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               Day 6 October 11, 2013

Friday, October 11, 2013
Silver Gate

    There is frost on the porch railing this morning and the yard is dusted with new snow, flakes still drifting to the ground. We are leaving today. Leaving the Park when we weren't even inside. A strange feeling, not being allowed to do the one thing that matters. We saw everything except wolves - I really wanted to see the Junction Buttes Pack, and of course the Lamar Canyons, to know they are safe. All this while hunting season is going on. Last night I heard two shots between 9:30 and 10 30. There is no hunting allowed at night so maybe someone was hazing a bear?
   We say our goodbyes and the sun comes out as we drive toward Cody and Sunlight Basin. The Sunlight Road descends into a bowl of ranchland that stretches out for miles. Nothing but space, cattle and horses. The rest of the road terrifies me. Rough, narrow, high above the river, I pray the whole way until we reach a second water crossing. Tim sees I am not having fun and diplomatically suggests turning around. At Little Sunlight we find tracks which might be a wolf's. [We did see a moose bedded in snow deep in the river canyon.] 39F, once alpha female of the Druid Pack, became part of the Sunlight Basin Pack before she was illegally shot. The campground is equipped with bear boxes and poles for hanging food and corrals for horses.
   The day drifts by. At Red Lodge store windows are decorated for Halloween and visitors go in and out of shops. The wind blows wildly, making it feel colder that 40 degrees. Still we would rather be outside, heading back toward the Beartooths to Wild Bill Lake, a small park at the edge of Red Lodge. The slopes are rocky, studded with bare trees. Again lots of warnings for bears we don't see. A lady at the Visitor's Center said they have 60 bears in the area. Despite the beautiful scenery, we're tired of going places.
   One last stop before turning toward Bozeman, Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary, home to wildlife orphaned or injured that cannot be returned to the wild. Residents include a huge black bear named Buster who paces while caretakers clean his enclosure and two almost white wolves, sisters kept in separate enclosures. It is a maze of dens and animal hiding places, shaded by trees on a grassy slope. Among the other "tenants" are Clyde the coyote who pins his ears and bares his teeth, but later comes to the fence, curious. Another coyote curls up on a high platform in his pen. He followed someone's family dog home one day and refused to leave.
   The rest of the day is a blur of mountains, pastures and small towns. Livingston is a welcome stop, lively with pre-Halloween party celebrations, but quiet enough after a long drive. In the morning there is plenty of time to explore the Cherry River fishing access site, a tiny wilderness at the edge of Bozeman. Northern Shovelers and American Coots glide across one of two ponds almost hidden by tall grass. A fisherman casts his line while Saturday morning birdwatchers stroll the loop, looking for red-winged and yellow-headed blackbirds. It is a welcome oasis after a sometimes stressful trip marred by canceled plans, unfulfilled hopes and a flat tire, a chance to remember the Yellowstone outside the Park we discovered.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2014