DAY ONE - Monday, October 24

HAVING LAMAR TO MYSELF

On Sunday, Bozeman got walloped by a heavier-than-expected snowstorm. Instead of the predicted 1-4 inches, we received over a foot!

It looks pretty, but unfortunately, Bozemanís trees are all still in leaf, most in fall color but many still green. The wet snow was too heavy; branches are bent low and many cracked; some trees split in half.

Every neighborhood has damage. My neighbors and I were out, trying to dislodge the heavy white stuff, to give them a chance to bounce back.

I delayed my trip for 24 hours. The snow stopped about 5PM on Sunday and now temps have risen to 40 degrees. By 10AM, roads are already melting out and trees are slowly shedding their heavy white linings.

At 11:30 I decide to give it a try. Bozemanís mountains look gorgeous in their new white outfits, but I see tree damage everywhere.

As I get higher in elevation, I find considerably less snow, which is a little backwards but Iím glad for it. I make it to Big Sky, despite a handful of scary sections in the upper third of Gallatin Canyon. The saving grace is very little traffic. I slow down to 30 in these sections, driving with my flashers on.

Beyond Big Sky the road is only slightly wet, and the sun is out. It seems like very little snow fell here at all.

About 10 miles outside of West, I spot a coyote trotting along the edge of the large pond on the east side. A mile or two later, a fox crosses the road. Iím not in the Park yet and already two thirds of the way to a 3 Dog Day!

At West I learn that Dunraven is not open. The temp has dropped to 28 but the sun is out. Most areas show evidence of recent, light snow.

I stop along the Madison to have my visit with Allison.

At Norris I go straight. The lovely golden aspen grove above Mammoth that I admire d just a week ago are now bare of leaves. Wow, that happened fast!

At 3:30 Iím passing through the Phantom Lake area and see three cars stopped, only half-off the road with people are sitting on the south hillside, looking north through binoculars.

There is nowhere safe to park, so I continue, figuring they are seeing a black bear.

When I get to Hellroaring I find an empty pullout. But at Lower, I see Dusty. I join him and he shows me bedded Junctions. Woo hoo! I get my 3 Dog Day!

I see 10 wolves, 7 black and 3 gray, bedded in snow between the left side of the basalt cliff and a forest. Several get up and move around, interacting with each other. Doug Mac C is here, so I ask him about his unusual wolverine sighting in Teton in July.

A few people pull in and we show them the wolves. One visitor tells us that there is some kind of carcass at Phantom Lake and people saw wolves on it earlier. This piques Dustyís interest, so he heads west.

I spend another 15 minutes watching the Junctions, showing them to random visitors, then I continue east.

I reach Little America and stop at Curve to watch a group of bison heading my way. They have a late-born orange calf with them. The others are very protective of the young calf, surrounding it as they cross the pavement.

A car pulls in. Itís Steve J and his charming son, Jonas. They saw the orange calf too. We catch up and share news. Jonas is especially interested in seeing whatever is going on at Phantom Lake.

I keep going east and get a green light at Lamar Canyon. I round the turn through the ďgatewayĒ to Lamar. As the road stretches out ahead of me, I realize I am the only one here.

Iím back in my favorite valley on earth. Itís golden and gorgeous.

At 21ís crossing I finally see another car. Three photographers are here, aiming their cameras to the south. Aha! I bet I know why.

Sure enough, the Confluence grizzly is still hanging out in this area. He is more hidden in the willows than last week, but he is quite active, so I watch a while.

The repaired road beyond the Trout Lake trailhead has now been paved and a pilot truck is employed to lead the light amount of traffic back and forth along the one-way section.

A chipmunk dashes from south to north just west of Warm Creek.

I arrive to an empty house at Silver Gate. I must have missed Maureen & Rick somewhere along the drive. So, I get settled and have a quick dinner.

Around 6 I hear their car and we have a great reunion. Theyíve been hiking with Dale and Faye to the Slough Creek first meadow. We talk about that and share our impressions of the flood damage and road repairs.

Today I saw: a grizzly bear, bison, a chipmunk, a coyote, elk, a fox, 10 Junction wolves (three dog day) and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.


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