DAY ONE - Thursday, September 17


Since the Junctions moved to their new rendezvous on Sept 5, wolf watching has continued to be reliable, and for Silver Gate residents – wonderfully close to home. So, I am happy to visit my good friends Laurie & Dan and share the good fortune.

It’s a pleasant 64 degrees in Bozeman, but the air is hazy and not very healthy. The fire on the M mountain caused terrible damage in Bridger Canyon. Thank goodness for the rain on Monday, which allowed firefighters a chance to get it under control.

But there are still major fires in Oregon, Washington and California, and we are getting their smoke, too. Alas, this is normal for the mountain west this time of year.

As I drive through Paradise Valley I cannot see mountains at all. The haze is that bad.

I reach Mammoth and have my visit with Allison. I decide to take a drive to Swan Flats to see the fall color.

There are some very nice yellows and oranges and a good mix overall. I am somewhat surprised to see many aspen that have not yet turned.

There is a lot of smoke in the Park. And a whole lot of people.

I see a pair of swans on Swan Lake, appropriately enough, but few other animals.

I go back to Mammoth and head east.

At upper Elk Creek I see Jeremy & Bill so I stop to chat. Jeremy says he is working on elk today, not wolves. He says one of his elk died so he’ll have to hike out to process it soon.

He says if I want to see a wolf, to try Exclosure or Trash Can. He says 1047 and a black yearling were out there earlier today.

We chat a bit more then I go on my way.

Around 5:45 I reach Fisherman’s and stop to watch about 100 bison fording the Lamar. I just love seeing them cross. It looks timeless and I hear John Williams’ theme for “Dances With Wolves” in my head.

The grasses of Lamar Valley have turned golden now, with streaks of green/gray sage. It’s a very beautiful, Septembery look.

I pull over at Trash Can. I climb the hill and lift my binoculars. Immediately I see wolves. Wow! Once upon a time wolf watching was like this, in the old Druid days. It seems we have a return to those times, at least for a while.

There are 6 wolves, 5 blacks and 1 gray, meandering around in front of the middle and eastern foothills. It’s so nice to have wolves to watch, even lethargic or inactive ones, from such an easy-to-access place like this.

Then, to make my evening nicer, Laurie & Dan show up, followed by Bill H. More wolves appear as the evening goes on. Bill finds a grizzly behind us, on Druid Peak in an area he calls the “inverted triangle”.

We also see sandhills (4), many bison and a single bald eagle.

My wolf count rises to 15 (Laurie sees 20), which is only half the Most of these are pups. The real fun begins when a second grizzly appears. This one is right in the rendezvous, close to the wolves. Apparently this bear has been following the Junctions for weeks, getting countless free meals from their carcasses. Some joke that this bear thinks he is a wolf!

Several pups are curious about him and move closer to engage him. It looks mostly friendly; in fact it really looks like they are playing together. But then a pup lunges in for a butt nip and the bear wheels and swats. The wolves evade him easily but when he moves away they start to chase him. The bear runs a few yards, then stops and sits, protecting his butt.

The pups harass him (mildly) for a while, then seem to lose interest. Most of them wander back to the flats in front of the foothills. The bear meanders away on his own and peace descends again.

But we are losing the light, so it’s time to head down to the cars.

And wow, there are a LOT of cars here, and even more people, filling up the Picnic, Trash Can and Exclosure lots, plus any flat enough shoulder space along the road. Most people watch from road level, close to their cars. I am somewhat surprised that more of them are not on the hill, but I am grateful because it makes distance-keeping much easier.

All in all, a very nice night.

Today I saw: 2 grizzly bears, bison, elk, 2 swans, 15 Junction wolves and the spirits of Allison and Richard.

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