Yellowstone – April 25, 2014

When 2014 began, I had a New Year’s Resolution to get back to making regular posts here on this blog. That resolution went the way of most New Year’s Resolutions. Better late than never, though, right? With this post, I hope to get back on track.

I had a long weekend camping trip in Yellowstone planned for April 25-27, as I missed “opening weekend” the prior week.   As the weekend approached, I reconsidered. The weather forecast was not favorable. I don’t mind tent camping in rain & snow, but rain and snow, particularly rain, also often means dark gloomy days. Of course, that type of weather can also make for icy roads, another consideration. In the end, I followed through with my plans, and I am glad I did.

I arrived at the Mammoth Camp Ground around 10:30 on Thursday evening and pitched my tent in a light rainfall. Throughout the night, there was intermittent rain and wind. I love the sound of rain falling on the tent.

I left camp before sunrise Friday morning and headed south, into the interior of the Park, which has only been open to vehicles for a week. I traveled slowly, both due to road conditions (wet/snow-covered/slushy/frozen slush/ice) and to make frequent stops to search for critters. The road was icy, but I pretty much had it all to myself. After a while, I come upon another traveler. He had his camera on tripod aimed into the trees near Artist Paint Pots. I crawled past him, looking where his lens was aimed. A pine marten! Whoop! That, all by itself, would make it a great trip, as a pine marten has been on my wish list.

I parked in the turnout to Artist Paint Pots (which was plowed like a pullout, not like a road) and tried to tip-toe down and across the road to the other visitor (who turned out to be fellow Ynetter Robert Warrin), without spooking the pine marten.   Snap!  Crackle!  Pop!   Walking on frozen slush makes quiet walking impossible. I’d take a few steps, pause, wait, then take a few more steps. I didn’t want to ruin it for the guy who was there first, but I did want to get close enough for photos. When I was next him, I didn’t see the pine marten at first. I whispered “Oh, no! Did I spook it?” He answered that it was still there. YES! The pine marten, though aware of us, certainly, didn’t seem particularly worried, though it was alert to passing cars. When a third person tried to approach on foot while a loud diesel truck simultaneously decelerated, though, it was game over.

pine marten in a tree

pine marten climbing a tree trunk

pine marten laying on tree branch, with hind end concealed by tree trunk


A few hours into my trip, and I was thoroughly delighted.  If I saw nothing else for the rest of the weekend, I’d be going home satisfied.  Yellowstone had more treats in store for me, though.

I proceeded south to Madison Junction then turned west to check along the Madison River to check out the West Entrance Road for my first time this spring.  I didn’t see anything noteworthy, though I did see the remnants of a wolf kill on a sandbar island from several days prior.

I next drove into the Upper Geyser Basin, and found it to be a ghost town.  I literally saw NO ONE.

Along the Firehole River, both southbound and then northbound again, I saw several osprey.

osprey perched on a dead tree snag in a geyser basin during a snow storm

Somewhere along Obsidian Creek I enjoyed some interaction between two sandhill cranes.

sandhill crane coming in to land near another sandhill crane on the snow-covered ground

The one there first didn’t seem to appreciate the arrival of the second, as it immediately departed upon the arrival of the newcomer.

sandhill crane preparing to take off as another is landing near it

Okay, time to visit the Northern Range.  I didn’t see anything noteworthy until the curve in the road between Wrecker and the Yellowstone Picnic Area, where a friendly fellow who lives in Gardiner, and whose name I can never remember (DARN IT!) flagged me down where he was watching a badger.   Unfortunately, the badger didn’t stick around for more than a second or two, but that was long enough for me to observe and admire his beautiful thick winter coat.

badger digging a hole

I stuck around, hoping the badger would make another appearance, despite several passers by telling me there was a bear at the picnic area.  I eventually gave up on the badger and proceeded to the picnic area, where a black bear was browsing on grass.  I watched him for a few minutes and chatted with Ranger Dooley and other visitors, but never even took a photo.  I guess a black bear butt (which is what was pointed in our direction) didn’t seem that appealing after the earlier treats.

How ’bout that!  I had a pine marten and a badger before my first bear of the year!  An auspicious beginning to the season!

more photos here>>

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