trip report day 1

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    Posted by michael in tucson ( on July 05, 2005 at 21:03:11:

    5-29-05 Day 1

    We arrive in West Yellowstone about 4 PM, and check in with Mrs. Parker at Al’s Westward Ho Motel. After visiting with her we unload for the night and head over to Wild West Pizza for dinner. We have already seen some wildlife along Highway 20 as we drove to West, sandhill cranes, lots of waterfowl, pronghorn and a large bull moose in a meadow just before we head up onto the plateau and the Targhee National Forest. By 5:30, all three of us are anxious to get in the park. As we pay for our national park pass Hayden asks if we are in Yellowstone now and we both answer him yes. He is visibly excited and says lets see some animals. We couldn’t agree more. The women at the entrance gate offers a Yellowstone Children’s Wildlife Checklist for Hayden (I’m unsure if this is a new thing or he was too young before) and we accept. He loves it and throughout the trip will circle each new animal he sees. This year as a three year old he has an understanding of going on vacation and knows that we will begin ours in Yellowstone. He and I have spent the previous three weeks taking turns asking each other, “Daddy/Hayden are you ready to go see some bison?” with the response always being, “Let’s go see some bison now.”

    Our first stop is the bald eagle’s nest. The adults have rebuilt the nest after having it tip in a wind storm last spring, depositing both eaglets on the ground, dead from the fall or dead soon after. The bulk of the nest is a little lower in the tree then in the past and I find myself thinking out loud, I hope it is firmly in place. An adult is perched high in the tree and as Karlie gets out the scope, I spot an eaglet with the binoculars. I point out the nest and eagle to Hayden, he easily sees both. Karlie sets the scope low and lets Hayden look through it. She holds her hand over his left eye and asks him if he sees anything. He says yes he sees the eagle. Karlie then asks him what color the bill is and his immediate answer is yellow. We both look at each other surprised that he is actually seeing something. We get very excited by the possibility that he will be able to see through the scope. ( Without giving away too much, I will say that he is able to see occasionally through the scope during the trip, but usually does not.) As I watch through the binoculars, the eaglet stretches, tests its wings and then turns around, aims its rear in the air and lets loose with a long arc of eagle poop, all of it clearing the nest. This is a phenomena, I have never witnessed before, which lends new meaning to the phrase “don’t foul your own nest”. Karlie missed the first act but no need to despair, the eaglet follows with a repeat performance making all three of us laugh.

    Just west of Seven Mile Bridge we see our first bison, a group of about twenty females, yearlings and calves. We pull off the road roll down the windows and watch and listen as the bison walk past. Hayden is all smiles. The bison will remain his favorite throughout the trip. Several of the calves let loose running and jumping. I ask him if he saw the calf, “kick up its heels?” He likes the phrase, laughing and repeating it. No swans at Seven Mile Bridge and the large eagle nest high in a tree across the river has no activity. We pull into the last big parking area before Madison Junction and watch lots of bison, very pregnant cow elk, families of Canada geese and Uinta ground squirrels. We spend time just watching and relaxing. Hayden takes the time to circle the animals on his list and practices using the binoculars on the cow elk and geese. Mostly he sees rocks, but has fun nonetheless. We take a bunch of pictures, then head toward Gibbon Meadow. We only get a little north of Madison Junction and come to a big jam (unknown origin, although I guess bison). There is very little movement and Hayden falls asleep, so we decide to head back. East of the bridge I spot a lone trumpeter swam and then near the entrance to the river drive I spot four more trumpeters swimming in the Madison. We park and I get out to watch them. One is a pure white adult, while the other three are just a little smaller than the adult and show some gray in their coloration. Their heads and necks raise and lower in swan ballet as they feed in the water. We continue along the river drive, back to the main road and are soon back at Al’s and ready to call it (what) a day.

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