Saturday, May 23, 2009

Speed Trap Hunting: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

29 JUN - 01 JUL 08 (Posted 23 MAY 09)

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Artist Point, Yellowstone Falls

Instead of traveling through the crowded town of Jackson Hole and on up to one of the south entrances to Yellowstone National Park, we decided to take a more scenic route to our destination, by way of eastern Idaho on north route 20 towards Montana and to the west entrance of YSNP.

While the trip certainly took longer, it was a far far more enjoyable a ride.

Approaching Idaho State Trooper Conducting Traffic Stop

We crossed into the Montana and stopped in the small town of West Yellowstone, Montana to have a small lunch and then we proceeded to the YSNP entrance.

We stopped along the way to photograph a nesting pair of bald eagles before continuing towards our first intended stop, Old Faithful Geyser, by way of south on Grand Loop road.

I was once at Yellowstone more than 35 years ago and the amount of increased development and tourism traffic around Old Faithful was significant.

Given the intense crowds and the fact that the Geyser wasn't scheduled to erupt for about another hour or so (we had just missed it), we decided to plan on returning very early in the morning to get some pictures before the crowds arrived.

As it turned out, we didn't make it back as Lisa and I got hooked on the wildlife of Lamar Valley which was a substantial distance away and was significantly less overrun with tourists (LV tends to attract more wildlife, photographers, nature lovers, and environmentalists).

One thing to note about YSNP, the low speed limits are strictly enforced and good reason, as a lot of wildlife unfortunately gets injured or killed by careless motorists.

Speed Trap Hunter Driving Below Posted Speed Limits, for Safety

Lisa and I swore that we wouldn't add to any unfortunate statistics so we respected the posted limits.

Up close and very personal with a shy coyote (notice reflection in eyes)

That was a good thing, too, as the park rangers run instant-on K-band moving radar and we witnessed plenty of traffic stops of motorists/tourists who paid little regard for the safety and well-being of the wildlife and the justifiably low speed limits.

YSNP Park Rangers Strictly Enforcing PSL with IO K-band

If you are ever fortunate to make the trip to YSNP, make sure you allot yourself sufficient time to visit the park.

It is quite large and traveling the entire park takes a considerable amount of time. Lisa and I stayed for three days and it wasn't enough. It wasn't even close to being enough.

Got a little too close for his comfort

Since Lisa and I prefer quiet, we opted to stay in an austere remote cabin located outside of the park by about two hours at Bozeman, Montana. A wildlife-photographer friend of mine suggested that location.

To get at the park in time for early morning wildlife photography in Lamar Valley we had to start our morning just before 0345.

Photogenic Prong Horn Approached my Sitting Position to Pose, Lamar Valley, YSNP

Fortunately Montana's speed limits are actually higher on the back roads than on the interstates, if you can imagine that.

We generally entered the park from the quiet North entrance by the town of Gardiner, Montana.

Lisa and I managed to get some of the most incredible wildlife photographs we have ever had. The Nikon D3 is, without a doubt, one picture taking machine and the Nikkor glass was simply spectacular. This equipment coupled with my fearlessness of wildlife afforded some shots worthy of a poster-size.

Speed Trap Hunter almost Became Hunted, himself

Momma Grizzly following her cub, Lamar Valley, YSNP

I hope you find these images as compelling as we did.

Prairie Dog up close and very personal (notice reflection in eye)

Most Elusive Creatures: The Wolves of Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park

Our next big trip will be to Yosemite National Park in California and while we don't expect to see as much sheer wildlife, we are anticipating some incredible scenery to be captured with the flagship Nikon D3X 24+MP DSLR and this time we'll be riding with a Beltronics GX65 to protect us.

STH gets Flagged by YSNP Park Rangers, but not for Speeding

We thank Whistler for providing us protection with their wonderful XTR-695.

YSNP Park Ranger at K-band Traffic Stop

In any event, like other wildlife photographers who routinely visit Lamar, Lisa and I are looking forward to the time that we can return once again to celebrate the life that thrives in this most unusual park. And I thank the several park rangers who tolerated my fearlessness of their wildlife.

All told, we managed to put on 4259 miles in the brief time we visited the states of Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Idaho, and Montana and although we had a couple close calls, we managed so without receiving one speeding ticket thanks, in part, to the protection of both the Whistler XTR-695 and the Escort Passport 9500i.

Speed Trap Hunter