DAY ONE - Tuesday, May 11

SPRING SNOW

Since my last visit I have been reading reports of continued activity at the Junctionsí den. On May 6, the first confirmed sighting of a pup occurred. Over the following days there have been additional brief sightings, with a current high count of four, 2 blacks & 2 grays.

Thatís all it takes to get me packing. I want to see them for myself!

I leave Bozeman around 3PM. Itís 53 and partly cloudy. Our grass is greening up and a few daffodils and tulips are poking up. The trees and bushes started to leaf out this week.

But itís unusually dry for this time of year. And itís troubling. The lack of rain is quite evident along the Pass. Not a shred of green yet.

I have an easy, uneventful drive and see quite a few elk in Tom Miner basin.

The Park has made quite a bit of progress on the main entrance gate. There is now a blacktop road to drive on but we are still being routed past the Admin buildings.

I see bighorn on McMinn bench and Iím happy to see substantial green along the Gardiner. I think the Park has had a bit more rain than Bozeman has. And speaking of rain, there are dark gray clouds to the southeast.

I have my visit with Allison and tell her I hope she is enjoying the coming of Spring.

I stop at Blacktail Ponds pullout, as is my wont. The ponds are 100% thawed but I see only a bit of green. Not enough for any yellow headed blackbirds yet. I see a nice amount of snow remaining on the higher peaks as I continue east. Only the western end of Phantom Lake has any water. The rest is quite dry.

As I enter Little America (around 5:30) I get a bit of a sprinkle. There is still substantial snow up on Druid Peak.

The temp dips to 43 and the wind picks up.

I turn in to Slough, happily surprised to find the campground road open already (they usually wait till Memorial Day weekend). Many cars are parked at the gravel pile lot, with people watching the den area. I choose another spot and set up my scope. I find a bedded black, so I have my wolf of the day.

With this good luck I decide to continue east. I find the road in Lamar wet from a localized shower. Lamar seems greener than Slough, but not by much.

I have been tipped off about a recent carcass visible to the south from YES so I head there, passing scattered pronghorn on both sides of the road.

I pull over to see if I can find the carcass. A young couple is here, looking south with binoculars. To my delight, I find a collared black right away, passing behind the stand of cottonwoods at the edge of the river.

I get out my scope and locate carcass, finding it easily due to the birds. A lone coyote is feeding on it. I invite the couple to look through my scope and end up showing them their first wild wolf. This one has some gray on the face and chin plus a light golden stripe on the shoulder.

The couple says they were told there are more wolves to the east, which they did not see. From what they tell me, it seems there might be a new carcass on the north side.

We say thanks and go our separate ways. As I reach exclosure, I see numerous photographers set up in the sage south of the road, focused pretty high up on exclosure hill. Aha!

I pull over and glance up there. I see a black lump, which is probably the carcass, but see no wolves there at the moment.

I keep going and then see Bill at Footbridge. I pull in to talk with him and he shows me a grizzly sow with two coys up on K2. We chat a bit and he tells me the Junctions have been spending a lot of time in Lamar lately, coming and going. He confirms that the carcass on Exclosure is a bison that might have died on its own. He says wolves have been on it as well as a bear. But he says the wolves went out of sight to the south a while ago.

We find ourselves in a sudden downpour, featuring a two-minute squall of corn snow. The temperature is dropping.

I thank Bill and continue east, passing five very young bison calves near Soda Butte Cone. At Pebble the car temp reads 34!

The rain turns to snow at Thunderer and begins to accumulate on the shaded road ahead. I pass a bison bull walking east with snow on his back. He gives is in no hurry and calmly give way as I pass him.

The further I go, the thicker the snow. Itís very pretty.

I get to Silver Gate and unpack as the snowfall continues. I check in with Laurie to let her know all is well. Iím here by myself for a few days. I also call Rick to make sure he knows about the carcass at Exclosure. He does and agrees it will likely be the first stop in the morning.

I unpack and get settled. I want to go to bed early!

Today I saw: 3 grizzly bears (including 2 coy), bison, mule deer, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, 2 wolves (both Junctions) and the spirits of Allison and Richard.

Next Chapter

Back to Main Page

Printer Friendly Index