DAY EIGHTEEN - Tuesday, June 6


I drive down the Jardine road under a cloudless blue sky in 60 degrees.

When we reach the “residential” section we see three elk cows, each leading a new spotted calf.

We see the usual birds and ducks at Blacktail Ponds. The scenery is lovely all through the Blacktail, but there is little wildlife in view.

It’s pretty much the same through Little America.

Once we enter Lamar Canyon we can clearly see the result of last night’s blasting. Dozens of huge boulders that were once part of the northside hill, now lie exposed on both sides of the road. The road itself shows signs of heavy activity, with a layer of dried mud and lots of gravelly bits.

We stop at Coyote and learn we missed a single black wolf that was traveling across the bench about an hour ago. We scope anyway and find bison and pronghorn. We also watch the eagle nest a while, showing many visitors. Both eagle parents are here today, tending a single chick.

I find a gray animal trotting down from the divide ridge, just to the right of the forest above the bench. I can’t tell if it’s a wolf or a coyote. A deer spooks from the trees below the animal, racing across the meadow to the next forest.

The canid stops for a second when it sees the deer but does not chase it. Shortly after this, the canid turns and disappears into the trees. Only a few other people saw it, so I’ll never know for sure what it was.

We continue east and stop briefly at Trash Can. There are two dozen people on the hill looking southeast. Michael tells me they see a coyote feeding on the remains of a drowned bison calf in the Lamar River.

We don’t feel like climbing Trash Can Hill just now, so we skip that sighting and continue east. We hope to find the grizzly sow again.

Alas, our bear luck is not with us today.

We pull into Footbridge on an investigative mission. Yesterday, a friend sent us a photo showing the location of an active golden eagle nest on the exposed cliff below Druid Peak, north of this lot.

The photo includes a superimposed arrow pointing to “the spot”. We train our scopes north, trying to line up the 2 dozen “holes” and 4 dozen vertical cracks in the pock-marked cliff face to match those in the photo.

I can’t believe how hard it is! We finally narrow down our options to three small “caves” and try to pick the most likely. Usually, an eagle nest reveals itself by the amount of guano or “wash” found just below it. There is little evidence of guano below any of our choices, so that is perplexing, too.

Honestly, we are beginning to doubt our friend. While we continue to debate this, an adult golden eagle flies through my scope circle, right into the “middle” choice “cave”. Well, that settles the matter!

We (kiddingly) congratulate each other anyway, since we argued about it long enough for the eagle to fly in. And we realize that the cavity is deep enough to hide the adult eagle, which likely means that any guano deposited there would stay in the cavity.

Well, it’s now time to head back west. We are all leaving the Park today, but Chloe and Becky have the longer drive. I have offered them housing overnight, but they understandably want to get to Missoula.

So, off we go.

We see a see a black bear on our way past Phantom Lake and make a final stop at the Mammoth VC to check out the gift shop. We had thought to scope the owl nest once more, but a sudden heavy downpour changes our minds.

I follow their van out of the Park and through Yankee Jim, communicating over our radios as we go. Chloe wants to stop in Emigrant. There is a new branch of the K Bar just east of the intersection there. We get a nice table outside and have delicious pizza and healthy salads.

There’s a bit of wind, but the rain mercifully holds off.

Around 5PM we start our last leg, through Livingston and onto I-90. As I get close to my exit, my radio fills with unusual sounds: “So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu!” Becky and Chloe are singing goodbye to me!

Oh, you crazy kids!

Today I saw: a black bear, bison (and calves), a coyote, a mule deer, 3 bald eagles (including one chick), a golden eagle, elk (and 3 calves), pronghorn, possibly a gray Junction wolf, and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.

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