Yellowstone National Park 2014 Trip Reports
Trip Report ~ by John William Uhler
18 thru 20 April 2014
~ April 2014 ~
Friday - 18 April
Carlene and I were excited to be heading back home for opening day. We packed and left Rexburg at about 11:00 a.m. headed north to West Yellowstone and the West Entrance to Yellowstone National Park. It was overcast and about 45 degrees Fahrenheit with some fog or mist from just north of Ashton, Idaho when we climbed to the top of the Ashton Hill. Very little traffic on the road and we did not see much in the way of wildlife. There was still snow on the sides of the road from the north of Ashton and through the park.
We arrived at Yellowstone at about 12:15 p.m. and 84 miles later we enter Parkadise. The temperature is 36 degrees and plenty of snow. The roads are clear and we have some light misting on the drive from the West Entrance to Madison Junction. We saw a few bison and elk on the drive but not as many as we usually do. The buffalo were in the meadow just past the seven mile bridge. But there is a lot of snow still in the park and so the wildlife tend to be when the snow isn't. We did see a bald eagle on the nest on the Madison River. Nice to see them back.
We turned left or north at the Madison Junction and headed towards Norris and Mammoth. We were hoping to see more wildlife on the way but not a lot of luck. We had a misting rain from the West Entrance until just about Swan Lake Flats when the clouds parted and we had blue sky and some sunshine.
We had bison and elk in Mammoth and we turned east and headed out towards Lamar Valley.
We had bison in view from Lava Creek all the way up to Frog Rock. We stopped at Blacktail Ponds and got out and spotted for wildlife. There had been some good reports of bear and wolf activity in this area. We did not see any winter kill, bears or wolves around the Blacktail Ponds area. Bummer!
At about 4:00 p.m. until about 4:48 p.m. we watched three moose just after the Hellroaring trailhead. We though that it was a cow moose with two yearlings. We took some pictures through the tree branches but we were not close enough the foliage was too think for some good clear photos. It was great to see the moose as it is getting rarer to see moose in the park compared to years past. We met some nice folks who stopped to see what we were viewing and enjoying.
The clouds and rain started to move in, so we made a nice slow drive back to Mammoth. Mammoth was our headquarters for this trip.
Saturday - 19 April
We got a late start out of Mammoth as we were visiting with some of our friends. We again headed out towards Lamar Valley. We stopped at Blacktail Ponds and had buffalo and some ducks and that was it. We headed east and no one was at the Hellroaring over look so we continued onward towards Elk Creek and Tower. Just after the Petrified Tree road we saw a few folks with spotting scopes so we pulled in to join the fun. This pullout was known as Rick's Pullout. The folks there had seen three wolves earlier in the morning on top of a far ridge. We setup our scopes and Sian helped us find a dead bison. We chatted with Sian and her mother Phil (both from the UK) and with Annette and a few other wildlife watchers. We were hopeful that either some bears or wolves would show up for a free meal, but no luck. We did have a few bison near us putting on a show and we had a coyote walk up to and around our group. We also watched a yellow-bellied marmot and a badger out in the meadow. We spent most of the morning with this group and just had fun chatting about our experiences in Parkadise. It was fun. A few old friends showed up, Bill Hamblin from Idaho Falls and Scott Barrett from Wellsville, Utah.
As things were pretty slow, we decided to head east and to see what else was happening in this area of the park. There was a report of a red fox around the Roosevelt / Tower Junction but we did not see it. There were some big horn sheet just east of the Yellowstone Picnic grounds. Carlene dropped me off near some glacial ponds as I wanted to take some pictures and compare them to past years or visits. As I was walking up the road to the Specimen Ridge parking area I saw another coyote walking towards a pond to get a drink. When I got back to the car, I asked Carlene if she had seen the coyote, but she told me she hadn't.
As we drove east, there were tons of bison in an area known as Little America. We saw one new born calf along the road and that was it for this trip. All was quiet as far as bears and wolves were concerned.
We headed up Lamar Canyon just past the Slough Creek Campground road to try to find the osprey nest. We heard that there was a mating pair that were rebuilding an old nest. We found the pullout that Bill had told us about and setup the spotting scope. We found the nest with one osprey on it. We watched for a little while and then that osprey took off and we had a lone nest. We headed to the top of the canyon to see if we could find any great horned owls on their nest. No luck.
We made a slow drive towards the Northeast Entrance and Silver Gate, Montana. We stopped and spotted, but there was still plenty of snow covering the ground and not a lot of food for bison or elk or antelope.
We drove to Cooke City and then turned around and head back towards Silver Gate. Just before Silver Gate there was a car stopped in the road and a fellow was out of the vehicle taking pictures. We pulled up and to our surprise, there was a turkey by the side of the road. I took a few pictures as I had never seen a turkey in or near Yellowstone. We had a nice meal in Silver Gate, Montana. The locals in the restaurant told us that that turkeys just showed up out of nowhere. No ones pets or anything like that that the knew of. They showed up last year and everyone thought that they would head south for the winter, but they did not. They stayed in the area and some of the locals must of fed them as there was no way for them to see bare ground and seed until way past spring time in the Silver Gate area. As a matter of fact they were still getting some snow and the temps were still below usual. They were calling it Sprinter instead of spring. We had a nice meal and visit and headed back into the park.
We made a nice slow drive towards Mammoth. We stopped at Rick's pullout and observed the dead bison with nothing on it. Talked to a fellow wildlife watcher and all was slow. We continued our drive west. We did see two mule deer just past the Hellroaring Trailhead sign. About 6:15 p.m. we came to Phantom Lake, there were a few vehicles pulled over and folks had their cameras out. We pulled in and joined the fun. We had three moose on the hillside. The same three that we had seen through the trees yesterday.
They were out in full view with no limbs or trees obstruction our view. As we watched them through spotting scopes we noticed that the moose were a bull, a cow and a yearling. They slowly fed and worked their way down to the road and looked like they wanted to cross. I stopped east bound traffic. The driver asked what we were watching, then he saw the moose. He asked where I was from, I told him Idaho. I asked him where he was from, he said right here in Yellowstone and that he was a ranger. I asked his name and he said John Kerr. I said that I have heard a lot of good things about him from friends and loons. Upon hearing that he started to laugh and said that he loves the loons. He said thanks for stopping traffic and then drove away east. It was nice to meet him and I look forward to meeting him again this year in the park.
We were thrilled to see and photograph the moose. Carlene's favorite animal is moose, and I like them too, not as much as bears, but they are still fun to watch and harder to find than bears and wolves.
Sunday - 20 April
We left Gardiner, Montana and Mammoth Hot Springs Sunday afternoon and headed home. We had a nice drive through Parkadise and saw bison and elk and a few ducks and that was about it. I was sad at be headed out of the park. But, felt good that I will be coming back in the near future to spend more time watching wildlife and sharing the experience.
Yellowstone National Park
Lamar Valley Map - Yellowstone National Park
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