Thursday, May 15, 2008
   We pass a cow moose on our way into the Park huddled next to the pine trees at the edge of a snow covered meadow, the first moose we've seen in the Park. The Druids are not out and about this morning. Signs along the road warn not to stop for the next mile or so. The Park wants people to stay away from the den site and not harass this pack while puppies are being cared for. I remember the circus several years ago near Memorial Day - cars everywhere blocking the roads, wolves unable to cross. I hated it. And we were, at least to some extent, part of it. This year the Druids are raising several litters at different den sites, including the traditional den. This means that come fall, the Druids could be a very, very large pack.
   So we pass through Lamar Valley and head to Slough Creek where a grizzly is coming over Dave's Hill and people are rushing back to their cars. The bear runs down the slope across the meadows, scattering people. A herd of bison with calves runs in every direction. The bear gives a good show, running up and down the hills, causing the bison and their calves to stampede across the road to the south side. The calves are next to or close behind their mothers, a blur of brown and red-brown fur huddled together and moving south. I have seen bison move out of the way, inconvenienced by humans, but this time they look truly alarmed and rush their calves to safety.
   A gray yearling and 380F are in the Slough Creek Pack's den area. 380F is hard to see, her head down in the sage. A black and a gray pup escape from the den opening, crawling over rocks and tree logs. A black wolf that has been hunting returns to the den to deliver his treats. 380F and the gray yearling greet the black wolf with wagging tails and licking its face before 380F, followed by the black pup and gray yearling, climb the hill to the den. They disappear behind the aspen and deadfall and we don't see them again.
   East of Soda Butte Cone a coyote and a badger share digging responsibilities. They are near the old coyote den where we watched a pair of coyotes raise their pups another spring. I remember the coyote puppies, little balls of red fur waiting for their parents, dashing into the den hole when something strange came into view. Now there is just this coyote and the badger digging at opposite ends, dirt flying in every direction. The badger rolls over on his back and scurries back and forth across the sage. The coyote decides he is not going to get his dinner this way and wanders across the field and up the slope.
   Late this afternoon we tried to hike into Yancy's Hole, one of our favorite spots, but the road was covered with water and impossible to cross without wading through. So we walked around Roosevelt Lodge and its corrals and found a horse trail leading up to a meadow above the Tower Road. The trail is muddy, steep and slippery. Our feet sink into the mushy ground as we follow the narrow trail, stepping into deep footprints in the snow and trying not to fall. Reaching the meadow is worth the climb. It opens to a large open meadow streaked by game trails. This is where the black bears go when they climb the slopes above Tower Road into the trees. Wolf tracks imprinted in the sandy soil are evidence the Agates also must cross through on their way back and forth from Antelope Creek. We would have lingered and explored farther into the hills above the meadow, but it was almost 6 so we criss-cross the hillside making our way down a slope and through tall grass and sage to the road.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2008