Apologies for out of order reports; I've been in the park since 18 May, but just finished up with Max’s Spring tour and wanted to cover that before my age acts up and things start slipping my mind. Were that to happen, given what I experienced with Max on the trip, the memories that I’d retain would still make for one heck of a story. It was that good.
First off, thanks to Max for being such a great guide, teacher, inspiration and, well, just one heck of a nice guy. He put everyone at ease, gave great help, answered any question asked and not just verbally, but by explaining it then doing it right along with you. Getting to see and experience a bit of his ideas and thought processes was truly a fantastic learning experience. I also learned that he never stops and does quite well with minimal sleep.
The trip itself was one for the ages. Though things (animal activity) seemed to slow towards the end, it certainly wasn’t by anyone’s doing and what took place during the first few days would have made for several individual trips. And, given the pace of the trip and events, perhaps the slow down in activity was a blessing. Though, Max never seemed to take it as such and insisted on burning the candle at both ends. While my appreciation for what he did can’t be measured in words, I wouldn’t have faulted him had he called for a late start or early end to a day so he could get some rest. So, off to the details and pictures. (I’ve only taken a quick run through the images, then selected a few and edited while doing laundry).
Day 1 Not much of a photo day, meet up at the hotel and a nice pizza dinner. However, while on my way to the hotel I did notice an Osprey perched in a tree along the Madison and got lucky when it decided to take a dive right in front of me. Just need to remember about it's head next time.
Day 2 This day led off with what became a rather routine viewing; a black sow with two cubs west of Petrified Tree. Unfortunately, they were usually too far back in the ravine to get decent light but did attract large crowds. But, every once in a while one of the cubs would work its way towards us.
After that it was onto Lamar Valley where we ran into a couple Moose near Round Prarie (I believe). Then down towards Bridge Bay where we came across a juvenile Bald Eagle perched above the Yellowstone River.
Other sightings included a red fox near the NE Entrance turnoff and a black bear with her cub just north of Tower Fall.
Day 3 A little earlier start to the day as the group chose to find out if all the stories about the multiple grizzly sightings around the lake area were true. They were. And we were treated to a wonderfully close and, for a nice amount of time, fairly personal viewing of ‘Raspberry’ strolling up to the stoplight then heading down for a walk along the beach. The rest of the day brought several other sightings though I need to check my gps logs and will add the locations later.
Day 4 If the trip was just one day or if Max had decided to end it after this day, there would not have been a single complaint. All along the trip had been building and building; each day better than the previous. But this day was something else. We started off heading through Lamar and ran into our Moose again. Then it was off to check on a report of a Great Gray sighting. It didn’t disappoint. We arrived and set upin time to catch a female Great Gray in a nest. Then Max found the male. In short order the male flew over to the nest, deposited a Vole (pretty sure it was), took a look around then headed off for the next meal.
We made a stop at Stop the Car Trading Post so everyone could catch their breath and enjoy a great lunch. Then it was off along the Beartooth for views that were incomparable and each curve going higher bringing smiles, grins and “oohs “ from everyone. On the way back in, after just entering Silver Gate a red fox outside it’s den was enjoying herself with her two kits.
Then, passing through Lamar on our way back to Gardiner a Bison who was obviously ready to give birth was spotted.
While we stopped, shot and waited, two younger Bison seemed to be jealous of all the attention the pregnant one was getting so a show was put on.
Unfortunately, it was getting late and had been a long – though good – day and we didn’t stay for the outcome. Also in this day; wolves stalking Bison and Coyote pups out in the open (but too far for pictures) in Lamar Valley. All courtesy of Abbey, who it was a pleasure to meet.
Day 5 Nice weather greeted us on this day, but it also seemed to close the door to wildlife for us as well. It was (comparatively) slow day for us, but still a good one nonetheless. Steaming Bison shots in a Lamar and a Red Tail hawk by Little American provided some action. Then it was off to Trout Lake along with a hike to Buck Lake In Hopes Of Otters. While we struck out on the Otters, the beautiful scenery made up for it. And the Goldeneye action at Buck Lake brought my favorite quote of the trip..in regards to a rather frisky male in the lake “cor, that blokes having a right busy day, isn’t he”.
The rest of the day was filled with bison action shots but on our way back in, just past the confluence we came across a Beaver who seemed to enjoy swimming up and down the side and watching the photographers pick up their gear and move then pick it up again and move.
Day 6 Started the day with some nice reflection shots of a few elk enjoying themselves along one of the lakes just below Mammoth.
Moving on to Swan Lake flat we caught a Grizzly along the ridgeline that took amazed everyone with his speed when he took off after an Elk. They both went into a stand a trees with the Grizzly coming out empty handed a short while later. He meandered along the line for a bit then went over the mountain. We drove out the East entrance in search of a reported Moose calf but had no luck. Much of the day was spent on working on scenics and I’m not ready to process those yet. (Don’t let Max fool you when it comes to scenics…he’s got that covered. Amply).
Day 7 Our final day in the park. Though, truth be told, I think everyone was pretty well worn out by this day and appreciated a change of pace. After a few trips through Lamar, Hellroaring and Petrified Tree yielding little, the plan switched heading up to Silver Gate and Stop the Car Trading Post for some grilling action, well, with a trip to the spot the Great Gray had been seen at along the way. While we didn’t get the male and the hunting action, we did get to see that it was a proud mama in the nest and she let one of the owlets come up for a quick viewing.
The day ended –and the trip, pretty much - with an outstanding dinner in Gardiner and a recounting of memories (and images) sure to last a lifetime. All in all, it was one heck of a week and a trip I won’t soon forget. And, Max will have a repeat customer.
Thanks Robert. The check is in the mail. It was a real pleasure spending time with you throughout the week.
Great job on a lot of this stuff. I hope your final leg is as fruitful as last week. Really nice with the osprey, and you already know I feel you killed it with the owls. Can't wait to see what you find this week.