Waterfalls of Yellowstone

Waterfalls are everywhere!

So you want to see waterfalls? The concierge was waving a map at me. If it’s waterfalls you’re looking for you have come to the right place he went on. We’re better than Niagara Falls! He handed me a map with the best spots all circled and marked for me. I’d seen geysers and animals. Now it was time to concentrate on the water features, waterfalls.

Grand Teton Waterfalls

His map started with Yellowstone so I asked him if there were any waterfalls in Grand Teton National Park. He said yes but most were only accessible by hiking to them. The Yellowstone waterfalls are often near the road with parking  areas and look outs. Since my back injury makes hiking difficult Yellowstone became my destination again. They pulled my car around and I got started. It’d be a good hour before I reached the southern entrance to Yellowstone. I was determined not to get side tracked.

Horses at Elk Flat Ranch

The Elk Flats Distraction

I was hustling along pretty good until I got to Elk Flats again. There were photographers pulled over taking pictures of the horses grazing in the pasture to the left. They paid no attention to the 2 pronghorn antelope frisking around in the field to the right. Yes, I had to stop. You have to take these opportunities as they present themselves.

Prong horn at Elk Flats

The Bison are back

Bison in the morning

Just over the rise I found the bison herd. No elk this morning but the bison had moved much closer to the road. They were even jumping over the rail fence. The bison paparazzi were brazen. They were right up to the fence the bull had just jumped. Too close for my taste. In front of me two bulls were head butting, getting ready to spar. A bit of Nat Geo Wild right in front of me. As much as I was enjoying the show time was passing and I hadn’t reached Moran Junction yet, much less Yellowstone. Time to get back on the road. 

 

Jousting BisonGet ready to fight

The Afternoon is for Animals

A is for Animals

The animals have been hiding so far. Yellowstone is known for it’s wild animal viewing but so far I’ve only seen one lonely bison. The thermal features are impressive enough that I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. It’s about 3:30 in the afternoon so I thought I should stop my exploring here and start back to Jackson.

B is for Bears

3 bears out for a stroll

Lots of signs along the way remind you that you’re in bear country. My Gaperguide repeatedly suggests bear spray when hiking and not to hike alone. Even so, I’d not seen any sign of  bears so far. That was about to change. I’d just entered Grand Teton National Park when as I approached one of the many bridges that cross the streams and rivers I saw cars lined up along both sides of the road. I had no idea what they were stopped for but I stopped too. Grabbing my camera I quickly headed over to the edge of the crowd. I didn’t have to ask what it was. Right there in plain sight was a Mama Bear and 2 cubs. Big Mama looked black in the afternoon light but one of the other spectators quickly pointed out the hump that identified this bear as a grizzly.

Bear 399Mama and Cubs

Mama and cubs paid no attention to their audience as they ambled off to the nearby woods. As the spectators headed back to the cars I overheard one bear watcher say that this was bear 399. Bear 399 was made famous in the book Grizzlies of Pilgrim Creek, a book by photographer Thomas D. Mangelsen and writer Todd Wilkinson. Mama 399 is now 21 years old which is quite old by wild grizzly standards and even more rare that she is still breeding.

 Long Lived and Well Loved

“Every year that 399 has remained alive, raising successive broods of cubs, staying out of trouble with people, has been for those of us who enjoy her presence a gift and a miracle.”

In her two decades of life, 399 has given birth to three sets of triplets, one set of fraternal twins, and two single cubs. Her daughter, identified as 610 by researchers, has also raised four cubs of her own; 17 total cubs descended from 399: 18 total bears if you count her. Pretty Awesome!

Into the woods

Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge

After wrapping up our Aquarium visit we decided to do a little exploring, Sandy had heard of a place with wild animals, like a sanctuary. I tried a google search on my phone but the only thing I could find was the Kealia Pond Wildlife Refuge. Off we went to check it out.

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Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge is one of the few natural wetlands remaining in the Hawaiian Islands. Located along the south central coast of Maui, it is 691 acres of wetland which provides a home to the endangered Hawaiian coot.

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Upon arrival it looked pretty quiet but there was a nice boardwalk so we decided to just take a walk. I wasn’t expecting anything special. Boy was I surprised.

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The first bird we spotted was a “stilt”. These are striking black-and-white birds with very long, thin red legs, the Black-necked Stilt is found along the edges of shallow water in open country.

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Once we spotted one, we began to see them all over. They were funny little birds with those long skinny legs and we had a lot of fun watching them as they hunted tiny minnows in the shallow water.

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Sandy spooked one stilt and when it took off it spooked another bird. This time it was a heron of some type. I thought it was a green heron but some folks came a long with a bird book and said it was a Black Crested Night Heron.

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What ever it was, it was a willing subject for a photo shoot once he roosted again. He stayed put while I snapped away.

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There were a number of white egrets. According to history these are cattle egrets.

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They are an invasive species brought to the island by man to control such pests as fleas, ticks, flies and other cattle parasites.

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Last but not least we came upon a pair of the endangered Coots. They are really cute little birds. They reminded me of the common mud hen in Florida but they don’t have the red coloring.

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It would have been nice to walk further along the board walk but truth be told, both of us were getting tired and it was a very hot, sunny day. Time to wrap it up and head back to the car.

Shhh! It’s a Secret.

I found a very interesting place but it’s a well kept secret. I’d heard rumors about this place for two years before I found it. My best lead came from a chance encounter on a whale watch last summer. That person had the name of the area but couldn’t give me directions.

Slowly I narrowed down the location. It’s such a secret place that even the state game warden I asked had never heard of it. But I kept looking .Unlike so many conservation areas that are being exploited and over run by humans,  this one is still largely undiscovered. Back in March I think I finally found it.

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Back then it was snow covered but now it’s a walk in the woods.

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I did meet some folks along the way, mostly dog walkers.

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As I followed the trail I spotted several lady slippers. Not too close to each other, they prefer to stand solitary.

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As I skirted a muddy section of the trail I could tell the trees ahead were thinning and then there it was. My destination.

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A huge  beaver pond spread out in front of me. The signs of beaver were very apparent.

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The trail followed the shore a bit and I spotted the beaver lodge but no beavers.

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Dead trees towered above the  still water.

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Almost every dead tree was crowned with a huge nest and perched in each nest was a blue heron chick. They are about a week from fledgling so they are almost as big as the parents. By next week the sky will be filled with all these young birds testing their wings.

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The sound was amazing. The chicks were making a chirping that sounded almost like peepers. There were so many chirping all at once that it was quite loud. When some of the adult birds began to come back to feed them the drop off in the noise level was very noticeable just like the way it gets quieter in a human household when dinner is served.

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The surface of the pond was covered with either duck weed or algae, I really couldn’t tell which from my vantage point. A family of geese weaved their way among the dead tree trunks.

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What a great find! I hope this place remains a “well kept secret” for a long time to come.