Day One - Tuesday, May 3

THE SLOUGH DEN

I leave Bozeman a little after 8:00AM; itís a crystal clear day, 50 sunny degrees. As I am approaching Livingston, I realize I have forgotten some items, like I do every trip. Too late to turn around now, though. I console myself with a stop at the Wildflour Bakery in Emigrant where I purchase some delicious pastries. There are dozens of mulies grazing in a field just outside of Gardiner and I see geese and sandhills in the same area.

At 10AM I reach the arch; Iím about seventh in a line of cars at the gate. Itís really warm; the sun is beating down, so I remove a layer and drive with the window down, enjoying the fresh earthy smells.

After my visit with Allison, I head to Mammoth and turn towards Lamar. At the High Bridge I hear the welcome trill of a meadowlark. What a great sound!

At Blacktail Ponds I notice many pronghorn. The ponds themselves seem low for this early in the year.

Very few people in the Park. Many less than at Christmas time. I see only a few bison so far and no elk yet. At the Nature Trail lot, bison graze in the flat sage fields where we walk out to try to see Prospect pups. The snow on the high slopes is nearly all gone. Just a few patches here and there in the highest spots.

Overall, things look dry to me for early spring. Phantom Lake has only a little bit of water in it. I finally see some elk south of Christmas Bear. I hear Chorus Frogs there, too, which is encouraging. Several mulies graze to the north of Elk Bowl.

The view from Hellroaring is gorgeous of course, but there is very little snow.

I see a big crowd on the far side of Yellowstone River Bridge, because of a stately bighorn ram posing very close to the road. I slowly make my way through that jam and continue on. I notice a bit of water at Junction Butte pond.

Little America looks great. There are many bison here and things look green. Druid Peak has a nice dusting of snow, as does most of Specimen Ridge.

There is water in Boulder Pond and many bison on the road throughout Little America. At Aspen I see kestrels flitting about their nests.

I am aware that the Junction Butte pack has denned at Slough, which is something that makes all wolf watchers happy. The den area and the approach to it from both east and west are visible from the campground road so it makes for great, safe viewing.

When I pull in at Slough I see people standing on Bobís Knob and also on a hill across from Bobs to the east. I find a parking spot, pack up and walk out. I find Laurie & Dan scoping from the first lot. Yay!

They had some pup activity earlier but itís quiet now. Laurie goes over the landmarks they are using at the den to get me acclimated. These are Junction Butte wolves, using the old den areas first used by Rose Creek, Slough and even the late, great 06 herself.

Laurie & Dan have to leave to go to Bozeman to get new tires. Once they leave I continue east. Itís 12:50 when I first lay eyes on Lamar Valley. Itís so beautiful. Lamar never disappoints.

I reach Silver Gate around 1:30 and haul all my stuff out and in. I get a short nap, then around 5:30 I head back into the Park. I want to be in Lamar when Laurie & Dan get back.

I see a nice looking coyote at Baronette.

I drive through Lamar and back to Slough. Kathie is on Daveís hill. I set up on a lower slope east of the road and eventually Laurie & Dan join me there. Kathy calls out that she has a black at the den. It could be 890. Then I see two grays arriving from the east. One has an antler in its mouth. Then another gray emerges from the den, possibly one of the mothers, coming straight downhill. That gray continued downhill and goes into the sage den. She comes back out a little later and beds near the eastern trees.

I see a black wolf near the den, Laurie says itís a yearling. He/she sits there quite a while, poking its nose inside the den. As 8PM approaches, we hear that the Crystal griz has been sighted. She is a female with three cubs of the year. Sheís way up on Specimen and the cubs are tiny! A little after this we decide to head in for the night.

Our last sighting is of a moose and calf just outside of Silver Gate.

Today I saw: antelope, 4 grizzly bears (mom & 3 coy), bison, 1 coyote, sandhill cranes, deer, ducks, elk, chorus frogs, geese, hawks, 2 moose, 1 bighorn ram, five wolves (all Junction Buttes); 2 black 3 gray including one mom and possibly 890M), and the spirit of Allison.




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