Thursday, June 16, 2011
   It's an overcast, hazy morning, but a little warmer - 40 . Because of the clouds, the day stays cool, in the 50s most of the day. Rick McIntyre has some signals in Lamar Valley, but no wolves make an appearance. We stop at Hitching Post, Midpoint and Dorothy's and go back to Round Prairie. No luck, so we drive past Slough Creek and through Little America. The grizzly couple is still hunting in the sage below Junction Butte looking for elk calves. A cow stands on a slope above them, but she does not seem anxious.
   We drive up Tower Road and back down again to Petrified Tree. The black bear is still feeding on grass along the creek. Intent on grazing, he hardly looks up. On our way back to Lamar Valley we stop to watch two antelope does with fawns at Tower Junction. They are all such fairy-like creatures with fine, sharp markings and the fawns even more so.
   At a pond east of Junction Butte, the grizzly pair is putting on a show few people ever see. Most courting bears will travel together for a short while, maybe a week , and mate during that period. These bears hunt together, sleep together and play together. They chase each other, roll on the ground, paw each others faces. The female races into the pond with the male swimming behind her. She jumps on a rock and he tries to push her off. They lope around the pond and through the water. The grizzlies play for at least an hour as a line of people along the road watch. Three rangers patrol the area keeping cars off the road, while enjoying the bears too - even they never see this! The bears finally chase each other over the hills leaving some unlucky visitors wondering what they missed.
   The bear episode is enough to keep me happy for the rest of the trip. The man next to us tells us about a bear on a carcass in Antelope Flats before Dunraven. We drive all the way to Hayden Valley and never see it. Antelope Creek has recovered nicely from last year's fire. The valley below Mt. Washburn is green, the fire having burned much of the deadfall.
   In the afternoon, we hike out the Garnet Trail Loop this afternoon racing up the trail to get ahead of a trail ride starting at the same point. The horses are all sizes, colors and shapes, a lot of draft horses. Most are big with hairy hooves. The horses walk nose to tail, a few getting out of line once in a while. We stand alongside the trail, while the line of horses passes us and turns toward Yancy's Hole. We follow the trail up the hill toward the Yellowstone River. From the top of the ridge we can see across the river to Junction Butte and the rocky hills west of it. We look for mountain lions and bears and see neither. A long line of people waits at the ranger station by the time we get back. The chuck wagons are leaving for Yancy's hole, teams of two draft horses pulling each yellow wagon, framed like a covered wagon.
   Lamar Valley is still quiet. Two sandhill cranes near Dorothy's bend their long graceful necks to the ground pecking at the grass. Bison with calves and antelope dot the meadows. A few people stand with scopes at Hitching Post, waiting to see the Lamar Canyon wolves. In the willows of a large meadow near Barronett Peak, a moose and her very new calf get to know each other. The calf has a somewhat bewildered look. It lifts its nose and touches its mother's in a tender moment. Tiny little thing.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2011