All photos by
Tim Springer
Christine Baleshta

   On Friday we walk outside to sunshine before 7 a.m. and mule deer grazing in front of the cabins. We cruise the Lamar without luck. The grizzly is still at the Soda Butte carcass, laying down on it. No sign of wolves.
    We are the first to drive the road to Tower for the season. Two black bears forage in the meadows alongside the road, one black and one cinnamon colored. First they feed and then they start playing, which quickly turns to foreplay and mating. I stop taking pictures, but Tim has some very interesting shots!
    Still no cubs. But later in the afternoon, around noon, we return to see "Rosie" and her two cubs of the year. They are so small. Little black balls of fur about the size of cats. They make a funny squealing sound. It starts to snow and soon visibility is very poor.
    We drive back to the Lamar Valley to find a charcoal grey wolf lying in the grass near the carcass at Soda Butte cone. Tim turns around for a second and notices three wolves poised on the ridge north of the road, two greys and a black/brown. One looks like 255F. Despite vehicles and peoples, they cross the road and wade Soda Butte Creek to the carcass. We watch them until it starts to snow thick, soft flakes that coat the grass, but melt on the road. I stay in the car while Tim tries to take pictures. It takes a while, but he gives up. When the snow finally lets up and the sun comes out, the wolves are gone, except for one, still feeding on the carcass.
    Two coyotes approach the area, but seem too wary to feed on the carcass. They decide to play with each other instead, chasing and play bowing, nipping at each other affectionately. Two golden eagles perch on the tall trunk of a dead tree and wait, staring at the kill. Eventually they fly down to the carcass and peck at it.
    We drive down to U-Black's den. U-Black is there and one puppy, but not for long. A short line of hikers marches down below the den site. They seem to be looking for something, researchers maybe. U-Black knows where they are and she and the pup disappear into the tree. We will return in the early evening and see two adults sleeping, but no pups.
    This afternoon we hike the trail from Blacktail Deer plateau, one of our favorite places, but this time take a detour. The trail forks off to the west and we follow it through open meadows and past mountainsides streaked with red, green and tan. This is my favorite Yellowstone. The place off the road where there are always new flowers and birds, the clean scent of pine and ground squirrels running everywhere. This is the first time I hear their call, a little peep/chirp that followed my steps and alerted their friends.
    The weather is very changeable today with sunshine and clouds and snow showers on and off all day. It remained cold all day, the temperature lingering in the thirties. The cabin is warm and cozy at the end of the day, small comfort for our last night in Yellowstone. Someone's dog is barking and its echo resonates, an eerie sound. I look for stars out the window, but the clouds hide them - and the mountains.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2004