Day One - Tuesday, April 18

A GREAT START

Itís just after 9AM and a very pleasant 48 degrees as I leave Bozeman. Itís mostly overcast here. Iím meeting Jackie in Livingston at Gils for breakfast before heading on to the Park.

There was snow in Bozeman when I arrived on Friday but itís already gone. Weíve had a lot of rain and itís made our lawns very green. There is still snow on the high mountains, though.

I tell Jackie I might be going to the Emmyís this year if Ron is nominated and invite her to go with me if I do. She is psyched.

I leave her grinning as I wave goodbye and head south. There is some construction on Route 89 Ė they have a temporary stop light at the intersection of East River Rd. It looks like the road is being widened; something more than just being re-paved. We have a pilot car and Iím soon underway.

A few mulies cross safely a little further on.

There is a second bout of construction in the area where Kirsty & Alan live but no significant delay. I drive through the arch just before 1PM. The sun is trying to peek through considerable clouds. It looks like construction on the entryway is finally finished. Theyíve made a separate entrance that bypasses the arch so those who want to linger and take photos can do so Ė but it does not look extensive enough to me to handle the numbers of summer visitors that will arrive in a few months. But who knows Ė it will help somewhat I suppose.

Anyway, itís great to be back in my favorite place! There are elk in the flats just outside the entrance gate, grazing the green. Some are bedded. Most are starting to shed, which means they donít look their best. Their backs & necks are quite scraggly.

There are pronghorn on the hills. Veronica told me there has been very good progress in Montana and Wyoming with ranchers adjusting their fences so pronghorn can get through during their migration. Pronghorn only need an 18 inch gap to crawl under a fence. Speed demons though they are, pronghorn cannot leap like deer or elk.

The Gardiner River looks gorgeous. There really is some good green going on already.

I see quite a few elk in various places in Mammoth; on the lawns and west of the high bridge. I see lots of melt ponds in evidence, too.

I call Laurie. She and Rick are at Slough with wolves in sight. She also suggests I take a look for 8 Mile wolves on the Blacktail, which I do but donít find them.

A light rain begins. I smile when I see the west side of Phantom Lake is very much a lake again. And there is a large pond opposite the Christmas Bear pullout.

Through the Hellroaring area I have many bison on the road and wandering through the pullout. At Yellowstone Picnic I see several sheep with lambs and a few more on the west side of Junction Butte.

I see a total of four coyotes as I drive through Little America. I stop briefly at Longs to watch one mousing, and hear chorus frogs nearby, singing loudly. Then I have a short bison jam at Lamar Bridge. Oh! There is a brand new baby!

I donít see any cars at Slough so I keep going. I find Rick and Laurie at a pullout in Lamar Canyon. We talk a bit, then l drive back to Lamar Canyon West. Once I set up I find 2 Prospect wolves still bedded at Slough near the round tree. Yay!

Itís warm now, nearly 50, and the rain has stopped.

Laurie calls me to come east. Sheís in the dirt lot just west of Fishermanís. I join her and we watch a collared black wolf, 996M, a former Prospect who is now a member of the Junction Pack. Laurie says he crossed the road from the north a little while ago.

I pick him up as he nears the river, heading south. He takes his time crossing so I suppose itís not too cold. He shakes off and climbs up the bank, travelling quickly across the flats, aiming for a jumbled rock butte on the west end of Jasper Bench. He slowly climbs east of the rocks, going in and out of sight several times. He reaches the saddle, crosses a snow patch and disappears into the Divide Ridge forest.

Itís a very nice sighting which Laurie & I have almost to ourselves. One of the nicest things about this time of year is the low number of visitors. And pretty much everyone who is here watching wolves is someone I know.

It starts to sprinkle again so we decide to head east.

Lamar Valley has a slight green cast, but I know we have not reached actual ďgreen upĒ yet. There are still many snow patches on the high peaks and on the bench, and many bison graze along the winding channels of Rose Creek.

I see Bill H at the Institute so I stop to say hi. Sure enough, he has a bear. Itís a nice grizzly right at the tree-line, grubbing and grazing.

I thank Bill for his help and drive on. I am happy to see Soda Butte Creek running full through Lamar. I stop at Round Prairie and Iím able to locate the bison carcass that the Lamars have been feeding on for the last few days. Itís nearly played out and I see nothing on it now.

Just outside the entrance gate I have a tall moose cross the road.

Yay Yellowstone!

Today I saw: a grizzly bear, bison (including a new baby!), 4 coyotes, mule deer, elk, 1 moose, pronghorn, 3 wolves from two packs (2 gray Prospects and 996M of the Junctions), and the spirit of Allison.




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