Night of the Wolf

Thursday afternoon, July 14, 2005:

Artist's Paint Pots

The next stop was Artist's Paint Pots Trail (1 mile and about 100 feet elevation gain). I'd skipped it before because the parking lot was full. The parking lot was full, but not quite as overfilled as the first time.

Fringed Gentian Artist's Paint Pots
Fringed Gentian Artist's Paint Pots
Artist's Paint Pots Runoff Color
Artist's Paint Pots
Geyser Runoff Color
Scenes from Artist's Paint Pots

Terrace Spring & Gibbon Falls

Continuing toward Madison, I stopped at Gibbon Falls and Terrace Spring.

Gibbon Falls Terrace Spring Terrace Spring
Gibbon Falls Terrace Spring

Monument Geyser Trail

Then I turned around and headed for the trailhead of Monument Geyser Basin (near the paint pots). The trail is only about 1 miles long (one-way) and gains about 600 feet in the second 1/2 mile. On paper, this is easier than the two canyon trails. Why then does the sign at the trailhead rate it “moderate to hard”? I found it a hard climb. Maybe the midday sun (solar noon) contributed, maybe the fact that the trail surface was often a bit slippery contributed (hard surface with coarse sand), but I found it a hard and thirsty climb. Many times I stopped for a brief rest. I used up 20oz. of half-and-half gatorade/water on the trail and hit the cooler when I got back.

Monument Geyser Gibbon River Gibbon River
Monument Geyser Gibbon River
Gibbon River

Elk around Gibbon Meadow

I got some nice Elk photos at Gibbon Meadow on the way back to Canyon.

Elk Elk Elk Viewing

Wolf in Hayden Valley

I rested a bit in the afternoon and didn't head out again until after five. I went to Le Hardy Rapids first and walked around some, but didn't see much—Pelicans, Canada Geese, Robins, Audubon's Warblers. Then I stopped at several locations in the Hayden Valley before picking one to settle in. At first we saw only Buffalo and Elk (+ birds), but eventually a wolf was spotted. We got good looks before it disappeared behind a ridge. Before too long, it was spotted on the next ridge. This time it sat down, but at considerable distance. Of course, that is why we have spotting scopes! A lot of people ended up looking through my scope and another one, but the view was not great. I took off as the sun was setting, figuring I'd check out a carcass at Alum Creek (on the way back to Canyon). There was a big crowd. I was told there was a wolf guarding the carcass, but he was hiding in the grass. As the sun was now down and the photographers were packing up their big glass and folding their tripods, I decided to head on.

Just past the group someone was looking uphill and cars were slowing down. At first I saw only two buffalo. Then I saw a gray shape moving—a wolf! There were 6-8 cars that saw the wolf, and we moved along as he moved. I reached into my pack, hauled out the camera (with 100-400 lens already attached), got it ready to shoot, bumped the ISO to 1600 (for low light), metered (OK, don't need 3200) and shot as we moved and stopped, and pulled into a turnout (no need to be rude by blocking the road). My CF card was almost full. As I took the last few shots of the wolf I could see the counter counting down in the viewfinder. 5,4,3. I had the wolf shots I wanted with 3 shots to spare!

Gray Wolf Gray Wolf
Gray Wolf

Birds: 145. Mammals: 24.

Canyon, WY