DAY ONE - Friday, June 3


It’s a glorious morning as I leave Bozeman, a warm 55 degrees at 9:30.

There are high, streaky clouds in the sky. The weather report calls for rain all weekend, but it sure doesn’t look like that now.

Construction on the Pass continues but traffic is light, and I have no problems. Gas prices are going up rapidly – the cost at the Livingston Exxon is $4.59. Yikes!

Through Paradise Valley, the Absaroka’s are still brightly snow-capped, with streaks of white below. I have elk trying to cross near Tom Miner. I pull over to give them room, but a pick-up continues, scaring them back.

I stop at the Gardiner Market to get a few items, and find Rick here. We chat about the latest developments. Then Jeff A arrives, so he joins the conversation. Then just as I’m about to drive on, Calvin & Lynette pull in. Who knew the Gardiner Market was such a social hub!

As I drive through the gate, I see a number of elk. The Gardiner river is in full flood and the temperature is an astonishing 67 degrees!

East of the S Curves I come upon a black bear jam. It’s a sow with two darling cubs so everyone is very happy!

At Junction Butte I spy an elk mom with a brand-new calf. My first of the year.

I reach Slough a little after 1PM and drive down the campground road. I stop at the gravel lot and scope the area. Nothing at the sage den but I find two uncollared blacks bedded on the berm above the creek, east of Marge.

People tell me they have been bedded there a while.

They stand up and move down the berm into the flats. I think they are swimming the creek (hard to see, due to thick vegetation) but when they come out to a meadow, I can see their white legs and feet, confirming that this is the alpha pair.

I don’t stay long, though, because it’s warm and I have things for Laurie’s refrigerator. I head into Lamar and stop at Coyote. I want to get my bearings on the new den area. I find the “split rock” but don’t see any wolves. It’s awfully warm for them anyway.

In Soda Butte Valley, I find the coyote family in view at their new site, above the original den. I see the parents bedded in the sage, trying to keep cool. I do not see any pups but I suspect they are inside the den.

Looks like the badger is still active, judging by the parked cars in the lot.

I see mule deer in two places west of Warm Creek.

Everything is still very green and pretty.

I arrive in Silver Gate a little after 2PM, bring in the groceries and have a nice visit with my friends. But I get a piece of sad news; our dear friend, Jeff MacIntyre, passed away today. He had been very sick. I am so glad Laurie made that call to him a week ago from Slough.

Just before 6PM we all head out for the “evening” session. It’s cooled off a bit to 57.

I see the Baronnette fox, carrying part of a deer leg in its mouth.

We stop at Coyote but nothing is in view. We continue to Slough and set up our scopes. Dan finds the alphas bedded under the eastern trees. We hear chorus frogs all over the place. Laurie gets a text from Calvin & Lynette. They were up on Dave’s Hill in the afternoon and saw the single black pup still in the flats near the creek.

We look but do not find the pup tonight.

We go back to Lamar and end up at Midpoint. I make a lucky spot of a single black wolf roaming near the cottonwoods on the near side of the river. The wolf noses and sniffs here and there, passing bison and pronghorn, ignoring a person out there with a camera.

Laurie says the wolf is New Mom. Nice!

The light is gorgeous and the valley looks like heaven. We lose her in the river corridor, past the cottonwoods. The banks are steep right there, so she’s probably just below them, hidden from view.

We head back to Silver Gate, and I see more mule deer south of the owl meadow.

Today I saw: 3 black bears (2 cubs), bison, coyotes, mule deer, elk (including a calf), a fox, pronghorn, 3 Junction wolves (including the alpha pair and New Mom) and the spirits of Allison, Richard…and Jeff.

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