DAY THREE - Wednesday, July 5


I wake up at 6 to a beautiful sunrise. It’s very quiet; just two people are out walking their dogs.

I am careful not to make loud noises as I carefully prepare my coffee, lighting up my camp stove to boil water.

The three of us head out as planned at 6:30. We find that Hayden Valley is thick with its typical fog along the Yellowstone, from LeHardy Rapids to Alum Creek.

It’s chilly, too, only 32 degrees! We are bundled up as we sit in our cars at Alum, hoping for wolf howls to tell us where to look. Instead we hear bison all around us, grunting softly to each other, just ghostly shapes drifting in and out of the fog.

I have always loved the early mornings in Yellowstone and this one is no exception. I sip my coffee and listen to unseen geese and sandhills.

It’s nearly 9AM when the fog finally lifts. Once it does we see there are twice as many bison around us than we thought. We also count 9 sandhills and Chloe spies a northern harrier.

But the wolves do not appear, nor do they announce their presence with howling. So we go south, paralleling a flock of pelicans flying overhead. We find their landing spot at 3 Panel, where we stop to watch them, along with additional bison, geese and two bald eagles.

Next, we drive out the East Entrance Road in another effort to find the various bears that have been reported by others lately. We go as far as Lake Butte but have no luck. We turn back west and stop at the Sedge Bay beach pullout where we find two marmots.

We finally come upon a grizzly at Mary Bay, high up on a cliff. I don’t see it myself but Becky and Chloe do. Finding a safe spot to park is problematic, though, and by the time I do, the bear is gone. I do see a third marmot, though!

Around 1PM we head back to the Fishing Bridge campground. Chloe & Becky take showers while I find a shady spot to do my stretches.

Around 3PM we head north, stopping again at 3 Panel. This time we see a bald eagle on the ground above the river and Chloe finds a couple of scaups.

Now we head north but have to crawl through two bison jams before we get to Canyon. In typical summer fashion, these jams are not really caused by bison blocking the road, but by visitors who ignore the pullouts and stop their cars in the road to take photos.

On our way over Dunraven, we stop at the Coyote den overlook, where we are in luck again! The mother coyote is nursing two of her five pups. When they finish, one of them picks up what’s left of a ground squirrel and carries it into thick sage.

A group of young visitors stop to see what we are looking at. One points and says to the others “wolves!” Four of them immediately start trotting downslope with their cameras. We wave and yell to them to come back up. Luckily, they do, but the coyote mom leads her pups out of sight.

These people are clearly first-time visitors, so we explain calmly that the animals are coyotes, not wolves. We plead with them to not do that again, pointing out that they scared the animals away so now none of us can see them. Instead, we encourage them to take their photos from the road.

Chloe says, in her calmest, most reasonable voice “You thought they were wolves, and what you did was to run towards them. That is the very definition of wildlife harassment.”

They actually say “sorry” and it seems that for once, our advice is taken to heart.

They drive away and we pack up. Our next stop is at the Tower store for a short rest and more ice cream.

We arrive at Dorothy’s about a quarter to 5, and scope all over for bears or wolves. Betty and Terry join us but still we find nothing. Then a couple with binoculars starts pointing up on A-Z meadow.

They’ve found a grizzly! Hooray! It’s a nice-sized bear, probably a boar. We all enjoy watching it for a good long while. When he goes out of sight, I start to scope the rendezvous like I did the other morning. I don’t see any wolves but I do notice a whole lot of people parked at Picnic and Trash Can, and two dozen people on Trash Can hill.

I volunteer to drive there and report back if they have wolves in view. When I get up on Trash Can hill, though, it’s clear that most of the people up here are not seeing anything. On top of that, there are no English speakers up here, except for two Frenchmen, who try their best to communicate with me.

I scope the rendezvous area, especially the bison carcass area but never see anything moving. Finally, one of the Frenchmen shows me a video he took today of a black wolf. The time stamp is 3PM.

I thank him profusely and head back to Dorothy’s.

My timing is good because the grizzly is in view again. We also see pronghorn, a few bull elk and two bald eagles near the traditional nest.

It’s a very pleasant evening, and I like getting to know Terry and Betty a bit better. They are really great people. Too bad they can’t stay longer.

As we start to lose the light, we bid each other adieu. Becky and Chloe tell me they are going to sleep in tomorrow. We now head back northeast, meeting the local red fox on the way.

Today I saw: a grizzly bear, bison, 3 coyotes (including 2 pups), 8 sandhill cranes, 7 bald eagles (including 2 chicks), elk (including calves), a fox, geese, a northern harrier, 3 marmots, pelicans, pronghorn, and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.

Next Chapter

Previous Chapter

Back to Main Page

Printer Friendly Index