We leave for the Lamar under cold, cloudy skies. At 6:35 a.m. there are people pulled off at the confluence and Trash Can. Rick, Jan and Bill are perched high on a hill with scopes pointed west of the Alluvial Fan. Bundled up in insulated pants, vest, coat and hat, I feel very warm. The Slough Creek pack is out there, but not visible. The rendezvous site is quiet.
    It's supposed to be a clear, sunny day so we head towards Hayden Valley and Yellowstone Lake to look again for the Hayden Pair, grizzlies and great grey owls. Off the Tower Road a black bear forages not far from Roosevelt Ranch. She is deep in the ditch, but right next to the road. Right after Tower Falls we see a doe and two fawns. There are lots of mule deer this fall. We see lots of does and all seem to have fawns, very often two.
    As we approach Mt. Washburn and Dunraven Pass, a cloud of fog covers the road. It is almost impossible to see. We intended to look for the Agate Pack, but nothing is visible. The clouds are thin, though, and we seem to drive our way above them. Funny to think we are that high up. Past the Chittendale Road the sky becomes clear and blue. It's almost as if we were lifted above it. This road has not been open for very long. It's been closed for repairs for a couple of years and driving it now I have to say the wait was worth it. This is a very beautiful part of the Park, the road winding through a heavily forested area. But the road can be very treacherous and the new pavement and larger turnout areas are very welcome. The road construction crew did an excellent job.
    From Dunraven Pass we wind our way down to Canyon and Hayden Valley and back into the mist. The roads are covered with frost. Bison alongside the roads, moving slowly, appear almost mystical. We detour slightly at Artists Point to view the bridge over the Yellowstone River. The Hayden Pair has been seen crossing this bridge. It seems odd that a wolf pair or pack would use a bridge to cross a river, but it may be very convenient for them.
    No grizzlies at either Sedge Bay or Mary Bay. Grizzlies are very iffy now. It's late for them and they will be moving toward winter den sites soon. The whitebark pine nut crop has been good this year, and the cutworm moths, so most of the grizzlies are still at higher altitudes feeding on these delicacies.
    At Canyon we hike into a small meadow to look for great gray owls. The area is also heavily forested with open meadows. We have no luck, but enjoy the hike back. At least I did. I think our timing is off. We got there about 11 or so. Viewing earlier would be better - or much later. The one time I saw a great gray, it was perched in a pine tree off the road a little north of Fishing Bridge at dusk and I haven't seen one since.
    On the way back, our small black bear is foraging again. Since people are so unpredictable, a ranger pushes watchers away. I am always amazed at how small black bears are.
    We watched the elk in Mammoth this afternoon. Someone sawed off No. 8's antlers, a very unfortunate thing. The bulls were all over each other - and sometimes the tourists. They are aggressive, running about agitated and bugling at each other. I stay far out of their way. A bunch of tourists huddle in the doorway of the Visitors Center after being chased off the green by No. 8.
    We head back to Silvergate and see cars pulled over by the old swan habitat about 5:30 p.m. Someone has spotted a wolf and a wolf kill. The wolf, dark and compact, is bedded down at the edge of the trees high on the slope, so no one can see it's a wolf until he lifts his head and we can spot his ears. We watch patiently for a long time as the sun sets slowly, reducing visibility even more. He finally gets up and moves slowly down the hill toward the kill, limping badly. He stops and howls. Behind us, across the road, we hear another howl. The consensus is he is part of the Leopold Pack, separated from the other members, and is waiting for the crowd to leave so he can cross the road. One by one cars pull out, leaving the wolves in darkness and peace.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2006