On To The Next Adventure

After a longer than expected stop with the wild horses, we had FINALLY gotten back on the road to our next destination. The Tetons and Yellowstone! *if you missed the last blog post about our scary night stranded on a mountain, read it here. I'll wait for you before I begin the rest of the story.

Okay, ready? Well, let's begin with the fact that our biggest mission for this trip was to see and photograph some BULL moose and hopefully some grizzlies. We had seen a few grizzlies during a few other trips, but most were so far away or just not the right timing. Those images will be featured in another blog post in the near future as I finish going through old trip photos from the last few years.

Moose though, we might have here in Minnesota, but I still have never seen one here. On a previous trip we did see a few cow moose and their calves, but no bulls. It was time we changed that! So, on our way to Yellowstone first, we came in from the east side this time. Having always entered the park from the west or north in the past, we were in for a wonderful and gorgeous greeting. It was nearing late afternoon as we drove through the spectacular landscape. We needed to get to the other side of the park and into Idaho to get the camp set up before nightfall. So there was to be no stopping for photo opportunities unfortunately. Not even for the smaller grizzly that decided to cross the road right in front of us! It happened so quick that we wouldn't have gotten much for photos anyway, but we took it as a great sign of how the rest of this trip was going to go...hopefully! haha

After a long drive, we finally made our way to our second completely FREE camping spot for the trip. What a view we had! Better than can be had in most paid campgrounds, that's for sure! Not to mention the fact of not having neighbors 20 feet from us. Actually, their was only 1 or 2 other campers here during our entire stay!

"Front Yard" view

"Front Yard" view

"Back Yard" view

"Back Yard" view

Rainy Days

Tourists tend to complain on rainy days. Not photographers! The overcast and light rains can actually be so beneficial. First off, it gets rid of the harsh shadows and uneven lighting. Not to mention most people aren't out and about, meaning less people getting in the way of those picture perfect moments, and more often than not, you get to experience moments that most others are not because they are hunkered down inside. The last morning at the Idaho camp I woke up and went outside to see this stunning white pelican gently gliding through the water right in front of our camper. With the dark rain clouds providing a dramatic and bold contrast to the scene, I spent several minutes alone at the edge of the lake just watching it going back and forth.

On the subject of ideal photography conditions, we usually go places during the off season. For the most part the crowds are less overbearing. This particular trip was in September of 2019. The temps can be quite cold, but the animals are on the move, and things can get exciting.

Landscapes of Yellowstone

Petrified Tree

Remember what I said about not seeing everything in one trip? Well, it wasn't until this trip; trip number four, or maybe this was five...that we discovered this petrified tree. Somehow, I don't remember ever hearing about it, or seeing the signs for it..but here we were and decided to check it out. To be honest, it was visible from the parking area, which was crammed full and we had had more than our share of walking lately...so the telephoto lens came in handy here. haha

This tree is an over 50 million year old Redwood; YES like the ones in California! It lived in this area during a time when this region was a warmer sub-tropical climate. The primary trees currently found in this region now are lodgepole pine. 50 million years ago volcanic eruptions cause massive land slides. This caused the trees to be buried in mud and rock which with time fossilized the trees, still in their upright positions. Erosion has since revealed this one, as well as many others. The fact that these petrified stone trees are still upright with their roots anchored in the ground is what makes them unique from most other petrified forests you can see elsewhere. Upon closer inspection you can see the tree rings of growth even. A remarkable look into history. Having done more research, I have added to the list of places to go and things to see, the petrified trees of Specimen Ridge...where many more are located.

Do You See It?!

From further away

Upon closer observation...it's a PIKA

Pikas are small rodent-like mammals that live in the higher elevations. They resemble a rabbit but with rounded ears and no external tail, and are only about the size of a fist, or growing up to about seven or eight inches long. They primarily eat tall grasses, flowers, and weeds. They grow a thick winter fur that allows them to stay in their mountainous climates year round. They sure are quick too. I was able to snap about 3 photos before this one darted from sight into the rocks. I waited several minutes to see if it would reappear. It never did, at least that I could see. I was not even really looking for one at the time, although after having recently learned of them the year before I did have them on my list of creatures I wished to see someday. What an awesome surprise on our first stop exploring the park!

Matt and I have made half a dozen trips to Yellowstone over the years so far, and surprisingly there are still many areas we have not explored. It is impossible to experience the entire thing in one trip, not to mention a few. So every trip we try to explore an area that we have yet to see. On top of that, we strive to see new animals. We unfortunately were unable to photograph any grizzlies or moose in Yellowstone, but our luck would change on the next leg of this adventure!

However, before I get to that, take a look at the wildlife we DID see. There are so many different species that call this area home.

The Other Elusive Target

During our brief time in Yellowstone, I had also hoped to locate and capture some wolf action. A few sunrises and sunsets in the prime areas did not play out as we had hoped; for wolves or grizzlies. So on "the list" they remain for now. It was time to go. Between rain storms, we briskly packed stuff back up and head out once again. This time the destination was Grand Teton National Park. With some great Intel on possible moose and grizzly locations, I could not wait to go check them out.

Grand Teton

Foggy and cloud covered mornings

T.a. moulton barn

Known to be the most photographed barn in America, it is the only remaining structure of the Thomas Alma Moulton homestead. Construction started on it around 1913. Barely visible in the fog in the image below is the Grand Teton. What a spectacular view they had here! Purchasing the land years earlier as a bachelor, he did not make the final move here and begin construction on the barn itself until 1913, when he married a woman named Lucille. The barn was built in sections over the years, starting with a central and flat roofed area for his horses to shelter in. It wasn't completed to it's present construction until around 1940. It now belongs to Grand Teton National Park, as well as the other structures along Mormon Row on the South-East part of the park. Efforts are made to help preserve this historical landmark. (Images taken on other trips show the awe-inspiring backdrop, to be included in future posts).

Up Before Sunrise...for the Moose

Camp was outside of the park, so it was often VERY early morning wake-ups to be on location before the sun rose. It paid off though, and the excitement was tangible when we saw this big boy walking the tree line near us!

For the Teton area we decided on a very cheap campground just out of the park itself due to one member of our party not feeling to well and wanting bathrooms close by. But it was right on this lake and we had a hell of a view! Do you see Patches down there? (Patches is the nickname given to our camper...look for another post about it coming soon)

Sunset from camp.

Just Around the Bend

After the big moose found a good spot and laid down, it was time to get back on the road again. We headed off to another area that we had heard a grizzly had been spotted recently. Unfortunately, we never did spot any in that area, but where the road led us looked like a good spot to get out and stretch our legs a bit. Got a few images of the landscape and then headed back to go check out other areas. Just as we came around a curve we came face-to-face with the beautiful cow. She just stood there looking at us from the center of the road...and for once there were no other cars blocking our view. Joys of taking some of the back roads! As I was shooting some images from next to the car, (Always use caution around them. They can be quite aggressive and do some serious damage!) I noticed a bit of movement coming from the trees to the right. Then just like that this bull comes out right behind her!

Never Ending Beauty

Every where you look there is so much to take in. Even some of the simplest things from small wild flowers, to the towering mountain peaks, it is so relaxing to just sit and take it all in. Even if there is no wildlife present...there is so much to feel connected with. I am not one to go somewhere and just hit all the prime touristy spots, snap a photo and run to the next. People miss so much by not really "SEEING" what they are looking at, and not taking the time to explore more than what is glaringly obvious. It is the lesser seen and known that I aim to find and show to others, even if just through photos and videos.

Jackson Lake Sunrise

The calmness of Jackson Lake, with the looming peaks across the bay, is one of the most peaceful and awe-inspiring experiences while waiting for the sun to kiss the snow capped mountains. Listening to the occasional water lapping at the rocks is the icing on top. The moment that you see the golden glow start creeping its way down the peaks as the sun rises behind you, you can't help but have your breath taken away. It makes waking up at the cold and dark early morning hours worth every second to be able to witness such a majestic beginning to a new day.

NOT ...The End

You would think that was the end of our trip; wouldn't you? Nope! When we do photography trips we try to cover as much as possible. If we are going all that way, we will make it worth while and stop at other locations on the way there and on the return trip as well. This is the main reason why we opt out of flying to locations. Yes it may be quicker, but there is so many other places to see along the way. So, now that we reached the end of our stay, it was time to start working our way back home. Along the way we decided to stop in and see some old friends..the burros in Custer State Park in South Dakota. True, we have been here several times already...but the Beggin' Burros are impossible to not stop and see on the way through. After that, it was a couple of days in Badlands National Park before going home. If you have ever been to the Badlands in South Dakota you realize fairly quickly that for the most part it is just one long loop with a lot of overlooks and a few side roads too. Or is it? After a couple trips I had learned there is a WHOLE other section to it that is not as well known to tourists. It is the south unit which is located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Did you know that the South Unit is mostly located in what was once used by the War Department in 1942 as a bombing range training area during World War II? The land was taken from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation at that time and families were forced to vacate the area on extremely short notice. You can read more about that here. Many of the images below are from the South Unit. It is undeveloped so the road is more like a trail in many areas. If you wish to go explore it I highly recommend a four-wheel drive vehicle or at least something with high-clearance.

Beggin' Burros

The Badlands of South Dakota

These tiny plants are quite prickly..take a closer look in the next image.

Look at these super tiny flowers on this plant. Amazing what details one sees when taking a closer, second look at the things around them.

Prairie dog towns are quite amusing to sit and watch...and every now and then this is where you catch some addition wildlife action. On previous trips we have been lucky enough to watch coyotes on the hunt. This particular time we saw something else that we had never seen before. Do you see it in this image above?

It's a Burrowing Owl!!! They nest and roost in burrows like these that the prairie dogs dig out. They are quite small, about the size of a fist, so it can be hard to spot them. I saw it flying, and that is probably the only reason I spotted it.

The trip had come to an end, and we already started planning for the next adventure...

If you wish to purchase a piece for your wall, send me a message!

(Not all images are in the online store, but most are available for purchase)

But before you leave...check out this short video from this trip.

Apologies for the clips that are shaky, My equipment was not suited for video, YET.

Been working on doing more videoing the last few years, and slowly upgrading equipment to better suit my needs.

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