Thursday, August 24, 2006

Megafauna – The Yellowstone Chapter

We headed south from Glacier, stopping again in Missoula at the world’s greatest natural food store. Taking our time, we followed a dirt road along Rock Creek Canyon to Philipsburg, following the trace of one of Montana’s blue-ribbon trout streams. Laying over a day, we hiked up Mt. Tiny (9,848’) on the fringe of the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness, vowing to come back again when we have time to go deeper.

Our next major destination was Yellowstone National Park. We entered from the north, driving through from Bozeman to Livingston then south through Paradise Valley. We drove along the Yellowstone River with thunderstorms building all around us, and picturesque ranches on either side – quite beautiful. The month of January sees the migration of 10,000 elk north along this route – a sight undoubtedly different than the thousands of Harleys and motor homes that go the opposite direction in the summer.

We spent a couple of days in the campground at Mammoth Hot Springs. Here the flowing hot springs have formed terraces of many colors. We spent one day hiking to Sepulcher Mountain for views and to escape from the tourists. The only domesticated animals we saw were a family of five at the summit. We were treated, however, with another mountain goat sighting (top photo) – he is the white dot seemingly stuck on a vertical rock wall. Our hike back followed a meandering creek, and at a narrow spot in a canyon there stood a moose with a full rack, snorting and chewing grasses from the creek bottom (second photo). He was nearly oblivious to us, just periodically turning to check if we were still there. Click here for the video.

We traveled on to the Roosevelt-Tower area. After one night there, we separated from my parents to travel north to the Beartooth Mountains (see next post). We left early to hike to the top of Washburn Mountain to visit yet another lookout. On the way we saw a group of 13 bighorn sheep from a distance in a meadow just below the summit. We met another hiker at the top who hiked in from the other direction. He saw the group, too, but from a much greater distance. As he snapped pictures with his particularly long telephoto lens, he commented how lucky we were to get so close. He would have been even more envious had he known we would encounter the group again on our descent, this time right on the road in our path. They were more interested in grazing and lounging than getting out of our way (third photo). Click here for the video.

We exited the Park at the Northeast Entrance. Here the Soda Butte Creek flows through landscape very much as the early explorers would have seen. Despite the many developed sites within the Park, it was here that we fully appreciated the preservation that national park status provides. Bison roam this area (fourth photo), and we once again were treated to a close range view of large animals. Click here for the video.

We have yet to see a grizzly bear, but we are still looking.

Posted using wi-fi access from Cody Public Library, Wyoming.

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