Friday, October 8, 2010
    It feels colder than 39 degrees when we leave the cabin. Dampness settles in quickly, but the fog is not so bad this morning. We pass quickly through the Lamar, past bison and yellow hills, curving through Lamar Canyon. A crowd is still gathered at Boulder watching the grizzlies fight over the carcass while vehicles crowd the turnouts overlooking Elk Creek farther up the road. The Agates are chasing elk on Specimen Ridge. The wolves look like the tiniest of black and white dots sliding down the slopes. I can barely see them and I don't have a good idea of their location. It is the first mistake of the day.
    We go on to Blacktail Plateau to see what we can really see - a real long shot. The hills of the Blacktail go on forever to the south - perfect wolf habitat with elk herds, water, space. Just no wolves - or none that can be seen right now. The Blacktail Pack puppies are at a rendezvous site far, far in and barely visible. We search and just get colder. Black bears have been seen along the Blacktail Road, a gravel and dirt road we have hiked many times when it was closed because of poor driving conditions. The road winds through wooded areas and meadows of rolling hills. No bears - until the very end of the road where a black bear forages high on the slopes to the west.
    The Agates can now be seen on top of Specimen Ridge from Boulder. They apparently came down from the ridge and crossed the road to the bison carcass, ate, and then crossed back over the road and wound their way up to the ridge - we are just in time to see two pack members, a large light gray wolf who might have been 641M, 640's brother, and another gray amble through the pines and up the slopes.
    We stop for a short visit with friends when we hear the '06 female may be down at Round Prairie. We tear off through the canyon to the end of Lamar Valley just in time to catch 754M, the black beta male of the Lamar Canyon Pack, trotting west across the hills from Trout Lake. We follow him, waiting at different turnouts. It starts to rain and finally we drive to Cooke City to meet friends and wait out the rain over hot chocolate. We were going to hike somewhere in the Beartooths, but the weather interfered.
    We drive around in the rain the rest of the afternoon along the north road, up to Tower and back down. Down to Blacktail Ponds and through Blacktail Road again where a bull elk herds his harem of about 20 cows across from Blacktail Road. By late afternoon we end up at Boulder - again - watching the two grizzlies when scanning with binoculars I see two wolf faces above the sage, a black and a grey wolf waiting across the road. We race east down the road, but they cross before we see them. Suddenly howling explodes from the hills, a wonderful, melodious howl echoing all around us. We wait thinking more will cross, and they do - but farther down the road where we can't see them. So we go back to Boulder and the wolves leave the carcass and cross right where we thought they would in the first place! A series of unfortunate events. I finally break down and cry with disappointment and anger. Sometimes, when something like this happens, I think I will not come back.
    It's late and I can hear the rain still coming down on the cabin roof. I walked to Annie's cabin tonight to visit and walked back in the dark - the first time I am afraid of running into a bear. All I see is a doe with three fawns grazing along the gravel driveway, undisturbed by me.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2010