Saturday, June 9, 2012,

   We landed last night in Bozeman in light rain and this morning the sky is blue and it's a comfortable 54?. Driving through Livingston the rain begins, tapering off by the time we reach Yankee Jim Canyon. Horses and cattle graze in lush green pastures. An irrigator glides across a field; mountains dusted with snow rise above the clouds.
   We pass through Gardiner, taking note of new restaurants and shops and drive through the arch past elk bedded in tall grass. The Gardiner River rushes under the bridge to Rescue Creek Trail, splashing its wooden planks. We were going to stop and look for geese with goslings, but the water is too high, too fast. No goose in its right mind would nest here. On the other side of the road and farther up river, the water is high, but slower. Geese waddle at the edge of the water and lie huddled in tall grass. Goslings, having shed yellow feathers for golden brown, waddle towards the water followed by their parents.
   Mammoth shows the first summer crowds, visitors filling parking spaces and the General Store. A few cow elk lie in the shade of pine trees. Tim heard about a great horned owl's nest in Mammoth, so we ask a ranger where it is. Nestled in a tall conifer next to one of Mammoth's residences, it's a very large thing, similar to a pine marten's nest with leaves and sticks. Huge and messy looking, the nest spans about 4 feet wide and 3 feet deep,.
   We drive to Canyon via Swan Lake Flats. A pair of sandhill cranes stretch their long graceful necks to the grass at the edge of the water. The Blacktail Pack has been seen here, as well as "Quad Mom," the grizzly sow who had 4 cubs two years ago. Now she has two two-year olds.
   We take a break at Norris Geyser to walk around. Pools of green-blue water sparkle and bubble. A strong icy wind sprays us with water, and I have forgotten my hat. We loop around the geysers and return up the hill, past the bookstore and visitor's center, both already crowded.
   Canyon is bustling, the visitor area packed with cars. A ranger is giving a talk about American dippers to a group of children and their parents. "This bird has a beautiful song. Would you like to help me learn its song?" After checking in and getting organized we make a quick trip to the Grande Canyon of Yellowstone. The falls pour furiously into the river, foaming white and green. The wind here is equally furious, ready to blow me over. A rainbow glistens yellow, orange, red and violet in the sun. At the top of a rock spiral, a pair of ospreys rearrange their nest. The male takes off soaring high above the river, while the female nestles back to wait for him to bring her food.
   We look for the Canyon Pack tonight without luck. They are back at their rendezvous site after spending some of the winter near Mammoth and Swan Lake Flats, and have been seen at Alum Creek. In Pelican Valley a herd of cow elk graze near Indian Pond. A single elk calf runs in circles around the cows. It looks like a deer fawn with its white spots on red brown fur, but larger. As several cars stop to watch, the elk prance nervously about. The temperature has dropped to 38 and the wind continues to bite my face. A light gray fox zigzags through the sage across from Grizzly Lookout. The fox is a pleasant surprise along with the elk calf in Pelican Valley.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2012