DAY ONE - Friday, July 5


This is my second visit this summer. I leave Bozeman around 2PM, planning to be in Silver Gate in time to hear Rick’s wolf talk at the Range Rider.

It’s 69 degrees, a typically beautiful Bozeman day with lots of puffy clouds in the sky.

The landscape is still very green, which makes it especially nice to see. I get a smattering of rain around Emmigrant. I can tell it’s tourist season from the steady stream of traffic in Paradise Valley. Usually when I make this drive it feels as though I’ve got the place to myself, but not this time!

It’s still a gorgeous drive, though. I see an osprey soaring over the Yellowstone just outside of Gardiner.

There are 7 cars ahead of me at the entrance gate and the sign says all campgrounds are “full”.

There are several elk grazing along the road in Gardiner Canyon. My first stop is at S Curves on the edge of the Blacktail plateau, where I see 2 black bears, perhaps siblings, or perhaps a courting pair, roaming the bottom of South Butte.

I move on to the Fire Trail to scan for the Eight Mile pups. Some folks already here tell me they were seen around 4PM but nothing in sight now.

I continue on and see something scurrying near the road near the Blue Bird tree pullout. I stop and in my rear view mirror see a badger cross the road to the north. I watch it a while as it waddles through the sage.

Between Yellowstone Picnic and Junction Butte there is another black bear in view; this one in the forest to the south.

Little America is quiet. There are bison calves to watch but I keep going and soon I am looking at the beloved hills of Lamar. I have heard about a bison carcass apparently visible from the west end of Hubbard Hill. As I near that spot I see a familiar car. Bob Landis is just packing up his stuff.

I say hi and he says “Yeah, it’s still out there but it looks pretty done”.

I park anyway and walk up the hill just to get an idea of where it is. I find the horns right away. Only one bird on it, though, confirming Bob’s assessment.

I see a fourth black bear off the road a ways to the north between Pebble & Thunderer. This little guy has drawn quite a crowd, and they happily watch him grazing the lush grass here.

In Moose Meadow I see…a moose!

I pull over at Baronette to say hello to Doug & Melba. Doug has found a nanny goat and a kid up there.

I also pass two mule deer in the forest as I cross the rumble strips.

I pull in to Laurie’s and we have a great reunion. It’s so great to see her and Dan again, especially after all the trauma Laurie has been through. We have a quick meal then walk over to the Range Rider for Rick’s talk.

We meet dozens of friends here, old and new. Rick’s talk goes well, I think, if a tad long. But I enjoy it.

Today I saw: a badger, 4 black bears, bison, mule deer, elk, 2 mountain goats, an osprey, pronghorn, a moose, and the spirits of Allison and Richard.

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