DAY SIX - Tuesday, July 5


Another day dawns bright and clear. I start my day at Hitching Post.

A group of us are scoping the Chalcedony area for 754M. We don't find him but we do see a black bear at the treeline moving west and find sheep up on Specimen.

We also see numerous elk, bison and pronghorn in the flats. Then we find two more black bears roaming among the trees behind the old Druid rendezvous area. They could be siblings or a mom and two year old cub.

Laurie spots two black wolves in the same flats, testing bison. She reports that they have fluffy coats and no collars, which means they are not Lamar Canyon wolves.

Hmmm, perhaps Agate yearlings? Or possibly some Mollie wolves on a walkabout? I find them now, too, and watch a while. They give up on the bison and head toward the trees.

Suddenly they see the two black bears and rush towards them. The bears immediately climb trees. One black bear seems to have picked the wrong tree. Either it's too thin or he is too fat! He looks kinda funny as it sways with his weight but he holds on! The wolves are only messing with them, there is no serious attempt at injury.

The wolves move further into the forest and the bear in the swaying tree climbs back down. He stands at the trunk, watching the wolves, ready to clamber back up if necessary.

But the wolves are no longer interested. The bear walks over to the tree its sibling (or cub?) is in and that bear comes down, now, too. The are very similar in size, so I think they are siblings. Anyway, it is nice of the one to wait for the other.

Anyway, they seem to recover from their scare quickly enough and move off to the west.

We watch a bit more when suddenly Jeff calls "wolf". He has turned his attention back to the north and has spotted the 06 racing down the hill on the heels of a bull elk. Both animals cross the road and swim the river. The 06 runs full out across the river bottom after the elk, but the elk has opened up a big lead.

She loses the elk for a moment or two, looks here, looks there, then takes off again. I lose her, then pick her up again as she rushes up the old riverbank heading towards the long shoulder of Norris. The elk is now far ahead. I lose track of the wolf in a gully, but it looks like her hunt has failed.

We watch a long while, hoping to see her come back, but she gives us the slip. So we head to Trash Can to join Laurie to see if we can figure out who those two black wovles are. While we are scoping from this angle, Bill H finds a grizzly way up on the north side behind us. Nice!

After a little while we head back to Footbridge. Bill H joins us in this lot and his expert eyes quickly find two more grizzlies, one on a finger-meadow east of Norris and another just below skyline on Norris itself.

A little while later, Laurie and Doug and Kathie and I walk across the footbridge and out in to the meadow to see if we can find an angle that will give us a peek at the Lamar pups.

Unfortunately the area we want to look at is blocked by numerous hills and trees, even from way out in the meadow. We do not see any pups, nor do we see any of the adult wolves. After about a hour, including time spent worrying about whether the grizzlies on Mt. Norris will come down to the flats where we are, we head back to our cars. I make some coffee and hang out chatting a bit. I hear from various folk that the spawn has begun at Trout Lake and that means there is a good chance to see otters.

Although I don't like to hike alone, I decide to take my chances at this busy time of year that someone else will be at the popular spot. There are four cars in the lot so I know my chances are good. I do bring my bear spray and head up the short trail. It's another stunning day!

I meet several folk coming down as I am going go up, and when I reach the top, what I can see around the Lake seems deserted. Hmmm. Then I hear voices and find a group of six people near the outlet stream.

As I circle the Lake I start to see trout in the water.

I see lots of otter sign, but none of the critters themselves. I spend a good hour or so watching the outlet stream and the amazing movements of the trout, gathering, waiting, surging forward with powerful flicks of their glittering tails.

The wildflowers are starting to come out, too. Not as many as I have seen in other years, but gorgeous, nonetheless: larkspur, prairie smoke, sticky geranium and many more. It has become downright hot so I soak my neckerchief in the stream and drench my hair to cool off.

Then I hike back down and take a while cooling off the car before heading west. I drive over to the Blacktail Plateau to take a look at the landslide area, where an enormous amount of rain, followed by a huge wet snowstorm over Memorial Day weekend caused giant boulders to slide off the hill onto the road, blocking and closing it for a few days.

There are signs that say "no stopping" but you can still see the cracks in the pavement where the boulders fell, and the trail of their rolling is still etched in the blacktop. More ominous is a giant boulder now teetering on the top of the hill above this section of road, ready to fall at sometime in the future. I think the Park ought to have gone ahead and dislodged it while the road was closed, because it will do some damage when it falls!

I pull over at Blacktail Ponds and listen to the bird life here, including the wonky call of the yellow-headed blackbird that I love. With my binoculars I find several of them perched among the reeds. There are quite a few species of ducks and two families of geese with gosslings.

On the south side of the road I see a red-winged blackbird in a fir tree, crying out repeatedly. Above this bird is a huge raven, perched on the top-most branch. Every once in a while the blackbird flies up and pokes the raven with its feet or beak. After about six of these pokes, the raven has enough and flies off. The smaller bird follows the raven for a good while, mobbing it.

Another woman is watching the same bird drama and we chat. She is very familiar with bird behavior and tells me the raven might have raided the blackbird's nest. I ask her if she knows why the Floating Island crane is still on the nest and not tending to colts. She says its very likely that the cranes lost their first hatchlings to the bad weather and are now trying again.

Tonight I will stay at Roosevelt so I decide to check in and take a nap. I need to cool off again so I stop just east of Roosevelt at the little creek that runs under the horse-bridge. I just stand for a while in that creek, soaking my feet. Ahhhhh!

Now back at Roosevelt, I drag some overnight items into my Rough Rider cabin, open the windows and turn on the fan. It cools down quickly but I don't think I will need the stove tonight! The skies are darkening for the normal late-afternoon rain shower as I head up Dunraven Pass. Once I get to my favorite pullout the rain starts to fall. It's nice and refreshing and the land welcomes it. Then it delivers a lovely double rainbow!

It is much cooler and breezier up here, which is nice. I scope for bears but don't find any. However, I have a lovely evening with elk. The group I saw yesterday has grown to nearly 100 cows and a dozen nearby bulls. I also count 29 calves - that's pretty good recruitment for July, eh, Marion?

Half of the elk herd is bedded in a burned area and the other half in the shade of nearby trees. As the day begins to wane, I see a slow migration towards a little creek to the west. Calves begin to romp, and some of the cows get feisty with each other. It is gorgeous to watch.

I see calves nursing, romping and exploring. There is quite a disparity in size among the calves; some still very small, some already quite large and confident-looking.

The herd of bulls grazes to the northeast of the cows; they move to the marsh and some of them seem to lick the ground - is there salt there?

While the elk herd is spread out across the meadow I notice four bull bison coming down from above them. The bull in the lead begins to run towards the closest group of elk, as if he were pretending to be a predator. About 30 of the elk bunch up in reaction and run as a herd, just as I have seen them do when a wolf is after them.

Another group of about a dozen elk seek safety among the trees, while a third group moves towards the creek. Then some of the smarter elk toward the back of the herd realize they are running from bison and turn around. The troublemaker bison wheels and stamps his front feet. He looks upset that he has been found out!

A few brave cows have his number now, and begin to advance on him. The bison tosses his head like a petulant teenager, then moves back to his buddies. His buddies seem sort of embarassed by him!

The elk that ran to the trees look like they feel kinda stupid, and one brave elk cow follows the bison as if contemplating whether or not she might get give him a kick in the arse, then thinks better of it and rejoins her herd.

Shortly after this the cow-calf herd moves towards the marsh, where the bulls had been a half hour earlier. This brings them slightly closer to me and I begin to hear the sweet mewing sounds they make to each other.

I stay a while longer as the light begins to fail. What a lovely evening!

Today I saw: 3 black bears, 3 grizzly bears, 1 red-winded black bird, 3 yellow-headed blackbirds, bison, 1 sandhill crane, elk (including 29 calves), pronghorn, bighorn sheep, spawning trout, 3 wolves (including The 06 and two mystery wolves) and the spirit of Allison.

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