until then my many fond memories will have to tide me over.
It had been a fun day in Yellowstone in the fall of 2006, after a long hike during the day in which I saw little wildlife I spent the evening near the road with a crowd watching black bears, later on my own watching a coyote near Mount Washburn. On the long drive back to the hotel, the light fading and night approaching, a dark form moved across the road and disappeared from view. I stopped the car and readied the camera, just in case, and was dumbstruck when the curious creature popped up atop the ridge and watched me for the briefest of seconds. My one and only wolf sighting.
Perhaps because I recently edited that picture to bring an old blog post back online, Friday night I’d finally see them again, if only in a dream, as I hiked in the mountains and saw them at a distance. They came down closer but as they played in the snowy landscape I realized I didn’t have my telephoto lens with me. But I soon forgot about not just cameras but even wolves when I looked to my right and saw Ellie bounding towards me. “How are you walking?” I asked, skipping right past the more obvious question. I didn’t wait for an answer and was thankful for one more romp in the snow with the pup. I wouldn’t have so much trouble sleeping if all my dreams were so sweet!
A black bear gazes longingly at pine cones just out of reach high in a tree on a rainy fall evening at Yellowstone in 2006. I felt for her, trying to fatten up as much as she could for the long Wyoming winter but not wanting to risk injury and condemning not just herself but also her two young cubs. She and the cubs all made it down safely after eating the seeds in the cones, one cub in particular eating its fill.
I started the morning of the last day of my fall hiking trip in 2006 with snow in the higher elevations of Yellowstone. I didn’t stay long as I’m not used to driving in snow and spent the rest of the day in the lower elevations, finishing the trip watching an elk herd in the Madison area while a steady rain fell. It was October so the rut was winding down and the scene was rather tranquil, this bull nuzzled one of the nearby cows as the rest of the herd lingered nearby. Although it ignored me and the others who watched from near the road, the bull did glance in my direction once while calling out.
It looked like this bull had six points on one antler and seven on the other. There was a ranger there who said the elk in this drainage weren’t living as long as the others, based on analysis of wolf kills they suspected minerals in the Madison River were making their bones brittle. Fortunately I was ready for the picture up top as within a minute the bull laid down to rest. Ten minutes after taking the picture below, I had to say my goodbyes as it was time to start the long drive back to Oregon.
This is a wider shot of the bighorn sheep I posted a while ago, the telephoto shot made it look like I was rather close but not only was I a ways away beside the road, there was a river between us. He came down the cliff behind him to graze at the river’s edge then went back up the cliff. From my trip to Yellowstone in 2004.
A moose cow walks through a dead forest at Yellowstone National Park. I find that pictures don’t properly convey just how large these creatures are. In this case I was standing at my car beside the road but in the Tetons I sometimes met them on the trails, I never had any close calls but the big bulls during the fall rut certainly demand your attention. I’m thankful for each time we met, it was always a special treat.
On my first trips to Yellowstone I knew I’d love the animals but I was surprised by how much I came to love the hot springs. It was this little part of Mammoth Hot Springs, taken from the Beaver Ponds Trail, that not only spurred on a desire to photograph the springs but to look for what I call little landscapes but are more commonly called intimate landscapes, small scenes inside of larger ones. Thankfully on my first visit I photographed it both in the evening light and in the soft diffuse light after the sun dropped behind the hills (shown here), as when I went back in later years the mineral deposits had changed and this spot lost its color.
Yellowstone was a long drive from Portland so I only went every handful of years, it’s further away now and there’s so much of the Southwest I want to explore that I’m not sure when I’ll go back, but I’ll always treasure each of my visits there, I’ve never been anyplace like it. I used to tease myself that I should visit once and only bring a macro lens and take nothing but close-ups of all the things I could never see at home but of course with so much wildlife on display I never did it.