Wednesday, June 13, 2012,
Silver Gate, Montana

   The day starts out beautifully, warming to high 50s and then shortly after 2 it begins to rain and rains on and off the rest of the day. There are hundreds of bison in Lamar Valley, many with calves. It's a bison nursery, orange dots in tall, yellow grass. One calf tries to nurse at the side of the road while another sucks and chews a broken shrub. The bison are thriving, and seem to have moved from Little America to Lamar Valley, though there are some cows with calves still there.
   The antelope seem to be doing well also and we've heard there is one doe with twins. They lie curled up in the meadows under Specimen Ridge, fawns next to their mothers. We have yet to see a coyote in Lamar Valley or Little America. We have only seen two coyotes since we arrived - both in Hayden Valley - and it's possible it was the same coyote! Strange. I doubt coyotes are so heat sensitive that we would not see more during the day or late morning. We did hear coyotes yipping while we parked at Slough Creek late yesterday afternoon. The campground will not be open until the end of the week and early evening was quiet with only a few bison grazing on the slopes near the old Slough Creek Pack den.
   The wolf population is down; many of the wolves we watched or heard of, gone. 471, 692F, Big Blaize, 641M (640F's brother). All gone. The Mollies, in what used to be their annual trip to Lamar Valley from Pelican Creek, have wreaked havoc on other wolf packs. This winter instead of returning south, they stayed. The Mollies lost their alpha pair late last year and now, without leadership, the pack is in disarray. Most of the Mollies are females - I don't see how that many wolves can stay together without the leadership of an alpha pair.
   This morning, while the sun is still out, we hike into Wrecker on the Yellowstone River Trail. The trail winds along the cliffs above the river on the edge of a series of meadows. It's a pretty hike - not long or strenuous. Sometimes we see deer or big-horn sheep there. Today there are lots of different birds, including a northern flicker and a pair of red-tailed hawks circling above their nest high in a pine tree. Down the road, there are owlets in the great horned owl's nest in Lamar Canyon. Two owlets scrunch together, their heads sticking up above the nest, waiting for their parents.
   About this time the storm blows in, dropping the temperature to 46. We head back to the cabin to wait out the rain. But the rain doesn't stop. I'd love to walk around Silver Gate, but the weather is not cooperating, so we settle in to read for a while, grateful for the comfort of the cabin. In the early evening, we venture out again in drizzle and fog, but visibility slowly fades and we retreat to Silver Gate.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2012