DAY ONE - Sunday, July 21

MAMMOTH AND SHEEP CLIFFS

This trip is a short one Ė a special trip to visit my old friend Doug Dance who is in the Park for a book signing. He will be at the Mammoth Hotel and at Old Faithful to sell and sign copies of his most recent opus, ďAmerican EdenĒ.

Itís a beautiful bright day, a pleasant 73 degrees at 1PM, with very low humidity.

The pass is dry and easy this time. Just outside Livingston, I notice some lingering snow on the Absarokas. Things look good and green for this late in the summer.

Just north of Emmigrant I see a mule deer mom & fawn. So sweet.

Oddly there seems to be far less traffic in Paradise Valley than there was on my last trip, just 10 days ago. Opposite the rest area I see several pronghorn.

I reach Gardiner at 2:30 and check in at the Super 8, then head up for my visit with Allison. When I reach Mammoth I credit Allison when I luck out with a great parking spot, right in front of the hotel lobby.

I spend the next 3 hours visiting with Doug as he signs books for visitors. Veronica and Kevin arrive about a half hour after I do, so we have a nice reunion. Dougís book is a bit slimmer than his earlier works but it still has the high-quality, amazing photographs that he is famous for. He says this time his mom, Helen, served as his editor.

Around 6PM the four of us walk over to the Mammoth Dining room for a drink and then lovely dinner. Thereís always plenty to talk about with this group! Veronica & Kevin then drive back to Bozeman while Doug and I venture out to the south. We had agreed beforehand to see whatís happening at Sheepeater Cliffs.

I enjoy the drive as I have not seen this area for quite a while. Swan Lake Flats is always a welcome sight.

We find some other visitors occupying the picnic tables so we just hang out talking in the lot for a while, watching the antics of a few savvy ravens and some golden-mantled ground squirrels (like chipmunks) that seem a bit put out that their begging tactics donít t work.

Itís a very pleasant 68 degrees with a soft breeze keeping the bugs away. And the gurgling stream provides a soothing commentary.

Later when the people leave we settle down on the picnic bench and watch the jumbled rock pile. Very soon we see 2 marmots, including a really big one. They race around the jumbled rocks and eventually disappear. Then Doug spots them again, high above the rocks on the cliff. They move back and forth, and it looks like they are squabbling about something.

Doug and I are both fans of GOT so we compare notes on the dramatic developments of that series.

As the light begins to fade we head back towards Mammoth, encountering several small bands of elk on the move. Itís that time of night, after all. We wait to let them cross the road ahead of us, admiring their healthy coats and bright eyes.

Iím able to convince Doug to join me in the morning for an attempt at wolf watching. We agree to meet at the Frog Rock.

Then I head to the Super 8 and crash.

Today I saw: bison, elk, 2 marmots, pronghorn, 2 golden mantled ground squirrels and the spirits of Allison and Richard

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