CATEGORY / Yellowstone

Happy to be here: Cowboy


A journaling prompt for the first of May was “Describe a moment from today you want to remember always.”

Here’s what I wrote (which I entered under C in my yearly photo book):


1 MAY 2015: Norris Geyser Basin
He was startled to feel hands on his shoulders, but it’s not the first time this type of thing has happened. You see, he usually wears a cowboy hat simply because it covers more than a baseball cap. And he looks good in a cowboy hat. This makes him a target for the ‘classic’ western shots taken by those visiting here from the far east. Today, it seems a gal with white make-up on her face, lovely curly hair and a gorgeous silk kimono – a geisha? – took a shine to him, taking photos of him and finally, sitting down next to him and, after speaking some Japanese and pointing to her cell phone, she handed her cell phone to a friend to take her photo of her sitting next to a cowboy. But then the others in the tour group got bolder including this one that put her hands on his shoulders, to have her photo taken with him. I smiled again, knowing I married a tourist attraction.


This moment got me thinking back to other visitors to Yellowstone that stand out in memory as being completely delighted to be here. There are lots of them. This year, I plan to really look for these – as another type of mindfulness – and a way to keep the focus for me away from those who just don’t get it. Watch for more of these to come.

Photos used here were edited in part using Rad Lab (affiliate link)

Bears and Bison


First we had this incident with the black bears on the bridge.

The Park Service responded with a fabulous video about what to do at a bear jam. The only thing they left out was that if this had been a grizzly bear sow with three cubs, it likely wouldn’t have ended quite so peacefully.

Yesterday, a teen was gored by a bison near Old Faithful who was 3 to 6 feet away and turned her back.

Part of the problem is that the wildlife in Yellowstone seems almost tame. But this isn’t a zoo.

The Park Service is not here to guarantee you a safe visit. People burn themselves in thermal features (is it really that hot? Yes. Try boiling some water on the stove and then consider sticking your finger in it – that’s cooler than some of the hot springs in Yellowstone. No? Sure you don’t want to try it?). The wildlife can attack when threatened or not given a path to escape. Most animals don’t want to confront you. If you give them a way out, they’ll usually take it.

These two were making noises to try and get this bison to stand up for a photo. I stayed back as the bison quickly responded by rolling a few times, then standing and looking at these two. Simply that action was enough for me to have a way out should they escalate the situation. I tried to get their attention, but they only glanced over at me and ignored my shaking head, and said something to each other in a foreign language and laughed.


The rules are to stay 100 yards from bears and wolves, and 25 yards from other wildlife.

Do you even know how far that is? Can you estimate how far away something is?

Estimating distance is a skill that can be developed. And there’s an app for that!

I’ve been playing around with a measuring app from the App store: Easy Measure and a more complex one: Theodolite.

I don’t have an android phone, but Smart Measure looks like it should be able to measure distance as well as the height of that eruption of Old Faithful.

Start your vacation before you head to Yellowstone: If you’ve got kids, this is a great summer or home school project. Get them started on building the skill of estimating distances, and starting to teach them how to be safe when outdoors with wildlife around.

And you know the animals in Yellowstone are wild…I saw this bison a few years back and would have loved to know more about that battle wound.

Bison in Yellowstone National Park after an encounter where he lost part of a horn now covered in blood

Ice Out at Yellowstone Lake


On my way back home after a day of watching Ledge Geyser in Norris Geyser Basin (4 May 2015), I was delighted to find the ice finally flowing out from the Lake and under Fishing Bridge. But this is early. Scary early with how dry it is already. But this past week at home we received .27″ of rain one night and the next week or so has snow and rain in the forecast most every day (figures — we have a multi-family garage sale/estate sale happening tomorrow & Saturday).

The ice flowing along, though, had me turn around and park to walk out for a short video to share this moment with you.

Yellowstone Lake Ice Out 2015-05-04 17.56.19 from Janet White on Vimeo.

Lots more to come – and lots of updates to do on the phenology page. Hope to get to all of it soon.

Beartooth Plateau Backpack Trip Video

My sister took along her GoPro on her last backpack trip with the Yellowstone Association. Love this!

Field Journal Entry: Bison Rut in Yellowstone

Another Field Journal entry is in the binder:

2014-08-07 08

Journaling reads:

Sunday was my 50th birthday and we planned to head into the Park, but with all the rain we’ve had this week, it didn’t seem likely. But Sunday dawned with sunshine and a promise of holding off on the rain for a bit. So Mike and I gathered a few items, tossed Rhad in the back seat of the truck and headed out.

On our way up North Fork, we spotted a Bighorn Sheep ewe with a lamb near the road – the first we’ve seen since they headed to the high country this spring. We also spotted a deer near Rex Hale campground. All along the river, the cottonwoods were starting to show the first fleckings – the first yellow of fall.

A marmot crossed the road in front of us at Sedge Bay, right near a car whose passengers were facing the other direction. The crowds are still here, but slightly diminished from the height of the season.

We headed to West Thumb Geyser Basin in hopes that we might catch an eruption of King Geyser. By the time we arrived, clouds were building, and the wind was noticable. But when the sun was out, that breeze cooled it to a very comfortable temperature.

Watching King Geyser for about a half hour (from 12:20 to 1:00), we saw one good boil, but nothing that looked like it was trying to build into something more. Both of us were hungry, so we headed to Grant Village for a bite to eat and to stop at the Visitor Center to grab information on eruptions of King. Turns out the last noted eruption was on the 1st, and Ranger Brian Perry was pleased to share that a data logger had been put on King – and said the data would be downloaded every week or two. Good news to hear.

Since King Geyser didn’t look promising, we headed to Hayden Valley to spend a bit of time watching the bison in rut. Passing the Mud Volcano area, we thought about checking on the cold water geyser out there, but as the area came into view, that was not possible as the bison filled that meadow.
Grunting and bellowing were often drown out by the vehicles. A ranger stood on one end, helping to keep the traffic moving and asking people to pull off if they want to stop and watch. Stopping in the road in your car was not allowed. We found a spot to pull off, and got out of the truck to watch from the bed of the pickup.

It wasn’t often the boys sparred, but there was much dust flying from the rolling they did as well as the pawing of the ground. And when one bull had found a cow he was interested in, he’d keep her from wandering away – chasing her and herding her away from the rest.

A couple of young, red calves were in the middle of it all – just trying to stay near their mom, and occasionally getting to nurse. But they weren’t always tolerated either.

When we arrived, the area was full of tourists, but as the day wore on, the number of people watching dwindled – assuming they were making their way to their overnight destination for dinner.
And it was time for us to move on as well and start heading back home.


I used a simple clipping mask to create a template for my Selphy Printer and printed them out, and slipped them into some of my sliced and diced page protectors. Love having this done and in the binder.


So Long, July – See you next year


I’ve run away for a few days to take a class with the Yellowstone Association where I had the chance to say goodbye to July – and Hello to August. More as time allows…

Barrow’s Goldeneye at West Thumb


The other day when we were at West Thumb Geyser Basin in Yellowstone (20 May 2014), for a chance to observe the behavior of Lakeshore Geyser, I noticed a pair of Barrow’s Goldeneyes hanging out by Fishing Cone, and went on paying more attention to the geyser.

Later on, I noticed another couple of birds head over to land near them, and a commotion started. They turned out to be another pair of Barrow’s Goldeneyes. Lots of squawks and the male I think that was there, bobbed his head, and then lowered it toward the female he was with, and then…well, the photos speak loudly of how vigorously he defended his girl and the nice warm thermal waters they had claimed.






He broke off the chase as soon as the interlopers were well on their way – and they kept on flying.


Just another moment in Yellowstone and a bit of birding phenology.


Our First Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Sighting

Room to Breathe – Cody Peak


As you drive up to the East Entrance of Yellowstone along the North Fork of the Shoshone River, you pass by this view of Cody Peak. When we were there just about two weeks ago, winter still had a toe-hold on this spot. And while I can appreciate the weariness of a long, hard winter, I honestly never tire of the beauty snow brings. So today we have a vertical panorama – three images stitched together seamlessly that allows for the details of this view to shine. It’s available as a fine art print, or you can just head over to click on the image to see the detail at 100%.

I hope these Room to Breathe photos inspire you to find time each day to pause and slow down – even if for just a minute or two – and notice the beauty this world has to offer.

An early (and short) trip to Yellowstone


20-21 April 2014: We really hadn’t planned on making a trip to Yellowstone until the east gate opened, but Easter Sunday was glorious with Monday predicted to be just as nice. Yellowstone is huge – and going around Yellowstone takes even more time even despite the higher speed limits. Knowing that the drive would be a long one, we called to make a reservation and packed. We were out the door and on the road at 2:00 in the afternoon. All along the drive, things were greening up nicely.

There was an osprey on a nest – looking like it was working on it – between Linvingston and Gardiner. Finally, we arrived at 5:45 in Gardiner and checked in. Only one restaurant was open in town, The Yellowstone Mine, so that’s where we headed and decided to just hit the sack for an earlier start in the morning.

However, neither of us slept well, so the alarm was turned off for another hour or so of more sleep. We ended up driving through the North Entrance at a little before 8:00. We spotted a couple of Sandhill Cranes just south of Willow Park.


We stopped at Roaring Mountain to take a quick video (that will hopefully be shared in the thermal feature trip report on Geyser Watch if I can figure out video processing with this camera). At Roaring Mountain, I heard a woodpecker drumming on a tree somewhere on the hillside to the west – which repeated every 10-15, and up to 30 seconds. My guess would be a Hairy Woodpecker.

Just before we reached Madison Junction, we pulled over out of traffic to watch a coyote miss his (or her) mark and start dancing on the snow in an attempt to get a snack by making the critters beneath the snow move and make noise. Knowing the show was taking place at about the limit of the camera lens, I handed it to Mike since he’s more steady handheld while I watched through binoculars. It literally was skittering its feet along, then jumping and landing on all four feet, then pausing to listen, and dancing again. It knew a meal was under there – and knowing the persistence of coyotes, and our limited time today in Yellowstone, we decided to keep moving.

 Coyote hunting near Madison Junction in Yellowstone - Click to enlarge

Coyote hunting near Madison Junction in Yellowstone – Click to enlarge

Just before reaching Fountain Flats drive, we saw an Osprey shaking the water off its wings after successfully catching a fish. The plan was to head to Old Faithful – in hopes they might have at least the bike path open which would allow binoculars to help see what was what. No such luck. There was still a good amount of snow and the ranger told me she didn’t know of any plans to move the carcasses – to just let the bears feed on them until they would be picked clean.


140421J1040408The path around Old Faithful was open, so we decided to stroll around. These flowers were blooming by the asphalt part of that path, and I’ve yet to identify them. I thought at first they might be very bright Spring Beauties, but the leave aren’t right. My really good flower identification books are still packed away in a box buried in a storage unit, so if you happen to know what they are, I’d very much appreciate knowing. I’m adding it in at a higher resolution, so click on it to see it larger. They are tiny little things, maybe an inch tall or so.


And here’s a screen shot at 100% – the reddish leaves belong to the flowers:


Next, we saw a Western Bluebird pair in trees near the Beehive Overlook. The two trees they were topping are both dying from thermal heat. Either there’s more energy in that area, or the roots have grown deep enough to reach the heat.


A little farther along, we began to hear the cry of Killdeer. It seems they’re planning on nesting not far from the boardwalk. We didn’t see any eggs laid yet in any of the photos taken, but we didn’t stay long, but just moved through to leave them in peace. I want to check on them later on to see if they chose that spot, or if they decided too many people would be walking by.  They lay their eggs right in the rocks, no real nest to speak of – and the geyserite (all that white rock) closely matches their eggs.


Time was dwindling, so we watched an eruption of Old Faithful and headed out to Norris where I wanted to get some photos of Vixen Geyser  – more on that and other geyser observations over on Geyser Watch in a bit.


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