I leave Bozeman late, around 2:30PM. Itís a clear day and a pleasant 48 degrees.
I have an unusual passenger next to me Ė my Christmas amaryllis. After more than 2 months of slow growing, it is beginning to open. I want to enjoy seeing it bloom and to share it with Laurie & Dan as an antidote to the rough year weíve all had.
The Bridgers look especially gorgeous; drenched in fresh snow and lit with bright sun. When I get closer to Livingston I see that Pyramid and Pointy Head look even more spectacular!
There is a small herd of mule deer in a field to the west, grazing peacefully. Then as I enter Yankee Jim Canyon, a mule deer buck bolts up from the river and leaps the guard rail right onto the road.
Whoa! Luckily, I see him in time and also luckily, there is no one behind me. I stop sharply and the deer keeps going, crossing the road quickly and bolting up the other side.
This is why I donít drive the speed limit.
Just before the Gardiner airport I see three people on the side of the road with scopes, focused on a spot across the river. I slow down and, with no one behind me, stop to ask what they are seeing. Turns out they are watching bison on the Old Yellowstone trail. The Native hunt is going on and these people are documenting what they see Ė which in this case is unpleasant Ė people are hazing the bison beyond the Park boundary, towards the hunters. Kinda seems like cheating.
I continue on and see elk grazing on both sides of the highway. I notice that the low rolling hills across the river are already bare of snow.
Just inside the entrance gate I see more elk on the flats and a substantial bison herd in Chinese Gardens.
I have my visit with Allison and then head up the hill to Mammoth. Wow, it looks deserted. There is still a decent amount of snow around the high bridge.
As I reach the Childrenís Fire trail, I see some cars and people with scopes so I pull in.
To my great delight I find itís Calvin & Lynette. Itís so great to see them both. They are only here for a few days, but they have wolves!
They found them this morning, the 8 Mile pack, chasing elk. They were successful, so Lynette shows me where the carcass is. The wolves are bedded somewhat uphill on the left flank of Prospect Peak. I see 10 of them, happily snoozing.
We chat a bit more and then I head east.
My next stop is at Hellroaring, where I find the Wolf Study crew. Apparently I just missed seeing Laurie & Dan but there are many Junction wolves in view. I see a total of 5 (3 blacks 2 grays); Jeremy says the others are in a harder-to-see spot.
I stay a while to see some tail wagging and some pinning. I hand over a box of muffins which is happily accepted. Then I see Carol and Mark, so we chat a bit, too.
After a while I head east. I reach Lamar right at golden hour, which makes my favorite valley look its very best. I see a coyote south of Mid Point.
My last sighting for today is a moose, just outside the northeast entrance.
I have a great reunion with Laurie & Dan and we chatter away while I unpack. And I get to bed a little later than Iíd planned!
Today I saw: bison, a coyote, mule deer, elk, a moose, 15 wolves from two packs (including 10 Eight
Miles and 5 JBís) and the spirits of Allison and Richard.