Hooray! I am driving through the beautiful Gallatin Canyon on my way to Yellowstone. At this warm time of year I try to take advantage of the chance to see the other areas of the Park that are usually closed in the colder months.
Luckily I remember to call for camping reservations before I leave Bozeman. And I reach them just in time, ending up with the very last spot at Canyon tonight. I press my luck and I'm able to get a Rough Rider cabin at Roosevelt tomorrow night. Woo hoo!
The sky is quite overcast and it's already a warm 76 degrees. The Bozeman forecast is for 90 today, but I am hoping the Park will be cooler.
I'm glad to be on the road. It's been a great two weeks at Wendy's West but I am delighted to be heading towards my heart's home. My rental car is equipped with Sirius radio, which I thoroughly enjoy. I find a mellow oldies station called The Bridge.
Weather-wise, it's been warm and sunny since I got to Bozeman on June 30th. There were a few rainy afternoons and one gusty, short-lived storm that knocked out my power for a little while, so I washed my dishes by candlelight!
I can see some snow still clinging to the top peaks of the Madison Range. The Bridgers have been bereft of snow the whole time I've been here, and only a very little bit of white remains on the tippy tops of the Gallatin Range.
The Gallatin River looks gorgeous and I am reminded of what a lovely drive this is. One of my neighbors told me that some scenes from A River Runs Through It were shot here, and I can certainly see why. A little later I see some recent construction - hmmm, looks like a bridge may have washed out earlier this spring.
I see lots of river rafters - oh yea, this a perfect time to be on the river. I enjoy seeing a beautiful tributary stream gushing down the hillside, through lush green grass. I also notice many butterflies.
A light drizzle begins and the sky looks a bit more threatening up ahead. I see my first elk shortly after entering the Park boundary for the first time. This section always reminds me of Little America. My first bison comes into view just outside of West.
I reach the Park gate about 12:45 and, as if by magic, the clouds begin to break up. The meadows along the Madison seem dry as they always do, making the river especially inviting. I take Riverside drive and promptly find a bald eagle perched in tree. The new growth in this area is astonishing; most trees are now well over 20 feet.
A tiny chipmunk wants to cross the road. I slow down to let him, but he turns back.
I spy an elk herd in the flats by the 7 Mile bridge, mostly cows and calves. Oh, how I love to see calves! I sit on a boulder in the shade and have my visit with Allison here along the cool, blue Madison, knowing she loved all sides of the Park as well as Mt. Everts.
Then I head east, taking my time, stopping where I want, enjoying views I have not seen for so many months. But the day is warming and after making the turn to Canyon I find myself getting a little drowsy, so I pull off at the Grebe Lake trailhead. I park in the shade, lower my seat back and take a nap. I leave the window slightly open and enjoy the breeze and the sounds of the natural world. This is exactly how I like to fall asleep.
After about an hour I rouse myself and continue on. I stop at Canyon and get my reservation tag, and drive into the G-loop to take a look at my spot so I can better find it later in the dark. Yay, it's close to the bathroom!
Next, I head into Hayden Valley. I can see a storm is brewing. Around 3:30 it arrives, and a hard hailing begins. Wow, it's really loud hitting the roof and hood. I wonder if my rental will be pock-marked! I pull into Grizzly Overlook and let the hail pound down. It's a wild and wonderful feeling. But gradually the hail softens to rain and I sit here to wait it out.
Grizzly Overlook is the best place to see the Canyon Pack - and I know they have been seen recently. In fact, their two pups have been seen and I LOVE to see wolf pups. But for the next 5 hours I sit here in zero visibility due to the storm. The rain lets up only twice for about 5 mintues each time.
During the first let-up I hop out and set up my scope, and in doing so, I discover I am parked next to my friend Jeff from Canada. So nice to see him. We chat a while about the latest wolf sightings. In fact he saw the Canyons here this morning. So they are probably still in the neighborhood.
Through the rain curtain we see a nice-sized elk herd on the opposite hill, with numerous calves. That's nice to see, too.
And we find a convention of great blue herons in the mud flats of the Yellowstone, while many sandhills pairs and singles peck and feed in the meadows beyond. A bald eagle sits in a tree.
Eventually I get a bit restless so I take off south for a drive in the still-steady rain. I go as far as Mud Volcano and then turn around. On the way I see more elk, many geese and many bison. By the time I head back to Grizzly Overlook, the sky seems a bit more promising.
Finally, around 8:15 the rain stops for good. No wolves have been seen and Jeff has headed back east. I set up again, still hoping they will come out of the trees. They don't show but I do have a nice time chatting with various visitors, including Larry & Linda, and Amy and John from upstate NY. Its always nice to meet fellow Easterners.
The temperature has dropped to a pleasant 54.
Dark comes a bit earlier than usual, due to the preponderance of clouds, so I pack up and head in around 9PM, in time to take advantage of a "sale" at the Canyon gift shop.
I put my new headlamp to work (thanks, Francis J!), blow up my air mattress and settle in for a nice sleep.
TODAY I SAW: Bison (with calves), a chipmunk, 9 sandhill cranes, 2 bald eagles, elk (with calves), geese, 8 great blue herons and the spirit of Allison.