DAY ONE - Friday, March 13

ONE WAY OF COPING

I leave around 2PM. Bozeman has had a lot of snow but todayís weather is decent with 26 degrees. I find the pass relatively dry with just a bit of wind-driven snow.

Ahead of me is a large RV towing a car, averaging around 60mph. I prefer the slower speed, so I tuck in behind him, letting him set the pace all the way to Livingston.

The day turns sunny. I see patches of old snow in spots but the rest has melted or blown away. The Yellowstone River seems a bit swollen and there is a beautiful cap of snow on mountains.

This is traditionally mud season but the snow and cold have lingered so the mud has not yet developed.

I feel grateful to be here since the world has gone crazy. After Broadway shut down yesterday, two NY TV productions announced they are following suit. I expect the rest of the TV shows in both NY and LA will do the same soon. There are 1000 cases of infection in NY already.

I reach Gardiner at quarter past 3 and find it has warmed up to 37. There are many elk visible on both sides of the road as I approach the town.

I stop at the Market find them totally out of both TP and Lysol wipes. Itís disconcerting to find such shortages occurring in this small Montana town.

In Mammoth I have my traditional visit with Allison. I wonder what she would think about this pandemic? She would be aware of her own risk, I suppose, and would also be kind and generous to others, I imagine.

Itís windy and warm and I have already seen bison, elk & pronghorn. The Park itself feels very empty, which is typical for this ďshoulder seasonĒ time of year.

As I head towards the high bridge, I see a herd of perhaps 20 elk, led by a handsome young bull.

There are bison all over Blacktail ponds and the lot is completely full. I soon learn why. A grizzly has been visible here, on and off.

Apparently there are five separate bison carcasses under the melting ice. The bear has already discovered one; he was seen feeding on it early this morning.

Photographers and local folk are thrilled.

The man tells me the bear is actually out there to the north right now, hidden on the hillside under a tree, nearly impossible to see. There is no place for me to park though, so I thank him for the info and drive on.

I stop at Nature Trail, finding to my delight that Sian is here. Itís been a long time since we were in the Park together. And not only that, but she has the Eight Mile wolves!

I see 7 of them, thanks to her, far away on a slope of Prospect Peak. It looks like they have a carcass. What a great spot by our UK friend! Turns out, Sian is the one who found the bear, too. Very early this AM she stopped at the Ponds to have a glass around, checking the various carcasses. The bear was below her, hidden by the lip of the pullout. Only when he moved did she see him!

She tells me the Eight Mile crew watched these wolves chasing elk earlier today. They did not see a takedown but the packís subsequent behavior argues for their having a successful hunt.

I ask about the Junction Pack and she says some skiers found their prints up on the Tower Road.

I thank her and continue east. The roads are clear and dry, with only a few patches of ice in the usual shady spots along the way. Most of the snow I see looks old but some of the open meadows still look pretty.

Floating Island Lake remains snow-covered. I see bison tracks about half-way out. Hmm, perhaps no so smart of a path for bison to take this time of year.

I enjoy the views through Tower and Little America and my heart feels full as I enter Lamar proper. Across the road from the institute I spot a coyote just getting up from a nap. He stands and stretches, then goes on his chipper coyote way.

There is even more beauty at Round Prairie. The snow here is still pure white, with only a few tracks, not many at all. I notice the trees are not flocked today, which means both sun and wind have already removed the snow from previous storms.

As I near Silver Gate, I note the temperature has dropped a bit. Itís 28 here.

I park and start to unload. My first act, though, is to wash my hands. Dan & Laurie and I are all aware that we are taking a bit of a risk by being in each otherís presence. But we have been open with each other and we forego our usual hugs.

We have a pleasant visit and a great dinner and Dan makes a fire. We talk about these unsettling developments and try to make sense of it.

Today I saw: bison, a coyote, elk, pronghorn, 7 Eight Mile wolves and the spirits of Allison and Richard

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