Wednesday, May 14, 2008
   There are light snow flurries at 6:15 a.m. and we are out the door. The morning is unexpectedly gray. We cruise slowly through Lamar Valley past bison and elk and on to Slough Creek which is so crowded there are no parking spaces on the lower turnout. We stop at the upper parking area, but move down to Boulder where spotters have seen one? two? gray wolves. They are no longer in sight so we decide to see if Rosie and her cubs are home at Tower. We drive up and down the Tower Road without catching sight of her, but the osprey is sitting on her nest, high on a spiral shaped rock above the Yellowstone River.
   On our way back to Slough Creek we hear that one or two of the Druids has been seen crossing the road, so we head back towards Hitching Post and Hiker's Bridge slowly passing the Confluence and the trail that 21M used to travel to the old Druid den. A little east of Hitching Post Tim spots a gray wolf moving through the sage. Then two, three, four, five grays and finally a large black appear. One gray is collared - at first I think it's 569F. Later we look at her picture and see it's a female pup that was collared this year - 645F. The large black is mottled with gray. He has a collar - probably 480M. The wolves travel east along the ridge, then chase an antelope who is watching them. But the antelope is way too fast as it dashes away and the wolves disappear over the ridge.
   We hike up the Yellowstone River trail, one of my very favorites, today. The grizzly we saw yesterday is gone. Seven bighorn sheep ewes lay quietly on a rocky slope under some scrubby looking pine trees staring at us. Across the river, almost opposite the sheep, a black bear forages up and down the canyon wall towering above the river. We count four elk carcasses scattered in the meadows along the trail, three of which were fairly close to each other. There are some wolf tracks and coyote tracks nearby, but not many, and none are near the carcasses.
   Back in Lamar Valley cars are pulled up in the Institute parking lot and the ranger station. Some people have been following a grizzly on the slopes near Buffalo Ranch so I get out of the car to see where everyone is looking. A siren suddenly shrieks - the bear is running past the ranger's station and everyone gets back in their cars - fast.
   The bear runs down the creek that winds alongside the ranger station and discovers a carcass dug deep in the sage. When he lies down to feed, he almost disappears in the vegetation. Every now and then he picks up his head or stands to pull the carcass out. After almost two hours, he finally gets up and walks west up the slope, curling up and going to sleep. A coyote waits patiently for the bear to leave. At first the bear scares the coyote off, but now that the grizzly is gone, the small, light colored coyote moves in to take the bear's place.
   After watching the bear, we hike up to Trout Lake. The trail is muddy, slippery, and steep requiring lots of effort to climb. Parts of the trail are covered by snow and tracks show an elk skidding. About three quarters of the Lake is covered with a sheet of ice gradually receding from the edges. Melting tracks march across the ice in a fading line. We post hole through snow that is 2 feet deep in some places. We look for otters and wolves, but a striking Canadian goose gliding silently along the edge of the shore is the only other presence.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2008