Trip Report - Spring 2000
Lewis and Debra Demler
This was our earliest spring trip to Yellowstone. We have gone in late June, but never before in May. This was also the first official migration of the Yellowstone Loon. This Trip Report covers the period from Thursday, May 25, 2000 through Monday, June 5, 2000.
We flew into Jackson Hole on Thursday, May 25, 2000. We stayed at the Silver Gate Cabins from May 25 through May 30. We moved into the park and stayed at the Old Faithful Inn from May 30 through June 1. We then moved to a cabin at the Old Faithful Lodge from June 1 through June 4. We finished our trip at the Flat Creek Motel in Jackson, Wyoming, staying the night of June 4. We returned to Pennsylvania on Monday, June 5, 2000.
We hope you enjoy reading this Trip Report as much as we did putting it together.
Lew and Deb
Thursday, May 25, 2000
We were up at 3:00 a.m. and got on the road by 4:00. The air was thick and heavy with fog, so the driving was slow and difficult. but we made it to the airport by 5:30. Of course, our plane was grounded until the fog lifted. We finally got in the air just before 7:00, which barely left time for us to make connections in Cincinnati. We got to the gate after the plane started boarding. At Salt Lake, we boarded our final flight, a SkyWest flight to Jackson. The gate attendant got on board soon afterward and asked for one volunteer to be bumped. We had discussed volunteering, but since they were only looking for one seat, we passed. A few minutes later the gate attendant was back and increased the amount SkyWest was willing to pay. Lew spoke up and said that if they would take both of us, we would volunteer. The guy from SkyWest agreed, so we got a lunch and enough in vouchers to just about pay for our next trip. We only had to wait about two hours for the next flight, which got us to Jackson with plenty of daylight left.
After we collected our baggage and got the rental car, we headed for Yellowstone. It started to sprinkle just as we left the airport. Between Moose and Moran Junction, we saw 4 herds of bison, the largest we'd even seen in Grand Teton, plus several lone bulls grazing and lazing amongst the sagebrush. The bison, plus several antelope, were a great way to start our trip. As we approached the entrance gate to Grand Teton, it started to pour. Lew's arm was soaked by the time he paid for our pass and got all the material from the ranger.
Just past the entrance, we saw a moose walking in the Snake River and spied another one at Oxbow bend. We noticed some large black-headed, white-bodied birds in the river. We'd never seen this species before and could not identify it. (Later on a ranger at Yellowstone helped us identify them as male common mergansers.) We turned down the Cattleman's Bridge road to see if we could spot the moose from a better angle. It turned out there were two moose, a mother and her yearling calf.
Back on the main road, we noticed quite a few cars pulled over at Pilgrim Creek. We stopped to check it out and found we were a few minutes too late to see a grizzly in the creek. We stood at the side of the road for a few minutes to enjoy the heady aroma of the pines. As we were getting back in the car, we noticed two guys come out of the woods from the direction that the grizzly was last spotted. Our first idiot sighting!
It had just about stopped raining by the time we entered Yellowstone. From the entrance up to Lewis Lake, the sun had been unable to make much headway against the snow. The ground was covered and there were many deep drifts. This area is always one of the worst for blowing and drifting snow in the winter. As we passed Lewis Lake, we looked for the osprey nest that our snow coach driver pointed out to us last winter. The nest was still there, but we didn't see any activity.
We saw our first elk, a cow, just before the first Continental Divide sign, which was surprising because we usually don't see elk in that area. There were three more at West Thumb.
The north-facing hillsides on the stretch from West Thumb to Old Faithful were still snow covered, as were any areas that did not get full sun. Marks from sidehilling snowmobiles were still visible on many of the slopes. By the time we got to Shoshone Lake overlook, it had cleared up enough that we were able to see the Tetons in the background beyond the lake.
We saw our first bison in the Black Sand basin area and a young bull elk near Biscuit Basin. The little guy had velvet stubs about 6 inches long. The Fountain Flats bison herd was in its usual place and part of the Madison herd was along the Gibbon River east of Tuff Cliffs. They were accompanied by a rather large elk herd as well.
We stopped to see two large bull elk in velvet sharing the Gibbon Meadows area with a few bison and many peeping frogs.
As we passed through Swan Lake Flats we noticed several cars stopped at a pull out. We joined them to find a grizzly bear out in a brushy area. He appeared to be stalking a small herd of elk, but soon gave up and began turning over and digging around some logs. We watched him for awhile, but were soon back on the road, where we spied two moose just below Bunsen peak.
We saw two antelope between Blacktail Deer Creek and the Children's Fire Trail and a small herd once we got to Little America. There were also several deer at the edge of the woods just before Little America.
The Lamar was as beautiful as ever, just washed by the passing storm. It was filled with scattered elk and bison herds. None of the pullouts seemed especially promising, so we headed on to Silver Gate to get to our cabin before dark. Two moose, a mother and her yearling calf, were hanging out near the road just past Ice Box Canyon, so we stopped to see what they would do. The mother eventually crossed the road, but the yearling was a little skittish. We gave her plenty of time to make up her mind and when she finally crossed the road, we were on our way again. As we neared Silver Gate, several deer were next to the road, so we again slowed, but they headed off into the woods. We got to our cabin just before 9:00 p.m. and noticed that the Log Cabin Restaurant across the street had its lights on so we went over to check it out. The owner was there and said he was just making sure everything was working and he didn't open until Friday night. We decided to see what we could find at the convenience store next to our cabins, but as we walked up, the lights went out. We returned to our cabin and ate the squashed sandwiches we had brought along from home and hit the sack.
On our first day we saw a grizzly bear, 7 moose and tons of bison, elk, antelope and deer. Not bad for just passing through the park. We did not see any loons, though
Friday, May 26, 2000
We got up around 6:45 MDT, sleeping in for us on Eastern time. It rained heavily over night and it rained off and on all morning. We took a short trip up to Cooke City to check it out and find the Soda Butte Lodge, since we were planning to eat there a few times. We headed into the park. On the way in between the Thunderer trail head and the Pebble Creek trail head we saw elk, deer and a few bison. Pebble Creek campground was still closed. Just past Pebble Creek, we saw another herd of elk.
Driving through the Lamar Valley, we saw several small bison herds on either side of the road. The rain had stopped by the time we got down to the Lamar. There were patchy blue areas scattered among all the clouds. We hoped that the rain was over for the day.
Right across from the Buffalo Ranch, we saw a herd of 8 antelope lying down on one of the benches. On the next higher bench, an elk herd was also lying down. There were bison scattered all over the place, grazing. Across the Lamar River bridge, there was a lone antelope. As we approached the small woods before the Yellowstone picnic area, we saw several deer grazing the hillside.
As we headed toward Tower, just before the pullout at the top of the falls, we saw a small black bear in the middle of the road. One car was in front of us. A car coming in the opposite direction scared the bear so that it ran just over the guard rail on the falls side of the road. The people in the car in front of us, pulled over and stood directly across the guard rail from the bear. They were no more than three feet from it. The bear was busy eating the flowers that bloomed there, totally ignoring the people. When the bear did not respond to her presence, a woman in the group began clucking and chirping at it. Fortunately for her, the bear decided to head down the hill into some brush. When it disappeared, the idiots finally left. We waited at the pullout awhile and the bear finally came out, headed back up the hill and across the road again. Once across the road, it sauntered up the hill, pausing to check out a log, breaking it open and eating whatever goodies were inside. We watched it eating its way across the hill for about a half an hour. We headed on to the Hamilton store, but it wasn't open yet. It looked like there were some employees inside receiving training.
We stopped at Mammoth to see if we could get in touch with Ballpark Frank. He was out to lunch, so we signed the message book just after Dan M. (More Loons flocking in!) and went over to the Mammoth Hotel Restaurant to get something to eat. After lunch, we met with Tom, the NPS Yellowstone webmaster. Tom showed us some of the new technology he would be demonstrating after the Return of the Wolf showing. By the time we said goodbye to Tom, Frank had returned from lunch, so we had a nice chat.
We headed on out to Gardiner to pick up some groceries. On the way out, Lew spied a truck flying a yellow antenna flag. It was stopped at one of the pull outs. The truck was visible for quite a distance because of the flag. Deb rolled down her window and started waving frantically so they wouldn't leave. When we got a little closer, Lew saw it was the Oldtymr's license plate. We pulled in and shared hugs all around. Geri and Deb were jumping with joy at meeting for the first time. We had a nice visit before we headed on to Gardiner and Geri and Bruce went on to Mammoth. We got our groceries and started back toward Mammoth. A herd of antelope greeted our arrival back at the pullout where we met up with the Oldtymrs. We discussed stopped at the campground to see if we could find Dan, but decided he probably wouldn't be there in the middle of the day.
We drove on through Mammoth and were making a beeline for the Lamar, when we spied Bruce and Geri at the side of the road adjusting their Loon flag. We stopped and discussed the mechanics of attaching the flag to an antenna. The antenna on our rental did not seem too sturdy, so we put the flag in the rear side window. Bruce had rigged theirs up with electrical tape, which needed some modifications. Geri mentioned they had run into Dan at lunch in Mammoth and that he had headed back to his camp to get some rest. It was good we didn't stop to see him.
We left the Oldtymrs fixing their flag. Between Undine Falls and Wraith Falls, there was a large bear jam. We checked with some bystanders and they said there was a grizzly about 100 yards away in some brush. We pulled off the road and started up a small hill to join the crowd. Just as we did, the Oldtymrs pulled up and we told them about the bear. There were two rangers at the top of the hill making sure no one made any idiot moves. When we got the bear sighted in, it turned out it was a cinnamon black bear, not a grizzly. Oldtymrs soon left, but we stayed around to get some video.
Back on the road, we noticed several bull elk were lounging around the trail to Wraith Falls. They were all sprouting their new antlers in velvet. A couple of them already had impressive racks.
We ran into the Oldtymrs again at the third pullout in the Lamar Valley. They had a pair of black bears in one scope and a bald eagle in the other, so we stopped to check them out. As we were standing there, Dave and Sue pulled up, and we finally got to meet Sue. She had been unable to attend our Pre-Loonion get together. A short while after they arrived, it began to rain again, so we headed back to the cabin. We just made it into the cabin when it really started to pour. By the time we put our groceries away, the rain had eased up so we decided to head back to the Lamar. At Pebble Creek we saw a deer. Just past the confluence, we saw a herd of antelope and a few elk. We spied another Loon flag at one of the smaller pullouts between the Buffalo Ranch and the third pullout. It was Sandi and Rick and their niece Shelbi. We said hello and chatted for awhile, but we hadn't gotten into the full Loon hug greeting yet, so we were still a little reluctant to use it upon the uninitiated.
We were going to met Geri and Bruce at the third pullout, but by the time we got there, they had left. We figured the rain had chased them away. Rick McIntyre was at the pullout and we got to talk to him. We mentioned that we had sponsored a wolf collar and that 147M was wearing it. He said that 147M had been seen on the bench across the Lamar that afternoon. In the morning he had been seen down with the Rose Creek pack. He had been sighted for the previous 5 days in the area between the Rose Creek pack and the middle of the Lamar Valley. 147M had been spending a good bit of time alone and had been making kills on his own, which proves he's an eligible bachelor. He hasn't found a mate yet. He appeared to have injured his one front paw and was limping a little. Rick speculated that he may have stepped on a sharp stone or got stepped on by an elk that he brought down by himself near the Buffalo Ranch. He said to check back anytime when we were out in the Lamar and if he was not busy he would scan for 147M.
While we were there, Sandi and Rick came up and said they were going to head down to Slough Creek. We figured that Geri and Oldtymr had probably headed there too. So we started on down. It began to pour just as we got in the car and soon some sleet was mixed in. It was just a brief storm and was finished up by the time we reached the last pullout. Before we left the Lamar, we noticed that Rick and Sandi had stopped and Rick was pointing back down the road. We looked back and saw that there was a huge rainbow. You could see where both ends appeared to touch the earth. It was very wide and the colors were deep and brilliant with a faint second rainbow echoing them.
Nothing much was happening at Slough Creek. Everyone had been chased away by the rain. On the way back to Silver Gate, we saw a young bull moose between the Soda Butte Creek and the road just past Soda Butte. Further up toward Silver Gate, we saw the mother and yearling moose pair again. They were on opposite sides of the road and fairly far apart this time. Two deer and a few elk later and we were out of the park. Just before Silver Gate, we saw Sandi and Rick pulled over. Shelbi, their niece, had spied a young female moose on the hillside. It was fairly dark by then, so that was a great pick-up. She is an excellent animal spotter. We stopped at the Log Cabin Restaurant for a quick supper and turned in for the night.
Saturday, May 27, 2000
We got on the road around 6:00 a.m., hoping to see some wolves in the Lamar. We saw three deer near the Northeast entrance gate and two more a short distance into the park. We passed several small herds of elk. When we left the cabin, there had been some fog around the mountains. The further we got into the park, the more the fog moved in. Just past the Thunderer trail head, we spied a large, dark coyote (a wolf?, nah, just a coyote) moving through the fog down to the road.
We stopped at Slough Creek and waited at the first unpaved pullout for the fog to clear. Once it did, there wasn't any activity there. We moved back to the entrance to Slough Creek and stopped to talk to some people who had been waiting there. They said that Rick McIntyre was up on Dave's Hill and had gotten a radio signal from a wolf to the south. We walked up the hill to talk to him and he confirmed that it was 147M. No one had gotten a visual on him, however. Rick had also gotten signals from some Rose Creek members out towards Slough Creek. We got the scope and the cameras out and set up on the hill. We never did get to see any wolves.
Lew spied a black bear walking across one of the ridges to the south. We noticed an elk was in the vicinity as well. She was rather upset and kept circling around the area. She even charged toward the bear a few times. The bear found the elk's calf in some brush, pounced on it and killed it. The elk kept circling around for awhile and then finally went back to grazing. Ravens appeared almost instantly once the bear had made the kill. Every now and then we could see the bear tear a hunk of meat from the calf.
We also saw a couple of coyotes tear across the flat area near the parking lot. We met Nathan Varley on our way down the hill, but chatted only for a moment since he was with some clients.
We headed back to the cabin to get showers and get ready to head down to Old Faithful for the geyser tour with Dave Monteith. On the way back through the Lamar, we saw the usual bison and elk herds. In between the Lamar and the Slough Creek road, we saw a lone deer. Little America brought some more bison and a small antelope herd and two deer just before the Yellowstone River picnic area. On the road between Canyon and Norris, just before the exit of Virginia Cascades Drive, we saw a very scruffy coyote. There were also a few elk in the area. There was a sandhill crane along the Firehole River just before Fountain Flats. Just past Fountain Flats drive, there was an enormous bison herd with plenty of frisky calves. It seemed like there were as many calves as there were adults. They created a very large bison jam.
Because of the bison jam, we were late for the geyser tour. We got there just as everyone was forming up, but Dave wasn't sure what direction they were heading. Lew had stayed at the car to get the cameras packed up in our day packs and Deb returned to hurry him up. By the time we got everything together, everyone had headed out into the geyser basin. We didn't see which way they went, so we went in and checked to see what was predicted to go off. Riverside was predicted for 1:45, and Grand was predicted for 2:00. Since it was now about 1:30, we figured we would head to Grand. We arrived at Grand just as a Turban cycle was finishing, but Grand did not go off, so we knew we had at least another 20 or so minutes to wait. We looked around and didn't see any other Loons, so we guessed they had gone on down to Riverside. Based on the prediction, we didn't think we would make it there in time, so we decided to stay put. We waited through another Turban, but again no Grand. Third time is the charm, and we had a very long Grand eruption. As it was nearing the end, Tim A, Tim W. and Tim II can hurrying up and were soon joined by the rest of the Loons. We joined the tour from there and enjoyed listening to Dave. We toured the Geyser Hill area and saw Plume erupt.
We headed back to the Lamar. The bison herd was still at Fountain Flats and some of them were crossing the road, so there was another, smaller, bison jam. We pulled over to get some pictures and video of the calves. Along the Firehole, past Fountain Flats, we saw a fisherman catch a trout and his wife, or significant other, got out of their pickup truck, came over and took the fish off the hook for him.
Along the Gibbon, just past Beryl Spring, we saw a coyote lying in a bison wallow right next to a big pile of bison dung. We stopped to get a picture, because the pile of dung was almost as big as the coyote. Unfortunately, there was a fisherman there and he chose that moment to move upstream near the coyote. The coyote jumped up, swam across the river and ran off up the hill.
Gibbon Meadows was full of elk, a huge herd. On the Norris to Canyon road, at the service road area, a coyote was pacing back and forth, wanting to cross the road. We stopped to let him go, but the oncoming traffic wasn't slowing down. We drove slowly past as he continued to pace, looking for a better opportunity to cross the road.
We stopped in at Canyon to get milkshakes and ran into Geri and Bruce as they were leaving. They had stopped for shakes and fudge, so of course, we had to try some fudge, too.
Just before the Calcite Springs overlook, we saw six big horn ewes on the cliffs across the Yellowstone. There we also two rock rams below them on the hillside.
We stopped in the Lamar, but we were skunked again by the Druids. We finally called it a night as it started to rain again. The animals must have been upset that we had deserted them for geysers, because we didn't even see any moose or deer on the way to the cabin.
Sunday, May 28, 2000
It rained heavily over night. We thought one storm had started as hail since our cabin reverberated with the pounding on the tin roof. We headed for Mammoth around 8:15. After the bison delay yesterday, we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to get there for the web cam shots. We had no time for wolf watching, unless we spied one right along the road. On the way into the park, Lew reminded the ground squirrels that he was still master of the road. We were driving very slowly, looking for animals, when a ground squirrel ran between our wheels, We were hoping he had enough sense to stop, but he didn't, and our back wheel caught him square on.
Just before the Pebble Creek trail head, we saw a bull moose whose antlers were only about 8 to 10 inches. Five deer were grazing the hillside just before the Yellowstone River picnic area. There was probably also a bear in the vicinity, since there was quite a crowd pulled over and people were walking up the hill through the woods. They didn't seem to be seeing him at that moment; they appeared to have lost track of him. On the Tower to Mammoth road, right across from Floating Island Lake, there was a black bear ambling up the hill. By the time we finished admiring him, our breakfast coffee was working on us. Thanks goodness for the Lava Creek picnic area.
We arrived at Mammoth around 10:15 and noticed Dan M.'s pickup truck sporting its yellow Loon flag. We parked next to it and placed our own flag on our antenna to make the Loons more noticeable on the web cam. We went out to the parade ground to wait for the other Loons. We soon saw Dan M. and Tim A. returning from the direction of the Hamilton Nature Store. John, Carlene, Joseph and Rachel arrived, followed by Bruce and Geri, webmaster Tom, JT and Malinda, Cathy W. and Mike, Ballpark Frank, CathyMontana and Duncan, the geo-bear, Mark R. and his parents, Tim W., Tim II and Jay, and Jakeman. Rick, Sandi and Shelbi along with Wendy didn't make it for the webcam pictures, so we all joked about animal distractions. After a few longshot photos, we moved to the side of the Albright Visitors Center for some close-ups. Tom graciously invited everyone up to his office to view the results.
By now it was around 11:00, so we moved the party over to the Terrace Grill. Geri gave a brief introduction about the Loonion and we shared a laugh over her original "specie" post that named us Loons. She turned it over to John, who talked about mi takuye oyasin and how we were all one family sharing our love for Yellowstone. Lew made some remarks about the Total Yellowstone Page and what it had meant to us over the years. Ballpark Frank introduced webmaster Tom and presented him with an Amfac gift certificate in appreciation for the work he has done on the webcams. Then Mark R. took over and presented John with his gifts. With each new gift, John figured that it was the last, until Mark finally presented the radio and explained how JT had schemed to help keep it a secret from John. John was truly overwhelmed with everyone's generosity. Tim W. offered a prayer before we lined up for lunch.
We started out at individual tables, but as everyone got lunch, we moved more and more tables together, until we had built one large table, taking up half of the Grill. Everyone laughed and chatted as if we'd know each other all our lives, a thought which kept repeating itself over and over all during the week. Bob Landis eventually joined us and was presented with an official Loon tee shirt. It was time to head over for the showing of Return of the Wolf and to let some other patrons have a seat. On the way out, we were questioned by another group about our tee shirts and the get-together, "Are you bird watchers?" We explained how we had all met through the Internet and this was our first annual get-together. We introduced quite a few people to the Total Yellowstone Page.
After an introduction from Bob Landis, we watched Return of the Wolf. It contains some truly outstanding footage, and we recommend it to everyone. After the film, webmaster Tom demonstrated a new Nikon field imaging system that enhances a Nikon lens or scope by a factor of ten and allows the image to be input into a computer system. (Guess who made a trip to Bozeman later that week to get one!)
By now, it was time to head out to the Lamar for the informal church service conducted by Tim W. and Jay. It started to rain on the way out. As we crossed the bridge over the Yellowstone, just past Roosevelt junction, we ran into a bear jam. We pulled off the road and saw there was a young black bear coming up from the river. We watched for awhile until he looked like he was going to cross the road. We got back to our car and were just ready to get in, when he started to cross the road two cars up from us. He was very confused by all the commotion being made over him. We waited by our car until he made it across and then watched him disappear up the hill.
It was raining heavily when we arrived at Slough Creek, but we all decided to wait it out. In a few minutes the rain ended and Tim W. led us in a very moving service. We offered thanks and praise to God for all the wonders that are Yellowstone.
After the service we joined JT and John as they checked out the new radio. We moved down to the first unpaved parking area at Slough Creek. While we were there, JT picked up a report on the radio that three wolves had been spotted down at the confluence. We headed in that direction. Across from the Buffalo Ranch, we spied a coyote in the flats. When we got to the stock pullout, we saw Rick McIntyre, so we stopped to talk to him. He said all the collared wolves were at the den and that 147M had been tracked at the Rose Creek area in the morning. While we were there, we spotted two big horn rams, one with a full curl, one with half, up on the ridge to the west. We went on down to the Lamar River trail head and met up with a bunch of the Loons. We spotted the big horn sheep again from there and saw a nice coyote down along the Soda Butte Creek. A black bear was in the same vicinity, just a little higher up on the hill.
We heard a report of two grizzlies that were spotted down by the Yellowstone Institute. We went down to check them out. While we were there, JT heard a radio broadcast from Rick McIntyre that 147M was picked up in the Rose Creek area, so we headed back out there to see if we could spot him. On the way, we saw six deer in the area between the Lamar and Slough Creek. When we got on top of Dave's Hill, everyone was looking at the grizzly sow with four cubs. We got her in the scope and watched her until Rick got a report of a grizzly sow and two cubs that were headed our way. Rick got everyone off the hill. We stayed around the parking lot for awhile. Rick had scanned for 147M before we left the hill and picked up a signal to the south. He was going to scan again, but attracted too much attention and had to put the equipment away. A short time later, someone standing there said, "I think I've found him!" This guy had a very low powered scope that wouldn't focus. Through our binoculars, we could see that he was looking at an antelope. As we were packing up, Tim II spied a kangaroo rat next to the parking area. It didn't like being the center of attention, and soon leapt away.
We finally decided to call it a night. On the way back to the Lamar, a deer darted across the road in front of us. We slowed down at the Lamar River trail head, but it was empty. A short way past Soda Butte, we saw a lot of cars pulled over, so we stopped to ask what everyone was looking at. Five of the Druids had come down and killed an elk calf. The mother elk was charging them when it got too dark to see. Everyone was speculating that they might have killed her as well, which would mean a carcass to check out in the morning.
Monday, May 29, 2000
We got up around 6:30 and headed up to Cooke City to fill up our tank. All the traveling we had been doing, down to Old Faithful and out to Mammoth, not to mention the drive in, had really gulped the gas. On the way up to Cooke City we saw a deer bounding away from the road.
On the way back down to the entrance, a gray squirrel attempted to commit suicide, but we were able to avoid him, when he had second thoughts at the last minute. We stopped at the confluence pullout since there were quite a few people there. Deb asked them what they had seen so far, and they said they had seen a sow grizzly with two cubs, another grizzly and a black bear. They still had one of the grizzlies in the scope at that time. Deb didn't want to stop, but Lew wanted to look at the grizzly. She really wanted to go look for wolves, since we hadn't seen any this trip yet. Deb won out, but she will never hear the end of how she didn't want to stop for "only" grizzlies
We headed down to Slough Creek where there was a black bear to the south. He was scouting around trying to find an elk calf. Several people had seen the mother elk charge the bear, but we didn't get to see that. The bear wandered around for awhile and eventually disappeared in the trees.
We went back to the Lamar River trail head to see if anyone else showed up. John, Geri and Bruce, Dan and Tim A., Wolflady, Wendy and Ray T. were there. We stayed around for awhile, saw an elk out on the bench that appeared to be upset, but no wolves were in sight. There were two sandhill cranes on the next bench above the elk. We also saw several kestrels hovering above the Soda Butte Creek and across the road toward Druid Peak. By 9:00 a.m., nothing appeared to be happening, so we decided to head up to the Soda Butte Lodge for breakfast. When we were almost in Silver Gate, we saw a deer crossing the road.
We had a great time at breakfast as Wolflady regaled us with tales of mating bears and we solved all the problems of Yellowstone. It's always fun to share a meal with good friends.
We decided to spend about an hour driving toward the Beartooth Pass and then turn around and come back. We wound up driving the whole way up to the pass, taking about 4 hours to make the round trip. The trip back had much better views that the trip up. We should have waited until the return trip to take pictures. The only animals we saw on the way up were some marmots. On the way back down, we saw a lonely elk calf lying next to a rock in a meadow. It's mother was no where to be seen and ravens were flying overhead. We hoped the mother was over the ridge and would return soon.
We returned to the park for evening wolf (we hoped) viewing. Just before Ice Box Canyon, there was a young bull moose across the Soda Butte Creek. His antlers were small, heart-shaped buds.
We met up with John, Wendy and Tim A. at the Lamar River trail head. We scanned the slopes and the Soda Butte Creek for awhile, but we didn't see anything. John got a report on the radio that there were some grizzlies down at the picnic area. We decided to go check them out. There was one grizzly there. Everyone got excited when we heard on the radio that the wolves were moving. We went back to the Lamar River trail head and sat there for awhile. Rick McIntyre came over the radio and said it would probably be better to be down at the picnic area or west of the picnic area, so we packed up one more time and headed that way.
The picnic area was a mad house by the time we got there, so we moved west and pulled off the road. At the top of the peak to the north, we found another grizzly moving around in what appeared to be a bone yard. There were elk bones scattered everywhere. The grizzly eventually disappeared over the top of the mountain. About this time, Ballpark Frank and Geri and Oldtymr joined us. In a short while, two wolves came over the ridge, a black and a gray. Unfortunately, they were visible for only a minute or two and then disappeared in a draw. Many ravens were flying overhead, so we figured the wolves were at a kill. The ravens circled for a long time, while several small elk herds were moving nervously about.
Tim A. picked up a black bear with two cubs south of the Lamar. A short time later, Ballpark found a grizzly sow with two cubs on a ridge to the west. We watched several bison making the hazardous crossing of the Lamar. They would get swept down the river before they finally made it across. The valley was filled with the usual elk and bison herds and a few antelope scattered here and there. We kept checking for the wolves, but they never did reappear. We saw a grizzly back at the top of the mountain to the north, so we figured it was the same one we had seen earlier.
After a beautiful sunset, It eventually got too dark to see much of anything, so we headed back for our last night a Silver Gate. About 100 yards from the turnoff for our cabin, we saw a deer, the last animal of the day.
To Be Continued