Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

With Some Caution Fall RV camping In Yellowstone Provides Immense Photo Rewards

Airstream snow and over weighted awning

Airstream, snow and over-weighted awning

©Bert Gildart: Last night it snowed in Yellowstone National Park and it changed the landscape dramatically. As well, it reminded me that lessons from the past must not be forgotten.

Rain which preceded the snow should have triggered memories, but it didn’t and so I pulled out the awning to protect the generator, which I had started to recharge our batteries. The awning protected the generator, but I forgot that at high elevations rain often changes to snow. At 8 I turned off the generator but didn’t roll up the awning.

Next morning, ice and snow weighed heavy on the awning of my Airstream, and I spent several hours chipping and brushing it all off with a broom. Eventually, with a little help from a much-muted sun, my awning was restored to its normal configuration enabling Janie and me to return to the marvelous landscape that Yellowstone provides. Though that landscape is a year-round one, for me, as a photographer, fall is the most compelling time, and this week has been no exception.

The drama of our time in Yellowstone began near our campground at Madison, about 14 miles from West Yellowstone. Janie and I were scurrying around our trailer when we heard the clear, clarion call of a bull elk. Bulls use their call essentially to warm other bulls from their territory.

Elk bugling creates dramatic fall sound

Elk bugling creates dramatic fall sound

When other bulls don’t heed the warning, often fights result. The time is one of high drama and I grabbed my camera pack, located the bull and then settled in to watch and photograph it. The animal was an impressive one, and on one side of its “rack” the bull carried eight tines while on the other, seven.

Six tines are most typical and is the number characteristic of a bull that is six years old. When an elk has seven tines it is called an Imperial and when it has eight it is called a Monarch. Because the animal was so cooperative I stayed with it for several hours, using a 600mm lens for head shots and an 80 to 400mm zoom lens for body and group shots. Then we moved on.

October bellowing is not unusual

October bellowing is not unusual

One of our great hopes has been to find a Great Grey Owl that so many people have seen and that a good friend had photographed with amazing results. Though Janie and I never found the bird, our search was compensated for in other ways. Normally bison are at the height of their rutting season in July through the end of August, but sometimes a cow will calve late and then come into estrus in fall rather than in summer.

According to Katy Duffy the district interpreter here in the Madison area, that’s not an uncommon scenario in Yellowstone, so when we stumbled across a small herd of bison displaying the dramatic lip curls and roaring loudly, we realized we were seeing something that was dramatic for this time of year, but not exceptional.

Again, we stayed with the situation and after several hours, realized from the images on our digital cameras that our time in Yellowstone was paying off.

Snow and elk add drama to Yellowstone landscape

Snow and elk add drama to Yellowstone landscape

That’s the night snow fell and next day we moved our Airstream to West Yellowstone, passing as we moved a landscape covered with an inch or two of snow. Several elk added balance to the setting, and we couldn’t pass it up. Now we’re bidding our time, taking advantage of the situation to write notes and recharge our batteries and revisit the Grizzly Wolf Discovery Center. And of course we examined our awning. It’s fine, now dry and rolled up into a tight ball.

Camping in Yellowstone at this time of year requires a heads up, but all the drama make the the effort more than worth the effort.

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