Friday, October 5, 2012
Silver Gate, Montana

    The day begins at 19 degrees and stays cold; at noon it is only 37 degrees. There is frost on the windshield and my binoculars are difficult to adjust. I'm sure it's because of the cold. By the time we reach the middle of Lamar Valley, it's evident that wolves are visible. Turnouts are jammed with vehicles and we have trouble squeezing in. The Lamar Canyon Pack is moving east down the valley after visiting an old carcass on Jasper Bench. The wolves move quickly, then meander and continue on. '06 leads the way, limping. I count eleven wolves, though we hear all thirteen wolves are present which means the pups, who are now almost six months old, are there too. They move in a line heading toward the rendezvous site, staying close to the trees and disappearing in and out of the woods. Finally they bed in the sage, hidden in the dull green landscape.
    Someone has seen the "New Pack" from Rick's turnout, so we drive to Little America and wait and watch. The Wolf Project plane flies overhead and identifies four wolves deep in a ravine. The plane sees nothing to "hold" the wolves, like a carcass, but the wolves don't leave their site.
    It's been a couple of years since we hiked along the creek at Blacktail Deer Plateau. Bison dot the hillsides; a deer jumps out of tall, yellow grass and runs up the hillside. It's a beautiful, clear day, if very cold, the temperature hovering around 36 degrees. The trail climbs in the beginning and then descends to the creek. Blacktail Plateau opens up to rolling hills and stands of pine trees. The soothing sounds of the creek, birds and the wind surround us. Nothing is going on, and yet everything. The Park is preparing for winter.
    The way back is uphill and we're glad to reach the car. Heading towards Lamar Valley, a herd of antelope graze at Tower Junction. We see more and more pronghorns this year all over the Park. They gather in small groups in Lamar Valley and Little America as if preparing to make their yearly journey out of the Park. Stopping at Hikers Bridge, we cross the bridge and walk along Soda Butte Creek. The water is clear, but low, sliding around rocks and gravel bars. Most of the rivers and streams in the Park are low right now.
    As the sun begins to set and the light fades, the Lamar Canyon wolves are still at the rendezvous site. Lying in the sage and grass, they are almost invisible. We wait and wait until a gray wolf pops out of the trees and runs after two pronghorns who leap across the sage and the gray wolf disappears. I think I see another gray, but can't be sure. This may have been one of the Lamar Canyon pups' first excursions. While we watch the wolves, a grizzly ambles across Amethyst bench. Nose to the ground, he makes circles in the grass and disappears behind the hill. Our second grizzly.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2012