It turns into a warm day, but it begins chilly enough as we leave the cabin at 6:00 a.m.
Almost right after we enter the Park cars are stopped near Warm Springs for two moose in the south meadow,
both cows, just standing in the tall grasses, staring at us staring back. A little farther down the road
another moose stands in the trees where the Soda Butte is not much more than a slender winding creek.
As we pass through the Lamar, we see people with scopes pointed north of the road. High on the hillside,
a grizzly makes his way through the grass grazing. We watch for a while before speeding toward Hellroaring overlook.
Hellroaring is both a gift and a nightmare. We feel lucky enough to see puppies when they come out of the den,
but the overlook is very busy and only a few watchers are able to set up their scopes in the proper space at
the correct angle. We do not give up today. We see the pups, actually only two, for a very short time.
They are so small and black. One crawls over a log like a little caterpillar. They are very cute,
even from a distance, and everyone is fascinated by them.
I am able to see two adults lying in the grass, one charcoal grey and the other very light.
The den site is a distance away and hidden by tree branches and leaves on the east side of a
small pond camouflaged by fallen logs and pine trees. Two adults lie in the grass above the
pond. The grey adult goes down to the pond to drink and then disappears into the den.
I see two pups crawling around the logs. They must be about four weeks old now, tiny,
fluffy round black balls with little pointed ears.
We creep west through the Blacktail Deer Plateau where three black wolves from the
Leopold Pack are putting on a show on the slopes across from the Children's Fire Walk.
These wolves are usually very far away, maybe a couple of miles, but today the distance
is manageable through a scope. They slide on the remaining snow patches enjoying the
spring day, then disappear over the high ridge, out of sight. We don't see the Leopolds often.
Their den site is deep in the Blacktail Deer Plateau protected by the surrounding bear management area.
I remember watching them from Hellroaring, fascinated, as they moved in a giant V-shape from when
the pack was about 27 wolves. It is one of those striking memories that stays glued in your mind.
At Floating Island we see a fourth moose, a funny looking young bull with short knobby antlers poking
out each side of his head. While people are absorbed in the moose, the sand hill crane sits patiently on her nest.
Every spring she and her mate are there. She stands and fusses with the nest revealing a very large egg.
We take two hikes today, both in areas we've never hiked before. The first is up Junction Butte in
Little America. We follow a trail from Specimen Ridge Trailhead up the Butte which overlooks Little
America. It's a steep climb through sage and grass, but on top it was flat. Bluebells are scattered
everywhere as well as tiny white flowers. A pair of bluebirds are nesting here. They flit from
tree to tree. The male is a solid, bright blue while the female is a pale grey blue with deeper
blue bands on her wings and a black beak. From the top of the butte I look down on bison grazing
and moving toward a large watering hole, their new calves following. One calf steps in the water
and jumped out racing to its mother. It's a hot afternoon, so after carefully making the long
climb down the rocky trail, we climb onto a boulder conveniently sitting under a huge pine tree.
The rock cools us instantly and we just lie there for a while looking up through the branches,
enjoying the scent of pine.
The second hike takes us above Lamar Canyon into acres and acres of rolling meadows filled with
grass and sage with views of Lamar Valley and Jasper Bench. On the opposite hill, a coyote trots
down the grassy slope, across a stream and up again. The stream winds between the hills, through
marshy areas and over deadfall to the canyon tripping over the tiniest of waterfalls. We follow
a gradual incline toward a stand of aspens just beginning to leaf out. A trio of bison lie in
the strong afternoon sun.
It's not a difficult hike, just steep at first and the sun is strong. As we rest and gaze out over
Lamar Valley, a very large bison bull watches us suspiciously from his dusty bed and then gallops away.
A group of about 20 nervous cow elk line up on the ridge west of us, staring intently. Just standing
up sends them flying west. We walk up to the circle of aspens and head back along the stream, trying
to avoid the marsh.
The vehicle is parked across from the trees where an owl made her nest last year. The nest is still
there on the east side of the canyon, but the owl is gone. This year we are surprised to discover in
her place a red tailed hawk, its head bobbing up and down from the twigs and leaves.
We make our way back to Silvergate slowly, stopping at Hikers Bridge to watch a pair of coyotes swim
across the river. They are large for coyotes and could easily be mistaken for wolves.
I follow their heads as they glide through the water from sandbar to sandbar, one at a time.
As we pass Warm Springs, the black bear grazes in the meadow again tonight.
Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer
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