2016 Review… The “Far”

As with most years, many photographic opportunities presented themselves, not just in my home state of Florida, but the west was well represented in 2016.  Like the previous year end review post, I will focus primarily on the “new”.

Of course, there are a few images that never grow old, such as the frosty face of a bison fighting for survival in the harsh winters of the west.

_DSC6231-2Though I tend to forget sometimes the landscapes that lay before me, I tried to focus on them a bit in 2016._DSC4055There’s something magical about the iconic image of a beautiful red fox making its way across the snowy landscape …_DSC5569… though unique fox sightings such as this are quite beautiful and intriguing as well.  Never have I seen a setting like this one before._DSC5495It’s always fun to find a couple of coyotes in the snow as well, but it’s not everyday that you see this.  I know that to the casual viewer this looks like 2 coyotes standing there looking at us, which I suppose it was, but what makes this one so special is that they weren’t standing there being cooperative subjects by chance … they were tied after mating.  Once again, I’ve never seen anything like that before … and believe it or not, it was captured on Valentine’s Day.  🙂_DSC6495Another lifer for me was the elusive saw whet owl.  It had long been a dream of mine and I felt like I was floating on a cloud of joy when I got this one._DSC6977Sporting some nice red earrings and a necklace (i.e. tag and collar), my first mountain goats in the snow images were thrilling and a great bar to capture more natural ones in the future, though I do love the fluffy snow in this one._DSC7104This snowy day made photography a bit difficult, but I like most, still tried.  This group of elk in winter were getting tight as a group of either coyote or wolves were moving in on them. _dsc4122Speaking of wolves, I haven’t gotten a great shot of any wolves, outside of Denali NP in Alaska, before and still haven’t, but this is my first of that black wolf that calls Yellowstone home._DSC9812While I have lots of bison shots, this was the first year that I got out in the spring to capture those “red dogs”, who couldn’t be any cuter._DSC0192_DSC9570-2Predators can come in different forms and species, but the instinct to seek refuge is all the same.  Here I photographed a black bear cub who obediently climbed high (really high) to the top of a tree, while mom spotted a boar in the area.DSC_2910Speaking of things that I’ve NEVER experienced before was this aggressive protective behavior exhibited by this dusky grouse.  Though it played coy allowing images, it clearly felt threatened by some (especially women) and it ended with an entertaining, yet scary, encounter with Mr. Flashy Eyebrows, which incidentally change colors too.  LOL_DSC9981Usual sightings of beavers for me have been swimming around in the ponds, usually in the dusk hours, affording little opportunity for me to capture a great shot.  That changed in 2016 when this cooperative beaver exited the pond and sat, in the midst of flowers, on the bank and groomed itself for quite some time.  I was thrilled.DSC_4173-2Who wouldn’t want to have a lunch date with an incredible golden eagle? … Well, except the one being served as dinner.  I sat in awe as it devoured its dinner on the banks of the river, not far from where I was sitting.DSC_4697-2A first for me too was this ADORABLE little pronghorn antelope, that had to be less than one day old.  Nature is an amazing thing because this baby was so skilled at running and kept up with mom right from the get-go.DSC_2714In Florida, we have red-winged blackbirds, but out west they have these beautiful yellow-headed blackbirds.  Though a different species, their song is equally as distinct and lovely.
DSC_1400A definite goal of mine for 2016 was to get that iconic shot of the red-necked grebes swimming with their babies on their backs.  While I didn’t get that, I did manage to get not only the Western grebes, but an image of them offering the fish as part of their courtship behavior.DSC_1726Cuteness alert!  2015 I may have gotten my very first long-eared owls, but how about this?  It’s a long-eared baby owlet!  My heart melted the instant that our eyes met.DSC_21972016 was spent also on some landscape shooting … here from Steptoe Butte in the iconic Palouse …_DSC0513-HDR… and also from the Colorado National Monument, which overlooks the town of Grand Junction, CO._dsc1370-hdrIn what had to be one of the craziest shoots of 2016, was that very, very early morning at Maroon Bells in Colorado.  It was freezing when we started shooting some astro images in the wee hours, but continued to get colder as the sun began to rise.  That was my first time there … crazy, crazy, crazy the number of photographers congregating there!_dsc1135Fall in Colorado is a special treat.  The clouds, the mountains, the leaves … all jaw-dropping._dsc1577-hdrOf course, the golden leaf dropping aspens are always a favorite of mine, both on the ground …_dsc1160… as well as looking up towards the heavens._dsc7922Courtesy of Hurricane Matthew, which re-routed us from our return home, this bull elk chest deep in the lake was a new one for me too.dsc_8342The mule deer, also sporting their racks, were organizing as well.dsc_8998Yes, our time spent out west in 2016 was fascinating and full of firsts and new behavioral images.  Noticeably absent, in both this blog and in my heart, was Alaska.  It would have been our 10th consecutive year, but it wasn’t to be in 2016.  That only means that something super special must be in store for us there in 2017.  Can’t wait to find out!dsc_1673Thanks so much for our friends who participated in the fun during the year, including Jen & Travis, Amy & Scott, Rebecca, Jay, Phil, and Rick … we really appreciated sharing the good times with you guys.  I hope that you’ve enjoyed the trip down 2016 memory lane.  There’s one more segment to 2016 left though … hmm, what could it be?

Next Up:  Proud as a peacock moments

© 2016 TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Two Amazing Wildlife Encounters & Rainbows :-)

You never know that you’re going to find when in Yellowstone National Park during the springtime.  Fresh off my dusky grouse encounter from the day before, we had another encounter, which was a first for me … a beaver.  Normally I get images of a beaver swimming around in the water.  Usually it’s at dusk, so the light is not great.  When they’re swimming around, it’s usually just the face.  Not this day.  Sure, it was making its way through the water, but then something magical happened.  It swan to and climbed upon the shore.DSC_4140-2It even turned around for us and posed in front of some beautiful yellow wildflowers.  It began to groom itself … dipping its front feet into the pond and then pouring it over its head and then seemingly wringing its head and face.DSC_4166-2Then it began scratching on its belly. DSC_4173-2It clearly developed an itch at some point as it began to scratch itself in the front with its right paw and simultaneously on its back with its left paw.  As I was photographing it, I couldn’t help but want to reach out and give it an assist.  LOLDSC_4220-2Even got the back feet involved in the scratching.DSC_4449-2This beaver sure wanted the attention of all of the cameras focused on him/her.  After some time of photographing, we decided that we had enough and moved on to other subjects.DSC_4411-2Every time I spot a rainbow, I know that it’s a special sighting… and this one was a truly spectacular one.  I just loved the way that it was so brightly illuminated all of the way to the ground.  Just makes you want to venture over to look for the “pot of gold”._DSC0302-2Winding down on our last day before leaving the Yellowstone area, we had to of course take one last trip through Lamar Valley.  At some point, I noticed this enormous bird swoop by.  Stop the car!  I got out and ventured towards I saw it flying, not being sure of what it was.  I walked down the embankment a bit and decided to sit down and calmly check things out.  As I scanned the landscape, I initially saw nothing … then there it was … a gorgeous golden eagle.DSC_4659-2I couldn’t believe it when it spotted me and just continued on having its lunch of some type of ground critter.  DSC_4662-2It tugged at the unfortunate prey and pulled it apart.DSC_4697-2A magpie came in and tried to be an uninvited dinner guest, but the golden would have nothing to do with that.  It stood up tall, spread it wings (with its 6-8 foot wingspan) and chased down the magpie, who quickly “peaced out”.DSC_4728-2After most of its lunch was consumed, it quickly launched itself into the air, which in itself was impressive to witness.DSC_4766-2DSC_4768-2DSC_4769-2Eventually it flew onto the hillside on the other side.  Gosh, it was one of the most beautiful birds that I had ever seen.  Reminded me a bit of an immature back eagle, but with its size, there was no mistaking it!DSC_4797-2At the end of our day … and our Yellowstone trip, there it was.  That gorgeous rainbow re-appeared, but this time I could compose it such that you couldn’t mistake where we were when it graced us._DSC0298-2As we drove through the town of Gardiner, MT, it provided us one last special treat.  In fact, if you look closely it was a double rainbow.  A perfect ending to a perfect trip.  Good sightings, varied wildlife, lots of firsts (including my first tick … don’t ask, it could be a blog in itself … yikes!), and the company of great friends and laughable moments that are still fresh in my mind.  Life is good!_DSC0290-2

Hope that everyone enjoyed our images, stories, and memories from springtime in Yellowstone NP.  I know that we’ll be repeating this one again soon.

Next Up:  Let’s head up to the Palouse

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

It’s Just A Little Grouse … Or Is It?

Yellowstone National Park is known probably most for its wildlife … bear, elk, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, coyote, wolf, fox, deer to just name a few.  It’s also home to some fabulous birds, such as bald and golden eagles, falcons, a variety of hawks, owls, and many species of ducks and other water birds.  Then there’s the grouse.
_DSC0032Such a sweet bird … resembling that of a chicken.  I remember one winter having such a great time photographing a grouse, though now that I think about it, while photographing it that grouse flew down from the roof of the outhouse … almost into my lap!  I was amused that year.  Little did I know that I was about to have another grouse encounter._DSC0024See, this beautiful dusky grouse was located by coincidence as we stopped to photograph something totally unrelated in the far distance.  The grouse was walking around on the grassy landscape and started making its way towards us.  As usual, I started talking softly to it as I happily snapped off some shots of it.  As it neared, it walked over to some flowers in the grass, picked them off, and proceeded to eat it.  The flowers complimented its bright yellow eyebrows.  So pretty.  Such a wonderful photo op, I thought._DSC9936I distinctly remember telling it how adorable it was and how I loved what it was doing.  I was in a squatted position and it began to come near me.  That’s when I noticed that its eyebrows were changing colors and I got caught up in the moment of wondering why.  I remember another photographer also nearby taking shots … but they were much more selective.  _DSC9957Then all of a sudden gave a call out … then rushed me … and OK, don’t think I’m crazy, but it jumped at me … making contact with my shin.  I was totally startled, jumped up, and that’s when I heard the clicking of another camera.  I noticed it was the other photographer nearby and then saw that he was laughing.  I asked if he had seen it and he responded that he did.  I then asked if he had gotten a shot of the “assault” and again he said he did.  He then told me that I wasn’t the first that it had attacked.  LOL_DSC9974This grouse then would give a shrilled call out, that I can only compare to the call that the velociraptor does in Jurrasic Park movies.  OK,  by now I’m trying desperately to vacate the area, but of course, this guy kept following after me._DSC9983All the while, its eyebrows continued to grow a deeper shade of orange …_DSC9981… to an eventual reddish color.  He would act as though he lost interest in me, then would eye me from a side glance, and rush me again!  I wasn’t alone either, as he seemed to prefer women.  He never really went after Tom or the male photographer having fun at others expense.  LOL_DSC9926_DSC9997At some point, he began to flare up his feathers and go into courtship mode.  See, they have a patch of violet-red skin on their neck surrounded by white feathers.  I wished he had turned just a bit more to show it off better, but I clearly didn’t want to hang around any longer._DSC0005I’m not sure if it has a nest nearby or if it was simply protecting its territory.  Either way, I got the message quite clearly.  As I turned to leave the area, it gave me a final glance.  It truly was a fascinating, though I must admit, a bit frightening of an experience.  Tom of course didn’t believe that it made contact with me, but Jen saw it for herself.  We laughed the rest of the day and many times since over this encounter.  I think that it goes without mention that these images are all cropped for detail.  Just making sure that’s clear.  🙂  _DSC9996

Next Up:  Lunch with a golden eagle and more from Yellowstone NP

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

 

Variety Is The Spice Of Life

Yellowstone is a very unique and diverse ecosystem … one where you never know what you’re going to be treated to … and the conditions and weather overall can change in a moments notice.  To me, that’s a large part of the beauty and mystique of Yellowstone NP.

On this particular morning, the fog was heavy and the clouds were low.  Though it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, often things present themselves in a fresh perspective.  This bull elk, already sporting some new antlers covered in soft velvet, was found out in the open grassland.   I couldn’t help but notice how wonderful it looked, with those thick clouds in the background.  I knew at that point that it would be an exciting day._DSC0255Yep, it would be a day of varied wildlife for sure.  It wasn’t long before we spotted this lone black wolf in the distance on the open plains … in stalking mode.  No reinforcement from the pack was seen nearby and a solo sandhill crane effectively alerted all potential prey of its presence.  Needless to say, it gave up for the moment and traveled along its way.  OK, so I have to share an amusing moment with everyone … when we were photographing the wolf, a car pulled up and asked us if we had spotted a … horse!  Not really sure how this looked like a horse … especially with the group of long lens photographers who were setting up … for a horse?!  LOL_DSC9812Yellowstone always has its fair share of bison which I’m always fascinated with.  Not sure if it’s their size, their manner as they move about, or the fact that maybe my mind goes back to the bison heads that used to hang on the walls of “Country Bear Jamboree” show at Disney when I was growing up.  🙂_DSC0110Of course, in the spring, there are always lots of “red dogs” nursing off their moms … just the cutest things to watch until they ram their heads into the moms bellies.  Ouch!_DSC0192Can anyone out there resist this one with its “Milk Mustache”?_DSC0218Pronghorn antelope were also quite prevalent during the spring.  This male was chasing around the female, who was pregnant, relentlessly._DSC7470Quite honestly, I thought it was going to drop that baby right then and there!_DSC7455Red fox are favorites of mine.  We caught this one waking up from napping in the shade.  DSC_3811Of course, deer also are fun to spot and photograph, especially when you’re treated to a “two-fer” … two for one, that is._DSC0146Springtime is confirmed with the presence of bluebirds darting about.  _DSC0158Though it was well into May and the official spring season according to the calendar, but in Yellowstone calendar dates aren’t necessarily what determines the season … and snowfall in spring or even summer can happen at any time.fullsizerender-1Just to add a bit of excitement to our day and drive throughout Yellowstone, as we were traveling this tight section, with dropoffs to the right, we heard a noise and watched as an icy boulder came down the mountainside right in front of our car.  Thankfully Tom was able to stop in time and we got out to investigate.fullsizerender-3At first, we thought that we would simply pick it up and off the road by hand.  No way that was going to work, as this frozen boulder was HEAVY!  So while Jen and I blocked any oncoming road traffic, the guys used Tom’s truck to drag it off the road and harm’s way with a couple of heavy tow straps.  Great job Travis and Tom!fullsizerender-2Good deeds are usually rewarded I believe.  Kind of like karma.  Not more than a mile or two down the road, we spotted a bighorn sheep ram … then realized it was an entire herd of boys._DSC7066At first, I wasn’t sure that they were feeling too comfortable with us being there, so we stayed way back, encouraging them to possibly come out for some shots._DSC7184They did just that … and eventually jumped over the rail, onto the road briefly, then proceeded up the mountainside.  I just love the way that they stare with those big eyes. _DSC7330At some point, we pulled over to find some Barrow’s Goldeneye swimming in the still icy water.  This couple was trying to have a few moments of “alone time”, but another male had other plans._DSC7417Over and over, it would be chased off, only to give it another chance.  LOL.  It would swim directly over to the lovebirds and a scuffle would ensue._DSC7410Defending it’s female mate, the male Barrow’s goldeneye would charge after the intruder.  You could hear the action … calling out, running on the surface of the water, water splashing everywhere … so funny to watch and quite interesting as well._DSC7386Every so often, after a successful defense, the paired male would sit up and perform a well executed flappy series for us.DSC_3954The ground squirrels, always on the menu for many wildlife species in the park, alert each other as to the goings on of prey._DSC7473In this case, it was the badger on the prowl.  I was so excited … after all, it was my first!DSC_3839DSC_3846I had been looking for these guys every time I visit Yellowstone.  Finally!  Thankfully (for us anyways), we never saw it catch anything.  I’ve heard stories of how relentless it can be for young wildlife.DSC_3843So this year, the trip was already known in my mind for the wide variety of wildlife that we saw.  Sure, we hadn’t seen a wolverine yet … but I really wasn’t expecting that.  Though I can dream, right?fullsizerender-4Even a yellow-bellied marmot came out to greet us, as it basked in the warmth of the sun.DSC_4910OK, one last glimpse of these young great horned owls before we retreat back to our B&B for the evening … ready to do it all again in the early morning.DSC_4915Can’t every get enough of Yellowstone NP, that’s for sure!_DSC0316Next Up:  What species of wildlife scares me most?  At least on this trip … :-O  Tune in to find out.

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

 

 

Bighorn Ram Encounter @ Yellowstone NP

Seems like every year I get the urge … or should I say, feel the necessity … to travel out to Yellowstone and Grand Teton NP.  2015 was no different and so we planned a trip out there, which we coupled with some family time snowboarding/skiing in the nearby vicinity.  Being that it was still winter out there, or so we thought, I originally had plans to rent out a small snow coach for the day.  The very mild winter of 2014-2015 changed those plans as snow coach touring and snowmobiling season ended up closing very early.  Quick … we need to execute Plan B.  So we made reservations in Gardiner, just outside of the parks iconic entrance arch in Yellowstone NP.  That road stays open year-round, as residents use it for travel to and from Cooke City.  It wasn’t long before we spotted our first wildlife – a beautiful pronghorn antelope.

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We expected to see them, along with lots of bison, elk, and mule deer.  What we didn’t expect to see as readily was the bighorn sheep.  As a matter of fact, I had never (believe it or not) seen bighorn sheep within the park boundaries!  So I was a bit thrilled.  I usually associate these fabulous rams when I make my way into Rocky Mountain NP.

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It wasn’t just a fluke sighting either … we found a gathering of several dozen rams.

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Though not many tourists come to Yellowstone during the winter months, even a mild one, we still didn’t want to start a “ram jam”, so we parked down the road and hiked in to where they were … paying particular attention to not encroach on their territory or break any distance regulations.

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Everything was going great until that moment … when the “big guy” came around a corner unexpectantly.  I backed up a bit and turned to assess the situation … snow and ice covered landscape and a rocky ledge behind me.  I managed to back out and put distance back between us.

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While the other rams of various ages and hierarchy continued to feed, this guy almost seemed to serve as the sentinel … you know, the lookout for trouble in the area.

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As they grazed in the grasses, they would occasionally look up and give me that “Vogue” look.  🙂

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I was impressed with their majestic look as they stood proudly, making their way within the group.  It was amazing to see the differences in their horns … or their curls.  You can see the signs of wear & tear on the senior guys and I couldn’t help but wonder about their story … what events they had been through for those “scars”.

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Being that it was late winter, they still had such nice coats and they were quite amicable with each other.  That will change as the year progresses towards the eventual rut season, when they will fight for hierarchy and that important status within the harem of females.

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It was so beautiful as they laid down on the landscape and stared off into the distance … with the bushes near then and trees, mountains, and snow off in the distance.

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Yes, it was fascinating to watch and yes, I felt truly honored to be in their presence and thrilled with the naturalness in their behavior as I clicked away.  🙂

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Wish I could click my heels and be back there right now.  Rest assured though, we’ll be back and ready for more.

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Of course, there’s more to Yellowstone NP that the pronghorn and bighorn sheep, so stay tuned for the next post with more wildlife, sights, and stories.

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

Another Day in Paradise … a.k.a. YNP Day #2

Waking up in the morning, I couldn’t help but wonder … what kind of things will present themselves today?  I mean, after yesterday, how could we possibly ever top all of that?  Will the weather remain as cooperative as it was yesterday?  So many questions yet to be answered.  Again, our carriage awaits … in the form of the Yellowstone snow coach, of course.  It really was nice … nicely heated for our comfort, especially on those early and cold mornings … roomy as well, as we each had 2 seats to work with, which was handy to keep all of our gear ready to spring into action … spacious yes, but intimate enough to engage in conversations and form friendships with fellow photographers.

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Birds once again were the first order of business.  The trumpeter swans were out in force and began strutting their stuff in the early morning hours.

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I was fascinated to see numbers of common goldeneye ducks – male and females – sharing the waters as well.

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Of course, bald eagles were not to be outdone.  It wasn’t long before we spotted and even more exciting, heard our first eagle of the morning.  It was truly lovely to see, as it was relatively an eye level shot and the calling of the eagle and then subsequent flight was a sight to see, enhanced by the snowy backdrop.  The sound of eagle calling out in the wilderness left me breathless.

The call of the wild

The call of the wild

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Of course, it wasn’t too long before we started seeing bigger wildlife, such as the female elk.  Several of them were together and feeding on whatever vegetation they could find underneath the snowy landscape.  It was so beautiful as they would look up with the traces of their efforts on their faces.

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Some young males were found sitting nervously in the sunlight, relaxing, but always on alert for an unwanted “visitor”.  Just love their snowy noses.  🙂

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Of course, there were more coyote sightings.  Seemed like everywhere we went we ran into coyotes.  Fun for us, yes, but that must mean a different story for the status of the wolves, which we never did see over the course of the week.

One of the coyotes we watched from afar, but before long it was nearer to us and just looked glorious in the midst of the sea of white that blanketed the immediate area.  It came to the rivers edge, looking for food.

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Each day, we stopped at the Madison rest stop and on this day we ran into my favorite dusky grouse.  Again, the park rangers were not pleased with her presence.  Eventually they trapped her and were preparing to introduce her, miles away, to an area where she would not be exposed to people.  Seems a bit unfair to me.  I’ll just leave it at that.

On this trip, there was never a shortage of food or drinks.  We were treated to magnificent lunches that I still think about, our hot beverages of choice, and a daily scrumptious yummy … guaranteed to keep your energy high and your blood sugar zipping … as if I needed something extra to keep me hyper!

Colter serving up our yummy of the day

Colter serving up our yummy of the day

More elk were encountered seemingly most of the day.  We enjoyed their natural grazing as they made their way up the river.

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Today was going to be more than wildlife we knew, since Yellowstone NP is also a landscape photographers dream.  So off to the geyser basins we went and actually we were treated to an active geyser erupting which usually only goes off 1-2 times daily.  Perfect timing in Biscuit Basin!

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The paint pots are always a fun place to visit as well, especially in the winter.

DSC_1106The winter landscape is perfect for creating that special mood and atmosphere.

_DSC5503One of my favorite drives in Yellowstone, no matter the season, is Firehole Drive.  It is home to the Firehole Falls … a winter’s landscape dream.

_DSC5650Once again, we stop at the Madison rest stop for a needed “bio break” and it’s confirmed that we no longer have a grouse visitor in the immediate area.  So sad.  😦  But we did have a parade of bison marching through and also a coyote, which apparently understands the road signage … LOL.

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A quick trip on one of the Madison area turn-outs also yielded yet another coyote sighting, as this poor coyote was deep in the snow as it ran up the hillside.

_DSC5709OK, so I have to admit … at first I thought … what are we going to do with 4 entire full days in Yellowstone in the winter?  I mean, we had seen so much the first day.  Now that our 2nd day was winding down, it happened … I began to be sad that my experience was 1/2 way over.  So, as a celebration to my trip so far, I toasted our trip so far with Moose Drool draft over dinner!

photoHere’s to the next 2 days!  Stay tuned for more blog posts on Yellowstone in the winter!