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       Day 4 October 10th, 2015

Saturday, Oct 10, 2015
Silver Gate, Montana

   We leave Mammoth about 7:00 a.m. The sun is just coming up, elk move in shadows across the hotel lawns. There are no signals anywhere so across Dunraven Pass to Hayden Valley we go. Cascade Meadows is empty, but Grizzly Lookout is full. Tim finds a spot along the road and we walk into wolf watching. Across the river one of the Wapiti Pack's grey pups meanders around in the trees before quickly disappearing in the sage. The alpha pair is not visible now, and the little wolf does a good job of entertaining herself with mice or ground squirrels. From Grizzly Overlook we can barely see the rendezvous site. A grey wolf stands up, walks to the left and disappears in the grass; another grey lies down and pops up. This is what happens all morning during a constant vigil with only brief glimpses of a pup called "Big Grey."
   On the east side of the road a grizzly forages in the hilly meadows. Nose to the ground, he moves in circles, intent on finding something to eat. Reaching closer and closer to the road, it's evident he wants to cross. Vehicles line the road as he approaches the edge. I am standing near Alum Creek when he faces my direction, walking toward me and the surrounding crowd. A ranger waives people back to their cars - politely I might add. The road is so cluttered with cars, trucks and SUVs I never see the bear cross the road, but I do watch him cross the shallows of the Yellowstone River and round the bend.
   We return to our spot north of Grizzly Overlook in time to catch the bear making his way around the bend, padding along in the sand below us. Our bear watch continues at least one hour as the bear digs in the wet earth. A good sized dark grizzly, he is really quite congenial, staying in his territory, allowing visitors a nice, close look.
   This afternoon we hike to Lost Lake. The weather is perfect - sunny and cool. Few others are on the trail winding through tall grass and sage. Everywhere the colors are striking. A blue sky overlooks tall green pines. Most of the aspen have turned, losing golden leaves, but here and there a brilliant one stands out, its leaves shimmering in the sunlight. We wonder if the black bears have localized as we approach a crowd of cars stopped near the entrance to Petrified Tree. A black bear sow we watched this past spring and her cub of the year forage among the deadfall high on the slopes north of the road. The cub is not large, but both mother and cub look well.
   Lamar Valley opens up to us, a sea of gold and muted greens. Bison and their calves are everywhere. An antelope stands on the slopes above Fisherman's. We have not been in the valley since fall 2012. Two years ago the shutdown kept us out of the Park, but not out of Wyoming or Montana. So far we've had three perfect days here.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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