All photos by
Tim Springer
Christine Baleshta

    We woke up to an overcast day that was cold, but tolerable. The Park has taken on a certain warm glow, the grass turning yellow along with the aspens brilliant gold. We drove into Fall, but signs of winter blew are blowing in. The Lamar Valley was quiet, elk and bison scattered on the hillsides. It was dark at 6:50 a.m. when we left the cabin and light by 7:15 a.m. We drove through Lamar Canyon and through Little America. Not even a coyote. As we approached Tower it began to rain. We drove up the Tower Road along Antelope Creek where we heard about a siting of the Agates at the base of Mount Washburn. Visibility was not great, but better than in the lower elevations where fog obscured the view. We watched a grizzly forage through the trees at the base of Mount Washburn and then spotted seven members of the Agate Pack, stretched out, some of the grays looking like white rocks. The alpha female is a gray with a lighter colored collar, what I call charcoal gray with darker ears. Most unusual and pretty coloring. The other grays were almost white. They lounged among the rocks for a long time until a couple of blacks started nudging the others with their noses. Greetings and play began. Rick McIntyre said that the black wolves are pups. The wolves stood up with wagging tails, touching noses and faded into big white snowflakes. Visibility disappeared. It must have been in the 30's. When it began to snow, we heard the wolves howl that beautiful music echoing off the valley walls. It lasted only minutes, but seemed much longer. A melody of high and low notes, smooth and piercing at the same time. Rick was getting signals in the Tower area from one of the Geode wolves, but we never saw any. In Little America we did see a black bear that crossed the road near Aspen. A small black bear, maybe a couple of years old. He foraged very near the road making lots of visitors and photographers happy. The weather is changing everything. It turned colder this afternoon with rain and snow. Mammoth had a snowstorm this morning that sent 15 cars into ditches. It's melting off now. We drove back to the Lamar where we watched a grizzly sow and her two cubs of the year forage in a meadow below Amethyst Peak. That was after 11 a.m. and we returned to watch her again this afternoon around 1:00 p.m. They have been in the area three days. This is the first chance I've had to see cubs of the year. Hers appeared healthy and big. The Bears of Yellowstone says that grizzly cubs are between 60 and 70 pounds by their first fall. The cubs foraged right along with their mother, not stopping to play. The afternoon was cold and damp with rain and snow flurries on and off. The Park closed the road from Tower to Dunraven, probably due to the snow that caused accidents at Mammoth. We drove all the way to Swan Lake Flats where we watched a coyote pounce on rodents - our "first" coyote . (Tonight the coyotes didn't serenade us). Later we saw another cross the road below the terraces. We stopped and walked the road through the upper terraces, something I've never done in all my trips to the Park. The terraces are very mystical in the cold. Beautiful shades of green and grey and red sift through the steam. Leafless trees stretch their arms through the gray mist. Ice coats the wooden walkways winding through steam and muted colors. A fat magpie posed for pictures on snow dusted logs near parked cars. His blue, black and white feathers are striking against the snow. On our way back to Mammoth we stop to watch a herd of elk graze. Two bull elk bugled to one another, my favorite autumn song. It was a comical sound at times, the elk almost growling and mooing at the same time. By the time we reached the cabin it seemed brighter, hopefully a sign that it will be sunny and warmer tomorrow.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2004