Note: When Sharon adds comments, they will be in {curly brackets}.

Day 7. Tuesday Sep 15, 2009. Buffalo'd. Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

We're up at 6:30 and the sky is beginning to lighten, but it's pretty foggy. We head out with our binoculars, spotting scope and cameras. And warm clothes.

Soon, we drive by what's becoming a favorite spot for me.

A foggy Yellowstone River

The road leaves the river and climbs slightly when we come to what seems like hundreds of buffalo, on both sides of the road, crossing from the river side (our right) to our left.

I just love this fellow's concentration. He's thinking, "Mmmm, grass."

It reminds me of when I'm looking at a really good Foster Freeze Chocolate-dipped vanilla cone. Almost everything else passes from existence for a few minutes.

So first the fog appears to be clearing

A little farther on, and the fog moves in so thick it looks like night. A buffalo is blocking the road, just standing there. We are in a pullout here, shooting back towards the south - towards Fishing Bridge.

"This is MY road," he says, in Buffaloese, "and I'll stand here till I feel like moving, so you can just wait. Think I'll get my hooves trimmed tomorrow."

He looks like a man with a shaggy buffalo robe on when he gets his legs lined up so he's coming right toward you or exactly away from you. Wonderful.

We go on, getting some great video too, then finally turn back around and go back home. I always think of our fifth wheel trailer as home when we're in an RV park and roaming around. Shirley and Sharon will do a laundry today in the middle of the day, then we'll go out again in the late afternoon, hoping for relatiely clear skies.

As we pull into the camp, a nice deer gives us a look from the woods across from our spot. I ask if she needs any laundry done, but oddly, get no response, not even a good run-away.

After lunch and laundry and some wicked Rummikub, plus me cleverly having us wait till the sun gets lower, for good light and shadow, we head out again.

Sharon has heard about some rapids, and there may be Harlequin Ducks there. We first saw these ducks off the bluffs of Sea Ranch up the coast. {We were having a weekend with Jim and Joanie St Laurent and Bill and Sharon Petrick at a rented house in Sea Ranch and Bob and I had just started birding. Jim and Joanie tried to pull a trick on us by wiring a stuffed blackbird into a bush outside the house. They waited for us to notice the "new" bird to identify it, but finally had to point it out to us "what is that bird there?" they asked to get us to see it. What poor birders we were then. Great fun though when we finally got their joke.}

Upon some reading, we learned that the Harlequins fly to Colorado, Wyoming and other nearby states, to high elevations, where they breed in the springtime, raise their young for a few weeks near and in fast-moving streams, until the young'ns can fly, then they all wing their way back to the west coast for the winter. We are hoping, hoping, but it's late in the season, and I'm guessing that we will miss our target here.

So it is that we come to LeHardy Rapids and head down the walkway, with Sharon leading.

I have to slow down and change batteries in one of my cameras. Then... "Harlequin Ducks!" she yells. Then... "And Dippers!", I yell as I spot them farther down the river. Wow, I get myself down there with my cameras and go to work.

At one point, we see eight ducks, but I see maybe three here.

They disappear under the water, then pop up again upstream. They float back down and do it all again. Either that or they disappear under the water, float downstream, pop up, then swim on top of the water upstream. Hmmm. I think it's the first one. They're hard to make out here, but they have rich brown heads with white around the eyes. I guess in mating season, they're easy to make out. Get it? Make out? Never mind.

The wonderful dipper lives near fast-moving streams year round. They stay in the shallows, perhaps standing on a boulder in mid-stream. You can see them bend their knees, then straighten them, dipping, as it were. I just can't figure out where they get that name. They eat bits of food with their heads or their entire bodies under water.

There are three dippers, and this one is just a pup, er fledgling. I call him the Little Dipper. No I don't, I just made that up. I do that sometimes. Dad taught me story exaggeration by example. We can see a few tufts of down still attached which indicates a baby bird. One of their favorite places to build nests is underneath small bridges going over the streams.

We just saw Dippers and Harlequin Ducks. Ain't life grand? {This picture continues the ongoing question, "Am I taller than Jerry or not?" Every picture I seem to change height.}

Chuffed, as they say in Britain, we head back to the truck, and move on, north, seeking scenic wonders.

 

Upper and Lower Falls. The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

We come to Upper and Lower Falls Loop and turn onto it. Soon we come to the parking area, and make our way to the fenced observation points, where I take this wonderful shot. A stranger's coat adds a nice ribbon of red.

Lower Falls

Hey guys, you're looking in the entirely, completely wrong direction.

Five-striped Squirrel

Upper Falls.

Sharon can't believe the intense green color of the water. {We wondered at first if this was algae at the lip of the falls. Later we see old paintings done from this point and they also show this green stripe at the edge of the falls. It is just the green of the water that you can't see in the foam of the rest of the falls.}

A not-five-striped squirrel harvests pine cones

I have several stories about squirrels here. I got great video of this one eating a small pine cone, and to our amazement, he ate it exactly like you'd eat an ear of corn. Left to right, hit carriage return rotating the pine cone one seed row's worth of angular motion, returning to the left side of the cone, left to right, repeat.

Then he tosses that former pine cone away, climbs higher in the tree, breaks off another pine cone which we expect to see him eat, but it seems to slip out of his hand and goes shooting up and away from the tree, landing on the ground. I laugh at the scene. He picks another cone, and the same thing happens to it. WAIT A MINUTE. Those aren't drops. He's doing that on purpose. He's gather cones to store away.

And my favorite squirrel story from some years ago. Sharon and I were hiking, birding I'm sure, when we came up behind a little boy looking at a squirrel. "SQUO WO," he said. So we've been called squirrels squo-wo's ever since.

Incredible river-carved canyon, but hard to make sense of this when it's not in 3D.

A fellow tourist takes our picture, and unlike those rascals of Rio de Janeiro and their cousins positioned strategically around the world, he doesn't run away with our camera. As you can see here.

We slowly head back to camp, picking out a few nice buffalo on the way. We get home at a reasonable hour, play some more Rummikub, have dinner, then prepare for tomorrow. Our plan for tomorrow is the big one - Old Faithful, and Upper Geyser Basin, plus a couple of minor basins north of there.

Before saying good night, I have a nice mobius strip joke for you. A man walks into a bar, all mopey. He sits down and orders a beer. The bartender brings it to him and asks, "Is something the matter?" "I wish I knew where I was gonna die," the fellow says. "Why on earth would you want to know that?" asks the bartender. "I wouldn't go there," says the guy. Hmmm, have I already told you that one?

Thanks to everyone who's emailing encouraging words. I appreciate them.

That's it for tonight. Asta Lumbago, Baby.

 

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