Saturday, July 9, 2005: Got an early start from Livingston. On the way, the road passes through “The Gates of the Mountains” (a canyon of the Yellowstone just south of Livingston), Paradise Valley, Yankee Jim Canyon (another canyon of the Yellowstone), before reaching the Roosevelt Arch at Gardiner.
When I arrived at the Hellroaring Creek trailhead, I was distracted by several birds, including a Rock Wren and a woodpecker. The woodpecker took some tracking down. It turned out to be a female Williamson's Sapsucker (one of the more confusing ID's). I finally hit the trail at about 9am. It descends to suspension bridge over the part of the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone. It then enters the “Enchanted Forest”. I heard an unfamiliar call as I entered the forest. Somehow, Clark's Nutcracker popped into my head, and that's what it turned out to be. Many other birds were singing here and elsewhere in the treed sections. The rest of the way the trail crosses open meadows (with a detour around a dry pond) to Hellroaring Creek.
|Black Canyon of
The return to the suspension bridge was easy enough, but I found it hard going up the switchbacks to the trailhead. I don't know if it was the heat or the altitude or both. I finally returned to trailhead about noon (4mi + 600').
Tower Fall & First Bear!
My next planned stop was Tower Fall. On the way, I noticed some people watching a Black Bear, so I pulled over. Only 4 hours in the park and I've already got my first bear of the trip! In 2002, I only saw 2. Today far surpassed that. Had lunch by Tower Fall. The trail to the foot of the falls is currently closed, so I skipped the trail down to nowhere.
|Black Bear||Tower Fall|
I then drove out to the Lamar Valley to see if I could locate a carcass where bears and wolves have been feeding. No luck. Driving back to Mammoth, I looped back over the Blacktail Plateau Drive and then to the Petrified Tree (where I spent more time with the wildflowers). Saw another bear (tying last time) on the way back to Mammoth. Got my cottage with some difficulty. They gave me the wrong key! This is the second time this trip (first time in Great Falls). Uinta Ground-Squirrels are all over Mammoth. There's a entrance to their burrow right under my cabin porch. Checked out the area, and drove the upper terrace loop. By then, the restaurant was open for dinner (5pm), so I ate.
Then I headed back out to the Lamar Valley for wildlife, planning to find the carcass (and crowd I expected there). However, I first stopped for a Black Bear others had by the road.
Then it was off to Lamar. I debated whether to head up Slough Creek Road or go the carcass area, finally choosing the latter. A crowd was already there, watching a Grizzly Bear with two cubs (probably 2nd year). Another was spotted further up the hill with two first-year cubs. All were too far to photograph. The ranger present got word (via radio) that wolves were being seen at Slough, so I was off to there. Another crowd was watching the wolf pack! It was a bit hard to get information from them (only one guy was informative, and I had to find him first). I got a look at the Gray Wolves through his scope. I then set up my scope and ended up giving both directions and looks to quite a few people. Depending on how you split the wolves and caribou, I have all the large native North American land mammals on life list (wild horse is missing, but not native). It was a good day!
Birds: 129. Mammals: 21.
Mammoth Hot Springs, WY
Hot Springs, Falls, and Canyons
Sunday, July 10, 2005: I started out by doing the 1 mile “Narrow Gauge Terrace” hike that takes the Howard Eaton trail along the backside of the Upper Terrace at Mammoth. This gives you a view of some of the hot springs that few other people see (no one else was on the trail). I also saw my first Yellowstone Elk of the trip. After that, I walked the trails of the Lower Terrace and then drove/walked the frontside of the Upper Terrace. Of course, I took a number of photos. Unfortunately, it was only later, at Rustic Falls, that I realized I had not reset the ISO after last night. It was still on 1600, so the photos may be a bit grainy.
|Palette Spring||Dead Terraces||Narrow Gauge Terrace|
|Liberty Cap||Cleopatra Terrace||Terraces at Mammoth|
|New Blue Spring||Mammoth &
New Blue Spring
Two things stood out, both from the Upper Terrace: How the Canary Spring overlook has grown into the terrace; The noise made by the Orange Spring Mound.
|Canary Spring Colors||Orange Spring Mound|
Golden Gate & Waterfalls
I next headed to the Golden Gate area where I photographed Rustic Falls. Then I reversed field back through Mammoth Junction to head to Undine Falls and then Wraith Falls. Undine is visible from a roadside overlook. With Wraith, you have to walk about a half-mile to the overlook. A little farther down the road is the former Children's Fire Trail, now the “Forces of the Northern Range Fire Trail”. Whatever it's called, it's a short interpretative boardwalk. Brewer's Sparrows and Ravens were particularly evident there. There was also a little rain as I reached the farthest point from the car.
|Golden Gate||Rustic Falls||Undine Falls||Wraith Falls|
After all that, it was almost noon. I rested a bit after lunch, then headed out to do the Yellowstone Picnic Area Trail, part of which follows the ridgetop opposite Tower. As I neared Tower Junction, I noticed a crowd watching something — a (cinnamon-colored) Black Bear. I stopped for a look. In a little bit, a second bear (black-colored) appeared. I spent a while just watching them as they fed. I suspect these were two of the three I photographed nearby last night. After turning toward the NE entrance at Tower Junction, I found people watching another Black Bear! It was the closest I have seen. I noticed it incidentally knock loose a large rock, which caused another rock to tumble all the way to the road.
Yellowstone Picnic Area Trail
Finally, I made it to the trailhead at the Yellowstone Picnic Area. Surprisingly, Yogi wasn't there! Collecting my stuff together (including bear spray), I headed out the trail. It climbs up onto the ridge, gaining about 200 feet in the process. From there, it's only a little up-and-down until you descend back to the road. Total distance is about 3.7 miles. As I reached the ridge, I saw my first bear while hiking! Fortunately, it wasn't nearby. From the high point I could see the bear jam still in progress just the other side of Tower Junction, and I could also see their bear. I was on heightened alert as I walked along the ridge as it all looked like great bear habitat. No other bears were seen. The other side of the ridge drops into the Yellowstone Canyon. The view of the Yellowstone Canyon was great. People at the overlooks on the other side of the canyon are not generally aware you are there. When some seemed to be looking my way, I waved, but to no avail. There was no sign they noticed me.
|Uinta Ground-Squirrel||Black Bear||Calcite Springs|
|Yellowstone Canyon||Tower & Washburn||Yellowstone Meander|
The sky had been threatening all day, and I got a spot of rain while across from tower overlook. I put the camera, map, and guidebook into a waterproof bag for safety. I expected to pull out my rain jacket, but found I had left it in the car. Fortunately, the rain was light and brief and my clothing dries quickly. Unfortunately, this was only the preliminary round. By the time I had connected to the Specimen Ridge Trail and headed for its trailhead, it was looking quite threatening. I did take time to stop for a Hairy Woodpecker and Dusky Flycatcher in the same line of trees. Things only got worse as I neared the Specimen Ridge Trailhead (0.7 miles by road from my car). The wind picked up and the rain was sometimes more serious. The rain started to become continuous as I reached the road, and its strength was increasing. I was moving relatively quickly, but was happy to ride with some passing hikers (who themselves had just made it back to their car) for the last 0.3 miles. It rained all of the way back to Mammoth and is still raining as I type this (2 hours after getting back to my car). That's fine. I wasn't planning on doing anything else today.
Birds: 131. Mammals: 21.
Mammoth Hot Springs, WY