Monday, December 21, 2009

Moonrise Over Yellowstone

We arrived at the Sheepeater Cliffs picnic area around 6pm, hungry and tired. The cliffs get their name from the Shoshone Indains who used to live in the area, who ate bighorn sheep. The geologic formations are volcanic, basalt columns formed as the lava cooled, somewhere between 320,000 and 640,000 years ago. This spot, like the swimming area, is on the Gardiner River. I was not in blog mode, remember, so I didn't get a particularly good shot of the cliffs. This one I found online.

Photo by S.R. Brantly

We hung out here for about an hour, enjoying the quiet and the scenery. Oh, cold mountain streams, rocky and lined with spruce and fir!

We were watched closely by a raven as we ate our supper. Sorry, friend, no scraps for you.

Back on the road and nearing sunset, we came across this bison laying near the roadside, chewing cud after a dust bath. I didn't take a lot of bison pics as I had just shot a whole bunch of a herd that is on a ranch near Ann Arbor, Michigan. I wish now I'd taken more of photos of these magnificent animals, not realizing then that most ranch bison are bison/cow crosses--beefalo, some call them--while the Yellowstone bison are 100% pure.

Past Norris Junction the road heads more southwest and picks up the Gibbon River again. We came upon another crowd along the road so we pulled over to take a look. A huge bull elk was grazing along the river bank, a stunning 14 pointer.

I wish I had taken pictures of all the dimwits who were only 10 to 15 feet from this powerful animal, wistling and clapping trying to get it to look up at them for a better picture. I laughed and told a fellow next to me that I'd be happy to get the shot of this elk gorging one of these people. Folks seem to think that because these animals toloerate us that they are tame. WRONG! It's a good thing for all those clowns that this was July, still a long way off from the time of raging hormones and raging tempers that the rut brings. Lordy! Happily, this was not the last time we'd see this gorgeous creature.

By 9:30 pm we were on the West Entrance Road, heading back to West Yellowstone, driving along the Madison River. The sun had set and the soft sky reflected off the calm surface of the river.

The moon was near half full, shining above the tree-topped cliffs of Mount Haynes. It was a magical ending to a magical day.

Next: Day 4 of the trip, day 2 in Yellowstone--bull elk, Yellowstone Falls, Slough Creek, Lamar Valley.


  1. I live in Southeast Michigan, and have often seen that herd of buffalo(cows) that you speak of. It is just not the same though, as seeing them up close and loose in Yellowstone, especially those times between Hayden Valley and Canyon, where they move along the road and are sometimes within feet of the side of your car.

  2. Marie, Your photos are a gift I truly look forward to seeing. I love the close-up of the Bison...didn't know about the pure/mixed Bison. I'm assuming Ted Turner is trying to bring back the pure Bison. That's wonderful. And your end-of-day photos could be on a calendar...Merry Christmas to You and Yours.