DAY ONE - Wednesday, June 3

RE-ADJUSTING

I leave Bozeman a little after 4PM. Itís a gorgeous day, va ery pleasant 73 degrees with partial clouds.

Highway driving is easy this trip. Everything is gorgeous green. My friend Barb is in the Park Ė she left early this morning. We plan to meet in Gardiner.

There are numerous horses in green pastures along the drive. I still love seeing horses as much as I did when I was a kid.

I stop in Livingston to get some groceries for Laurie & Dan, shocked to find myself the only customer wearing a mask. The employees are still taking precautions but apparently, the people in this corner of Montana think the virus danger is past.

I soon have my first sight of the Yellowstone River. Wow! Itís really full and really muddy! Cafť au lait is the color Ė just how I like my coffee! It looks great.

The green beauty all around is just breathtaking. Boy, do I need this!

As I approach Tom Miner basin, the temperature has cooled to 60, and I now have a light sprinkle.

Barb and I meet in the big pullout by the river just outside Gardiner. She says there are lots of people in the Park but itís more like winter level than summer. Sheís happy with her camera luck Ė she got some good shots, including a brand new elk calf.

She now heads back to Bozeman and I continue south.

There are pronghorn and elk in the fields outside the Mammoth gate. The Gardiner River is almost solid whitewater, full, like it should be. Everything looks really great!

I have my visit with Allison and then head uphill.

When I get to the top I find almost no cars nor people. Whoa, I didnít expect that. At this time of year, Mammoth is usually PACKED. I donít even see that many elk.

I suppose this is due to the hotel not being open, nor the majority of other services. It is amazing to see it this way in June. It looks more like March numbers to me!

I see my first black bear roaming the hillside just east of Geode. People are stopped all over the road. OK, now it feels more like June in Yellowstone. I summon some patience and a smile and get through the jam.

One sandhill crane sits on a nest in the small reedy pond east of Floating Island Lake. Peculiarly, I see no cattails growing around Floating Island Lake. I see no floating island, there, either. Hmm.

But the arrowleaf balsamroot is growing in proliferation on the hillsides here. Just gorgeous.

I arrive at Slough a little before 7PM, eager for a glimpse of puppies. I pull into the Bobís Knob lot and find two other cars here. The people who belong to them are out on the knob. I decide to back into the space and open my hatch, so I can sit on the edge by myself and scope. Almost immediately I find a wolf, a black adult, between the eastern trees and the crescent rock.

Then another appears. They seem to touch noses, then walk slowly together to the east. I scan left into the swale and see black spots Ė and they move! They have tails and four legs! Puppies! I count three of them and look for more.

The pups are smaller than I expected. They are the right size for being approximately 8 weeks old but they disappear quickly into the sage and high grass of the den area.

I find the two adults again but lose them in the rocks above the diagonal forest. Had I panned a bit further east I might have seen other adult Junctions. I learn later that several headed out that way right around 7PM. But I was focused on the puppies.

For nearly a half hour I have the pullout to myself and I thoroughly enjoy it. I came to see pups and thatís what Iím watching.

I also find four elk walking above the crescent rock. They look down, warily, but pass by unimpeded. There are scattered bison on the hills. I fool myself about six times, mistaking a stump or a rock for a bedded wolf until one of those rocks DOES become a wolf! Itís another adult, rising to adjust itís bedding position. It flops back down again.

There are also numerous elk in the marshy areas around the creek, as well as a few pronghorn. The pups move from here to there, on still-wobbly legs, sometimes hopping more than walking.

Itís a gorgeous evening.

A car goes by and I belatedly realize itís Jeremy. He must have been scoping from further down the road. Then a kind man in a truck stops and calls to me, saying heís heard Mollie wolves were sighted near Footbridge Ė he says thatís where Jeremy is going.

I thank the man and decide to try to see Mollies myself.

As I enter Lamar, I tear up, as I often do, because I love seeing the rugged beauty of this amazing valley. Especially in spring, clothed in lush green.

Oh, you beauty! How Iíve missed you!

I find Jeremy at Footbridge with Bill H. So good to see both of them again!

Bill saw five wolves a little while ago, including 4 blacks and a gray (several collars) on the north side trying to cross between Footbridge and Hitching Post. They were thwarted by cars so they moved east and managed to cross at 480ís spot. He followed them across the creek and watched them wander through the sage meadow. But lost them after they entered the trees of Dead Puppy Hill.

We try our best but do not locate them. Jeremy says their signals have dropped off. In the meanwhile, Bill keeps us entertained by showing us the Norris grizzly with her two darling coys.

I head over to Confluence to scan the slopes of Norris, reasoning that the Mollies could be headed out towards Cache. I donít find them but Bill calls to suggest I look at the Chalcedony fan treeline. I do and find a single dark grizzly right at the treeline. Thanks again, Bill!

When Jeremy heads back west, I go on to Silver Gate.

The temperature has dropped to a delightful 52. I see several mulies on either side of the Entrance gate and some spooky mist on the mountains.

I have a pleasant evening, chatting with Dan & Laurie catching up and sharing stories.

Today I saw: 1 black bear, 4 grizzly bears (including 2 coy), bison, 1 sandhill crane, mule deer, elk, pronghorn, 5 Junction Pack wolves, including 2 adults and 3 black puppies, and the spirits of Allison and Richard

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