Due to packing and loading up, we leave a bit later today, at 6:50. The sky is cloudy, itís not snowing.
I stop at Trash Can and scope Chalcedony fan in vain, trying to will the Junction Pack into returning to Lamar. Jeremy and Jack stop by, telling me Junction is still way out Cache. And they canít find Rescue Creek either.
Laurie calls on the radio, suggesting I come to Footbridge. Michael has found the Confluence Grizzly and the view is good.
I join then and find I donít even need my scope! This beautiful bear is quite close, just across the Soda Butte in the line of willows. I set up my scope but enjoy watching him through binoculars.
A coyote trots toward the bear and the bear lunges at it, quite dramatically. The coyote easily avoids him and seems to say ďchill out, big guy, Iím just a coyote!Ē
The bear goes in and out of the willows, turning over logs, digging and grazing. Melba joins us, and Russ, too. I share my scope with a pleasant young couple from Australia. They are touring Americaís parks.
They have never seen a grizzly before, so they REALLY enjoy this sight. I let them use my scope while I use my binocs. I also elk up on Norris, and bison everywhere.
Around 8:30, the bear goes into thicker willows, so we move west. Itís cloudy today but feels perfectly pleasant.
As we are leaving, a guide radios that a coupleís car has broken down at Trout Lake and asks if anyone can alert a Ranger. Melba and I respond yes, and stop at the Institute, where we find a lady who says she will call the Comms Center.
We see Dale & Faye, Calvin & Lynette at Elk Creek so we stop to say our goodbyes. And we tell them about the grizzly at Footbridge. They return the favor by telling us of a cow moose and yearling calf at Lower Hellroaring.
We head west and find the moose still in view, so we enjoy that sighting. They are feeding in a marshy spot south of the road where Iíve often seen black bears in the spring.
As we approach Upper Hellroaring, a mule deer crosses the road in front of us.
We can see that more snow fell on this side of the Park than in Silver Gate. Our last stop is at Nature Trail where we say goodbye to Stacy, diligently scoping to the south.
There are many elk in Mammoth, being monitored by numerous orange-vest-wearing Park volunteers. They do their best to keep visitors far enough away from the rutting bulls.
The new road has had its first serious snowfall only five days after opening. It looks to me that the plow drivers did a good job. Itís quite windy at the top and there are a few patches of remaining ice, so I use 2nd gear in places, just to be extra safe.
The plows have dropped sand, which helps a good deal. And luckily, there is no-one behind me to complain of my slow driving.
I leave Gardiner around 11AM just as the sun breaks through the clouds.
The views along 89 are really gorgeous, with the fresh white snow blending nicely with the gold and cream of the hillsides. Dark junipers provide nice accents here and there and the sky above is a pale blue.
Today I saw: a grizzly bear, bison, a coyote, mule deer, 2 moose and the spirits of Allison,
Richard and Jeff.