DAY ONE - Saturday, Sept 1

PRELUDE TO A HIKE

After spending some time in Bozeman place, I head to the Park, packed and primed. Instead of heading east to Lamar Valley as is my wont, I go south to Canyon, arriving earlier than expected. I walk over to the Back Country Office entrance of the Canyon Visitor Center and "meet" my hiking companions for the first time. Previous to this moment I only knew them from the Yellowstone Loon Chat Page. I get a wonderful welcoming feeling from everyone right away, which is a good sign. We watch the bear video, fill out forms, and chat each other up.

Mark and Lori have some chores to do at their camper; Gary and Laurie have to find out what's wrong with their van. They have reservations, like I do, at a Canyon cabin, but it's too early for us to check in. So, we go our separate ways for a few hours with plans to meet again for dinner. I drive over to see the Brink of the Upper Falls, which I have not seen in nearly 10 years. It does not disappoint! Then I head into Hayden to try to find those wolves. I notice that Artists Point is closed - I hear that they are reversing the direction of that road. I stop at Grizzly Overlook and although I find no wolves or bears, there is an elk in the river, which is a little odd. Someone wonders out loud that it may be injured. The Hayden wolves have been seen in this area recently.

I am distracted by a group of bison who are making a great deal of noise. A bull is grunting very loudly and seems to be pursuing a cow. He is in rut and makes short work of any other bulls who come near. He pushes one downhill into the river and then heads back uphill to run off a second challenger. The group comes quite close to the pullout, giving visitors a thrill. The bull pursues the cow across the road and the group stands in the road a good while.

I am able to check into my cabin - it's one of the old ones. Hot and nearly airless. I try to cool it down by opening windows on both sides. But it's perfectly comfy and I am only here to sleep.

I still have a bit of time left so I head up Dunraven in hopes of finding Agates in view, but end up stopping so often to enjoy the views I run out of time and never make it to the Antelope Creek area. I turn around and head back to relax a bit before dinner.

I meet up again with Gary and Laurie and also our mutual Loon friend Veronica and her boyfriend Kevin. Mark and Lori skip this dinner as they have friends to entertain.

We have fun and then head south into Hayden Valley for some wolf watching. My wolf luck holds, and we pull over just shy of Grizzly Overlook. We take our scopes and head across the sage for about 20 yards and set up, focusing on a hillside across the Yellowstone River. There, sitting on a rise, is a black wolf. It's the lone black pup of the Hayden Pack - born this spring. His paws are stretched in front of him and it looks like he is looking right at us, but then I see he is watching two elk - a calf seemingly stranded in the river, and a cow (most likely the calf's mother) on the shore between the calf and the wolf.

From this intriguing set-up, the story develops and we eventually see more wolves, in fact, almost the entire Hayden Pack - three adults and five pups. I am especially thrilled to see the alphas again, having had a memorable close up view of them on an early morning in May of 2005. And I'd seen many tantalizing photos of this year's pups including the charismatic black pup.

We watch as a few of the pups head to the river, only to be chased right back up the hill by the vigilant mother elk. The alhpa male comes down for a sneak attack, but he, too, is sent packing. I notice, however, that the calf moved quickly to deep water when the adult male made his move.

It's great to finally be sharing the sight of wolves with Gary and Veronica. Still, I know how important a good night's sleep is so I tear myself away from this temptation before a real chase begins. As we drive back to Canyon we see a silhouetted owl in a tree! Once back at the cabin, I grab some Advil to make sure I will sleep.

Tomorrow we begin our hike to Fairyland!

Today I saw: antelope, bison, 2 coyotes, mule deer, elk, geese, a hawk, a great blue heron, 8 wolves (all from the Hayden Pack) 6 Loons and the spirit of Allison.





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