Monday, June 11, 2012,

    This morning is sunny and markedly warmer than yesterday - and the wind is gone, but the front steps are still slippery from yesterday's rain and snow. The sun shines its blessing on Hayden Valley as we pass through, stopping first to check the carcass and then the rendezvous site from Grizzly Overlook. All is quiet. Where do the Canyons go when they aren't at home? They may be off hunting, as the carcass is basically gone and there are more mouths to feed this time of year. I climb a well-worn path up the hill behind Grizzly Overlook and find myself staring at a bison. I back away and retrace my steps when a man with a spotting scope calls that there is a grizzly in the valley. Walking between the power poles is a medium sized grizzly, grubbing. He ambles among the bison, occasionally lifting his head to sniff the air. Suddenly he breaks into a lope and disappears behind a sage covered hill. We think he may have caught the scent from the Canyon's carcass, but he fails to reappear.
   As we drive towards Lake, a bull elk with antlers still covered with velvet watches us from the slopes above the road. A very light gray coyote crosses a hillside, nose to the ground. Mary Bay and Sedge Bay are also quiet; the peacefulness of the Lake in the morning is beautiful to see. We sit at a picnic table and watch two bison graze on patches of grass near the beach, hoping a bear will show up.
   A few years ago I sponsored a bear-proof food storage box in my parents' memory. On our way to West Thumb we drive through Bay Bridge campground to visit my "bear box." When we get to the right section, far back in the campground and up the hill, we're disappointed to find it closed to all traffic due to bear danger. At least the bear box is in the right place. We drive through Gull Point and walk on the beach where a bear has left his tracks in the sand.
   West Thumb is crowded with visitors, noisily filing along the boardwalks. Steam rises from small and large pools of water colored in beautiful shades of blue, green and pink. The thermals are next to the Lake, a striking and beautiful contrast. From the boardwalk we can gaze across miles of Lake Yellowstone bordered by the snow-covered Beartooth Mountains. Despite throngs of people, this area has a wildness all its own.
   Turning north, we stop at LeHardie Rapids. Two male harlequin ducks huddle together on a rock then suddenly take off flying down the river and dive in to feed. Several minutes later they reappear on the rock, having floated down the rapids, little heads bobbing in the water, avoiding the rocks.
   Later this afternoon we run into a coyote jam. So many people mistake coyotes for wolves and this light gray coyote is fairly large and would be easy to think it was one of the Canyon Pack. The coyote is feeding on an elk calf carcass in the valley across from Grizzly Overlook. In late spring bears, wolves and coyotes can be seen searching the meadows for elk calves and pronghorn fawns hidden in the tall grass by their mothers. The calves have no scent, so this coyote has gotten lucky.
   After dinner tonight we take a short walk from our cabin to the owl meadows. Our cabin is near the main road where a partly paved path leads through the woods to the meadows. Years ago I watched a great gray owl hunt for its dinner in this area, but no owls tonight. Crossing deadfall and a patch of old snow. we frighten a cow elk on the way back.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2012