Saturday, October 9, 2010
    The rain has almost stopped. It drips from the pines onto the tin roof. The mountains facing the cabin are frosted with last night's snow. In Round Prairie a bull moose stands on the far side of Soda Butte Creek, a dark chocolate silhouette against the golden meadow and a cow moose stands up to her chest in the swaying grass in front of him. Lamar Valley looks empty, but what we do not see is still there. Yesterday morning 754 ran east across the slopes from Trout Lake. For all we know the rest of the Lamar Canyon Pack is in the trees.
   I let my eyes take in the rolling hills, yellow with autumn; aspens and cottonwoods turning orange, standing out against the deep green of the pines. Bison curl up in mounds and amble across the road. It is strange to see the Lamar so quiet, absent of wolves. The absence of the Druid Pack is obvious - they are missed like old friends. The Silver Pack is missed too, probably still up Cache Creek. I was hoping to see them this trip, especially the old male.
   We pass through Lamar Valley and Lamar Canyon quickly, stopping at Boulder. The crowd is still there on top of the hill and on the high slope across the road. Four bears have visited the carcass this morning, but only two grizzles are there when we arrive - a dark brown grizzly and the cinnamon colored bear that quickly chases the other bear away. Three coyotes circle the carcass and bear, waiting for their turn at a meal. They dart in and out; one grabs a large piece and triumphantly carries it away. To the west of the carcass, a bald eagle sits on top of a rock while an immature bald eagle perches on a middle branch of a conifer, glancing down expectantly.
   The clouds still hover over us and it's damp. Little by little people come down from the hill, spotting scopes slanted on shoulders. Everyone is waiting for the wolves - signals indicate the Agates are in the area. The scope is on the carcass and I scan in every direction. We give up, too. I am disappointed. Again. It's something like the early days of wolf recovery in the Park. These packs - the Silver Pack, the Lamar Canyon Pack, the "new" Agates, the Blacktails - do not show up predictably at any one location, and when they do appear, they are barely seen.
   The sun sneaks out and warms us. I love the golden light of morning on Junction Butte and Specimen Ridge. We drive up and down Tower Road, past Floating Island Lake and the Blacktail Plateau for the last time this trip. Across from Calcite Springs big horn sheep ewes graze on the top of the ridge. From the east side of the Gardiner River Bridge, the Lower Terraces glisten. Up to Bunsen Peak and down through Mammoth. The Gardiner River rolls over rocks as while we pack last minute things. The sun is high now and I think about what this place will look like when the rolling hills are blanketed with snow. That will be soon. Yellowstone's Indian summer will not last long.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2010