#4, Here I Come

June 10, 2013

SmithRiver HistoryFor those who are just finding my blog, I’d like to invite you to catch up with my travels in the Blog Archives.  You’ll find them if you click here.

Now back to the regularly scheduled program: The snow-capped mountains of Montana decided to accompany me to the northern Wyoming border and Yellowstone National Park. But before I entered Wyoming, Montana decided to treat me to the Smith River Valley, a fertile plain that spreads itself between the Little Belt and Big Belt mountains. It’s renowned for its trout fishing, but to me it will be remembered as a shamrock green agricultural area with killer views of snow-capped peaks pretty much any direction I looked. I saw antelope grazing warily at the beginning of my ride. Later, I stopped to take pictures of cows grazing, which surprisingly attracted their attention. Usually the sound of my motorbike scares them away. This time they came towards the fence and stared at me quizzically. Maybe there was something in the Smith Valley grass.  I should have nibbled on some. Who knows?  Then again, I may have found myself thirty minutes later standing by the side of the road staring quizzically at the occasional passing car. And it was occasional!  I once again found myself on the open road with few interlocutors. Here are a few shots coming out of Glacier National Park and through the Smith River Valley.

Leaving Many Glacier and Glacier National Park, Montana.

Many Glacier in black and white

Antelope graze in the Smith River Valley, but remain watchful.

Grazing Antelope

The mountains are my guardians.

The mountains remain watchful

Mountains

Who dat?

Quizzical qows

Big Ag!

Big Ag!

Big Ag!

The open road.

The open road

I traveled route 89 from Glacier National Park right into the north door of Yellowstone. Great ride, bikers! Mark it on your map. I passed through a few small towns that begged to be photographed. I wasn’t sure if time had forgotten them, or they had forgotten time. Out here I knew it didn’t matter.

Forget-me-not

Roadside history

Push me over

I loved the irony of this sign/building: “Bank/Bar”.  I hope the folks who work in the bank aren’t heavy drinkers. Not sure I’d want them managing my money.

Bar and Bank!

I had been thinking throughout my trip about what I’d do for camping once I got to Glacier and Yellowstone. I assumed these were two of the most popular parks in the country, if not THE most popular. When I arrived in Glacier I discovered it was still early in the season. I had no problem finding a camping spot. Nevertheless, I still thought I’d have problems in Yellowstone. Not the case!  I arrived at the north gate, made some stops along the 20+ mile stretch of park road that led to the Norris campground and grabbed a supreme site within walking distance of a couple of grazing bison in the adjacent meadow. But before I arrived at Norris, grandfather grizzly bear surprised me by bounding quickly and powerfully across the road about 100 feet in front of my bike. I feel like the best photographs I’ve ever taken in my life are the ones that are in my head. That was one of them!

I couldn’t believe my luck. I had to go on the internet and find out if Yellowstone was the most frequented national park in the United States. Here’s what I found out, to my surprise:  http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/national-parks/most-visited-parks-photos/. Yellowstone ranks #4 after Great Smoky (Tennessee), Grand Canyon (Arizona), and Yosemite (California).

While I pitched camp a ranger stopped by to tell me there would be a ranger presentation later in the evening on the relationship between wolves and ravens. I thought, “Hmm, okay, sounds like it could be interesting. I’ll go.” What I found out astounded me!  Here are a few things I learned:

  • Ravens are considered the most intelligent of all birds. They can express a range of emotions. And because of their intelligence, they are also extremely playful.
  • They can use logic to solve problems.
  • Ravens do not have the ability to tear open an animal’s carcass. That’s where the wolf comes in. They are known to develop relationships with wolves. They will spot prey – weak, old, or even dead animals – and notify wolves. They will lead wolves to the prey. Once the wolves are done feeding, they leave the entrails for the ravens.
  • They have been known to appear at the den of newborn wolf pups. It is thought they are communicating and socializing with them. Wolves have also been known to display actions of welcoming, or playfulness with ravens. The downward dog position, with tail up, is one of these gestures.

Here are two excerpts from the rangers talk – one about the wolves and one about the ravens. They are only partial, as I started the recordings some minutes after she started speaking.

On wolves and ravens

Wolf talk:

Raven talk:

Here are a few pictures from my first night in Yellowstone. I spent over 12 hours riding, photographing and hiking around Yellowstone on my second day, taking in exploding geysers, boiling mud and water, fluorescent-colored springs, waterfalls and abundant wildlife. More on that in my next post.

Norris meadow below my campsite.

Norris Meadow

A series of photos of the two bison in Norris meadow.

grazing bison

grazing bison

Big bison water

More geysers and hot springs than anywhere else on earth. That’s Yellowstone. Stay tuned for a second day of travel, photos and hiking around the park.

Good night at Norris

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All content Copyrighted ©  Stephen Tavella

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