DAY SIX - Sunday, June 28

RIDING IN THE BEARTOOTH


At 5AM I am on my way. The temp gauge reads 45

At Footbridge I learn that although there are no wolves in sight, the Lamar signals are back. Both 926 and 965 seem to be in the den area. I’m told that around 5:45 last night a visitor got a brief glimpse of a black wolf in the middle flats. And this morning, Lynn saw a black to the north from Western Curve.

We scope from Hitching post, then Footbridge, then both Western & Eastern curves. Carol & Charles walk out from Footbridge, but no one sees anything.

Around 8:50 someone spots a grizzly in the Chalcedony fan. It might have been Scarface but he was too far away to be certain. Laurie and Dan and I have set up to scope from Eastern Curve, looking north. We see a band of pronghorn up in the thicket area where we often see wolves. They have four babies with them.

Around 11 we give up and decide to take a hike up to Trout Lake for some exercise. Kathie goes with us. I have not been up here in a while and notice the trail has been altered. Some would say “fixed”. It seems easier, somehow.

When we arrive at the lake, we find it covered with algae – some would say scum – which makes it look a bit less photogenic than usual. We find no otters, either. Laurie says a coyote got the mom this spring and the babies did not survive.

When we get to the inlet stream though, we start seeing trout – rainbows – forcing their way upstream. I find it so fascinating. There are not as many as the first time I saw the spawn, but it’s still damned impressive. I get some video this time. We hike along the bank of the stream, heading toward the upper lakes, admiring various wildflowers, marveling at the ability of the trout to withstand the current.

We find a shady place to stop. We sit down to have lunch (we all brought sandwiches) and enjoy each other’s company. Then we go back down to the Lake and hike around the perimeter. We meet a crew of guys who are filming the spawning trout for a BBC documentary they say will be called “The Wild West”. It will include footage of wildlife from 3 American Parks, including the Mohave Desert. The filmmakers guess it might air in this November in the UK – but they have no idea when the US might see it.

They also say early this AM they filmed a moose swimming the lake west to east. That prompts Laurie to tell them about the time a moose drowned after swimming the lake when its legs became hopelessly entangled in something as it tried to climb out.

As usual there are dozens of gorgeous wildflowers to enjoy. And it’s also not too hot although it gets a bit buggy at times. We circle around and stop at the southwestern point to enjoy the view of Soda Butte Valley. I always like to imagine a wolf seeing this view.

Then back into the trees we go. I see a duck on the lake with what looks like a log following behind her. It’s not a log of course, but all her ducklings, strung out in a tight line. They swim so close to each other you can’t see any break. Those with better eyes than mine count at least 6 probably 8. Really cute.

I also see a flicker in a tree on the way down.

We head home and chill out a bit. Then Kathie returns so Laurie and I can get in her car for a drive to the Beartooth Highway. This is my first time ever. I have only gone as far as the Chief Joseph Highway and from there to Cody. I am not a fan of steep and windy roads. I have an issue with drop offs and nutty curves. I’m fine being a passenger, so this suits me fine.

There are truly amazing views along the way. Of course we stop at the Top Of The World gift shop, even though it’s not actually at The Top. Further on we see many gorgeous, tundra-style wildflowers I’ve never seen before. For wildlife we see only some marmots and birds but people regularly see goats and sheep up here. There are acres of beauty.

There are a few wacky skiers up here – young men who hike to the top of pointy peaks and snowboard straight down the chutes to the jumbled bottom. You can see their tracks in several places. It’s kinda cool.

One the way back we stop at a famous waterfall (whose name escapes me). You can hike up a trail a little ways to get some amazing views. This waterfall is the type you can only see in spring, because it’s caused by snowmelt.

Kathie & I go up while Laurie waits in the car.

Once we get back to Silver Gate, there is still time for me flop for a bit. Then Laurie makes me happy by agreeing to come out with me for an evening attempt at seeing the reclusive Lamars.

We stop at Footbridge and I check in with the people here. No one has anything in view at the moment, nor does anyone have news of any activity during the afternoon. But then I talk with a family from Miami who say they saw “wolves chasing elk”. Hmm, after a bit of questioning, the elk are revealed to be pronghorn and the wolves turn into coyotes. The woman the reveals that they have a photo. So we look and see it’s clearly a coyote.

They are disappointed at first, but we thank them and explain how easy it is to get confused.

We drive west and when we get to the spot they described (north of Trash Can) we see a group of pronghorn with babies – they could be the same group we saw north of Eastern Curve this morning.

We drive slowly through the valley and stop at Dorothy’s. But as soon as we get out, we are attacked by biting black flies. It’s hot and there is no breeze to keep the bugs away. So it’s not very pleasant. A visitor nearby points to the area above Fairies Falls, saying she sees something that looks like a canid. It’s a pronghorn.

I keep trying to find something but the bugs are relentless.

So Laurie & I head back and soon I am weaving my way through a massive bison jam at Footbridge. A few of the bulls are feisty so I am glad when I can use the pullout to get past them.

TODAY I SAW: 1 grizzly bear, bison, a duck with ducklings, elk, a flicker, marmots, pronghorn (with four fawns), wild trout swimming upstream and the spirit of Allison.




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