I am up before 5. Itís 32 degrees with frost on the car. I leave Lake at 5:15, the only car on the road.
A beautiful dawn begins to break, with a fingernail sliver of a moon. Hmm, the sky looks clear, which is unusual. But 5 minutes later, the fog appears, growing thicker every minute!
I am now driving through the famous Hayden Valley fog. Thick as potato soup! I can still see the road ahead, but the river is all cloud. Actually, itís kinda cool.
Donít think weíll be seeing wolves from Grizzly O today.
We meet there anyway, talking softly through our windows. Around 8AM, it begins to lift, so I get out. Instead of wolves I find a sow grizzly with a large cub Ė maybe a yearling or a two-year-old. Yay! Iíll take it!
We watch the bears for about 15 minutes, as they roam the sage hill to the northeast.
We also see elk, bison and sandhills. When the bears move out of view we move to Alum, where we find more elk, including calves. But no wolves.
A couple of pelicans fly into Alum creek. Then Chloe finds a bear right at the edge of the forest.
Aha! Another grizzly. We have him in view for a good half hour.
After this, we head south to 3 Panel, having agreed to hike out to the overlook where Iíve seen Wapitis in other years.
The trail is a bit muddy but no problem. Nobody else is out here. We still donít find wolves, but we enjoy watching several small bison groups moving north along the same path. Three groups of maybe 10 or 12 cow/calf pairs.
They all seem to have the same destination in mind Ė a small pond, which we figure may be the bison equivalent of a kidís playground with a fountain.
There are many wildflowers in this meadow, and we have a nice, relaxing time just hanging out. The day is bright and beautiful while still pleasantly cool.
We spy two hikers, way, way out to the west in the Trout Creek drainage. I remember being way out there once upon a time with Ballpark Frank and three others. We spotted a sow grizzly with two and were very glad there were five of us, all with bear spray. She stood up and ran off when she finally saw us, but I sure would not go out there just two people.
We go back north to take another look at the eagle nest and this time we find both chicks and both parents.
All too soon, itís 1PM which is my agreed upon departure time. They will stay a few more days.
I see very little wildlife other than bison on the way back. But the whole way I continue to be flooded with memories of my early visits. I learned so much in those early days, about wildlife-watching etiquette, how to interact courteously with other visitors. I didnít have a scope then, I just used binocs.
Itís a gorgeous typical Yellowstone summer day. Deep blue sky, puffy clouds and very light traffic. The only thing missing is wolves!
On my way back I am blown away by the mountain meadows, especially around Taylor Fork. Wow, what a paradise!
As I wind my way back through Gallatin Canyon I start to see filled up pullouts and cars lining the already narrow road. And people everywhere. Itís a kayak competition on the Gallatin. Pretty cool.
Iím back in Bozeman before 5.
Today I saw: 3 grizzly bears, bison, sandhill cranes, four bald eagles (including 2 chicks), elk
(and calves), geese, a whole lot of beauty and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.