It's already light at 5:30 a.m. when the alarm goes off. The sky is clear and blue and the air crisp, but it warms up by mid-morning turning into a warm day. The Lamar Valley is quiet. We see cars, trucks and SUVs of wolf watchers we know parked at familiar turnouts, but we don't hear of any wolf sightings. In Little America we see three grizzly adults traveling together high on the hillside south of the road, probably a sow with two two-year olds.
   We hike up the Yellowstone Trail a little after 9 a.m. I am looking for the black bear sow and her cub that we saw yesterday. She's in the meadows below the ridge the trail follows, playing with her cub. He is a bouncy little fellow and climbs on her and paws at her - and she paws and swats back. They tumble and roll. The cub runs around and explores a long, gray log with dead branches sticking up every which way. He bites at the branches and almost rolls off the log at one point. The sow's eye is always on him as he scrambles through the grass and up tree trunks. Finally she leans against the fat trunk of a tree and the cub nurses. It is a poignant sight. The sow knew we were there, and after watching for a long while, we leave the cub and mother as they settle into their mid-morning naps, we left.
    We shared the experience with a young couple from Fairbanks, Alaska who confessed they'd never seen a bear before. Up the trail, they spotted an elk, which they thought was a deer, lying on her side licking a calf. We watched as the calf rose unsteadily to its feet and promptly collapsed. It got up again and attempted a few short, wobbly steps before nursing. While the calf was nursing, the cow's body was facing away, but her head was turned around and she looked straight at us.
    I have always wanted to see an elk calf, but they are usually born in June, so we miss it. This was another extraordinary and privileged experience. The cow, alone in a meadow above the Yellowstone River, lying on her side, tenderly washing her baby. We watched maybe 15 minutes, but seeing the cow was disturbed by our presence, we moved on quietly as the cow led her baby very slowly away.
    We were tired and hot after the hike. It's much warmer than we expected and I failed to pack my token pair of shorts. We decided to rest and relax at Pebble Creek campground where we could hear the rushing water. The rivers and creeks are all moving pretty fast from the snowmelt. We listened to the creek while we read and I even fell asleep stretched out on a picnic table bench.
    When we got back to the cabin, our moose came through the trees and began grazing in front of the cabins. She keeps her distance. Then another moose walked up the road and joined her. Both have silvery chocolate coats and will make daily visits to the cabin.
    While I started dinner we heard a rumbling noise, like a plane overhead. Outside snow poured over the rocks of the mountain, looking like so many waterfalls. An avalanche. It sounded like glaciers in Alaska calving. On the porch we stared at the mountain facing us while the people at the cabin next to us applauded.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2006