DAY FOUR - Thursday, July 6


I sleep in a bit this morning, myself, leaving Silver Gate around 6AM.

There are mule deer all over. The temp is a pleasant 37, comfortably chilly in my opinion.

There is no one on Trash Can hill but since I have good light, I stop to scan the rendezvous anyway. I see nothing but bison.

Scott W radios from the ranch that he’s been looking for a while but has seen no wolves yet. He adds that people at Dorothy’s might have a bear in view.

When I pull in to Dorothy’s, I find that they did have a bear but now they have wolves! One a fresh carcass, no less! I let Scott know.

I find the wolves in the “saddle” between Jasper and Lamar Canyon. One gray is feeding while three more, two grays and a black, are bedded a short distance to the west. I radio Laurie and Dan to join me here.

I’m told that a second black was seen earlier but has already headed east and disappeared towards the back of the bench, the same notorious spot where the Junctions have been hiding out all summer.

Laurie and Dan join me, and we scope together, just like old times. She and her great eyes see the head and horns of a yearling bison.

I radio Rick a few times, but Scott says he already went west to Blacktail. He is likely unaware of this new carcass.

The bedded black gets up and sets off to the east, likely following the earlier black. I follow this black so I can note the place where they usually disappear. The “place”, at least from this angle, is about the middle of the bench. The wolf seems to take a sharp turn at an oddly shaped boulder.

I call it the “secret entrance” boulder.

Soon after this, two grays get up to leave. Each carries a chunk of meat as they go. Now we have just one gray left.

Meanwhile, Dan finds two grizzlies, way up high, above A-Z meadow, both of them climbing up the largest remaining snow patch. We figure these are likely the two sub adults that have been seen off and on most of the summer.

Dan also finds a pronghorn with twin fawns down in the flats.

Six or seven young bull bison arrive at the carcass and have a “funeral”, causing the remaining wolf to back off and give them “space”.

We also see two eagle chicks in the eagle nest.

It’s now 10:30 and Becky and Chloe are still not here! Well, I’m glad they got the sleep they needed!

Laurie & Dan are ready to go back east, so I drive with them for a while, knowing we’ll run into Chloe and Becky eventually. And we do, at Ice Box Canyon.

I bid adieu to Laurie and Dan and turn around to join Becky & Chloe at Thunderer. We discuss what they want to do today. We are staying at Canyon Campground tonight, so we have lots of options.

Chloe wants to see an eruption of Old Faithful, so we will take a leisurely drive there.

But in Soda Butte Valley we see people with scopes pointed up high to the south. There have been reports lately of a grizzly sow with cubs in this area (a different bear than to sow with three we saw in June), so we pull over to try our luck.

We don’t find the sow with cubs, but we do find a single grizzly further west, on the third finger of Norris. It’s a light-colored bear. His coat really glistens in the morning sun. Nice bear.

Next, we head to Dorothy’s. I had told Becky and Chloe what we had earlier this morning, figuring that all the wolves will be gone by now. So, we are especially delighted when we find that one gray is still in view, gnawing on the carcass. Yay!

While we are looking south at the wolf, a coyote trots by, just north of the road. Several people end up doing the wrong thing, running after the poor animal with their cameras, prompting the coyote to dash much further away into the sage.

Around 11:30 we head west again, through Little America and up towards Dunraven. We stop once more at the Coyote den pullout. Alas, we find no pups in view, but we do see an adult coyote trotting south along the road away from us.

The sky grows overcast and a breeze comes up. Hmmm, could be we’re in for a change in weather?

We turn right at Canyon Junction, heading for the Old Faithful area.

All along the drive, I am continually delighted by the wild beauty everywhere. The combination of prolific and varied wildflowers, lush green meadows and bright blue skies is amazing.

We pass the Norris area and begin to follow the Gibbon River towards Madison Junction. At a certain point, we notice no cars have passed us in the opposite lane. Just as Becky comments on that, we see a long line of cars ahead of us, stopped.

At first, I think it’s yet another bison jam, but it’s not. Unfortunately it’s an accident. A pretty bad one. After a while we see flashing lights, and an ambulance. Lots of cars pull out of the line and turn around. We count a total of 7 law enforcement rangers, a fire truck, two ambulances and several other uniformed personnel.

All told, we are stopped here for over an hour, but count ourselves luckier than the people involved. Around 4PM we finally get the go-ahead to drive on. We take a seat on the second-floor deck. Overhead, the sky continues to threaten rain, but mercifully holds off. The eruption is a tad late, at 5:54, but it’s a very good one.

Next, we get some sandwiches and drinks at the new deli and bring them up to the third-floor balcony where we sit and eat, while talking and people watching. A piano player in the corner adds a classy note with some standards and Broadway tunes.

It’s such a beautiful place and I’m very glad to make more memories here with my dear friends. I tell Chloe I’m glad we came.

Around 8 we head back to our cars and fill up our tanks at the Hamilton station. None of us has energy left for a geyser walk, but there is plenty to entertain us along the drive. Countless steaming hot springs and bright, colorful runoff.

When we make the turn at Norris to Canyon, the weather starts gearing up for a real storm. Rain begins, then hail, complete with thunder and lightning. About halfway up Blanding Hill, Becky notices the sides of the road are white. It’s not hail; it’s snow!

Despite the steady stream of traffic in both directions, the snow falls heavily enough to accumulate on the road. It becomes slushy and a tiny bit slick. By the time we are heading down the other side and see the lights of Canyon Village ahead, the snow has turned to rain again, which then tapers off to a drizzle.

By the time we are checked-in at Canyon campground, the rain has conveniently stopped. But the clouds make for a very dark night. Becky and I get out flashlights to help Chloe maneuver the camper into the spot while still leaving room for my car.

We make a plan to get up at 6 tomorrow, which will give us all a full 8 hours. I settle once more into the comfy back of my Subaru and fall asleep to a view of stars.

Today I saw: 1 black bear, 3 grizzly bears, bison, 2 coyotes, mule deer, 3 bald eagles (including 2 chicks), elk, pronghorn (including twin fawns), 5 Junction wolves (two blacks and three grays) and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.

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