You could define our summer with three words: foxes, flowers and fledglings. Or on second thought, these four words might be even more appropriate: frigid, fun, frightening and fantastic. Let me explain.
Simon and I just returned home after two months in the Rockies with a trunk full of stories and photos.
As the title states, we had stunning fox sightings, outstanding wildflower displays and wonderful viewings of great horned owl fledglings. Not to say that this is all we encountered – stay tuned for badgers, weasels, wolves, foggy mornings and, of course, bears.
We started our journey in Yellowstone, close to Fishing Bridge, one of the coldest parts of the parks. It is always an adventure to begin our tent life in below freezing temperatures at night. Before we left, we followed the weather updates religiously, learning that Yellowstone had near record amounts of snow in winter followed by an oddly warm spring. Since Simon and I stay in a tent every night, I secretly hope every year for a very warm summer in order to feel my feet when I wake up in the morning. Simon on the other hand always cheers loudly for a cold, cloudy one as he says its great for the wildlife and photography (annoyingly he’s right).
Unfortunately for me, Simon won out this year. My feet lost. Big time. We were greeted for the first weeks with very cold and blustery weather. Yep – blustery as in snow and ice. We had to frequently chisel our way out of the tent at 4:30am. So. Much. Fun.
Despite this chilly start, we were rewarded with so many great wildlife sightings, as well as unique landscape scenes. Don’t you worry, stories will be a plenty.
Tenting for over 2 months in remote areas, rising at 4:30am every morning and camping out for 14 hours by a badger den may not be everyones definition of fun, right?
For us though, we would gladly do it every day. It’s hard work, it’s demanding and it’s frustrating at times, but it is also the most rewarding moment when you experience something rare and beautiful. Something like a gentle old black wolf sharing a moment of eye contact with you; hiking your butt off to reach the top of a summit and enjoying a spectacular view that not many people get to experience; or inspiring visitors in a park with details of a specific animal they are observing (I’m thinking of the slew of people who are now Scarface fans – Scarface the Grizzly, that is).
This year we witnessed a lot of disheartening interactions between humans and wildlife. From people trying to feed wildlife; to people getting far to close to animals; to excessive, unnecessary speed in critical wildlife crossing corridors: frightening is the best way to summarize a disturbing trend.
One of the hardest moments this summer was witnessing a fox family losing one of its kits after it was hit by a car. It was tragic to watch the family’s grieving process, as well as emotionally exhausting for us, as Simon and I attempted to slow the traffic down in the area day after day, week after week.
Fortunately we watched as the family picked up their spirits and their den site and moved away from a road full of speeding cars. We also were able to rally a few individuals, businesses and Waterton National Park employees to ensure that visitors were aware that they are not to feed these foxes (how this isn’t common sense, I don’t know) and that they should slow down while driving in the area where the den was located.
I think I can say safely that Simon and I each think that we had our best photographic year in the field. Ever. Our hard work, patience and early mornings seemed to pay off with some really unique and rewarding sights. And we can’t wait to share these moments with you.
Stay tuned…we are commencing editing and sorting of our shots. (I mean Simon is…).