Is there a Photo Opportunity Here?

Moose are high on my Photo Wish List

A moose photo is a challenge, at least for me. They are solitary creatures. Moose are the largest species in the deer family. The males have huge flat antlers. Other members of the deer family have treelike branching antlers. Moose are called Twig Eaters. It’s their ability to survive on twigs and browse that gave them this nick-name but they are also well known for eating tons of  aquatic plants when they can find them. My first moose picture was in Maine in the summer of 2012.

Nice moose – bad picture. My 2nd chance came in Alaska in 2013 from a moving bus while the moose scrambled up a dirt bank.

Is this my chance for The Moose Picture?

If you’ve followed my blog for long you know that I went to Maine in June of this year (2017) to try to get an iconic moose photo for my wildlife collection. I saw moose but they were pretty mangy looking.

A Moose heading for the trees

They were also by the side of the road. One thing about wildlife photography is that there’s a lot of luck involved. You need to be in the right place at the right time and hope the animals cooperate. Now here I was once again on the side of a road, camera in hand, hoping for that picture that would let me cross MOOSE off my list.

It’s a Moose on the Loose

As I reached Gros Ventre I ran into the biggest traffic jam yet. I kept driving but very slowly. I didn’t see anything. Then about halfway down the gauntlet of cars I saw it, a massive bull moose. He was in no hurry, or so it seemed. I saw the antlers first. The afternoon sun reflected off them but his dark coat seemed to blend into the brush. I expected him to head for the hills.

Come on Mr. Moose

Hey Mr. Moose give me a something worthwhile. I tried. He was certainly handsome enough. A nice shiny coat, big antlers and he was just strolling along. I snapped picture after picture but I just couldn’t capture the image I was looking for. I guess my moose photo quest will continue.

The Herd at Elk Flats Ranch

Is that a Herd of Cows?

I’d just reached the open land of Elk Flat Ranch when I spotted a herd of something. The dark spots were scattered across the landscape. At first I thought they were cows, after all this is cow country. A lone car was pulled over while the driver scanned the horizon. Maybe there was more there than meets the eye so I stopped too. Good thing I did. I was about to see 3 of the major herd animals all in one place. The black spots I thought were cows were actually bison!

Bison and Elk at Elk Flats Ranch

B is not just for bears

Not just for bears, B can be for Buffalo or more correctly Bison. Those dark spots I was watching turned out to be bison. As I watched them I saw some other movement in the herd that didn’t seem to flow with the bison. I’d forgotten to pack my binoculars so I grabbed the camera. Not as much magnification as I’d have with binoculars but better than my naked eyes. Right in the middle of the Bison herd was a small herd of Elk.

Elk on the run

Elk & Bison herd

The elk herd consisted of several females and at least 2 bulls. The bulls were a mismatched pair, one set of antlers much larger than the other. The bigger bull seemed to be bullying the smaller one. Both were running circles around the females. It was like watching a National Geographic wildlife special for real! But wait, there’s something else moving in that herd and it’s not a bison or an elk.

Prong Horn Antelope too

On the outskirts of the combined Bison/Elk herd I spotted two moving objects that were much lighter in color and moved very differently than the lumbering buffalo or the elegant elk. It’s a pair of prong horn antelope. Could this be where the “deer and antelope play”? The prong horns seemed to be  with the herd and yet apart as they bounced around the fringes. Soon they would be joining other prong horns to start their annual migration.

Prong horn join the mixed herd

From zero to 4 in 30 minutes

From no animals to 4 different species in about 30 minutes! Bears, bison, elk & prong horn. Not bad for the afternoon! But I still have about 50 miles to go to get back to the Teton Club. Maybe there’s more in store.

Midway Geyser Basin

Crossing the Firehole RiverThe Moonscape that is Midway Geyser Basin

Midway Geyser Basin is my next stop on the lower loop road. You can see the stream rising in huge clouds as you approach. There’s a large parking area and even now, in the off season, it’s pretty full. Its hard to imagine what it would be like at the height of the tourist season. A solid wooden bridge crosses the Firehole River. Steaming, boiling water flows down the bank into the river.run off into Firehole river

Huge billowing clouds of steam blow across the bridge and walkways.

 

Excelsior Geyser Crater

Boardwalk zigs and zagsExcelsior GeyserExcelsior Geyser Crater

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boardwalk crosses the Firehole River before zig-zaging first to the right then back to the left always climbing upward. The first hot spring we pass is the Excelsior Geyser Crater. Its the water from this crater that is flowing into the Firehole River. Dumping 4000-4500 gallons of boiling water per minute into the river its not surprising that there are always clouds of steam. Excelsior Geyser used to erupt in a powerful plume from 100-300 ft high but after some particularity powerful eruptions it subsided to the simmering hot spring that it is today. Scientists speculate that those powerful eruptions damaged the internal plumbing ending the  more spectacular thermal displays.

 

Grand Prismatic Spring SignGrand Prismatic Spring

Bacterial matt at Grand prismatic

Orange algae and bacteria float on the Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the United States and the third largest in the world. The vivid colors in the spring are the result of microbial mats around the edges of the mineral-rich water.

 

The mats produce colors ranging from green to red. In the summer, the mats tend to be orange and red, whereas in the winter the mats are usually dark green. The center of the pool is sterile due to extreme heat. The deep blue color of the water in the center of the pool results from the intrinsic blue color of the water. The effect is strongest in the center of the spring, because of its sterility and depth. Usually the photos you see in magazines are taken from above.

From the boadwalk

The View From Above

Fairy Falls

Unattributed photo from the internet.

Most photos of the Grand Prismatic Spring are taken looking down. Many are aerial views taken from airplanes or maybe a helicopter. There is also a trail that leads from the Grand Prismatic Spring to Fairy Falls. Along the way there are 2 other geysers and a lookout above the hot spring. The trail is only .5 miles but it climbs 105 ft. I’ve added this hike to my bucket list. For now it was time to leave the clouds and steam of Midway behind and turn for home. 

Aerial view Grand Prismatic Spring

Unattributed photo from the internet. I wish I could have taken this one.

 

 

Geyser Grill, Black Sand and Biscuits

Geyser Grill signLunch at The Geyser Grill

The Geyser Grill at Old Faithful  is a fast food restaurant. It’s pretty typical of the restaurants at attractions or Theme Parks. You stand in a line, order from a menu of hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries or maybe a salad and get a souvenir mug for your soft drink. I didn’t know where or when I’d find another restaurant so I stood in line for almost an hour. It was just my luck that 3 tour buses pulled in right before I got to the grill! Still, once I placed my order it was up in minutes and it was fresh. With that many customers there wasn’t time for anything to sit under a heat lamp! Somehow I managed to find a table but I didn’t linger. Based on the cautions I received from the concierge at the resort I wanted to be on my way back before dark.

Ordering a meal at Geyser Grill

Black Sand basinBlack Sand Basin

With a full tank of gas and a full tummy I left Old Faithful to see what was ahead on the Loop Road.  About 1/2 mile from Old Faithful I saw a sign for Black Sand Basin.  I hadn’t seen anything about that in my guidebooks so I made a quick stop out of curiosity. I remember the black sand beaches in Hawaii so I wasn’t sure what to expect here. It certainly wasn’t a beach!

 

Spouter geyser

Colorful ruin offA geyser right next to the road was sputtering and bubbling. This is SPOUTER GEYSER and erupts almost continuously. No big plumes like Old Faithful but its constantly dancing and gurgling away. There are a variety of colorful hot pools and a board walk. I looked around but due to the time decided to skip the walk for now.

Steam covers teh boardwalk

 Biscuit Basin

Biscuit Basin Sign

BoardwalkUp next is Biscuit Basin. Named for the biscuit shaped formations around the edges of some of the thermal features. After an earthquake in 1959 most of the “biscuits ” were destroyed. My GaperGuide said they were starting to reform but I didn’t see any. There’s plenty of parking and a heavy wooden walkway so you can get up close  and personal with the thermal features. There’s plenty of mini geyser action here and clouds of steam.

 

 

Biscuit Basin Run Off

Natures Hot Tub

Kepler Cascades and Old Faithful

Kepler CascadesLet’s Start with Kepler Cascades

 Kepler Cascades is a waterfall on the Firehole River in southwestern Yellowstone National Park . The cascades are located approximately 2.5 miles south of Old Faithful. The cascades drop approximately 150 feet over multiple drops. The longest drop is 50 feet. The cascades were named by the park superintendent in 1881 for the 12-year-old son of Wyoming’s territorial governor John Wesley Hoyt. Hoyt and his son, Kepler, were visiting Yellowstone in 1881 when  Superintendent Norris named the cascades after the younger Hoyt.

The Firehole River flows over a series of small ledges before making it’s 50 ft drop. There’s a paved parking area and a well Observation Platform at Kepler Cascadesmaintained wooden observation platform. Its a great place for viewing the falls and taking pictures. I was there in the off season so there was plenty of room. No telling what it’s like in the summer season.

Falls at Kepler Cascades

Upper Geyser Basin

Upper geyser Basin

Leaving the Kepler Cascades behind steam starts to become visible in the distance. I’m about 2.5 miles away from the upper geyser basin, home to Old Faithful Geyser. When you reach the Upper Geyser basin there’s a lot more than just Old Faithful.  The Upper Geyser Basin, approximately two square miles in area, contains the largest concentration and nearly one-quarter of all of the geysers in the world! You enter a world of steam and clouds. While I was topping off the gas tank I spotted a lone Bison wandering toward the steaming plateau. Tourists closely followed behind the bison with camera’s clicking.  I was surprised the rangers didn’t round them up and shoo them away from the animal.

Bison

I could see Old Faithful in the distance building up a head of steam. If I didn’t make it to the viewing area in the next few minutes I’d have a 90 minute wait for the next eruption.  

Old Faithful warming up

Sure enough, in just the few minutes it took me to go up the road to the Old Faithful Parking Lot, the geyser went off!

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