What we're about

This is a Yellowstone National Park activity group. Activities include day hiking, backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, photography, wildlife watching, and educational events. Some activities may be thematic, with a focus on botany, fire ecology, geology, history, zoology, and whatever other subjects draw interest from the community. Unlike some Meetup groups, this one will not be soliciting donations to defray the membership fee. The primary purpose of this Meetup is to give those who are new to the area or visiting from afar the opportunity to engage in an activity that they would otherwise be apprehensive about doing on their own. In Yellowstone National Park, which is grizzly bear country, there is safety in numbers, which is one of the primary reasons for group hiking. Having a group of 4 or more also makes sense in the event someone suffers injury. Two can go for help, while the third member stays with the injured hiker or skier.

For newcomers to the Bozeman/Livingston area (as well as Cody, Jackson, or any of the gateway communities, and even seasonal employees of Yellowstone National Park), this Meetup serves as a vehicle for promoting social connectedness in addition to the obvious benefit of experiencing Yellowstone National Park in the company of someone familiar with the area. Since I, Ballpark Frank, will be organizing the activities until such time as we weave others into the mix, you can trust that group speed will not be cheetah-like. My speed burner days are long gone. This is why I will welcome anyone who wishes to organize more aggressive activities, providing they commit to group safety. The last thing I want to see is one or more participants left behind because a couple of "gazelles" took off at high speed, and left other group members by themselves in grizzly country.

Since we will often be using complicated transportation arrangements, like one-way hikes or ski/snowshoe outings, where we start at one trailhead and exit at another, or do the same thing off-trail, I need to know in advance who is participating, whether they are bringing a vehicle, and the passenger capacity of that vehicle. This is why I will only be providing meet point and meet time information to those who sign up in advance. I have used this mechanism for safeguarding group logistics for decades, and, while not foolproof, it is the most reliable system.

One word of warning that merits inclusion in this introduction: Please do not participate in a hiking, skiing, or snowshoeing activity if you have other plans that same day or evening that require you to be back to the trailhead or your hometown by a certain time. It is not fair to other participants to have someone force their social schedule on the group. If you do it once, you will be reminded of this stated policy, and be stuck adhering to the group's schedule. If you do it a second time, you will be prohibited from future participation in this group. Part of the magic of the Yellowstone backcountry is that there are so many variables, be that a very special wildlife encounter or a rare geyser deciding to erupt while we are nearby. Having an arbitrary return time serves to ruin those opportunities.

Members will be asked to provide their cell phone number to the Organizer prior to their initial Meetup. The Organizer will provide their cell phone number to the Member to facilitate 2-way communications on the day of an activity. This enables notification of any last minute changes due to unexpected developments, like accidents, carcass closures of trails, illness, road closures, weather-related problems, etc.

We always use "2:00 a.m." as the meet time for activities in Yellowstone, and we are deliberately vague about the meet location, in the Meetup announcement. This is done to insure that only Members who have pre-registered by RSVP'ing "Yes" have this information. In the era of COVID-19, this is more important than ever!

Speaking of COVID-19, we take the current pandemic VERY seriously. As the Organizer, who has multiple underlying medical conditions, that puts me at risk of high impact infection, I am implementing several temporary changes that will be in place until such time as the virus risk has been substantially reduced. I am over age 65, a cancer survivor, and have some diagnosed cardiac risk. We have other Members who have underlying risk factors. At this point in time, we will not be encouraging car pooling, due to social distancing protocols. If Members wish to car pool, that is their prerogative, but they will have to find other Members who are comfortable participating in ride sharing. I have a Member, who like me, has an underlying risk factor, and we have been car pooling regularly for many months. We trust each other's management of personal hygiene and potential exposure to the virus. Neither one of us is anxious to assume any additional risk beyond what we are already undertaking. Given the likelihood of significantly less car pooling and social distancing protocols that emphasize limits on group size, we will be reducing group size parameters on our field activities in Yellowstone. We will also be curtailing one-way hikes, where we would ordinarily be using two different trailheads, and shuttling vehicles between them. That system forces the doubling of the passenger load in vehicles when we do the shuttles. Historically, we sometimes have had 4 or 5 Members in one vehicle when we do shuttles. That would force participants to sit shoulder to shoulder. You might be one of the many individuals who believes that America's Public Health system overreacted to the COVID-19 pandemic. You have the right to believe what you wish. You do not have the right to endanger other people's health. The National Park Service is taking the COVID-19 threat very seriously, as are the gateway communities and county/state Public Health agencies on the periphery of the park. I have mixed emotions about even organizing Meetups until such time as I believe that the COVID-19 threat has been substantially mitigated. For the benefit of any Members who have not been following the evolution of Yellowstone National Park's COVID-19 Reopening Plan, here is a link to the 12 page document that was published by the National Park Service as part of their employee training program prior to reopening the park in May:


Now, if you are serious about experiencing Yellowstone on its own terms, off the pavement, and without benefit of a building or vehicle to protect you from the elements, please read the "Backcountry Use Information" document. It is filled with additional information about this group, plus a bounty of information on personal safety, personal comfort, what to bring, what to leave home, and other important information. At 40,639 characters, it far exceeds the 25,000 Meetup limit for a single page. It is 20 pages in length. The first 2 pages are an Index to the various subjects covered. You can access the document on Dropbox at the following link:


Upcoming events (2)

Wildlife Photo/Video Opportunity Along the Roadside

Yellowstone National Park North Entrance

On our recent Meetup on Thanksgiving Day, and a week later on a solo non-Meetup wildlife photography venture both in and outside the North Entrance, I came across numerous photo/video opps. On Thanksgiving, we had roadside photo opps on bald eagles, bighorn sheep, bison, deer, elk, pronghorn, and wolves.

The bighorn rut is well under way. There was a noticeable increase in amount and intensity of rut behavior between Thanksgiving and the following Thursday. If the trend continues, this Friday could offer amazing photo and video opps. If the sight of bighorn rams head butting, leaping at each other, and kicking their peers in their abdomen is something you wish to observe and document via photo and video, then this Meetup is for you.

This will be an all-day affair, in sunshine and cold temperatures if the current weather forecast holds. At present, the prediction is for "Partly Sunny skies with a High of 26F, and light winds out of the southwest, then west between 6 and 11 mph in the morning". We will have to dress for the possibility of spending a lot of time outside the vehicles. If we are serious about obtaining quality images, we will be mounting our cameras on tripods.

It is almost inevitable that we will be occasionally jumping back in our vehicles and moving on to the next photo opp. That has been the trend recently. Large herds of wildlife start the day in one position, but move periodically throughout the day. The best results seem to come from moving around, although occasionally, we come across something so appealing that we stay put for an extended period. I still have a lot of images to download and edit.

We continue to await the inevitable snow that will facilitate skiing and snowshoeing. Until it arrives, we want to take advantage of this rare opportunity to obtain quality wildlife photos. The bighorn rut will come to an end in the coming weeks. Wolf mating season, the next big wildlife photo attraction, will not come around until late January.

Those that are interested are invited to join us for dinner at the Wonderland Cafe in Gardiner. It reopened last Wednesday, after taking the month of November off.

See you Friday,


SAS Special Holiday Program – “Yellowstone Birds” with Doug Smith & Bob Landis

This is a RARE opportunity for anyone interested in birds, as well as other wildlife species that they interact with, and wildlife ecology in general. This is not a formal Meetup, but simply an announcement of a very special event that will be of interest to some of our Members.

Special thanks to Aleksi, a Member of this Meetup, for alerting me to this Sacajawea Audobon Society (SAS) event.

If you are a wildlife fan and frequent visitor to Yellowstone National Park, Bob Landis and Doug Smith need no introduction. For those new to the area or not long time Yellowstone visitors, I will mention that Bob is a longtime Yellowstone videographer with lots of National Geographic films to his credit, along with several Emmy Awards. The DVD shelves in the Yellowstone Forever book stores are filled with his works that span 4 decades, some could argue 5. Doug Smith has been the leader of the Yellowstone Wolf Project since shortly after wolf reintroduction when the original project leader, Mike Phillips was recruited to run the Turner Endangered Species program. Doug is also in charge of bird research in Yellowstone. He is a great presenter, quite capable of giving those in attendance that "you are there" feeling.

Here are a couple quick details relevant to your attendance at this event:
1.) If you attend in person at the Ellen Theater in Bozeman, know that masks will be required.
2.) If you are anti-mask, you have another option. This event will be live-streamed. You have to register in advance. The link you need to click on is on the Sacajawea Audobon Society's website, and I will be posting a link to the appropriate page below.
3.) There will be a social at 6:00 p.m. The presentation starts at 7:00 p.m.
4.) This event is free, but the Sacajawea Audobon Society suggests a $5.00 donation. If, like me, you spend big bucks on optics, like binoculars, cameras, spotting scopes, telephoto lenses, etc., you can easily afford the suggested $5.00 donation! Besides, I LOVE the idea of SAS orchestrating comparable presentations in the future. I'm more than willing to support that financially.
There is no need to RSVP for this Meetup.

Here's the link to the SAS webpage on the event:


Past events (164)

Lower Rescue Creek/Northern Mt. Everts Exploration

Rescue Creek

Photos (1,837)