Monday, April 26, 2010

five bear day

If Saturday was a fail, I made up for it with Sunday. I saw 5 bears before Steve got off work at 5:30: 3 grizzlies and 2 black bears.

I dropped Steve off at work and headed out towards the Lamar. As I came down the hill I spotted this bald eagle on top of a rock.

There were several cars stopped at Floating Island Lake, but I couldn't see anything and there wasn't any room to pull over, so I drove on. I made the turn at Roosevelt and there were antelope and bighorns at the Yellowstone Picnic Area. A few miles further I saw a couple of cars stopped, and as I came around the curve there was a large grizzly about 150 yards off the road.

There were baby bison running along the valley, and I watched this guy for a bit as he tried out his running legs.

On my way out of the valley I stopped at the Wrecker Pullout and watched another big grizz grazing. As I drove past Floating Island again I stopped and took a few shots of this napping black bear.

He'd sit up, roll over, and then go right back to sleep.

I passed another black bear on my way back to Mammoth, but he was out of sight before I could pull out my camera.

I stopped in at the Vistor's Center to say hi to Steve, and heard about a grizzly that was on the bison carcass up at Swan Lake Flats. This is the bison that the Canyon wolves took down a couple of days, and when I pulled up he was feeding on it.

He'd pause every few minutes to chase off the ravens that were trying to get a bite.

After a while he buried the carcass with dead grass and twigs, stood on top of it,

and then laid on top it.

It was clear what his message was: this is mine.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


I love to bake. I gave a passing thought to high altitude baking as we were moving in here (we currently live at 6239 feet), but not much. The other night I decided to make banana bread, and while it turned out ok it was "wetter" than it normally is. I vaguely remembered someone telling me to add more flour to compensate, so today when I tackled chocolate chip cookies I made a special point to add more flour than the recipe called for.

I took the first batch out of the oven and they looked like this:

Eek. They appeared to rise, and collapse onto themselves. They looked terrible. I googled "high altitude baking" and discovered that while you're generally supposed to add additional flour, you also cut back on sugar and the leavening agent. While I couldn't subtract baking soda, I could add more flour, so I did. The second batch looked better,

but still were, in my words, a fail. Steve is eating both batches right now and says "they don't taste that bad." Sigh.

I think I'll order a high altitude baking book from Amazon, and in the meantime I'll be experimenting with our favorite recipes. This will require some math on my part--wish me luck.

Like me, this elk looks like she had a rough day in the kitchen. Hey, I know how ya feel...

Friday, April 23, 2010

black bear friday

Today was my first day off, and I was eager to get out and see what wildlife was about. I dropped Steve off at work at 8:30 a.m. and headed towards Tower.

I pulled into the Hellroaring Trail Head and headed down the dirt road. There have been reports of bears in the area, and I was scanning both sides of the hillside as I approached the TH parking lot. As I pulled around the corner to the parking lot I was surprised to see a large black bear laying right underneath the TH sign.

I stopped the car, and right after I did another car pulled up next to me. We watched the bear snuffling around in the grass for about a minute

until he decided to stand up and graze alongside the parking lot.

And then he meandered a bit around the lot,

and turned and headed our way.

He crossed the parking lot, turned right in front of my car, sniffed my bumper, and disappeared over a ridge. (I took all of these photos from inside the car).

After I caught my breath, I drove on to the Lamar Valley. I spotted two small red dots on the hillside, pulled out the binocs, and saw my first bison calves of the year.

Two coyotes crossed the road in front of me, there were antelope lounging in the sun,

and a herd of bighorn sheep across from the Yellowstone picnic area. I pulled into the Wrecker Pullout to scan the mountainside, and caught a movement near a herd of elk. For the next ten minutes I watched two wolves hunting elk (unsuccessfully), until both the elk and the wolves disappeared over a ridge.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

bear #1

Despite entry into the Park being free this week, things have been a little slow for our first couple days at work. Wendie heard that a sow grizzly and 4 cubs were wandering around just up the road from where we live, and I got a text and headed up the hill to try to catch a glimpse of the unusual sight.

I got there a bit too late but heard about a grizz that was hanging out down the road about 5 miles. After a short drive, I found him making his way up Indian Creek

before he disappeared into the woods.

Monday, April 19, 2010

what big feet you have!

Today was another warm, sunny day in the park. It was also my first official day of work. I visited with park guests all day, agreeing that the weather was beautiful and hearing about multiple grizzly sightings near Gibbon Meadows. The elk have been enjoying the balmy weather too, and can often be found relaxing around Mammoth (here they are at the clinic):

It can be hard to hear about everything that's going on when you can't go outside, but luckily we were able to take advantage of the weather and get outside over the weekend.

Saturday morning, after our customary coconut pancakes, we jumped in the car and headed down the road into Montana so Steve could get a bit of fishing in. Another day, another Montana Whitefish:

In the afternoon we met up with our friend and decide to head out on our first hike of the season. After much debate, we decide to hike the Garnet Hill loop trail,

which is an eight-mile loop near Tower Junction that none of us had done before.

Right after we set off we saw a tiny coyote running across the field,

and found this skull in the grass.

The trail starts off in open sagebrush

and then winds between the mountains and along the Yellowstone River. The trail was still muddy and wet in many places, and there were coyote, badger, bison, elk, and wolf prints on the trail. And a few grizzly prints--for comparison, that's a men's size 11 boot next to the print.

As we rounded a bend in the trail we found the skeletal remains of an elk along the creek; not, as Steve pointed out, a bad place to enjoy one's dinner, if one was a bear.

There were signs of spring on the trail too.

Soon we climbed high enough that we could see the Yellowstone River below--and the boys made plans to come back and fish later in the season.

The trail climbs along the Yellowstone for another mile, and then veers south and up...

and finally flattening out again.

In the midst of all the sagebrush we spotted this Mountain Bluebird,

and then had to take a couple of detours around a herd of bison that decided the best place to rest was in the middle of the trail.

For the mothers' reading this: the grizzly prints weren't fresh and were traveling in the opposite direction that we were. And we were carrying bear spray and making a lot of noise. (I'm sure you'll sleep better knowing this).

We've only seen one bear at a distance, through our binoculars, but they are definitely out and about and more and more sightings are reported daily. We've also heard reports that bison in the Lamar Valley have started having babies, hopefully I'll get out there later in the week on my day off.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Since we are back at the Park there have been a lot of firsts. We went for our first run and it wasn't particularly fun or easy (two things I usually look for in a run). Along with dealing with the altitude

we had to contend with elk

and a serious hill

The reward for doing 3 miles under these trying conditions was a short time on the river. After picking up a Montana fishing license and some flies, we headed to a spot behind the Gardiner airport. Given that the snow run-off has made the rivers a bit dirty and wild the fishing wasn't exactly perfect, but at least the weather was great.

The first fish of the year was not one of Montana's famed trout, but a mountain whitefish.

Though a native fish, it isn't exactly what I was trying for. Still, it was better than getting skunked on day 1.

As the roads opened on Friday we also made our first trip to the interior of the Park. There is still a lot of snow at places like Old Faithful and Canyon

and there is still ice on many of the ponds and lakes, but the rivers are clear and flowing high and fast.

Our trip gave us a chance to spot our first coyotes of the season

All and all it was a pretty good day, but not seeing any bears served as a reminder that there are still many more firsts to come.