DAY ONE - Tuesday, October 20

FIRST DAY LUCK

I leave Bozeman around 3PM. Itís cloudy, raining lightly. Itís been raining all day. I canít find a temp gauge on this car, but Iím guessing itís in the low 50ís.

Itís still drizzling in Paradise Valley, now with the Yellowstone River on my left. The tops of the mountains are shrouded, but when it wafts a bit I get glimpses of a tiny bit of snow up there.

Just north of Yankee Jim I see a big harem of elk Ė about 50 cows. There are also mulies grazing on the fringe of this herd. At Gardiner the sun comes out and I see elk all over the place.

I notice a brand new motel going up between Outlaws and the Super 8. It looks very big. There are skateboarders in Super 8 lot.

The new North Entrance is still being constructed. The main entrance will bypass arch, giving visitors access (and parking) for photos but the arch itself will no longer clog summertime traffic.

At Chinese Gardens I notice many cars stopped, so I stop too. I learn itís for a grizzly! Judging from where all the cameras and scopes are pointed, itís in the river corridor. Hmm, perhaps eating on a carcass Ė not sure if itís old or new. I finally get a good look at him. Healthy, none-to-small specimen of ďhorribilisĒ, a nice way to enter the Park.

As I continue on there are several elk grazing on both sides of the road, some quite close! I stop at the heated bathroom to change my clothes, then have my chat with Allison. The rain has stopped temporarily Ė leaving a gorgeous rainbow over the canyon!

Just beyond the High Bridge a mulie crosses the road ahead of me. A light rain has begun again. In terms of people in the Park, the difference between summer and mid-October is amazing. It feels like there is no one here.

Iím happy for the cool weather Ė it helps animal sightings. I see bison at Blacktail ponds. Ahhh, itís so good to be here. And especially nice to have it all to myself.

I see a familiar gray truck at the Childrenís Fire trail, next to another one I recognize. I donít see Richard or Steve in the lot so I figure they are in the field to the west. I radio and they say come on out. So I pack up my scope and hike out and find them. They had two grays about a half hour ago but are now having second thoughts, wondering if they might have been coyotes. We laugh and chat but donít see any more canids. I tell them about the griz at Chinese Gardens, something to check out on their way back west. Richard says heís heard itís an elk carcass, but I forget if he told me how it died.

He knows Iím headed east to he tells me Junction Buttes were seen on Jasper Bench this morning and that they might still be there. I ask how Rick is doing (since his bypass surgery). Very well, apparently. He climbed South Butte today!

We stay out till 6:00 then head our separate ways.

I have more mule deer at Phantom Lake, a bison jam on the Yellowstone Bridge. The sky to the east looks like rain. No water in little pond by Junction Butte, but Boulder Pond still has some.

When I get to Lamar Canyon the rain arrives. Those clouds have made it prematurely dark, but itís light enough for me to see how beautiful and empty the Lamar looks. Ahh, just the way I like it!

I pull in to Coyote and as I set up I believe I hear familiar voices. Yep, itís Mark and Carol from Colorado Ė and look! Charles too! How lovely to see them all. And they DO have wolves, the Junctions. Itís really dark but with Carolís help I see four out of nineteen. I see the blacks - on the eastern end of Jasper.

The rain falls harder so between that and the dark, I call it a night. I head east to Silver Gate and thank goodness, my key works! I unload my stuff and get cozy. Itís so nice to be back!

Today I saw: 1 grizzly bear, bison, coyotes, mule deer, elk, pronghorn, 4 black wolves (belonging to the Junction Butte Pack) and the spirit of Allison.




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