Photo Journal, Issue 9, June 2011

Another Visit to Yellowstone

I started out the long drive to Yellowstone National Park, and since I had the extra time available, I decided to take the long route through Central Idaho. Why there? I had been reading about the wolverine (Gulo gulo), the largest member of the weasel family. I knew how elusive those animals were, but at least I wanted to see their habitat, and that pointed to Central Idaho. After stopping at a car campground, I was asleep in my tent when my intruder alert bells sounded. I jumped outside with my camera in my hands and a headlamp on my head. There was some furry thing rustling around, so I snapped a photo. At that moment, I couldn’t tell if it was a raccoon or something similar. Then I looked at the camera’s rear display. To my amazement, I had a nighttime photo of a wolverine. See the photo gallery. My entire trip to Yellowstone had been instantly validated, and I hadn’t even made it all the way to Yellowstone yet.

While spending a week in Yellowstone, I had set aside one day to hike up Mount Washburn, which is in the center of the park. I parked my car at the bottom of the Chittenden Trail, laced up my boots for snow, and armed myself with a few key pieces of photo equipment. The trail got snowy and windy toward the top, but I cut a path to
the summit observation room and then discovered it to be locked. Fresh coyote tracks were there in the snow, but it was difficult to imagine a coyote that deep into snow country on a mountaintop unless there had been some human feeding it.

After wading back down through snow and mud, I arrived at my car just as a guided group of young people was preparing to start walking. Since my appearance made it obvious that I had been hiking to the summit, the guide came over to speak to me. He inquired about the trail conditions, and I reported about the mud and snow (knee-deep) in a spot or two. Then I saw the reason for his concern. In his group, there were hikers
shod in ordinary sneakers. For snow, that could get ugly. Oh, well. Not my problem.

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