Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Park September 8-10, 2012

I enjoyed 9 days in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, September 8-16, 2012. The first two days were uneventful, but pretty, with mature grass and willows changing into their red autumn garb, like here along Winter Creek as it meanders through Willow Park..

Mature grass and willows changing into their red autumn garb along Yellowstone National Park's Winter Creek as it meanders through Willow Park.

On day three, the action picked up.  The morning dawned bright and fair in the meadow above Virginia Cascades.  What a start to the day!  That cloud even dropped a miniscule amount of moisture on me as I passed beneath it.

A few moments before sunrise in a meadow above Virginia Cascades - Yellowstone National Park

South of Canyon, I saw 3 mule deer bucks, in varying stages of rubbing off their velvet, just south of Canyon Village.

I think this buck asked “He’s right behind me, isn’t he?”
mule deer buck framing another mule deer buck in his antlers

I had not yet photographed any elk during this rut season, so I when I heard an elk bugle from across the Yellowstone River, I crossed the river via the bridge to Artist Point, then turned into the Wapiti Lake Trailhead.  How approriate!  Wapiti at the Wapiti Lake Trailhead.  Well, sorta…  They were a bit out.

A herd of wapiti (elk) visible from the Wapiti Lake Trail Head - Yellowstone National Park

More clouds in the Hayden Valley held the false promise of rain – rain that was much needed but withheld.

Storm clouds swirl over Yellowstone's Hayden Valley

I got a half-rainbow out of the deal.  No pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – a bison, instead.

bison at the end of a rainbow

I stopped at Nez Perce Ford Picnic area to strip off some layers that were needed before dawn, but too much as the day warmed.  Several bison were crossing at the ford.

buffalo crossing the river at Buffalo Ford - Yellowstone National Park

Meanwhile, one cow and one bull bison remained on the opposite shore of the Yellowstone River.  The cow was determined to follow the herd, but the bull was determined to keep her segregated and would bodily block her path.

a bull bison prevents a cow bison from crossing the Yellowstone River and following the rest of the herd

Eventually, she won free and he followed closely behind.

A pair of bison swimming across the Yellowstone River in tandem.

I should have taken his baleful stare as a warning.  I had thought they would follow the path taken by the rest of the herd and that I was safely clear of them and their path of travel.  However, when they emerged from the water, they came straight toward me.  Given his ornery and aggressive mood, that was more excitement that I had been seeking that morning.  I hustled to clear the path, adrenaline pumping.

A bull buffalo swimming across the Yellowstone River

From there I continued on to the Lewis Lake Campground, where I would make a camp for two nights.  While driving through the campground loops to select a site, I found an unoccupied site with an abandoned burning camp fire.  I was shocked and horrified.  A Red Flag warning, meaning that the conditions were ideal for fire ignition and/or rapid growth, was in effect.  The relative humidity was extremely low and there was a swirling wind.  My spade and my bucket were buried under other gear, so I drove to the campground host’s site and knocked on the camper door.  No answer.  So, I went back to that site, dug out my spade, turned over the burning log to get to embers and dumped my cooler on the fire.  That put out the flames, but the pit was still hot and could dry out and reignite very easily.  I decided I’d register (at the site right across from that one), and unpack to get my bucket and make a few more dumps to drown the fire pit.  When I returned to the registration area, I saw the campground host and informed him of the fire and that even after my attention it still wasn’t dead out and drowned.  He jumped in his truck like I’d lit a fire under his butt and raced up there and made a swimming pool out of that fire pit.  I’m still shocked at the sheer stupidity and wanton recklessness of people!

I spent the afternoon in Grand Teton National Park, making my first stop at the Cunningham Cabin.

When I arrived at Moose, WY, there where hordes of people on the bridge over the Snake River.  My instinct was to get as far away from such crowds as fast as I could, but I held back that instinct to find out what all the hoopla was about.  How appropriate!  A moose at Moose – and a large bull, at that!

Before returning to camp, I decided to see if any of the neighborhood bulls around West Thumb / Grant Village might make a dusk appearance at West Thumb.  Good call.  A harem bull was holding court, trying to keep tabs on his ladies, running off spikes, threatening visitors on the boardwalks and bugling his heart out.

I was more amused by what I found at the campsite across from mine upon my return to Lewis Lake CG than on my first arrival there – a tree at that campsite had been adorned with LED Christmas lights.  Now that’s the spirit!

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