The Tooth of the Bear

August 3 , 2007

I don't really remember when it all started, but I'm fairly sure it was something like five or six years ago. It could have been a TV special, or some internet article that I stumbled across. In any event, I do remember that the road has been called "America's most beautiful road" by none other than the famous television wanderer, Charles Kuralt.

It's a late evening shot, so the quality is not so great, but there it sits, the solitary "Beartooth" that is visible from the mountain pass that hits just about 11,000 feet.

So the plan, as it started to take shape, was to bail from Albuquerque before the ink had even dried on my semester, taking a Thursday night flight at 7:00 pm and landing in Billings, Montana sometime near 11:30. I scored the frequent flyer ticket and then started working on places to stay, deciding to wait on renting the Harley until I had my route figured out.

I scored a room in the Inn at Old Faithful for Saturday night, and it was the only room available in the entire Yellowstone park. After making a remark out loud to myself, I heard, "You got a room at the Old Faithful Inn, I want to go too."

You know, I think I had heard this one earlier in the year when I grabbed a room on the rim of the Grand Canyon at the El Tovar. So long and short, we got half of the ticket taken care of for free, and then purchased another ticket that was going to require me to schlep Mrs back to Billings on Sunday and then head back to the park since my flight was not till Tuesday morning.

There was no motorcycle to be had that would be comfortable for two for that long of a trip so I scored the next best thing, a Mustang convertable.

But, who wants to hear about the road and all? Since it was my brithday just before I took off, I finally paid out the five hundred bucks for a little adapter thingie that would allow me to get better photos by not having to get so close to the wildlife and such. It doubles the range of my big telephoto lens, and that's a good thing, especially when you don't want to feel the tooth of the bear.

So what happened was this, we drove the first day all the way from Billings to Jackson Hole and then spent most of the second day hiking up into the Tetons retracing our "family vacation" that we had taken some 17 years before. Two of the shots in this series are from the Tetons' the balance are all from Yellowstone.

When you drive into the park and pay your fee, you get, along with a newspaper for the park, a map on which are depicted all kinds of "critters" than one might find in the park.

Following are just about all of those critters, save the pronghorn antelope, whose photos I did not take since I didn't find the rear end of a pronghorn especially attractive or interesting.

Although I did see moose in Yellowstone, this young bull was in a pond along a back road in the Tetons. He munched for a while in the pond and then scampered off into the woods.

Meanwhile, a mile or more up the trail on the other side of Jenny Lake, this old guy was snoozing in the shade. I'm sure if I had all that fur I'd want to hang out in the shade on a hot day.

And as for the bison, I'm begnning to think that they pay these guys to hold up traffic on the road, because I have never been to Yellowstone without being stopped for a bison at one spot or another.

I heard lots of people call these guys wolves, perhaps because it's more exciting to think one saw a wolf than a coyote.

Yellowstone would not be Yellowstone without seeing some good sized elk. I shot this photo because Mrs pointed out the reflection in the water, and I wanted to give a bit of perspective as to where the three of them were when I took the photos. Last trip in 2003 I found one of these guys eating along the side of the river but he never would lift his head.

I wonder, maybe she just didn't like having her photo taken?

And then there are the guys - who I am pretty sure were on the other side of the road the next day. Seeing as how they were fully shaded on Monday, I didn't bother to try and take a photo.

Anyone for an early morning stretch?

We saw this guy and what I think are 2 younger ones as we were leaving the north entrance of the park on Sunday so that I could do my 250 mile round trip excursion to the airport.

The young'ins.

Not only did I score a photo of a grizzley, but this black bear and her cub stopped lots of traffic along the northwest side of the park. I was in a hurry to leave but I decided to go ahead and pull down the road and walk back with my tripod. I'm glad I did.

The cub, watching mom, climbed up into the small pine, I'm not sure what they were after.

The first bear photo that is included in this entry was taken on Monday morning about 6:45 am at a spot where there was a kill of some kind and the bear had been spotted there several days in a row. On my way out of the park that evening I drove by that spot and then just 2 or three miles away were more cars pulled over. I pulled to the side and up popped this bear, possibly the same one that I saw in the morning. I rested my telephoto on the edge of the windshield and fired off 5 or 6 shots before the bear disappeared from view below the ridge.

Finally, since it is a park icon, I had to throw in one of the shots of Old Faithful, taken just before sunset.