By far the best shots I got of these native antelopes. I had seen it come down from the hills, then try to sneak to the edge of the road, before making a break for it, and springing, skipping across it,
Yesterday we went for a snooze at six, and failed to wake up until nearly 11, meaning too late to do anything really, so we went back to bed.
All would have been well if the car hadin’t got bored and made the alarm go off twice. No idea what was wrong, so in the end we had to leave the car unlocked.
All was well this morning when we got up at six. Got up, but had been laying awake for at least two hours. But all was well, just now we could get up and go do stuff again. And as before, do the really popular stuff when the park is either empty or asleep, which is why we were heading for the Canyon and two sets of falls before seven, and just as the sun was rising.
As was the mist.
Mere photographs could not do the scenes justice, the morning light on the mist as it rolled down from the mountain tops, all tinged in pink. We do stop a couple of times for shots, but mostly just enjoy being some of the few people up and around at the early hour, lucky enough to see it.
We arrive at Canyon Village, and fill up the car, as it was reminding us it had only 45 miles of fuel left, and Yellowstone wasn’t the best of places to run out of fuel. However, I can say I am one of the few people to have locked the keys to his hire car, in the hire car, on the top of a mountain. You really could not make this up.
So with the car refuelled, we drive to the lower falls, and first of all go to the overlook, and with the mist wrapped round the fir trees on the edge of the gorge missing in with the spray from the waterfall, and again with the golden light, it was magical.
There was a train: three eights of a mile long, but dropping 660 feet. I knew the shots would be worth it, so we start to totter down. And down, and down. Zig zagging down the side of the gorge, with the roar of the falls getting ever louder.
With every step down, we would have to climb back up, and at over 7,000 feet, it was going to be interesting.
Once down at the bottom, there was a viewing platform right over the falls, allowing you to look down from the edge of the cataract. It was magical, and with just three young guys from Boston with us, we had it all to ourselves.
Of course, then came the walk back up, stopping every turn or two, but recovery seemed to get quicker and easier, and in ten minutes or so, we were at the top.
We have breakfast of salad and nectarines, I kid you not, before the short drive to the upper falls, where there was a less steep and much shorter set of steps to the viewing platform, made all the more magical by the mist that had risen. I snap it, and the mist wreathed trees on the far bank, then walk up where there was a small conference on what to do next.
In our preparations, we had left two days without accommodation booked, to allow us some flexibility, however, those two days were on Friday and Saturday, and all rooms in and around Yellowstone might be booked.
We drive round to Cooke City, Montana, where we had both thought the main street looked fun and nice to stay at. Once there was asked at the tourist information if they could help in finding a room, but we were told we would have to visit each and every motel and bar, casino to ask if they had rooms.
Only one did, but it didn’t really meet our standards these days, so we went back to the tourist information to use their free wifi, and after consulting a map, chose a town in southern Montana, did a search for rooms and came up with a condo with suits, and free wifi which should mean being online a little. It was all booked, so worries over, and being midday, we go over to a place opposite for lunch, our first meal in 22 hours, and have burgers. It was either that or steak.
Not the best burgers of fries in the world, but good enough to these hungry bunnies, we ate outside, the only ones to do so, but soaking up the rays, now that the sun had broken through.
On our way back to the park we see a cabin selling ice cream, so call in, and were given a waffle cone each with five scoops of creamy goodness, and these were just the singles at 3 bucks fifty each! Jools could not finish hers, but I wasn’t going to let huckleberry ice cream go to waste. I eat all mine, all except for the drips down my t shirt.
On the way back to the cabin, we stop many times to take in the views, or to look for wildlife. A friendly chap showed me where some mountain goats could be seen about a mile away, but also gave me the heads up on an Osprey’s nest near to the road further on.
At an overlook of a shallow river, Jools and I spend a fine half hour chasing butterflies, American Painted Ladies and some kind of Fritillary. All wonderful, and some photographed.
A few miles on, we see the Osprey’s nest and stop, next to the guy who told me about it. We watch to juveniles stretching and flapping their wings, and I rattle off probably 50 shots.
We move on and finally come to a place where a herd of Bison where near to the road, so we stop and I snap many of the animals, some rolling around in a dust bath. Just fabulous.
Back in Mammoth, we visit the upper terraces of the falls near to the cabin, but it is a joyless experience because of the numbers of people, but then still got some shots. But we can return in the evening or early tomorrow,
We had burgers for lunch, again, so in the evening, in the hope of improving our diet, we go to the resort restaurant, in the hope of vegetables, in for not other reason. We hadn’t booked a table, so had to wait 40 minutes, so retired to the bar, and where I was recommended a pint of Moose Dribble, a dark beer I was told. Turned out to have great depth of flavour, and it was a shame when that came to an end, but no worry as our table was ready, so we celebrated by ordering a bottle of wine. We ordered blush, but red came, but what the heck.
I had fillet of bison, showing they just don’t look good, the taste it too, it was accompanied by some mashed taters, and boccolini. Or, broccoli that had been on a diet. All good, as was the wine, and we may return to sample the huckleberry margarita.
We walked back under a clear sky with the crescent waning moon high overhead. We were pooped, and it was cold, just above freezing, so we took to our beds.
The North American pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) is the surviving member of a group of animals that evolved in North America during the past 20 million years. It is not a true antelope, which is found in Africa and southeast Asia. The use of the term “antelope” seems to have originated when the first written description of the animal was made during the 1804–1806 Lewis and Clark Expedition.
The pronghorn has true horns, similar to bison and bighorn sheep. The horns are made of modified, fused hair that grows over permanent bony cores, but they differ from those of other horned animals in two major ways: the sheaths are shed and grown every year and they are pronged. (A number of other horned mammals occasionally shed their horns, but not annually.) Adult males typically have 10–16 inch horns that are curved at the tips. About 70% of the females also have horns, but they average 1–2 inches long and are not pronged. The males usually shed the horny sheaths in November or December and begin growing the next year’s set in February or March. The horns reach maximum development in August or September. Females shed and regrow their horns at various times.
Pronghorn are easy to distinguish from the park’s other ungulates. Their deer-like bodies are reddish- tan on the back and white underneath, with a large white rump patch. Their eyes are very large, which provides a large field of vision. Males also have a black cheek patch.
Females that bred the previous fall commonly deliver a set of twins in May or June. The newborn fawns are a uniform grayish-brown and weigh 6–9 pounds. They can walk within 30 minutes of birth and are capable of outrunning a human in a couple of days. The young normally stay hidden in the vegetation while the mother grazes close by. After the fawns turn three weeks old they begin to follow the females as they forage. Several females and their youngsters join together in nursery herds along with yearling females.
Pronghorn form groups most likely for increased protection against predators. When one individual detects danger, it flares its white rump patch, signaling the others to flee. The pronghorn is adapted well for outrunning its enemies—its oversized windpipe and heart allow large amounts of oxygen and blood to be carried to and from its unusually large lungs. Pronghorn can sustain sprints of 45–50 mph. Such speed, together with keen vision, make the adults difficult prey for any natural predator. Fawns, however, can be caught by coyotes, bobcats, wolves, bears, and golden eagles.
The pronghorn breeding season begins mid-September and extends through early October. During the rut the older males “defend” groups of females (called a harem). They warn any intruding males with loud snorts and wheezing coughs. If this behavior does not scare off the opponent, a fight may erupt. The contenders slowly approach one another until their horns meet, then they twist and shove each other. Eventually, the weaker individual will retreat. Although the fights may be bloody, fatalities are rare.
The most important winter foods are shrubs like sagebrush and rabbitbrush; they eat succulent forbs during spring and summer. They can eat lichens and plants like locoweed, lupine, and poisonvetch that are toxic to some ungulates. Their large liver (proportionately, almost twice the size of a domestic sheep’s liver) may be able to remove plant toxins from the blood stream. Grasses appear to be the least-used food item, but may be eaten during early spring when the young and tender shoots are especially nutritious.
During winter, pronghorn form mixed-sex and- age herds. In spring, they split into smaller bands of females, bachelor groups of males between 1–5 years old, and solitary older males. The small nursery and bachelor herds may forage within home ranges of 1,000 to 3,000 acres while solitary males roam smaller territories (60 to 1,000 acres in size). Pronghorn, including three-fourths of the individuals in Yellowstone, migrate between different winter and summer ranges to more fully utilize forage within broad geographic areas.
Tagged: , Antilocapra americana , Pronghorn , Yellowstone , Wyoming , Jelltex , Jelltecks