We drive to Hayden Valley and get there just in time to see the Hayden Pack's white alpha female swim across the Yellowstone River and lope to the den site, turning her head, tongue hanging out, looking back towards the road. There were rumors that the she had been killed, but she is most certainly alive, healthy looking, and appears to be nursing.
    The Haydens were feeding on a carcass in Alum Creek, something we have seen them do before. The alpha male and a subordinate, also very light gray wolves, cross the road and stop at the river. The subordinate tests the water, looking back at the alpha male. The yearling swims smoothly across and shakes off under the trees on the opposite shore. The alpha male looks stuffed and reluctant to cross just yet. He curls up in the sand and grass and goes to sleep. The yearling waits for the alpha male to follow, but finally beds down behind some trees and rocks out of sight.
    Later Tim and I hike part of the Mary Mountain Trail, not far from where we watched the Haydens. The trail leads back to the rolling hills and streams of Hayden Valley. The path was wet and we had to negotiate mud and marshy terrain, but it leads back to a beautiful part of the valley. More rolling hills and winding creeks, filled with the scent of sage and pine.
    Hiking back to the road we notice the Hayden subordinate at the carcass again. By the time we race down the trail and get to the site, he is leaving the carcass. He carries a piece of the carcass to a spot the along the creek where ravens harass him as he tries to eat. He crosses the meadows to the same trail we hiked. The Haydens often follow this alternative route and cross at the Chittendale Bridge to return to their den when they are unable to cross the road. That is exactly what he seems to be doing since we later spot him up the road.
    The southern part of the Park near Canyon and Lake Yellowstone is colder, with snow still on the ground in large patches and steep drifts. Both Yellowstone and Sylvan Lakes are frozen. On Yellowstone Lake, long, thin sheets of ice float on the surface of the water. It feels very remote and looks as if Spring has not come here yet. We try to hike Pelican Creek Trail, but it's closed due to bear activity. We walk in as far as the trail signs and stop where it opens to a lovely, oval shaped meadow. Beautiful here. I would like to go back.
    As we make our way back to Silvergate we run into a bear jam in Swan Lake Flats. A line of cars and people are watching a grizzly mother and cub try to cross the road. The frightened cub climbs a tree trying to get away from the crowd. Unable to avoid people with cameras pressing toward them, the bears move further into the meadow to grub and dig. The mother bear is smart and seems to tolerate humans well. Tim and I think she may be the daughter of 264.
    Hellroaring Overlook is not as crowded tonight and we're able to get a good view of the den site. We wait for what seems like forever and are about to give up when seven puppies emerge from the den one or two at a time. The puppies are tiny, but through the spotting scope, their shapes and colors are very clear. Two light colored adults are babysitting the black and gray puppies as they crawl over logs and roll and fight with each other. As we enter the Lamar Valley we catch - very briefly - three wolves on the north side of the road trotting east from Coyote toward the ridge line - two blacks and a gray. They are probably from the Slough Creek Pack, but hard to identify because we see them only for a moment.
    Today felt like a reward for the days we did not have good luck.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2007