I am heading to the Park for a 24 hour visit in order to connect with my New York friend M who is vacationing in Yellowstone and Teton with her Mom for a few days.
M and I have been friends a very long time. In 1992 we hiked together in the Wind River mountains, near Pinedale where her family had a summer home.
That hike was the beginning of my love affair with the Mountain West and led directly to my subsequent visits to Yellowstone, the Tetons, discovering wolf-watching and my buying a home in Bozeman.
The plan is to meet around 5PM in Mammoth, where they are staying the night. Itís a warm 80 degrees and quite smoky.
There are no fires in Bozeman itself but we have been drawing smoke and haze from various fires to the west of us. Two days ago the smoke level was unhealthy. Itís a little better today but not much. So far, July weather in Bozeman has been awful, with no rain at all and smoky air nearly every day.
This is sometimes normal for August but not July. The City has imposed drought condition requirements in order to save water.
The temperature reaches 93 in Livingston, so I have the A/C on. I can barely see the mountains as they are shrouded in a thick, smoky haze.
I meet M & S in the hotel lobby and chat a bit. Then we set out to find a cool spot to have a picnic dinner. We end up at Lava Creek and claim one of the open tables right at the creekís edge.
We have a lovely visit and a tasty dinner, until our creekside shade is invaded by three families, each with lots of kids.
We continue further east to Hellroaring where we sit in lawn chairs and I set up my scope. As itís so hot, I donít really expect to see any animals, but the haze is so thick I canít even find a bison or an elk!
However, we do enjoy seeing the multiple wildflowers and enjoy the lingering green through the Blacktail area.
We use our remaining time to head to Slough in hopes of seeing wolves. I try to encourage them to meet me here in the morning, but they are not early risers and intend to head south to Old Faithful tomorrow instead.
I check in over the radio and hear back that there is currently ďnothing in viewĒ at the moment.
I keep looking anyway while we chat a while longer. I am anxious that they get back to Mammoth before dark, so we finally bid each other a fond farewell right here in the lot. M & S go back west while I continue east.
There are two large bison jams on the way but they both ease fairly quickly. The temperature has cooled to 75 but itís still quite hazy. I get to Silver Gate just after 9PM.
I have a pleasant visit with Laurie & Dan and learn there is a brand new bison carcass in the Soda Butte valley. She says it was hit by a car mid-day today and the Rangers moved it south of the road.
So, obviously, thatís where weíll start tomorrow!
Today I saw: bison, elk, horses, a pronghorn, ground squirrels, and the spirits of Allison and Richard.