Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Everything But the Moose

After leaving the Paint Pots we travelled farther along the Grand Loop Road toward Indian Creek. We had picked a trail there to hike in the afternoon. But on the way we were waylaid again when we came upon several cars pulled off to the side of the road. In what became a routine over the next several days I grabbed my camera and we jumped out of the car. There, not more than 30 feet off the road, was a young bull elk, moving calmly among the pines.

Oh I was so excited! This was my first bull elk, and although young, quite a beautiful specimen.

He moved past the small cluster of people standing and staring. I made sure to keep my distance, shooting with a 200mm lens. It was just about 9 am, and the heat was beginning to build.

He nonchalantly crossed the road and moved up into the hills.

The elk was cool, but we were still on our quest for a bull moose. We stopped one more time before getting to Indian Creek at a little turnout along the Obsidian River at the trailhead for the Grizzly Lake trail. This was marshy, willowy habitat, what seemed like a good place for moose.

Lisa surveys our surroundings.

We hiked part of the trail but all we saw were some HUGE piles of moose scat. In the summer when they're eating more wet vegetation--like algae--their scat loses that rabbit pellet look and takes on the appearance of elephant poo. Lisa's hand, so dangerously close, is for scale.

Now, in 2007 I was only just starting to learn about animal signs--tracks, scat and other markings. When I took the photo below, which was not too far from the scat, I assumed it was a moose or elk rub. But now, as I look back at these images two years later, I realize that all of the antlered animals were still in velvet, and a long way off from making rubs. Probably, then, the marks on this tree were made by a bear.

I'm not sure how I would have felt about that if I'd realized it at the time....

We gave up our search for moose here and started back towards the car. Suddenly, out of the young pines, a mule deer erupted,

followed closely by a second young buck.

They trotted across the clearing,

and down toward the river.

Yee haw! Elk and deer in less than two hours! Yellowstone was shaping up to be everything we'd hoped it would.

We finally made it to Indian Creek and changed into our hiking gear, loaded a pack, donned our bear bells and hit the trail. There was absolutely nothing to see. The creek was rarely visible from the trail, it was fairly wide open terrain with little cover at mid-day, and the only thing moving was a pine marten that I did manage to get a picture of but then unknowingly deleted it. There wasn't another soul on the trail, we ate lunch on the top of a rise in a copse of trees, and after a few hours were back in the car, hot and tired but so damned excited to be alive.

Next: The Terraces

1 comment:

  1. i had forgotten about the scrape on the tree - yikes! oh and what a handsome, handsome young elk he was! i love that you can see the velvet so clearly. great shots!