I look forward to opening day in Yellowstone during every day of the winter season. That moment when I get to leave the Northern Range and venture south to Old Faithful, Madison and Canyon. Today was that day. Except that the park initially said that the road between Mammoth and Norris would not open on time. Panic set in and I quickly made my way to West Yellowstone where I was able to get a reasonable room rate or a couple of days. Want a room tonight? Yikes, the price went up.
Along the way I met up with some friends to photograph some fox kits. My friends missed them but I got lucky and was able to see 7 kits and two vixens. What a joy! Unfortunately, both moms have been shot and so they are quite skittish, making it hard to photograph them.
My friends offered me their loft apartment for the week, so I could stay south. I’m in love with this place. The gas fireplace is going and I’m sitting in the window, watching the last bits of light fade from the day. It is utterly quiet. At home I have the river but this is silent. There are aspen trees all about and I find that my mind is always at peace when in the midst of my favorite trees.
This morning, going into the park, there were long lines. I got into the shortest ones and all of the other lines passed us by and still we say, poking along. Guess we got the new person and it ended up being more than 30 minutes. But, at last I was in the park! Driving along the Madison River. Not as much snow as I though but it sure was quiet. A few bison here and there but that is all. One lone elk along the Firehole River.
I made my way to Canyon, to the Chittenden bridge. A lot more snow on the east side. Then I did my annual walk down to Hayden Valley. This year I was the first visitor to enter the valley and was all alone, except for the occasional passing employee car. It is 3 miles to Alum Creek and I made it the whole way. Went to sit down on the Alum bridge because it was the only dry spot and poor Great Blue Heron came crashing out from underneath. We definitely spooked one another. There were very few tracks anywhere. A few bison and coyote but that was all. The snow is quite deep in many spots but there is some bare earth here and there. I soaked up the silence and my moment alone in Hayden. What a treasure and what a good way to start the season. Away from the crowds admiring the bison, into the empty vast valley of snow.
I did check up to Roaring Mountain and down to Old Faithful but saw nothing. Everyone is a little slow in waking up this year.
Back to the cabin while it was still light, so I could enjoy some more moments of quiet alone time. The healing of a long winter season and the trials that come with that have begun.
For those of you who want to go to Lamar Valley, you will find a much gentler place that is for everyone. Visitors no longer have access to wolf telemetry information and so there are no more special privileges or secrets. People can’t be blackmailed into behaving a certain way in order to be in the know – because they don’t know. It is perfect and the change is profound. Don’t expect the watchers to be happy about this but they did it to themselves with their own greed and entitlement. The end of a very hard era in Yellowstone. And, to celebrate, I will just share with you a couple of recent pics of 926. We have been allowed to watch carcasses and wolves at 100 yards, sometimes a bit less, this past winter and it has been a real treat.