It’s probably no surprise to the audience of this website that mornings in the Parks belong to the wildlife. And OMG, right out of the box, or right out of the campground, I discovered a mother bear and two small cubs frolicking in the brown grasses in a dry drainage next to the road. I had slept in awhile after two long days on the road and the early sun was already above the mountains casting harsh light on the white cliffs beyond the bears. So I took a couple of shots and decided to just hang there for awhile and see what developed. The little bears were oblivious to my presence but momma bear kept a close vigil and although not seemingly irritated would look my way for several seconds now and then seemingly to let me know she knew I was there and she would tolerate no nonsense. Then out of nowhere she bolted up the back of a tree, scaring the smaller bears behind a bush then slowly backed her way down. She carefully walked over to the cubs and then immediately turned to the tree and again bolted up the tree about ten feet, looking to the cubs below. How disappointed I was that she was on the backside of the tree, because even with the harsh light, we all live for these “Disney True Life Adventure” moments. The mother went back and nudged the bear cubs out from behind the bush almost as if to say everything’s okay. I got a few shots of the little bears covered with clinging debris from the grasses in the dry wash. Then out of nowhere momma bear bolted for the tree again. This time the little bears followed and went up either side of the tree next to mom. I got a couple of pretty good shots as they stopped part way up the tree to look around. Mom immediately came down, wandered off with the cubs following, and repeated the exercise about 50 feet farther up the road. In my mind, I believe I had just witnessed a momma bear teaching her young ones that either wandering away or getting up a nearby tree might be the best thing to do when humans are present.
What a great start to my day and I just knew that Yosemite was going to be good. When I arrived, I photographed the covered bridge at Winona and tinkered around in the Pioneer Village. I moved on after a bit to do some black and whites of Half Dome from Glacier Point, and then down into the valley for some reflections in the Merced River before heading up to Tuolumne Meadow for last light and the campground east of the park on the way to Lee Vining. Oh Yosemite, one of the great parks in the west. You could easily spend several weeks there. I always wonder what I am missing as I pass through a park this quickly. There are so many wondrous places to see with so little time.
I skipped the morning light and headed into Lee Vining for a sit-down breakfast and to plan the rest of the day. Big Clouds were looming so it seemed a fine day for shooting. I headed first to Bodie, an old mining town a ways down a dirt road from 395 north of Mono Lake. It is possibly one of the finest collections of old buildings left in the West. Protected as a California State Park, it is well worth the visit and I looked forward to doing some sepia tones on what should be very nice images with great skies. As I skirted Mono Lake on the way back toward Yosemite, I couldn’t help but take advantage of the huge clouds dipping their dark bottoms in the Lake. The tufa towers, water birds, bugs and bacteria beds are the primary interest at Mono; however, I had never seen big skies over Mono Lake and couldn’t resist pulling in at a turnoff and a side road to catch a few good images. I pulled into the new Visitors Center, but the overlook area was closed as they were still underway with their landscaping. It was just as well as the skies were great and Tuolumne Meadow was waiting.