Sunday, May 30, 2010

bison! bison! bison!

Bison are everywhere right now. There are three resident bulls that hang out here in our "neighborhood" at the Yak Camp.

Lately they've been moved along by the new herd in town. Steve was late to pick me up from work the other day because, well, because he couldn't get to our car (you can see it there in the background.)

But they had cute calves with them, so it's hard to be annoyed.

And besides, there's nothing you can do; bison weight a ton and they move (or don't move) when they feel like it.

The other night this herd was hanging out up the street from our place. Everyone was relaxing, including this adorable guy.

Apparently they were just saving up their energy, because later that evening one of them decided to battle our neighbor's car. He rubbed the bumper with his head. He jumped up on the hood. Then he decided to play nice and licked the grill. Hopefully our Wyoming car insurance covers BISON.

And it's not just here--on Thursday a friend and I were running on the old Gardiner road and we came upon a bison herd on both sides of the road. We tried to make a wide detour around them, off the road, but one cranky bison was having none of it. She continued to follow us, pushing us further and further up the mountainside and away from the road. In the end, we made an almost 1-mile detour around the herd before she stopped following us, satisfied that she got her point across.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

meet the neighbors

On my way home from Canyon last night I ran into a big bear jam--apparently the grizz with four cubs has decided to stay put just up the road, much to the delight of park visitors (and me, her neighbor on the other side of the mountain.)

Monday, May 24, 2010

the week in review

Sorry we've been MIA this past week. As we kick off the season here, it's been an intense few days with training and the like...

On Tuesday we all went to NPS interpretive training to hear from the various experts about bears, wolves, fire, the Lake Trout invasion, etc. It was a great day, but our head was spinning with information by the end of it, and we were reminded just how many species call this park home.

On Wednesday I set off with my district (northern) on a private tour of the park. We left Gardiner at 6 a.m., and quickly came upon a grizzly jam at Blacktail Lakes. There's been a bison carcass in the water for the past month, and we've been waiting for some action on it. A sow and yearling cub were just headed up towards the trees when we arrived, having finished their breakfast. We ended up seeing 7 bears on our tour, including a sow grizzly with a cub-0f-the-year (COY) who was trying to defend the cub from a huge boar grizzly. She tucked him in the treeline and fought with the male bear until he finally gave up and wandered away. She was frantically trying to find the cub, and we all cheered when she found him and they headed over the mountain together.

Steve had his private tour with his district (Canyon, Norris, Fishing Bridge) on Thursday. They saw just birds.

On Friday Steve had a meeting in Canyon, so I decided to tag along because Dunraven Pass was set to open at 8 a.m. We didn't get far before we got caught in a black bear jam at Calcite Springs:

It was great to see snowy Mt. Washburn again.

On Friday evening we set out for Old Faithful to spend the night and visit with friends. About a mile up the road we got caught in a massive bear jam--a grizz with four cubs was visible in the trees below. A grizz with four cubs is pretty rare. This bear was first spotted a month ago, and it's great to know she still has them all with her, as the 4th cub is a tiny, tiny little thing. These aren't great photos by any means, but you can count 4 little blobs.

When we woke up at Old Faithful on Saturday morning there was snow on the ground. We drove over to breakfast at the snow lodge, and I pointed out a coyote on the geyser basin. And then we all said "that's a really big coyote!" Oh wait, it was a gray wolf! Very cool to see him for a minute before he disappeared in the steam.

The season is underway, and this week we saw a big increase in park visitor's. The hours at the Visitor's Center (VC) changed on Saturday, we're now open from 8 a.m. - 7 p.m. It would feel like the summer season was underway...but it's still snowing!! Two inches on our porch when I looked out the window this morning. Sigh.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

it comes down to who's cuter

I have today and tomorrow off, and in addition to this being my weekend, it's also the first time Steve and I have had days off together since we got back here. I'm guessing Steve would rather have been fishing, but he was a good sport and spent the day hanging out with me. Even though that meant a 6-mile trail run along the Yellowstone...

We had a couple of hours to kill this afternoon before I met friends for a hike, so we decided to take a drive out towards the Lamar Valley. We made it as far as the Yellowstone River bridge, where we came upon a pretty big bear jam. We parked the car, and from the bridge we could see a black bear with two yearling cubs.

They spent most of the time sleeping under a tree, but one of the cubs decided to head down to the river for some water,

before he climbed back up to lie down next to his mama.

On the other side of the bridge was a herd of bighorn rams,

but it's hard to compete with cubs, and deep down, I think even they know that.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

mother of all hatches

The Mother's Day caddis hatch on the Yellowstone River is something fisherman dream about (so much so that it has its own blog). Bugs everywhere. Fish going crazy. The thing is the water has to warm up enough for the bugs to do their thing but once the water warms up too much, run-off begins making the river unfishable. It's the ultimate fishing crap-shoot.

The funky weather we've been having has had anglers from Yellowstone to Livingston holding their breath waiting to see if the hatch comes before the river gets blown out with snow melt.

On Sunday, I ran into our favorite guests from this winter, a couple from Livingston - he's a retired woodworker/fly fisherman and she's a school teacher. He told me he was waiting for the hatch just like everyone else and would give me the heads up if he saw anything. Well, at 7:30am yesterday morning he called to let me know the hatch was on and to be on the river that afternoon.

Around 2pm, after the sun had warmed the water, I headed out into Paradise Valley to find some fish. After fishing some nymphs and catching a whitefish, the water started popping with rising fish. I could see the caddis dancing on the water so I put on a tan caddis that I tied this winter for just this occasion.

After about 15 casts, I caught my first fish ever on a fly that I had tied. Sadly, it was a whitefish not a trout. Sick of the whities, I headed back towards the Park to find some trout.

I pulled off onto a gravel path just before Yankee Jim Canyon and walked down to the river. The 20 minutes it took me to drive 25 miles had given the caddis time to go nuts. They were everywhere.

I could also see the orange bodies of the native Yellowstone cutthroats as they launched themselves out of the water to gulp the caddis. (The birds were going crazy too; flocks of them skimming the water to eat the bugs). Again, I tied on a homemade fly and waded in. This time it only took only two casts to hook and land my first trout of the season, a nice 12" rainbow. I quickly realized that my fly tying skills need some work as my flies only lasted one fish before falling apart (before and after shot)

A couple casts later I landed a hefty cutt-bow and followed it with a good-size cutthroat

I caught a couple more fish on my flies before a storm whipped through the canyon and the skies opened up with a collection of rain, hail and snow. When I couldn't tell if the sound I was hearing was fish rising or hail hitting the water, I decided it was time to call it a day. And a good day at that at.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Happy Mother's Day to everyone out there, and especially to our mothers Barb and Claire!

Steve had to work yesterday, so I took off for a drive 'round the park with a friend. We didn't get too far up the road before we ran into this bear.

After a big yawn,

with tongue,

she finally stood up and sauntered away.

We drove all the way out to the east entrance, which just opened on Friday. Apparently we just missed a "750 pound" grizzly that walked through the entrance gate, spooked a moose, and then said moose took off running down the road escape. We can confirm that this happened because a kind visitor showed us his video of exactly what we had missed.

Disappointed, we stopped for fudge and pretzels in Fishing Bridge to lift our mood. All that sugar brought us luck, as we pulled up to a big bear jam near Willow Park. As I snapped a few photos of the grizz I noticed a tiny, tiny ball of fluff next to her. And then a second tiny, tiny ball of fluff.

Be glad there's no sound to this blog, because the shriek I let out shouldn't be repeated. Neither one of us had ever seen grizzly cubs-of-the-year before (cubs born this year), and we were pretty darn excited. They couldn't have weighed more than 16 pounds, and we were able to watch them for several minutes before she took them into the brush and out of sight.

About 5 miles further up the road we ran into another bear jam. This grizzly was feasting away on a carcass that he'd buried.

Take a second look at how huge is head is. Needless to say, we will not be hiking in this area anytime soon.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

cinco de mayo

When Steve and I picked our wedding date three years ago, it didn't even occur to us that it was Cinco de Mayo. But we quickly got into the spirit, and served margaritas at our cocktail hour. (And boy were they tasty--I know many of our readers were able to enjoy them!)

Yesterday a snowstorm rolled in around 3 p.m., threatening to spoil our Cinco de Mayo / anniversary celebration. Luckily once we left the park the roads in the valley were dry and clear. It's an hour drive to Livingston, home of our favorite restaurant The 2nd Street Bistro. If you haven't already figured it out, we're a little obsessed with this place. If you visit, we will take you there. And you will like it. Their signature cocktail is a pineapple-jalapeno margarita--it's crazy delicious.

We had another incredible meal there, and it made the snowy drive home worth it.

We woke up to more snow this morning. While the rest of the world is experiencing sunshine and warm weather, I'm wrapped in a blanket eating grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup every day for lunch. And baking--thanks to the awesome website, we've had success after success (and we just ordered her book). Tonight I made lemon-blueberry muffins:

We need to keep warm. I've also discovered that the key to wilderness living is...drumroll please...MAIL ORDER! Today 2lbs of Intelligentsia coffee arrived, and I can't stop hugging the bag of beans. Steve thinks there's bound to be just as good coffee that's sold locally here. Steve doesn't drink coffee. I will continue to mail order.

Tomorrow I'll finally post the pics from our trip to Arches and Canyonlands. It will be nice to see some sun, even if it's only through those month-old photos.

Monday, May 3, 2010


This morning Wendie got word at the Visitors Center that there was a wolf close to the road halfway between Mammoth and Gardiner. On my first drive-by I only saw a coyote, so an hour later I went by again and this time saw what all the commotion was about. About 120 feet from the road, feeding on a fresh elk kill, was one of the Canyons.

He was sharing the carcass with a mess of ravens

It took him a while to get use to all the people snapping his photo but soon he was posing for the cameras

(We went back later in the evening and tried to videotape him pulling the carcass out of the river. If it turns out, we'll post it tomorrow.)

After the wolf jam, I headed to Gardiner to go for a run on the track at the high school. It was snowing a bit and there was about a 30 mph wind so I figured it would be easier to drop 800 feet in altitude and do laps than run up and down the hills in the Park. All was well for about 2 miles until a young bull elk decided the track was his turf.

He gave me the what-for on my first two passes, but on my third lap by him he left the football field and literally chased me off the track.

Needless to say I had to finish my next couple miles running the Old Gardiner Road and the road near the Roosevelt Arch. I could only imagine what Claire would have done to this guy if he had the gall to eat the SportsTurf at WHS or leave his mark on the running track...

...probably something like the wolf did to the elk he was eating.

After dinner, went to check out the wolf again so Wendie could see it, and then we drove up the hill behind our house. Wendie was delighted to find out this is a great place to see rabbits (or more likely, hares). We spotted four including this guy

Luckily they were all too quick for Wendie to catch and bring home to live with us.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

spring in the mountains

The past few days have all had one thing in common: snow. A storm blew in Wednesday and temporarily closed all of the roads in the park, save for the northern road. The snow kept falling on Thursday, and the only road open that day was from West to Old Faithful. Same for Friday. When I woke up on Friday, this much snow had accumulated on our porch railing overnight:

Understandably, visitors were very frustrated. A popular triathlon, Park to Paradise, scheduled for Saturday, was canceled. Finally on Saturday the weather let up enough that the roads were opened again, though it's been spitting snow every day and the forecast calls for snow showers through next weekend.

Given the weather, we haven't been out much, save for work. We've been making heavy pasta sauces, eating cinnamon rolls, drinking lots of hot tea. But today the sun finally shined more than it snowed, and I went out for a short drive. Signs of spring--baby bison:

A black bear foraging:

And two moose hidden in the trees:

Lest you think there's been no excitement around here, today I went out for a run and had to wait for two separate herds of bison to cross the road in front of me. As I waited for the second herd, a kind family offered me a lift in their car; I hopped in, they drove me safely through the bison herd, and then I went back to running down the hill.

Oh and, on Wednesday, on his way to Bozeman, Steve found himself face-to-face with a driver who decided the best way to avoid the police who were chasing him was to go the wrong way on Highway 90. You can read about it here:

Never a dull moment.