DAY ONE - Tuesday, October 5


I leave Bozeman at 8:30AM. It’s a pleasant 55 degrees.

Paradise Valley is a little hazy today and the fall color is just past peak. It’s still very pretty, though.

Gardiner Canyon still retains some nice fall color. I see oranges, reds and a few golden leaves.

I have my visit with Allison and continue south. There are lots of elk in Mammoth including the big 6 x 6 bull that I think I saw when I was at the Clinic with my Cincinnati friends.

Driving past the upper terraces and through the Golden Gate I reflect that I have not seen this area during the fall in a very long time. The willows in the ‘look for moose” area are particularly nice.

I enjoy the drive and find myself remembering memorable sightings of the past and how so many things have changed.

I get to Canyon around 11AM, and find myself fairly shocked to see how low the water level is in the Yellowstone. The area south of Chittenden Bridge looks like a marsh.

I get a text update from Barb and find her at Alum. We have a bright, cool day around us. She was here at dawn but has heard no howling nor seen any wolves yet. She did see a pair of grizzlies, the “Lake Butte sow” and her yearling cub.

I comment to her about how “empty” Hayden feels to me. I think all the Hayden visitors have gone to Lamar!

We scope in the usual places, seeing only bison. From Grizzly Overlook, the water is almost just weeds. I’ve never seen it like this.

I suggest we take advantage of the light crowd and drive to Artists Point for a look at the Falls.

There are more people here, but nothing close to usual. The low water level is noticeable; on either side of the thickest volume are sections of exposed cliff, black with algae. But it’s still a spectacular waterfall.

Another difference we notice is that the canyon walls look more white than yellow. But I think that was more an effect of the angle of the sun.

We drive over to Canyon, finding much of it closed already. The store is open, though so we go inside. Barb’s motel room had a power outage last night and she lost the food in her fridge. I got a snack or two to augment what I brought.

We decide to head back to Gardiner so Barb can determine what to do about her room. If the power is not back yet, she’ll need to move to move to a different motel.

I enjoy the view of Electric Peak on the way back. It is totally snow free, a look I’ve never seen before.

We make a plan for later and go our separate ways. I head to Blacktail Ponds for a bit and end up watching a sweet coyote checking the edges of the water. And I watch bison calves and cows at the bottom of Everts.

We have a picnic dinner in the back of Barb’s motel, high above the Yellowstone River (roughly opposite the Absaroaka motel). It’s a really nice, quiet spot.

We watch an elk cow & calf ascend the rocky hill above the river until they disappear into a stand of golden cottonwoods. Later a local mule deer pays us a visit, hopping over a low stone wall to munch on some tasty vegetation.

Today I saw: bison, a coyote, elk, geese, mule deer, pronghorn, and the spirits of Allison and Richard.

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