DAY TWELVE - Thursday, August 1


I sleep in this morning. My poor feet need it. Around 7:30 I get going.

It's a clear, lovely morning and the air is crisp. I have a cup of coffee in the lobby of the Inn while I wait for the Gift Shop to open so I can say hi to Matthew. We have a brief chat and I tell him about all the geysers I saw yesterday. Then we have a Loon hug and say goodbye.

I head toward the geyser basin intending to visit Depression. But I can't remember the way to get there and walking is still pretty painful. Since I don't see a shortcut I decide to blow it off and save it for my next trip. I drive slowly toward Madison. I pull over at Biscuit Basin where I see a sleek elk cow wading in the river with a steam plume rising behind her. It's quintessential Yellowstone.

Since I have time I take the Firehole Lake Drive and manage to catch White Dome in eruption.

I find a pretty spot to do my packing for the return flight, in a pullout next to the Firehole River. I've got everything sprawled out when three elk cows step out of the woods on the other side of the road. And walking boldly in front of the cows are two calves! Isn't it just like Yellowstone to finally let me see them right before I leave? The elk move across the pavement and into the pullout, walking calmly past me and heading for the lush green grass on the riverbank.

I note that the calves are sturdy and healthy-looking and that their spots are quite faded. They lower their heads to graze along the shady bank and I go back to my packing, smiling with satisfaction. When I finish I see the calves have bedded in a sunny spot. They lie sprawled on their sides like teenagers at the beach, soaking up the rays.

I leave them to their siesta and drive on. A little past Madison Campground I stop at a big turnout by the Madison. There is a good-sized elk herd here; I count 25 cows and 6 young bulls. There is also one calf. Ah ha! That makes three!

The meadow also hosts an over-abundance of grasshoppers. Not exactly biblical proportions, but a lot. They fly in waves and spurts and mostly bang into each other and rocks and cars. And people. I chuckle at a tourist who gets out of her car to take a photo of the elk only to jump back inside and slam the door after being bombarded by grasshoppers.

One cow elk decides to cross the river for the greener grass of the other side. She wades slowly through the water and this gets the attention of the elk closest to her. That elk now starts for the water's edge. A slow migration begins. One by one the elk step into the river, wade across and climb up the bank on the other side. I wonder if they do it as much for the cool water as for the tastier grass.

I hit another jam at Seven-Mile Bridge, all for a lone elk cow and her little one. Yahoo! That makes four! The mother and calf stand close together in the middle of the river, offering a dream shot for happy visitors. I move on, feeling a tiny bit better about the elk-calf population in the Park.

All too soon I'm in the airport awaiting my flight. It's been another awesome trip. I sit with my carry-ons and write, smiling at my newest set of memories of the most wonderful place on earth.

Today I saw: bison, 39 elk (including 4 calves), grasshoppers, and 2 Loons

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