We hoped we would be surprised today by some sudden appearance of the Canyon Group, or maybe even the Gibbon Pack, but after driving Virginia Cascade Drive and checking Gibbon Meadow, as well as all the surrounding meadows - no wolves. We have yet to see the Gibbon Pack, even one of them, and they are now 22 (or more) strong. Where do 22 wolves go that we never see them?
   It seemed like all the wildlife disappeared this week and it wasn't just Tim and I who missed them. If there's anyone to feel sorry for it's the guides who run wildlife tours around the Park. We heard Rick McIntyre calls a spotter and say something like, "If you look to the right of the sage where it meets the grass you can see the ears of a black wolf. If you keep watching, maybe he's stand up." We have been spoiled by previous trips with wildlife close to the road and running right in front of us.
   We leave West Yellowstone shortly after 6:30 a.m. in the rain. A coyote jumps across the road and into the grass. As daylight slowly breaks, the shadowy forms of elk appear. The Madison herd is grazing along the river as two fishermen wade waist deep in the water.
   Now the Park looks and acts like fall with its muted golds and greens. Just yesterday it was summer. The unusually warm weather for this time of year is probably responsible for the lack of wildlife near the road. Summer came to the Park late, the elk retreated to the cooler high plateaus, and took the wolves and bears with them. Slowly the elk return, filling the air with their whistling. Just last night a bull chased after a cow as she weaved in and out of the young trees along the Madison.
   This morning another bull with a huge rack, keeps his head down in the grass. Hard to get a picture because he's too busy eating. We almost get tired of waiting and then he looks up, straight at us and turns his head. Strange that he is alone and in such good shape - no scars or bite marks from rut season.
   Steam rises and water bubbles from geysers on the upper terrace. The hillsides surrounding are shades of green and red and gold. Maybe this is the last quiet time for animals before they begin their busy preparation for winter.
   At Mammoth we pass still another bull lying on a small island of green across from the Albright Center. His legs are folded neatly under his rich, brown body, his nose resting on the ground. He looks sleepy and docile, totally unlike the elk we watched early in the week frantically herding his cows next to the new Justice Center.
   We don't want to leave the Park and our departure is delayed while rangers pull out a Jeep Cherokee that has slid off the road. It gives us a little time to do our final packing and organizing. When we finally wind down the steep road, a cow elk stands on a platform at the Mammoth campground, looking out as we pass. A little further down the road another bull elk stands majestically on a hill. We look down at the Gardiner River rushing by us, and wish the camera wasn't packed.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2008