DAY SEVENTEEN - Monday, June 5

MORNING HELP/EVENING LUCK

We decided last night that we all need 8 hours of sleep, so we set our alarms for later than usual. Itís still gorgeous and cool as we head down the bumpy Jardine Road.

We know we may miss some early sightings but honestly, I am delighted to have extra sleep!

There are many elk in Gardiner, and they all have sweet, spotted calves. We see more elk as we wind up along the old/new road.

At Blacktail ponds a pair of coyotes wanders about, looking for unwary geese. There are also numerous yellow-headed blackbirds and various ducks.

We continue east, intending to scope for wolves from the S Curves. But we find thick fog covering all the spots we wanted to glass. On we go.

We start to hear radio reports of wolves being seen in Lamar from Coyote and Dorothyís. Luckily for us, we have only a short wait at the Canyon light.

Even more luckily, Rick provides excellent advice about where to park. When we emerge on the east side of the Canyon, we join him in the dirt lot. We set up quickly and suddenly I have a wolf in my scope.

Yay! Thanks Rick!

Iím looking in the saddle between the western end of Jasper and the slope above Lamar Canyon.

The wolf I see is black and it has something in its mouth. It sits down and begins chewing. Then another wolf, a gray, appears behind it, higher on the hill. The gray descends the slope, heading into thick trees above the back of Jasper Bench.

A few minutes later, the black has consumed the morsel (whatever it was). It turns upslope heading towards the same line of trees where the gray disappeared.

All too soon I am wolf-less again. But without Rickís timely help, I would have missed them both!

We pack up and move to Dorothyís. Becky and Chloe want to know where the split rock is, so I help them find it.

A herd of bison with lots of calves is moving downhill, clearly aiming to cross the river. I love to see them do that.

But then one of the guides finds a gray wolf on the east side of Jasper, so I leave the bison and search for the wolf. I find a different wolf, also gray, a little further west.

The two wolves come together and greet. One is much darker than the other. The light gray beds down while the darker one heads up to the top of the bench.

I turn my scope back to the bison and watch them cross. Many are already north of the river. The river is high but the calves are old enough to cross rivers with aplomb. You can see how happy they are once they reach the other side. As they splash through the shallows, you can almost hear them congratulating themselves ďSee mom? I did it!Ē

Chloe counts 8 sandhills in the flats and numerous pronghorn. Closer to us are quite a few ground squirrels, peeping and darting through the sage.

The day has warmed to a pleasant 52 degrees. We now continue east.

As Soda Butte Midpoint Chloe finds a bear. Itís the Druid Peak grizzly sow with her three coys! She is a beautiful, dark grizzly and her cubs are darling.

They are high up on an eastern shoulder of Druid peak, where there are several large remaining patches of snow. The bears, though, are below the snow in some rocky terrain which makes them a bit hard to see. They are all dark and blend in with the rocks quite well.

Chloe keeps stating her wish for the bears to walk across the snow and finally, they do! They pick the smallest patch instead of the large one, but when Mom crosses it, the cubs canít resist sliding down part way, just as weíd hoped.

The bear family moves west into a stand of thick trees. Just before they go out of sight, Mom sits down and the cubs come to her to nurse. Awwww!

We are all feeling in need of a nap so we find a quiet pullout in Round Prairie where we can. The temperature is perfect and the scenery is, too.

And hour later, we go back to check on the grizzly family. It takes a while but they finally emerge from the forest, ambling towards the biggest snow patch. Chloe gets her main wish as they traverse the whole thing, leaving visible tracks. Mom stops to sniff something, and the cubs play chase, sliding down and romping back up several times.

Ahh, bliss!

Mom then ties up the sighting with a bow by sitting right on the snow and nursing the cubs. Chloe predicts the cubs will want to nap after nursing. And sure enough, one by one, each cub droops itís head and falls asleep.

Mom naps, too, flopping on her side, extending a protective forepaw around her babes.

We would have stayed all day with these bears, but we have a date for lunch with our friends Larry and Linda.

We get a great table in the back corner near two windows. Chloe opens both and lets the cool air in.

The food is fine, not great, but the company canít be beat. At the end, Larry insists on treating us all. Thanks, Larry!

Next, we head to the porch and find rockers for all five of us. Robin and Steve arrive so we make room for them, too. Boy, this really feels like old times to me!

Around 3PM, we leave Roosevelt and drive up to Calcite. The black bears are not around today so we move on to the peregrine spot. We find one of the two but still no nest. Chloe wonders if they are a new pair and have not coordinated well enough yet to agree on a nest sight.

Chloe finds two bighorn sheep which entertain us for a while. Now itís time for ice cream. We get to the store just before they close.

Tonight is the first night of blasting at the Lamar Canyon construction site. I am curious about what it will feel like, so I suggest we spend an hour at Elk Creek in hopes of witnessing it, for good or ill.

We get to Elk Creek at 7. We see lots of activity, including a big blue truck going back and forth (which we learn later was marked ďexplosivesĒ). But after an hour of nothing we give up and head west.

As we near Blacktail Ponds, I see more than the usual number of cars in the lot. Then I see why. There is a black animal just beyond the closest pond. Itís a wolf. It looks enormous to me, since I rarely ever see them so close.

Parking is tricky but we manage it. I donít need a scope, just binoculars. The wolf is dark black and has a collar. Itís munching on something, something old, I think. It lies down to roll in it, legs in the air. Then itís up again on its long legs, heading north. It leaps effortlessly over a watery channel and begins to explore the edge of the pond, heading east, perhaps hunting for eggs or ducklings.

This is a gorgeous wolf with a very dark face and bright yellow eyes, having a wonderful time by itself, exploring this interesting spot. My impression is that itís likely a yearling. The wolf beds on the far bank, partly camouflaged by vegetation and still quite close!

We have him in view for another wonderful 15 minutes before he turns north, heading to Everts.

We reach Mammoth just as a beautiful sunset has begun. We admire it all the way down the winding road.

Today I saw: four grizzly bears (including 3 coy), bison, coyotes, elk, bald eagles, pronghorn, 4 wolves (including 3 Junctions, brown-gray, light gray and an uncollared black, plus a likely Rescue wolf (collared black, perhaps yearling 1391M) and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.

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