Iím ready to go at 5AM. It feels really warm, and it is: 50 degrees! The birds are singing like crazy.
Last night when I back, I called hello to my housemates so they would know it was me. Maureen peeked around the door of the bear den and we chatted a while. She is really nice. And we chatted again this morning as we went about our preparations.
On the way in, I see a young moose on the south side at Baronette. I may have accidentally prevented him/her from crossing the road when I stopped. The moose pauses, then retreats into the forest.
At the Soda Cone I watch a small group of elk cross the creek and disappear up the hill into the forest. Itís a very pretty sight to see all by myself in the early morning.
I stop at Trash Can when I see something white near a melt-pool on the north side. Once I stop I realize itís a swan.
I stop again at Picnic and scope a bit, wanting to do my part to find wolves. Instead I elk and bison and pronghorn. Next I hear a radio report that the Junctions are being seen at Slough so I go there.
Doug saw four Junctions: 969 (deposed alpha female), 907 (alpha female), 996 (the pup snatcher) and 1047 (alpha male) but the females have just gone out of sight east of the horizontal forest. The two males are still visible in the gap between the two forests. They tool around, sniffing here and there, then start uphill and go out of sight behind the trees. I predict they will emerge again by the crescent rock and thatís just what happens!
They males travel around the den area, past the eastern trees and down to the sage den. They each howl a bit, and I get the impression they donít know where to go. Luckily for them, 907 appears just below the den cliff, now heading their way. She greets both males and leads them to the west, over the rounded slope with the Parrot Rock and onto their usual ďwatch me disappearĒ route to the new den site.
We all try mightily to find them again, but they give us the slip. While we are temporarily wolfless, several visitors leave. But then Rick finds a different wolf, a black, low in the flats. Itís 1048. He moves through the river bottoms and up the hill toward the lion meadow. He could be scent-trailing the others. Then he turns around and beds on a little hill above the creek.
While he is stationary, we check for other animals. I find bison, pronghorn, a bald eagle, elk, cranes, geese and ducks.
1048 is still bedded on the hill when I decide to pack up and head west, aiming for the Antelope Creek area. The time is ripe for black bear sightings. I and I find them, just south of Rainy Lake. Itís the black bear sow with 3 cubs of the year! Oh, they are so cute! They delight the crowd with some comically clumsy tree climbing. John is here, managing the people in his polished, easy way. Itís good to see him and I am happy to see the cubs.
I continue on up the hill. At the second high pullout I pull over and begin to scan with my binoculars. To the southwest I find a sizeable herd of elk with many calves, some resting and some grazing, as well as scattered bison. I follow willow-choked Antelope Creek to just below this lot, and see a few more elk. One has a calf that is bold enough to roam in her own.
Mama elk crosses the creek to the south and begins grazing there, while the calf remains on the near side, inspecting the willows. Mom looks back and calls to the calf. She wants the calf to join her. It seems the calf is having a bit of trouble finding a route through the thick willows, but after a while the calf figures it out and hops across. The two of them move into the trees. Itís a really lovely sighting that I have all to myself.
Now I head back east. The bear and cubs are now out of sight but a few intrepid photographers have staked out their spots, confident of the bears imminent return.
In Little America a melt-water pond near the road is hosting a herd of bison and calves for their morning bath. This has attracted many happy visitors and I stop a while to enjoy the antics of a few calves and cows. One bull makes his way to the center of the pond then stops, as if posing for his portrait.
Lamar is quiet and as beautiful as ever. Then, at the confluence I see an adult elk half-way across Soda Butte creek (heading south). I see a smaller animal behind her Ė at first I think it is a wolf after her but, no, itís her calf.
The calf is not sure it wants to cross after all and turns around, heading back to the north side, to the road. But the current is strong and pulls the calf into the confluence. Uh oh.
Mom has reached the south shore and looks at her calf, drifting further and further away. I shake my head at her. She sure picked a bad spot to cross!
People rush to the edge of the road just as the calf is getting its feet on the rocks. They are excited and unfortunately, they accidentally scare the calf. It pushes itself back into the current, crying plaintively. It is pulled further and further downriver. But this calf seems quite strong and I see it maneuvering slowly to the shore. It finally reaches a sandbar and gets quickly on its feet.
At first it runs upriver (away from the road), then crosses one more channel of the Lamar and climbs out again. Now the calf has achieved the crossing but its mom is to the east, on the opposite side of the river bottoms, lased with braided river channels. The water-song is loud and I wonder if they can hear each otherís bleats?
I see mom heading south on her side, while the calf heads south on the western side. I think to myself, this may have happened several times already in the young animalís life, and I feel confident mother and calf will soon find each other again.
Besides, it is already noon, so itís not likely that neither bears nor wolves are likely to be around to take advantage. And this calf seems really strong.
I drive east to Silver Gate and take a nap.
At 6PM I head back out. Itís a very pleasant 72 degrees and Iím going to meet V & K at Roosevelt for dinner.
As I drive past Round Prairie I note how flooded the area is. Pebble Creek Campground is not yet open and there is seepage from the meadows to the north trickling across the road.
At Dorothyís I stop when I see Bill. He shows me a grizzly mom with two yearlings, very high up. Thanks Bill!
I spend some time on the great Roosevelt porch with V & K, and then we have a nice dinner, too. We make a plan to hike to the Rose Creek pen tomorrow.
My drive back begins at 9, which is my least favorite time to be on the road. I have four bison jams before I get to Footbridge. When I near the Cone, I see four cars parked on the north side in a dirt pullout, as though they had been seeing something. My instincts are correct: the next morningís report says the Lamars were seen trying to cross from north to south about a half hour before I drove by.
Today I saw: I saw: bison, 4 black bears (including 3 cubs), 6 grizzly bears (including 2 cubs), ducks, coyotes, cranes, mule deer, a bald eagle, elk (including two particular calves), geese, a moose, pronghorn, a swan, 4 wolves (from the Junction Pack: 907, 996, 1047 & 1048) and the spirit of Allison.