We see our first bears today. Driving to St. Mary's, just past Rising Sun we notice a black spot on the eastern edge of St. Mary Lake. A black bear is cooling off with an afternoon swim just off the gravel beach. His body is almost totally submerged with only his head and neck above water. When he finally wades out of the lake he stands on the shore, shaking his large shiny black body. Even from a distance it's evident that he is a big black bear. While the bear is enjoying the water, a fisherman wades out into the lake on the north shore, just around the bend from the bear. The fisherman looks over at the bear, but neither bothers each other. The bear walks along the beach for a short distance and then ambles into the trees.
   Earlier today we drove through the construction on the Going to the Sun Road for the last time. We stopped along the road several times to admire a creek or waterfall spilling down a mountainside and hiked to St. Mary's Falls and Virginia Falls. St. Mary's Falls is a relatively short, easy hike. The falls are wide, pounding into St. Mary's Creek and not high, but fill clear pools of water which split and flow alongside a long gravel bar.
   Virginia Falls are high up a rock cliff and run down terraced rocks. The rock is a reddish tan and brown with concentric lines through it. Subalpine fleabane and arrow leaf balsamroot shoot out between the rocks. The lavender and yellow and green are striking against the granite colored rocks.
   We are staying at Glacier Trailhead cabins now - very nicely built, spacious log cabins off the road in a remote area. There is a separate building with a community kitchen and dining area for large groups, but each cabin has a microwave and refrigerator. In the early evening, we drive back into the Park to look for wildlife in Two Dog Flats. Two blacktail does graze in the Rising Sun picnic area with a young buck whose antlers are just beginning to grow - they are only two little knobs on his head.
   Back down the road, a small black bear is eating berries in the bushes. He has a silvery brown glint to his fur in the evening light and a rather large white collar that looks like a bib. Several other visitors stop along the road to watch when a woman ranger pulls up and blows a horn that sounds like a fog horn. Everyone jumps while the bear dives deeper into the bushes. The ranger explains that "they" want to scare them (the bears) away from the road so the bears don't get hit. The man next to me says, "Well you scared me!" She asks if the bear is gone and we all lie "yes." She drives off as the bear walks out of the bushes continuing to forage for berries.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2009