Friday, May 14, 2010
   It's 20 degrees when we leave the cabin this morning and head straight for Soda Butte Cone where a carcass was reported last night. The carcass is down in the creek and hard to see, though three wolves from the Silver Pack are on it - 147M, the 08 female and 753F. The '08 female comes up first and heads for the river bank. She is gray with a dark saddle and some brown around her ears. She looks really healthy. All I can see of 753F is her light gray fur and collar.
   The 08 female heads up the slope above the creek into the trees. Coyotes are yipping madly. We can't see the other two wolves so we drive toward the confluence hoping to catch the wolves when they leave the carcass and return to the den. Back and forth in the dance of wolf watchers, we stop at Hikers Bridge, then Hitching Post, and the next turnout, and the next, and then decide to look for bears.
   Tower Road opens today. Anxious to see if Rosie has cubs this year, we drive up Tower Road, which opens today. There are no black bears along the road or in the meadows of Rainy Lake and Calcite Springs this morning, so we hike into Yancy's Hole instead. The stagecoach road is covered with wolf tracks; bison and elk graze in the meadow. A small black bear is foraging in the middle of the meadow. He ignores us, milling about, munching grass. The bear walks over to a slope of scree and crawls in between the rocks. He may be eating something, but it looks like he's scratching himself. The bear climbs out of the rocks and ambles toward the picnic tables and covered area for the stagecoach dinner. He is just having his bear day, doing what bears do, an enviable picture of contentment. Not very big, about 175 lbs, he must be a 2 year old. He walks to a tree, stands up and scratches his back, wiggling.
   We cross the stream and walk into the woods. I have forgotten what a beautiful place this is - such a variety of terrain: the woods, rocky slopes, open meadow, wildflowers just beginning to bloom. We cross another stream on a log split in half. Deer graze on a slope. The trail climbs and descends past the stream and a water fall, stretching to the Yellowstone River canyon.
   The trail continues high above the river. Two black bears amble along on the opposite slopes, grazing between and behind trees. We sit on flat rocks, watching the bears when a pale gray coyote pops up right in front of us. All of us are a bit startled. He has a collar and is very pretty. A minute later another coyote, golden in color, trots behind us. She stops and stares at us and then the pair trots off down the trail. She is nursing, so they must be on their way back to their den.
   The trail continues along the river canyon and then turns southeast, climbing steeply out of the woods to the meadows above the river. The last part of the loop is a long walk through the rolling hills above Yancy's Hole. We pass a small group of elk cows and antelope does. The elk dash away when they see us, but the antelope remain, cautiously watching us and we wonder why they don't run - we never get close to antelope. Then we notice these two are pregnant. Their eyes follow us as we back away from the trail and pass them.
   We check the coyote's den at Roosevelt and all is quiet. But the flicker who has built its nest in the sign at Tower Junction pokes his head out of the entrance and hops on top of the sign and looks around. Flickers are very pretty birds, speckled brown and white with bright red under their tails. On the eastern edge of Lamar Canyon an osprey sits in her nest high above the river and calls and calls to her mate. He sits in a nearby tree and preens. Driving through Lamar Valley, we look for wolves and bears and moose, trying to soak in as much of the Park as possible. They are all back in the trees on this warm evening.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2010