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               Day 2 June 2, 2013

Sunday, June 2, 2013

    The sun shines through the curtains at 5 a.m. Day begins early here; earlier and earlier the farther north you go. At 6:00 a.m. it is 30 degrees.
   A grizzly ambles across the rolling hills of Hayden Valley, the morning brilliantly clear and cool. Near Alum Creek, watchers are posted on hillsides, waiting; the Canyon Pack is not yet in sight. The river glides by, silent, smooth. A herd of cow elk graze on the banks of the Yellowstone south of Grizzly Overlook. They wade into the river slowly, leading four calves to the water, maybe the calves' first time. One cow stands in the water, watching as a calf cautiously places a hoof at the edge of the water and step in to drink. Startled by the feel of the river, the calf jumps away, racing in circles around the other calves while their mothers watch from the slope.
   Lake Yellowstone is like glass, barely a ripple against the shore. Grizzly tracks pad along the sandy edge of the beach. Geese form a lopsided V as they fly overhead; we can hear their wings beating against the wind as they fly toward the Tetons. We spot our first coyotes today - one walking on a log near Fishing Bridge and another hunting in Hayden Valley.
    We revisit a favorite place this morning, hiking out to Storm Point today to the marmot colony. The trail winds through a forest of pine trees into a meadow that slopes down to beach and up rocky cliffs. Marmots have formed a colony in the rocks and scamper back and forth. When we first visited the colony a couple of years ago, we were surprised by the number of marmots, maybe 50. We have since learned that male marmots have multiple families, so the large population is not unusual.
   The trail loops back through a forest of lodge pole pines to the parking area. A ranger leads a small group of visitors on the path along the beach, pointing out plants and birds and animals, talking about Lake Yellowstone and geysers. We hike up to the cliffs overlooking the lake, attempting to escape the insects.
    After our hike we return to Grizzly Overlook, waiting to catch a glimpse of the Canyon Pack. At 2:30 or later in the afternoon, it's a bad time to see wildlife, but tired from travel, we scan the hillsides hopefully, staring at rocks and tree stumps. Other visitors come and go, setting up scopes, putting them up. After looking forever, Tim hops out of the car and scrambles to set up the scope. A white wolf is running across the sage - the Canyon alpha female is making tracks across the flats - fast. She carries something that looks like a black pup dangling from her mouth, traveling quickly, even recklessly. She disappears behind a berm near the Canyon Pack rendezvous site, in a short while reappearing and moving northeast; stopping, sitting, howling, looking back, gradually moving toward the hills until she disappears once more in the sage and trees. She is so white, just like her mother. Each time I see her, I think of the Hayden alpha female.
    We chat with two other visitors in the turnout, trying to sort out what we've seen. "Dave" tells me that two of the Canyon subordinates, a male and female, have dispersed, but the pack still has at least 5 adults I think. In about 25 minutes the white female returns, traveling on a diagonal, carrying another black pup to the same location. Following her is a gray 2-3 year old light gray wolf. The wolves step quickly, deliberately. They are moving the pups from the den to the rendezvous site most likely because hikers have been near the den area and disturbed the pack. And we have been the first to see the Canyon Pack wolf pups!

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2013