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Happy Sigh....Yellowstone and Me

Anyone who really knows me, knows how much Yellowstone National Park is embedded in my DNA. It's my happy place ad nauseum. I don't know why as I have travelled a lot over my life and seen SO many places that speak to me. For whatever reason I always come back to the Park.

Yesterday, I took a visiting friend down to see what we could see. She was looking for birds to photograph and add to her growing life list and I was the designated driver and tour guide. I've learned over time not to promise what we are going to see regarding wildlife, birds or everything else. She wanted a great photo of a bald eagle and I made the mistake of saying how rare it is to see one there. We saw 2. Really? Unfortunately, they were too far away for picture taking.

We stopped at a pullout near one of the many glacial potholes filled with water and messy vegetation, a perfect place for birds and ducks. I'm out of the car with my binoculars scanning while Mary is setting up her camera and tripod. I turned on the sound recorder on my Merlin app, the coolest app ever. It picked up a yellow rumped warbler and a marsh wren. Gotta love bird names. But there were a bunch of other birds flitting around. There was a new family of Canadian geese with about 4 little yellow fuzzball babies, ruddy ducks doing their diving thing, yellow headed blackbirds that Mary insists are really brown not black, and several other little birds I've never seen before.

The fun part about stopping, getting out and looking for something like birds, is all the cars stopping to see what you see. When you say birds, most of them look so disappointed as they drive off, but others stop and pull out their cameras and binoculars. This is how I learn birds. I go over and chit chat with them about what they were seeing and they almost always give me more information than I expect. I file it into my really full brain for future reference knowing it may or may not stay. I told Mary we need to get some signs made up for the car windows that say birding, bison, bear, or wolf so people would know if they should stop or not. I'm thoughtful that way, at least in my head.

In the more than 50 times I've been to Yellowstone, I don't remember a more epic wildlife sighting day. Very kind people let us look through their spotting scopes to see one of the wolf dens where we only got to see one wolf but had we been there in the morning, we would have seen some pups. Another person showed us a grizzly mom with 3 cubs as they were nursing. Then we watched through our binoculars as they wandered up and out of sight. The only animals without babies yet were the bighorn sheep moms to be, elk, and antelope. We were a bit early for that. They all looked ready to pop any day. The baby buffalo, also known as red dogs, were super adorable as usual. If they aren't sleeping, they are running circles around the adults. We also saw a golden eagle on a nest, and a coyote, aptly named Limpy by park watchers, and a couple moose added some fun to the day.

I remember the days of driving through the entire road system in the Park in one day looking for anything and everything. Sometimes it was pretty bleak in terms of wildlife variety but it was always beautiful. I went to my favorite 'go to' places just to feel the amazingness of the place, Yellowstone Lake, Hayden Valley, Grand Prismatic Spring, Lamar Valley. This time we just went to Lamar Valley and looked for birds. And experienced spring. Rain, snow, blue skies, wind and lots of new growth in terms of new leaves on new aspen stands or baby cottonwoods. The Park has experienced a lot of change since I first saw it in 1978. The fires of 1988 temporarily blackened the landscape and now there are new trees everywhere. The reintroduction of wolves changed the way animals grazed dispersing the elk and buffalo herds and allowing the aspen to make a comeback. The floods of 2022 carved new channels for the rivers and braided the valleys with all kinds of new water pathways. The animals adapt way better than the people do. COVID and closure of the Park for a bit gave the animals a chance to breathe without people doing stupid things. I wonder if they noticed the change.

I've now taken 3 classes in the Park through Yellowstone Forever which used to be the Yellowstone Institute. The first was about geysers, mud springs and hot spots. The second was called Women in Wonderland about the history of both women and tourism. The last one was about the geology of the Park. All were phenomenal. Seriously amazing. They added whole new dimensions to this place I love so much.

So, my advice to anyone who wants to go there is pretty simple. Take your time. It's a big place and you cannot properly see it all in a day. Have no expectations about what you'll see. It's always different and there are no guarantees about the wildlife sightings. They are wild animals, and they go where they go whenever they want. Respect the place and them. Don't be an idiot. Pictures are great but build memories.

Most of all, enjoy. Nature is magical. Take it all in. I do. Every time I go.

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2 comentários

Lori Acosta
Lori Acosta
01 de jun.

You are fortunate to live “close”. ❤️❤️❤️ We have only been there a total of 2 days. Really wanted to backpack there when we were younger…. Finally made it there a couple years ago, but no longer in our backpacking gear. Glad you got to enjoy seeing yellow rumped warbler!


31 de mai.

What can you tell us about the Geology in your photo? The right side looks like Marble Fudge Ice Cream. The ribbon of rocks on the left look like a stairway to Heaven. Female Elk in the foreground?

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