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     Day Four
     Day Five
     Day Six
     Day Seven


               Day 7 June 6, 2014

Friday, June 6, 2014
Silver Gate, MT

   The morning is another cold one, the sun slowly breaking through the clouds. East of Soda Butte Cone, people are scattered along the road with scopes and cameras. Cars jam into parking spaces at Hiker's Bridge. The Lamar Canyon pair killed a deer earlier this morning and 925M is out in the sage, weaving between bison cows and calves. He is still hunting. He gets too close to one calf and an angry cow chases him away. The bison line up, eyes fixed on the big gray wolf. Pronghorn in the flats take note and leap away through the sage. 925M takes off at a dead run after something we don't see - elk? Pronghorn? He disappears behind a hill and mysteriously reappears in the sage. After testing the bison once more, he trots south toward the river and we lose him in the trees. Most likely he is heading to Cache Creek and we will not see him again. We just missed 926F carrying part of the carcass to the den when she crossed the road this morning. Some think she killed the deer herself and with just the alpha pair hunting, their footprint on this territory is relatively small.
   Down the road at Slough Creek and Little America, a black wolf is moving west, trying to cross the road. Cars cruise back and forth trying to spot the wolf while we wait with others on top of a hill. We thought we saw a black sliver in the grass, but when we go back to check he's gone. We drive on looking for other wildlife. The black bears are still entertaining the masses at Calcite Springs while bighorn sheep climb through the trees on the slopes of Tower Road. In the river canyon, the peregrine falcon squeezes into her nest, a long narrow shelf in the canyon wall. Road construction at Tower last year has greatly improved the drive through this part of the Park. The turnouts are wider with more parking makes the road smoother and safer.
   We are back at Little America just in time to see 890M trot across the sage and bed under a stand of pine trees. And so the back and forth of our daily routine continues. The day that began at 32 is warming up so we try to find Quad Mom once more at Swan Lake Flats. This time the weather is better - sunny, but still windy. The flats are quiet except for a few elk with calves and a pair of sandhill cranes. One cow seems to be separated from her herd. She approaches our vehicle looking around nervously and acting curiously unsettled. She wanders along the edge of the turnout, as if she wants to cross the road. A very light colored coyote pops his head up out of the sage. He is one of the few coyotes we've seen this trip; they seem to have all but disappeared.
   Down the road we pull off into another turnout where a man asks if we have seen the bear - a grizzly crossed the road at Sheepeaters and went into the trees nearby. We search the meadows and trees, drive up and down the road, but never find him. In the meantime a group of bison crosses the road blocking traffic. By 1:30 I am sick of being in the car and pull into Indian Creek. We hike the loop that follows the creek and bends through deadfall and new growth forest. It's a pleasant, easy hike through new growth pine, but knowing there is a bear in the area does concern me a little. We take another trail from the campground to an upper meadow and find bear tracks in the soft mud. At one point I hear a strange noise and my heart stops. It is only Tim's backpack rubbing against something.
   We drive all day looking for bears and wolves and sometimes fail to appreciate all the birds and animals under our noses - the great blue heron, all the different sparrows and warblers, the eagle's nest. We finally saw the bald eagle and two chicks in their nest above the Lamar River. It starts to rain by the time we reach Tower Junction. Lightening flashes in the distance and it pours all the way back to the cabin. Rain streams across the wooden bridge and forms huge puddles in the dirt road. While we regroup two hikers pass our window as hail pelts them. Our vehicle is covered with ice. They smile and wave to us cheerfully, motioning us to join them, but we wait until the hail has stopped and the sun comes out.
   The Park is a different place at sunset. Peaceful, relaxed, not so many people. After the storm, the air is cool and crisp, the sharp emerald green of grass muted. An orange glow lights the horizon. A brown phase black bear grubs in Little America near the same place 890M bedded. He makes his way across the slope quickly, stopping to scratch his back against a tree. It starts to rain again - hard. 890M is still out there and we follow him as he moves west. It rains harder and harder. We're trying to figure out where he will cross and can't keep up with him, blinded by the rain. Finally the rain lets up, but we've lost track of 890M.
   In the east, a rainbow stretches across the sky, shades of yellow, orange, pink and purple. This is how the evening ends, light slowly fading and shadows covering the valley. The shapes of bison, bear and wolf gradually disappear in the sunset and the sounds of darkness take over. Where does the week go? I always wonder about that. Time streams by and I want to take it all back with me. We would have liked this last day to be a stream of non-stop wildlife viewing with some special moment punctuating our trip. Instead, it was just a normal Yellowstone day. Tomorrow we will say our goodbyes to Silver Gate without going into the Park. There isn't enough time and it is too hard to leave. As we head back to the cabin and the light fades, we are surrounded by the Park, and that is enough.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

Yellowstone Experiences 2014