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Loving Life in the Lamar Valley 

January 17, 2016

We began our day in the cold dark early morning hours with a sunrise drive to find the amazing wildlife that is Yellowstone! Our first stop was a moment of silence in the gray morning light overlooking Hellroaring Creek. We spotted some elk grazing through the freshly fallen snow and even had time for Kevin to make a few snow angels.

Kevin making a snow angel

Kevin making a snow angel

We could smell the sulfur in the air as we traveled over the Lamar river and through a thermal area of sulfur springs. We continued through the sunrise on our way to Little America, where we took a moment to scan the mountains for any kind of wildlife we could find. Chris and the weather/wildlife team took their measurements and we were again on our way again after spotting a few herds of bison.

Despite our efforts to be out as early as possible and beat the herds of wolf trackers, we pulled up on Slough Creek where we were greeted by photographers, videographers, and wolf watchers. We were able to spot a gray wolf walking along the valley, and she would occasionally send us a loud howl. There is no better sound in the world than hearing the howl of a wolf who is walking along in the distance, right in your scope. When we began hearing additional howls and the response howls from our wolf, we realized that this lone wolf’s pack must have been closer than we thought. The wolves are beautiful and definitely cute, but these canines are better left to the wild.

Watching wolves

Watching wolves

Off and down the road a few minutes, Danny was able to spot two (6×6 and 6×7 – the number of times on each antler) bull elk resting and grazing in an open field on the side of a mountain. We quickly grabbed the scopes and ran out to see the magic. These animals are spectacular and magical, an animal we consider ourselves lucky to have been able to see so clearly.

Traveling on down the road we came to a surprisingly amazing detour. At the confluence of the Lamar River and Soda Butte Creek, we spotted a coyote, familiar to us all as we had seen many coyotes since we have been here. But we have been itching to see a kill. We slowly pulled over, watching as our furry canine friend followed the sound of a small subnivean creature (mouse or other small mammal) beneath the snow. He paused, cocked his tail, and we all went wild as he dug his face down into the snow and pulled out his head chomping on his lunch. We had witnessed the kill!

Coyote

Coyote

While we were out there watching the coyote hunting for more, we didn’t realize that there were 3 bighorn sheep watching us! We quickly adjusted our binoculars to see six lazy eyes peering over the ridge. While out on the road we also saw a raven overlooking the landscape, a dipper diving for larva in the stream, and a beautiful black and white magpie flying from tree to tree, showing off her wing patterns.

Bighorn sheep

Bighorn sheep

You know you are having a great time when you forget what day of the week it is. After lunch we had a special treat of hiking off the unbeaten path in snowshoes! It’s much easier than you think but in snow deeper than your thighs, if you fall down getting up is extremely difficult. Danny, Brady, and Kevin had no problem breaking trail up the hillside, but I don’t think they would want to do it again. In the words of Danny, “I thought my heart was going to burst.”

Snowshoeing up a steep hill is hard work!

Snowshoeing up a steep hill is hard work!

After a wonderful meeting with Dan Hartman, wildlife photographer and naturalist, we headed back on the road again where we went searching for more wildlife. We found mountain goats, bison, and the find of the day… One cow and one bull moose!! Talk about spectacular!

Bull moose

Bull moose

As the day comes to an end, we can safely say that Yellowstone delivered for us today. We look forward to the next few days and the connection this incredible place is allowing us to make to its vast magical winter landscapes and ecosystems.

We know one thing is certain, we are visitors here exploring this world that belongs to all of these amazing creatures, and we have cherished every second of this insightful day.

“When you walk across the fields with your mind pure and holy, then from all the stones, and all growing things, and all animals, the sparks of their soul come out and cling to you, and then they are purified and become a holy fire in you.”

Annie Dillard

By The Bighorn Sheep Team

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Leah Buckley permalink
    January 18, 2016 3:57 am

    Sounds like a great day! My first graders want to know “how cold was it when you stopped to measure the temperature?”

    • meganchesser permalink
      January 19, 2016 4:58 pm

      When we stopped to measure the temperature, if we took our gloves off, our fingers got very cold and started tingling very quickly. Then, they started hurting! And our noses were very cold, and runny from the dry air. The temperatures in Raleigh at night tonight (Tuesday) are similar to what we were feeling in the middle of the day (but even colder!)!

  2. Michelle LeRoy permalink
    January 18, 2016 7:57 am

    What a spectacular day!

  3. Royden Saah permalink
    January 18, 2016 11:38 am

    I relish the posts, looking forward to them as the highlight of my day. Thanks for making the effort at the end of tough days to post them. I really enjoyed hearing about the wealth of wildlife and geyser events! Wishing you all well.

  4. Ginny Byrne, Ravenscroft School permalink
    January 18, 2016 7:30 pm

    Your day was amazing! I remember our trip so well and wish I were with you! Enjoy each day of your Institute. I will look forward to the journals. You wrote wonderful accounts so far! Monday, January 18th, 2016!

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