January 12, 2009
I’m not sure which was the more exciting event today, seeing a bull moose up close, the clear skies, or meeting other travelers similar to us. Our first tour this morning was called Wake up to Wildlife and it was wildlife we saw. We met at an early 6:45am so we could be in the Lamar Valley when the wildlife were out at dawn. The sun doesn’t rise enough to provide light for pictures until about 7:30, so the first part of our journey was in the dark. We had a very knowledgeable guide who talked the whole time giving us all kinds of information while we drove around stopped for various animals. The first animals we saw were 2 bull elk laying right next to the road. It was too dark for pictures, but they were wonderful to see. One of our wildlife sightings included stopped to talk with Bob Landis on the side of the road as he was out shooting his next video. He’s very famous for many of his wildlife videos in Yellowstone mostly about wolves. He’s working on a bear video now, but he’s out there every day with his video camera just shooting hoping for anything to come along. He had radio contact with some of the wolf watchers and directed us across a turn to a group of wolf watchers. All of them had their scopes out pointed at a very distant group of hills. our guide set up his scope, but while we waited we used someone else’s scope who was nice enough to allow us to have a peak. This was definitely nothing I could see with my bare eyes and the scope put the wolves right in front of me.
We left the wolves in search of a moose that someone claimed to have spotted. our guide mentioned that moose were moving down to the Tetons and out of Yellowstone over the past several years so even he doesn’t see moose in Yellowstone very often. So, when we rounded a bend and found a moose right next to the road, our guide could not contain his excitement. Well, the whole car load was pretty excited. Not only was it a moose, but it was a bull moose, and it was right next to the road. All the photographers in the van were taking millions of pictures. It was actually pretty funny to hear the click click click click of all the cameras going off. Our guide who is into photography himself was kicking himself for not bringing his telephoto lens, but we were close enough that his wide angle even worked. We parked around a bend, all jumped out and fired off more shots as the moose walked towards us, then crossed the road, then moved into a trio of bison lounging on the side of the road. What an experience! Our guide said, okay, tour over. =) Not really though. The sun was coming out and we found many more places to stop and watch wildlife. On the way back we even found the bull elk next to the road and posing for us as well.
We weren’t sure if our afternoon could top our morning. As it turned out, another couple that was on our morning tour was also on our tour to Norris Geyser basin for the afternoon. It was only the four of us, so we were able to cater the tour to our liking. The other couple was very similar to us. He is an avid photographer and they both love to travel as much as possible mostly to national parks to hike, take pictures, and enjoy as much of the vacation outside as possible. They also tend to take advantage of every second of their vacation time to do anything and everything. Sound familiar? =) They were very happy to meet us as they had been scoping out all the guests at the hotel to see who would be on the tour with them. They wanted other active people so that we could all take a long tour of Norris. And that we did. We had time to see just about all of the Norris Geyser Basin with its multiple geysers, hot springs, boiling mud, and thermal activity. There were many ghost trees here too (all iced up and white from the steam drifting through the trees and freezing.) I think next to the wildlife, ghost trees are my favorite subject to photograph. Much of the trail was still unbroken snow, so we almost needed snowshoes. We were hiking on boardwalks that were covered with a couple feet of snow. At one point our guide pointed out a mound of snow and said, “Don’t trip over the park bench.” We walked over it instead.
It was another wonderful day in Yellowstone and we are still just getting started. I love this park in the wintertime. We find ourselves very lucky to be visiting in a week where the highs are in the 20s and sometimes near 30 as opposed to some of the typical winter weather that gets down to 30 below zero! There aren’t many people here at all which makes the park and it’s popular spots all that much more enjoyable. The silence and solitude of winter here is amazing.
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