All photos by
Tim Springer
Christine Baleshta

   Our last morning is the beginning of a beautiful day in Yellowstone. Even at 6:00 a.m. the sun is out reflecting off last night's snow. The road is clear, but the trees and grass wear white. Strangely, it seems warmer than the past mornings this week and a low fog hangs over the Lamar Valley.
    We pass a moose in its usual meadow to the west of Pebble Creek and the grizzly laying on the carcass in Soda Butte Creek. Still guarding his meal. The water is iced over a little and the bear's head is crowned with frost. I can't wait to see that picture. Frosty bear.
    The Druids are out in Lamar Valley. We hear on the radio they chased an elk that ran into the River and escaped. When we park at Midpoint the wolves are bedded down on the south side of the Lamar near the cottonwoods, hidden by the morning fog. So we wait in the car, looking through our binoculars through the windshield, seeing nothing but grey. The fog lifts and soon we see one black wolf lying in the grass and then a black and grey. 21M comes in from the west and swims across the river to the south bank. There the other wolves run to meet him with wagging tails.
    21M has blood on his head above his right eye. At first we speculate that the elk he was chasing kicked him, but he swims the river just fine and does not appear to be injured. The blood must have come from the elk, who Rick said had blood on its flank. 21M lay down and licked his paws and body. Now I think he's washing himself off. There isn't much activity after that, the wolves just lying in the sun. They howl breaking the roadside chatter with their haunting music.
    We stop in Little America one last time to check on U-Black. One pup and an adult are sleeping far in the back of the clearing under the trees. At Tower Junction a black bear climbs the hillside west of the Ranger Station. Elk, deer, bison and bison calves are scattered everywhere.
    The hotel in Mammoth opens today and the Park will be crowded. My tolerance for crowds weakens each trip. I am grateful that we have time to leave the Park slowly, allowing us a chance to savor our last moments until the next time. We pass Wraith Falls and notice a carcass there is nearly picked clean. By the time we reach the airport it's sunny and warm. I would have liked to have had another day like this in the Park.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2004