UNDER CONSTRUCTION...

We had planned this trip in January 2024 (before we realized that we would soon be retiring), but the timing really worked out well. I retired two weeks before this trip and Hali retired two days before this trip. It was great to get home from the trip and not need to worry about going back to work!

We had always wanted to try Yellowstone/Grand Teton in the Spring, and we finally made it happen. We arrived in Gardiner just as the town was starting to "open" for the season. The Elk were already walking around the town, but a lot of animals are on the move at this time of year. For example, the Pronghorn are just starting to show up in the park. But we didn't lack for wildlife sightings, and it was great to have some snow around for some of the shots (actually too much snow on a couple of days). In fact, it snowed every day that we were there except for 2 days, plus the day that we flew home.

We spent the first 6 days in Gardiner, visiting places like the Lamar Valley, the geysers, and Cooke City. Next we drove down to the West gate, out of the park, and down to Jackson through Idaho. We could not drive through the park because the park road to Jackson was still not open. We stayed in Jackson for 2 days plus the 1/2 day when we first arrived. While there, we visited Antelope Flats Road, Gros Venture Road, Jenny Lake, Moose Wilson Road, and (briefly) Oxbow Bend. Then we drove back through Idaho again and stayed in West Yellowstone for 2 days (we barely made it over the Teton Pass, due to snow). While in West Yellowstone we visited Yellowstone Lake and the Fishing Village, as well as the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Lastly, we spent one final day in Gardiner (with a visit to the Lamar Valley again) and then we flew home!

Our first retirement vacation went really well, and we hope you hope that you all enjoy the images that we share through this web page. Happy trails! -Mike & Hali

PS: We often take notes during our trips to help us remember details later on. For the very first time, we have included those notes on our web page. Those notes appear after each date below and are shown in italics. We have touched up the notes afterwards to make them more legible. :-)

Gardiner, MT (North Entrance, Yellowstone)

APRIL 28th, SUNDAY

Stopped at Sagebrushers Cafe for awesome cappuccinos and homemade muffins. Drove out of Gardiner and shot elk along the roadside. Stopped at slide pond to shoot the dead tree. Then stopped at Undine Falls for shots there. Beautiful!! Stopped at small pond on way to Lamar… Stopped to shoot grizzly sow and 2 cubs at floating island lake!! Then Bison as soon as we got into the Lamar Valley! Elk, deer, waterfall, grizzly, and bison - all before noon! Drove all the way down past Soda Butte and then Pebble Creek (we saw baby bison nursing at Soda Butte). When it started snowing, we turned around. Shot some more Bison on the way back. Started heading back towards town (hellroaring trailhead) and did not see any pikas. The went back to Lamar valley for a bit. The went back to tower junction again but saw pronghorn before we got there. Then headed back towards town and saw a MOOSE (just north of phantom pond). Our first ever Moose sighting in Yellowstone! We hung out and shot him while the snow came down. Dinner was at Outlaw Pizza - which tasted weird and gave Mike a mild bit of food poisoning.

-- Click on any image to see the "full-size" version --

Our first leg of the trip was the longest (7 days), and we might have been the very first reservation of the season for the Antler Lodge. Rates were not yet peak, so we sprung for the larger room. It was wonderful! These phone images show you what the room looked like with all of our 'stuff' scattered about.

Our very first day started off with a bang! Elk, Bison, Pronghorn, Moose and a Grizzly sow with 2 first-year cubs (cubs that were born last year).

Elk are everywhere in Gardiner. You may literally walk past one while walking out of the supermarket. They also love to graze around the edge of town near the park entrance (as per the image on the top left). The image on the top right is just a snap of Hali during our morning drive up to Mammoth. The bottom left image is more Elk. The bottom right image is the momma Grizzly nursing 2 cubs. This was close to the road, and was causing a bit of a traffic jam -- even this early in the season. There was a ranger present to insure that we didn't get too close, for obvious reasons. All images taken with the Nikon Z9 with the 180-600 lens.
Just into the Lamar Valley, we spotted some Bison and snapped a few images there. The American Bison is also called the American Buffalo, and I will spare everyone the details of the debate over the name. I will add that the Yellowstone Bison herd is thought to be a blend of Plains Bison and Wood Bison (if that matters to anyone at all). This image was taken with the Nikon Z9 and the 180-600 lens.
The image on the top left is the iconic Yellowstone animal - the Bison! On top right is another staple of Yellowstone - the Pronghorn (although not yet present in the same numbers you would see in the Fall). On the bottom is a Moose that we spotted at the very end of our day, along the Blacktail Deer Plateau. This was the first moose we had ever seen in Yellowstone! All images taken with the Nikon Z9 with the 180-600 lens.
Hali posed for a shot by the park sign while we were walking around town after dinner (iPhone 13 Pro, wide).

APRIL 29th, MONDAY

Stopped at Bears Brew for good bagels, bad coffee, and an attitude chaser. Stopped at terraces. Shot some bison along the road to Norris junction. Then turned around and went back to terraces and walked the trails. Then got back on road to Norris junction. Stopped at golden gate area to shoot Rustic Falls. Got caught in 10 min bison jam. Gave up on Norris junction because the bison blocking the road. Headed back to the Lamar valley. We were at the spot where the river drops down about 50’ below the road when we saw some cars pulled over (about 5 minutes east of Slough Creek). There were two bison cows with red calves. We also saw some marmots amongst the rocks below us!! Stopped at soda butte to shoot another red calf. Then drove to Cooke city. Had a chicken sandwich at the soda butte lodge and prospector restaurant. Decent food at a decent price. While along the Lamar valley and out to Cooke city the weather would change from snow to rain to sunshine and back again. After lunch/dinner we drove back through the Lamar valley again. Spotted a beautiful red fox just outside of Silver Gate (near Barronette Peak trailhead)!! And then another fox further down! Then stopped at soda butte to shoot a newborn bison calf. Then some pronghorn shots. Then just before tower station we saw sheep and deer! Pictures follow...

Three images from the stroll along the Terraces. The left image is the famous Liberty Cap (37 feet tall). The middle image shows some trees that make this wild landscape look a bit eerie. The right image is a Killdeer, happily drinking water that would probably kill a person. All images taken with the Nikon Z8 with the 70-200 lens.
Rustic Falls, shot in color and converted to B/W. The falls are better to shoot in Spring because there is more water and less foliage than in the Fall (Nikon Z8 with the 70-200 lens).
On left is a Bison calf ("red dog") in the Lamar Valley. You can still see a tiny piece of the umbilical cord if you look closely. Newborn calves weigh between 30 and 70 pounds, and males will grown to weigh over a ton! In the middle is another first-time sighting for us: a Yellow-bellied Marmot (also in the Lamar Valley). Both images taken with the Nikon Z9 with the 180-600 lens. On the right is a phone selfie we took at the Bannock Ski trailhead (Northeast Yellowstone).
And yet one more first time Yellowstone sighting for us: a Red Fox. This one was spotted in Northeast Yellowstone - near Silver Gate. Both images taken with the Nikon Z9 with the 180-600 lens.
Prongorn on the left and top right images. Pronghorn are also called American antelope, prong buck, pronghorn antelope and prairie antelope. I think those images were taken near the Tower junction. Then big horn sheep on the bottom right, taken along the blacktail deer plateau. All images taken with the Nikon Z9 with the 180-600 lens.

APRIL 30th TUESDAY

Sagebrushers Cafe is now our favorite morning stop on the way out of town for awesome cappuccinos and homemade muffins. Shot some on the way out of Gardiner and then went to Lamar. Shot pronghorn before tower station and a ground squirrel too. Just past tower station 5 or 10 minutes we shot some pronghorn. (Before slough creek a few minutes). Drove out towards silver gate and spotted a fox past Barronette Peak trailhead - twice! Three times! It was just over the state line. Drove around there a bit then went back to Lamar. Stopped to shoot pronghorn. Stopped to shoot marmots. We thought we were done for the day, but then we passed a black bear with 2 cubs. We shot that for a long time. Then started driving out again. We made it past tower junction when someone spotted a marmot. So we stopped again. Then we were really finished and drove out.

At left is an Elk that we saw on the hillside as we were driving up out of Gardiner in the morning. On right is a Uinta ground squirrel that we saw at Tower junction. Note the difference in the snow cover at the two locations. It was common to see wide variations during this trip. Both images taken with the Nikon Z9 with the 180-600 lens.
Floating Island Lake from the Grand Loop Road. This is a sketchy panoramic made by compositing two phone pictures in post-processing.
Hali in the Lamar Valley, doing what she loves to do! Both images taken with the Nikon Z9 with the 180-600 lens.
Pronghorn are the second fastest land animal on the planet, but can can maintain their speed for greater distances than the top speed animal (the Cheetah). They are the fastest land animal in North America, and can hit speeds up to 60 mph. It is believed that the now extinct American Cheetah was the main predator of the Pronghorn, and that is why they can run at speeds far greater than needed to outrun any existing predator. Lamar Valley. Taken with the Nikon Z9 with the 180-600 lens.
We went out to Silver Gate to see if we could find our fox friend again, and we found a different fox this day! All images taken with the Nikon Z9 with the 180-600 lens.
On left is a yellow-bellied marmot in the Lamar Valley. On the right is a black bear cub that we spotted (along with a mangy momma bear and 1 other cub) along the blacktail deer plateau. Both images taken with the Nikon Z9 with the 180-600 lens.
On top left is that mangy momma black bear that we were talking about. Her discomfort has not prevented here from keeping 2 bear cubs from last season. The image of those cubs on the bottom left may make it look they are snuggling together in a moment of sibling tenderness. In reality, they were just fighting with each other rather viciously (I could see blood on one set of cub claws). On right is a yellow bellied marmot that Hali spotted just after we left the bear area. All images taken with the Nikon Z9 with the 180-600 lens.

MAY 1st WEDNESDAY

Drove to Lamar valley again. Shot some landscapes and then some Sandhill cranes after that. All before tower junction. Took some tree pictures and then a ground squirrel at tower junction. Shot some reflections just after tower station . Shot the osprey nest just past slough creek. Saw a moose near silver gate (at warm creek, before the NE entrance)!! Then a red tail hawk in the same field, and then the moose again! Then another fox on our next lap. Then drove back. Stopped to shoot a grizzly just before slough creek. Saw a coyote there too! Then a group of mtn goats near tower junction!!

We really were not expecting to see Sandhill Cranes here, but we were delighted to see them. Especially when the mated pair starting doing their unison call (image on top left, Nikon Z9 with the 180-600 lens). The image on the top right shows Hali in the middle of a remarkably empty road, dressed for the weather (Nikon Z8 with the 70-200 lens). The bottom image is a phone pic of a pond near the blacktail deer plateau.

The short video below is of the Sandhill Crane unison calls (Nikon Z9 and the 180-600 lens).

On left, we were hoping to see another fox out near Silver Gate, but we were very happy to also see a moose there! On right, a red-tailed hawk launches from its tree top perch in the snow. Both images taken with the Nikon Z9 with the 180-600 lens.
A beautiful moose in Northeast Yellowstone (image taken with the Nikon Z9 with the 180-600 lens).
On top left is a red fox that we spotted near Silver Gate. On top right is a pronghorn in the Lamar Valley. On bottom left is a grizzly bear that, along with its cub, was making a bit of an early season traffic jam. On bottom right is a bighorn sheep that we spotted along the blacktail deer plateau. All images taken with the Nikon Z9 with the 180-600 lens.
Another shot of momma Grizzly (taken with the Nikon Z9 with the 180-600 lens).

MAY 2nd THURSDAY

We headed south for the day to Old Faithful via Norris and Madison (and the geysers). Stopped just south of Mammoth to shoot the mountainside. Then stopped at Roaring mountain to shoot the fumeroles and the mountainside. Stopped at Norris geyser basin and walked the loop. Then hit fountain paint pot geyser basin. Shot dead trees and some geysers. Then went to the grand prismatic spring, excelsior spring and shot pools and patterns (midway geyser basin). Next we made our way down to Old Faithful. Mike walked some and Hali walked it all. Then we drove all the way back to mammoth, where we shot some deer across from the terraces (and some shots of tree there also).

These are all images taken at the Fountain Paint Pots. The image on the left is a phone picture. The middle image and the image on the right were both taken using the Nikon Z9 and the 14-24 lens.
The cool patterns formed by the bacterial filaments on the thermophilic mats at the fountain paint pot trail, This is a color image that was rendered in B/W. Taken with the Nikon Z9 and the 14-24 lens.
The image on the left is a different view of a common raven (taken at the Grand Prismatic Spring overlook). The image on the right is a whitetail deer, taken at the Mammoth Hot Springs. Both images were taken using the Nikon Z9 and the 180-600 lens.

MAY 3rd FRIDAY

Snow flurries to start the day again this morning. It’s snowed every day so far. Went back to Lamar valley today. About 5 minutes before tower station we saw a group of people shooting a wolf. We got a couple of meh shots of it. Then right before tower station Hali spotted a coyote! Shot some bison from tower station also. Then saw a marmot at the usual spot (a little after slough creek). Then drove out to the northeast entrance. Then drove through the Lamar valley. Shot the cottonwood trees on the right - just after the Yellowstone institute. Made some laps between the northeast entrance and the Barronette Peak trailhead. Pulled into the warm creek trailhead parking lot and turned around to see the fox behind us. Drove around and back more and got more fox shots. They are definitely habituated to sound of a car window going down - someone is feeding them for sure. Drove back to the Lamar valley. Hali took some fun selfies at the Thunderer trailhead before we got to soda butte. Stopped for a distant black bear right before slough creek. Just before tower station we saw goats prancing about. Then shot undine falls again.

Various images from our afternoon. On the top left is one of the yellow-bellied marmots that we saw as we were driving through the Lamar Valley. On top right is a red fox was walking down the road as we drove towards Silver Gate. This fox appears to be habitualized to the sound of a car window going down. Sadly, this means that people are feeding the foxes from their car windows. Ugh. I know they are cute, but never feed wild animals. On bottom left is Elk #22 (per the ear tag), that we saw resting along the slopes near Gardiner at the end of the day. Notice the fully opened pre-orbital gland. On bottom right is ...(HALI, PLS FILL THIS IN)

MAY 4th SATURDAY

Left for Jackson . Quick stop at Angel Terrace at Mammoth hot springs for Hali to shoot dead trees . Stopped at pika spot before golden gate just to check and there was a pika!! Also a bison in the road. Hoodoos area. Massive traffic coming out of west Yellowstone and heading into the park. Thankfully we were going the other way! Drive to Jackson Hole. Checked into the Flat Creek Inn (nice place right outside of town). Drove moose Wilson road. Drove antelope flats rd to gros venture rd. Saw huge herd of elk. Drove back a bit and spotted grizzly 399 and cub (way far away). Blacktail pond overlook. Was the place. Then pizza dinner at Yeah Buddy Pizza in town (excellent). Drove to gros venture rd and shot elk and watched sunset from antelope flats road. Then moose in bad light going home. First day w/o snow!

After passing through Mammoth Hot Springs, we stopped near Golden Gate to see if any Pika were about -- and they were! The image on left is a Bison that happened to be walking past when we got out to check for Pika. On the right is a super-cute Pika. Both images were taken using the Nikon Z9 and the 180-600 lens.

Below is a video taken with the Nikon Z9 and the 180-600 lens. The video is really noisy due to the wind (and the fact that I'm just using the camera mic). If you turn up the volume and ignore the wind noise, you can hear the classic Pika "EEP!"

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We stopped a few times on our way down towards Norris Junction. This was one of those stops (near Roaring Mountain). A friendly stranger used Mike's phone to take this image of the two of us...
On left is the view from the parking lot at the top of the Teton Pass (taken with the Nikon Z8 and the 70-200 lens). People were walking around with skis and snowboards everywhere. It was wild. On top right is the room we had for our stay in Jackson, at the Flat Creek Inn (and that is a phone picture). On bottom right is the view of the Teton mountain range that we saw when we arrived. The light was not great, but we took a few shots and hoped we would get a better view the next day. That image was also taken with the Nikon Z8 and the 70-200 lens.
This panoramic image is a composite of 13 images taken with the Nikon Z8 and the 70-200 lens. The full image is even wider, but this cropped version presents better on the web page.

MAY 5th SUNDAY

Went to Pearl Street Bagel for a so so breakfast. The bagels were decent but the cappuccinos were only ok. Went to Jenny lake for some scenic photography and spotted a moose while we were there! Then we did the Jenny lake scenic drive. We stopped at the main overlook. Hali took some landscape images and Mike took some raven shots. Stopped at snake river overlook and then glacier view overlook. Then used restroom at visitors center. Then saw moose as were driving out! Then went to Mormon row. Then the rain came back heavy. Went back to room to upload. Then went out to Snake River Brewing Company for a really nice dinner salad and a local brown ale. Delicious!!

The image on the top left is a phone picture that a passing stranger took for us at Jenny Lake. We had not counted on the lake still being mostly covered with ice! On the top right is a moose that we saw grazing through the brush near the parking area for Jenny Lake (taken with the Nikon Z9 and 180-600 lens). On bottom right is an American Robin that we saw near the moose. It was there. We were there. Also taken with the Nikon Z9 and 180-600 lens. On bottom left is a creek feeding into Jenny Lake - possibly the Cottonwood Creek (taken with the Nikon Z8 and the 24-70 lens).
The day was very cloudy, and we were standing around lamenting about the poor visibility with some new friends. And then the clouds around Grand Teton parted a little and we took some images of the peak wreathed by clouds (on left). In the middle is a phone picture of Hali at the Teton Point turnout off Highway 89. Later on we were cruising by Moose (Wyoming), when we saw a moose! This one we watched in the field for a bit and then it crossed a piece of the Snake River to get to a little island of land in the river (on right). Left and right images were taken with the Nikon Z9 and 180-600 lens.
Dinner at the Snake River Brewing Company was wonderful. We had the watermelon salad with steak strips and nice brown ale. Phone picture.

MAY 6th MONDAY

This turned out to be the snowiest day of our trip. Drove moose Wilson Road for a bit, and then went up to the Jenny lake area. Shot some landscapes. Drove the 1-way scenic road. Drove back for lunch. We went to the Creekside Market & Deli - which made a truly excellent sandwich! Then went back out into the weather. We tried Antelope Flats Rd out to Shadow Mountain Road. Shot the aspen trees there. It was really snowing heavily, so went back to room.

On left, Aspen trees along Shadow Mountain Road. On right, an interesting tree outline on Antelope Flats Road. Both images taken with the Nikon Z9 and the 180-600 lens.

MAY 7th TUESDAY

This was the coldest day of the trip. It was 30F in the morning, with a feel-like temperature of 21F. It was snowing again, but there were breaks of almost-sun. We went out to Antelope Flats Road first. We spotted a moose out by the Teton science school. We also spotted a raptor and some robins. Went took a break by going back to the room (for cookies)! The we drove Sagebrush Drive and behind the airport (just to see). Then back to Antelope Flats again. It was white-out snowing one minute and sunny the next. Then back again. We took some shots of an Elk herd on Antelope Flats Rd. Then drove Gros Venture Rd. Then back to the Creekside Market (near our room) for a nice Cobb salad. Then back out to Moose Wilson Rd and again to Antelope Flats Rd. Then back to the room. We were tired of the fluctuating weather, so we broke things up by taking a short walk in town. Jackson is a really nice town!

MAY 8th WEDNESDAY

Packed up and left Jackson, Got bagels and lattes at Pearl street Bagels. Had an interesting, snowy, ride through the Teton Pass. Headed to West Yellowstone . Checked in early and headed out to canyon and Yellowstone lake via Hayden valley. Stopped at Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Shot a lone bison in snow in Hayden valley. Then more bison further up the valley. Also the snow drift S curve! Then bison reds near Madison junction. Then got stuck in a bad bison jam heading back. The room was freezing cold. They changed rooms for us s but the next room wasn’t as nice. Oh well.

MAY 9th THURSDAY

Had a great cappuccino at bookstore cafe. Went into park toward Lamar valley. Shot a merganser on river drive. Shot red duck along Madison river. Shot bison near there also. Shot raven at Norris Geyser Overlook. Stop at Sheepeater Cliff and took photos of the cliff. Stopped just before the terraces and a little after gold—- cliffs to shoot the pikas! Saw the grizzly w 2 cubs chowing on a bison carcass at blacktail pond! The first use of the teleconverter (for me) this trip. Then saw black bear with cub across from the blacktail plateau 6 entrance. Then shot bison after tower station, just into Lamar valley. Shortly after that saw a coyote and spent an hour (at least) with the coyote. It was 3:15 at that time so headed back to West Yellowstone. Just after Mammoth Hot springs at the tour bus depot shot some sort of Quail. Saw a grizzly before Roaring mountain. Stopped at Roaring mountain for some shots. Stopped along Madison river for shots of red dogs. One mom had 2 calves! Then dinner at the buffalo bar. Black and bleu salad and bozone amber beer (Bozeman brewing)

MAY 10th FRIDAY

Last full day! Packed up our gear and drove out of west Yellowstone. Hit the bookstore cafe on the way out for another delicious cappuccino! Hali shot some landscape images along the Madison River up to Norris junction. Shot some bison near tower then again just into the Lamar valley. Stopped at soda butte for amazing ground squirrel shots! Drove out to silver gate, but didn’t see any critters. We did shoot a pano of barronette peak. This has been the warmest day of our trip. No jackets at all in the afternoon! In the way back, after soda butte and before the Yellowstone institute, we pulled over to shoot a pronghorn but instead shot up another ground squirrel! Drove east road from tower junction out to tower falls . Only 2.5 miles of road was open. Between the exit and the entrance to the blacktail plateau drive, there was a group of people at the roads edge. It turns out it was an elk laying down under a tree. Okay. Hali spotted pronghorn on the road down to gardiner, so we stopped and shot them up!