It has been 5 years since I visited Yellowstone during the height of summer season. Living two blocks from Times Square in New York City means I regularly share my pathways with a multitude of visitors, and I tend to vacation in Yellowstone during the shoulder seasons, when crowds tend to be sparse. But that means I miss seeing the Park at its natural best, when it is green and growing. So I decided it was time.
I chose the week of Fourth of July partly to minimize my absence from work, as we would be closed for the holiday anyway, but also because it coincided with a likely time when the Druid Peak Pack would move their pups to a rendezvous site. Of course, the Druids are wild wolves and there is no guarantee that they will use the site I want them to, the one within easy viewing distance from the road. They might choose an alternate site in the backcountry like they did last year. But when you're an avid follower of wolves like I am, you hope you might get lucky enough to witness the day that such a move occurs. And so I chose this week.
As so often happens in Yellowstone, I did not see what I expected, but I did see many things equally wonderful and all the more so for being un-expected. And since 2009 has so far been unusually wet, the green was greener than usual.
Before heading up to the Park, I spent two days in Bozeman at my cozy home there, catching up on my neighbors lives, doing a little shopping, fixing and cleaning. One afternoon I took a side trip up the Bridger Canyon road and enjoyed the beautiful vistas there. And I had a long lunch with my friends Becky and Chloe, who had just finished their summer trip to the Park and were on their way back to Missoula.
My one specific wildlife-sighting goal was to catch a glimpse of 302, one of the legendary wolves in the Park and one of ths subjects of Bob Landis' film "Valley of the Wolves". 302 has long been one of my favorites, but I missed seeing him during my last two trips, at Christmas and in April. He is 9 years old now, which is very old for a wild wolf, and I know I may not have that many more chances to observe him in the wild.
I also wanted to try to see the Canyon wolves, which had been seen in the Mammoth area during my last two trips. In early April the Canyon Pack had dug a den not far from the road in Mammoth, an area that gets very crowded in spring and summer, which would most likely put wolves and people into conflict of one sort or another. The wolf project decided it was necessary to haze the Canyon Pack from the area and that effort succeeded - perhaps too well. For several weeks, the four individuals would be seen sporadically between their former haunts and Canyon. It was not known if they dug another den, if the alpha female lost her pups or had moved her pups.
In the days leading up to my trip I had received encouraging reports from my friend Frank, who visits the Park frequently and reported numerous sightings of Canyon wolves in numerous places near the Canyon area. So off I went and now here are my reports of what I saw and heard.
My thanks to Frank, Doug, John and Gary; to Becky and Chloe, Laurie and Bonnie.
Finally, a note about Allison and her spirit. Allison was a shining-light of a woman, my friend and the Queen of the Loons. She passed away suddenly in December of 2003. In June of 2004, her loving family arranged for her ashes to be scattered on Kite Hill in Mammoth Hot Springs, where she had worked in her youth. Many of us were in attendance at that ceremony. Thus, each time I visit the Park I feel her presence, and I hope always to share my trips with her.