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15 August 2009 @ 08:55 pm
Yellowstone 4 - The last day  
The trip had almost ended and I still hadn't seen my top two targets for the trip - the Grizzly bear and the Wolf. What are the odds that you can see something on the last two days when you've had no such luck for ten days? The pessimistic me had given up on seeing them. The drive up from Grand Teton was tiring and it was a real hot day in Yellowstone. It was so hot that if you closed your eyes you'd think you are in the Mojave. I was feeling drowsy, so I pulled out parked next to the Yellowstone lake. I noticed that my CF cards were full and I hadn't backed up any of them. So, I began going through photographs and deleting ones which I did not like. And then I put the battery to charge and dozed off for a little time.

A trip is remembered by what was seen and not by what all others saw or what all had could have been seen. I woke up from the nap and then headed up towards the North-East corner of Yellowstone. Just a few miles from the place I was napping, there was a super-large crowd along the road. Now, if it is a traffic jam caused by bison, not many park their cars and get out. Almost everyone had stopped their cars and almost everyone were out of their cars. I knew it had to be a bear. A Grizzly? Or a Black Bear? I saw something moving along the grass not too far from the road and knew immediately that it was a Grizzly. The hump on the bear's shoulder is so distinct even in its silhouette. I moved in quickly and as luck would have it, I found a prime parking spot - a spot where the bear came within ten feet. Imagine me parked on the side of the road and the bear on the shoulder on the other side! The light was really harsh and I was just shooting for documentation now and I even gave up at one point just so that I could enjoy looking at this beautiful bear. The rangers were on foot and right beside my car and they had a tough time chasing away tourists who had the misfortune of being on the bear's side of the road. This one was a young grizzly and there was nothing horrible about her. In fact, it was more cow-like because it was grazing on young grass!

After the fantastic grizzly sighting, we moved along and setup camp in a slightly remote and not-so-developed campsite. The tent was right next to a small stream and it was one of the most beautiful camping sites I've been in. After pitching the tent, we moved towards the Druid Peak where Yellowstone's most famous wolf pack lives. The pull-out already had tons of people with spotting scopes and super telephoto lenses and everyone looked out at the Lamar valley in excitement hoping to be the first to see a wolf. We saw a beaver and some pronghorn, but no wolf. That was when someone came by and told us there was a grizzly feeding on a bison carcass about a couple of miles down the road. We decided to go see that spectacle and as expected there were hundreds of people crowded in a small area looking at the grizzly. The bear was hundreds of meters away from the road and it looked like a tiny spec to the naked eye. It looked only like an ant on the eye-piece even through a 600mm telephoto lens! Two more grizzlies were seen not too far from the feeding grizzly. All of a sudden the grizzly stopped feeding and looked around and then started running uphill towards the two grizzlies and the three of them vanished into a cluster of trees up a hill. Someone in the group said it could be because the wolves were approaching. There was more excitement and soon someone spotted a lone dark-colored wolf moving quickly towards the kill. It was apparently a wolf without a pack and it went straight to the bison carcass! And so, the second last day ended with four grizzlies and a wolf after having started the day at zero. Amazing.

The following morning we were up early and were one of the first cars to get to a pull-out where wolves are seen. Soon, a yellow Nissan X-terra pulled in and it was the local wolf expert Rick McIntyre. They say where he goes the wolves go. And rightly so, not long after he had arrived, we saw three wolves running towards the same bison carcass we had seen the previous day. The three of them were followed by four more! Soon, there were tourists, rangers and researchers in the parking lot observing the wolves with keen interest. The wolves fed on the carcass for a while before deciding to head off into the Druid peak.

The day ended with a pleasant walk to see the grand canyon of Yellowstone and then see the beautiful Yellowstone falls. It was at the canyon where we also saw the "yellow stone" of the canyon which gave its name to the falls, the river, the lake and the national park.

The Yellowstone falls

The young grizzly!

The grizzly eats grass while tourists stand and watch in awe

The only thing horrible here is the photograph. Can't believe the scientific name for this beautiful creature is Ursus arctos horribilis. :(

A grizzly feeding on a bison carcass

The lone dark wolf approaches the carcass...

The wolf pack feeding on the carcass

Mange. :( Early park rangers wanted to kill off all the wolves and used dangerous strategies to get rid of them. They introduced mange and after all the wolves had gone extinct it persisted and has started to take its toll on reintroduced wolves. :(

The wolves go home after breakfast

A male big-horned sheep just outside Yellowstone

An Uinta Ground Squirrel

The Yellostone river in the grand canyon of Yellowstone. Notice the yellow canyon walls?

Yellowstone falls!

falkorskidfalkorskid on August 16th, 2009 05:03 am (UTC)
lovely as alwaya.
Ed Bookedbook on August 16th, 2009 05:51 am (UTC)
Excellent! thank you for sharing your observations with us

kejnkejn on August 16th, 2009 06:02 am (UTC)
aww, the wolves!

funny how the bighorn sheep seems almost photoshopped. :) (looking at the sharp black lines along its legs and horns, and that weird snake-like shadow of the horn.)
Yathinyathin on August 16th, 2009 04:38 pm (UTC)
But the bighorn sheep is photoshopped right? ;)
kejnkejn on August 16th, 2009 05:54 pm (UTC)
no, i know which images were "photoshopped" and it's the series of the marmots fighting and you didn't post those, you scoundrel!!!
Yathinyathin on August 16th, 2009 06:49 pm (UTC)
the marmots have now been posted.
kejnkejn on August 16th, 2009 07:11 pm (UTC)
they sure have. good boy! :)
(Deleted comment)
Yathinyathin on August 16th, 2009 04:37 pm (UTC)
Yep, I saw a grizzly finally! :-)
Origa: turtle & dragonflyoriga on August 16th, 2009 10:06 am (UTC)
How I envy you... I want to see these all scenes/creatures/falls/... for myself!

Thanks for the nice description, and gorgeous photos!
Yathinyathin on August 16th, 2009 04:37 pm (UTC)
You should go to Yellowstone someday. I'm sure it will inspire you a lot and we all look forward for your words and haiku when that happens! :)
Origaoriga on August 16th, 2009 08:10 pm (UTC)
Hopefully, one day... :)
ajat: Lilacs.ajat on August 16th, 2009 10:25 am (UTC)
Lovely, lovely photos :)
Preethifiveonehalf on August 16th, 2009 04:32 pm (UTC)
Amazing snaps! What is the white thing in the last one though? Snow?
Yathinyathin on August 16th, 2009 04:35 pm (UTC)
Yes, that is snow. Yellowstone gets a lot of snow.
Jessicajojobear99 on August 17th, 2009 03:57 am (UTC)
nice, i like the sheep picture
depontideponti on August 17th, 2009 04:14 am (UTC)
Thank you. The mangy wolf makes me feel very sad. Human interference NEVER seems to take any long-term view...
depontideponti on August 17th, 2009 04:15 am (UTC)
Sorry..that comment was a little mixed-up.

FIRST, I meant to say thank you for the ravishing images.

THEN I wanted to talk about the mangy wolf.

I loved the pics...and the scale of the actual falls must have been staggering!
summer_jackelsummer_jackel on August 17th, 2009 05:01 am (UTC)
Oh, thank you for sharing. Gorgeous!
Aparna: Myselfinspirethoughts on August 17th, 2009 08:41 pm (UTC)
Amazing pics as usual!

Wow...grizzly bear is so beautiful (since it is a "she").. ;)

What is a mange? The brownish black stuff in the picture?
Yathinyathin on August 17th, 2009 08:46 pm (UTC)
Aparna: Myselfinspirethoughts on August 17th, 2009 09:34 pm (UTC)
Oh THAT is mange...hmm...gotcha!
ext_68912 on September 13th, 2009 01:33 pm (UTC)
I don't often comment here, but I love your pictures. We had the pleasure of taking a trip to Yellowstone the year before- and having a similar experience with a grizzly passing close by. My shots are not very good, but you might like to see: http://bugbear.wordpress.com/2008/09/05/yellowstone-wild-encounters/

I also wanted to mention- a blog friend of mine will be running the site 'A Photo a day from the Planet Earth' for a week, while the usual administrator goes on vacation. I'm a big fan of your photos, and you take pictures from all over the world, so I mentioned you to him. If you want to submit a picture to be showcased there, it's a nice site for exposure. (excuse the pun)