Day 5 October 11th, 2015
Sunday, Oct 11, 2015
Silver Gate, Montana
Today the Wyoming wind rushed through the Park. We hear it early this morning, rattling the walls and howling through trees. When we try to turn the lights on, there are none - the wind blew out the electricity. So we get ready in the dark, using flashlights to light our way and drawing curtains to let in a little more light. Both Cooke City and Silver Gate are affected, but luckily the gas station/convenience store is up and running with a backup generator. A golden lab trots up to the entrance where two shelties scratch excitedly at the glass door in greeting. The golden is let in and given a biscuit while customers fill up on coffee.
A tree has fallen on one side of the entrance road to the Park. We steer around it with no trouble, but it warns me about hiking in forests with old trees. The wind blows all day - hard. It feels like 50 miles per hour, but of course it couldn't be. Bison are oblivious to it, walking the roads as usual or grazing in the valleys. We hardly see any elk, and no wolves.
Except for the whistling wind, Lamar Valley is quiet. Grey clouds drift west away from the Park. There are almost no wolf watchers around, just Calvin and Lynnette, Annie, Doug, and Rick. Lamar Valley is like a ghost town and Little America is the same. The Lamar Canyon Pack has not been seen for days. Rick has signals from the Junctions around Mom's Ridge, and while we wait - in several different spots - we don't see a single wolf, even though they are a pack of 19 wolves now. Wherever they go, they should be easy to spot. We wait until noon and then head to Hayden Valley.
The wind is blowing in Hayden too. It sways trees and muffles conversations, burns our faces; the kind of wind that pushes against you. We watch for the wolves - anything to be honest - all day. It's a long trip to Hayden Valley and we don't want to go back and forth. Grizzly Overlook is crowded with visitors watching a grizzly in the hills west of the turnout. We look for the Wapiti Pack, but give up there also and drive to Yellowstone Lake.
The lake is filled with whitecaps. Waves, some four feet high, crash against the shore. Waterfowl give up trying to swim or float, instead pecking along the shore, except for one grebe that is tossed about by waves and covered by water. The wind is even stronger here, but we walk along the shore of Sedge Bay, hypnotized by the waves. Spray from the lake mists our faces. We can hardly walk against the wind in some places.
In spite of the adverse conditions we decide to hike into Pelican Valley and suddenly at the trailhead the wind dies down. It's still blustery, but not so cold, so we head up the trail which begins at a wide meadow of yellow grass. The trail rises gradually through lodgepole pines, deadfall and new growth.
A young man on his way down the trail describes Pelican Valley as "awesome." We are relieved that someone else has traveled down the path leaving their scent. The hike up isn't long and rises gradually to meet a huge grassy valley, zigzagged by Pelican Creek. Pelican Valley is a huge golden meadow, silent this afternoon, barely a bison visible. We go off trail to get some elevation and scan the valley. A few bison rest on the hillsides and a grizzly grubs in a corner not far from where we saw bears and the Mollie Pack several years ago. No Mollies today and that's a big disappointment, after waiting for the Junctions and the Wapiti Pack.
The hike down is faster and I wonder why I was so nervous. Undoubtedly because of all the bear warnings. Pelican Valley is true Yellowstone, a huge open valley bordered by forest where bears and wolves can be bears and wolves.
The drive home is long and still windy; I am more wind burned than sun burned. The trees across the road have been cleared and the lights are on at our cabin. Grazing right in front of our door is a big, fat bison.
Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer
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