Monday, May 10, 2010
   The morning is beautiful and clear as we drive from West Yellowstone to Mammoth. The trumpeter swan floats on the Madison as it did yesterday. The Madison is a protected area for trumpeter swans, but we have seen only one. Why is this swan alone?
   Bison and elk graze along the river. The morning is quiet until we pass Norris and Gibbon Falls. On the opposite side of the river canyon a silver gray grizzly makes his way up a steep, rocky path. He looks at the crowd on the other side of the river and understands what he cannot see well. He is about 300 lbs, and makes his way up the rocky hillside, at one point climbing on to a large rock jutting out over the path. He looks around, then weaves between the trees and makes his way to the top and over the hill.
   In Mammoth a bison ambles from the Magistrate's house to the gas station. Elk are bedded between the hotel and new Justice Center. We pass more cow elk as we drive the curving road to Gardiner. They stare at us while munching grass, too close to the road.
   We stop along the Gardiner River at Rescue Creek trailhead and walk along the bubbling river. Two geese rest in the grassy area next to the water. They start honking when they see us and walk away little by little, gradually wading into the water, still honking. We search the grass and sage for a nest, but don't find one. I hate disturbing them.
   While we watch the river rush over the rocks, two young big horn sheep rams climb the ridge above the water. Their horns are short and curved, their fur peeling off in thick tufts. They carefully make their way from the river bank up the steep rocky slope. How surefooted these animals are, how effortlessly they jump along narrow, steep paths.
   After a brief trip to Gardiner, we drive toward Lamar Valley and Silver Gate. Gray clouds are rolling in. Blacktail, Little America and Lamar Valley are quiet. Antelope race across the road, north to south. It starts to rain.
   There are no wolf sightings for us today. A trio of wolves has denned near the old Slough den site on the hillsides above the campground. They are called "755's group" after the alpha male. The alpha female, a former member of the Agate Pack, is simply called the '06 female." Yesterday, Mother's Day, she fought with a grizzly sow and her yearling cub when they approached the den - on and off for seven hours! The Silver Pack, a group of five wolves, has denned near the old Druid rendezvous site, so this may be a good year for pups.
   It starts to snow and we head for Silver Gate and the cabin. After we settle in, we walk along the road all the way to Cooke City. A fluffy fox darts out of the trees through the snow leaving a long line of tracks. After dinner the fox hunts in front of our cabin, crouching down and jumping into the snow.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2010