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     Day Three
     Day Four
     Day Five
     Day Six
     Day Seven


               Day 3 June 2, 2014

Monday, June 2, 2014
Silver Gate, MT

   There are no elk standing in the road this morning. The wildlife is up early here and Mary and Sedge Bays are quiet. At 36 , it's colder than yesterday, but the sun is out and the sky is blue. We hurry past Lake Butte Lookout not stopping to look for yesterday's bear. The carcass was small so we figure it must have moved on.
   Bison graze and sleep in the meadows along the Yellowstone River. Here the water glides by smoothly, not like the rushing waters of LeHardy Rapids. An elk gingerly steps into the water while two cows with calves graze at the bend in the river - the first elk calves we've seen this spring. Last spring we watched the Canyon Pack alpha female move two pups from the den to the rendezvous site from Grizzly Lookout. This morning the valley is wolfless. In previous years the Hayden and Canyon Packs were seen almost daily. Now the alpha pair is getting older and though 712M, the alpha male, has been seen around Norris, where the Canyons are today is anyone's guess.
   Gull Point is peaceful early in the morning and Lake Yellowstone is almost like glass. A pair of goldeneyes swims off together while a man fly fishes on the opposite end of the beach. We hike along the shore looking for tracks and then climb into the woods. From here we can see Lake Hotel stretching out along the shoreline. Later in the morning we follow a game trail from Indian Pond to the Lake. After yesterday's rain, the trail is muddy and marshy. The mud clings to our hiking shoes, coating the soles, weighing down our steps. Earlier we caught sight of a grizzly ambling into the trees not far from here. He probably crossed the road and traveled to the Lake or into the woods to bed, so we are cautious. The ground is a blanket of yellow violets; a bluebird sits on the edge of a cliff and a white-crowned sparrow flits through the trees. A bison bull grazes not far from us - someone else to watch out for.
   On the trail back we meet a man walking a small, light brown dog. He notices Tim's borrowed Audubon windbreaker and says "I have the same jacket." So the conversation begins. He is from San Diego and rehabilitates raptors. Dogs are prohibited on trails in Yellowstone, but this dog is wearing an "Assistance Dog" vest and the gentleman explains to us he has a hearing problem. It's the first time we've ever seen a working dog in a national park and on a trail.
   Tired of driving and looking for wildlife, we hike to Clear Lake from Wapiti Trailhead parking lot. We have taken this trail before and forked off in different directions. Today the path through fields of wildflowers is muddy and marshy. The lake itself is small and smells like sulfur. From here the trail winds through young pine trees to a dry, rocky thermal area. We follow a different trail coming back that leads us across the road to the parking area for Uncle Tom's Cabin and the South Rim Trail. This part of the trail has beautiful views of the upper falls as it follows the Yellowstone River to Chittendon Bridge. It is well maintained, dry and not too steep.
   By the middle of the afternoon we just want to stop. A grizzly sow and her cub of the year have just disappeared into the trees behind a meadow near Norris. We take a short break at picnic area and soon the sow is back out, cub in tow. The sow is light brown with an even lighter face and her tiny cub is brown with a striking blonde face. Its dark eyes stare out at us as it clings to its mother's side. They crawl over deadfall in the low hills that line the road, the cub closely following his mother's steps. She is amazingly tolerant of the crowd of passing cars, continuing to forage while the crowds are herded by shouting rangers. At one point the pair lies down and the sow gently licks her cub and lets him nurse. The intimacy of the moment clashes with cameras clicking, cars passing, and people talking. All the noise and chaos take something away. Still, we are lucky to see a grizzly and cub so close - it is the highlight of the day.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2014