Wednesday, September 27, 2017
It was 26º when we left the lodge this morning, unexpectedly colder than the past three mornings. I scraped frost from the windshield while Tim packed up the spotting scope and camera equipment. The fog enveloped us as we walked out the door and we drove out of Canyon Village in a veil of moisture. We could barely see 50 feet ahead.
Driving toward Hayden Valley the fog alternately engulfed us or disappeared. We stopped at Alum Creek where only swans and ducks floating near the banks were visible, the swans tucking their heads into their wings. The Park closes six miles of the Yellowstone River to fishing all year round in Hayden Valley to protect the bird life because birds and waterfowl are very sensitive to the human presence in that area. And I thought it had something to do with wolves!
The fog remained until late morning. We parked at Grizzly Overlook, but couldn’t see anything, then moved down the valley to a spot where a wolf kill was reported. We waited and watched for maybe an hour and saw nothing. The Wapitis had a kill near the Yellowstone, but it happened in the early morning hours and no one saw it happen. By this afternoon the wolf kill had changed to a carcass watch.
Tim and I climbed a hill overlooking the Yellowstone River and the slopes beyond. The sun was finally out. I saw hoar frost for the first time – I mean I really looked at it. It’s like tiny feathers made of crystal. Exquisite on sage. A bald eagle lands on a patch of snow, keeping an eye on the carcass we couldn’t see. Rick McIntyre had no signals, so we drove toward Lake and stopped at the Mud Pots to watch steam rising over the rocks and listen to gurgling of these mini volcanoes.
This afternoon we hiked the Howard Eaton trail beginning at the lot near the Chittedon Bridge, walking as far as the hills overlooking the Wapiti rendezvous site. The trail was muddy and snowy in some places and though we didn’t see any bears or wolves, we found bear and wolf tracks and wolf scat. The bear tracks were the size of a platter – glad we didn’t run into him! From the trail we could see into the Wapiti rendezvous site from a different angle. Tim noticed a narrow meadow that is hidden behind a thick stand of fir trees; when the pack disappears in the trees, maybe that is where they are.
We have hiked this trail a few times. It traverses rolling hills and passes through stands of pine trees and fields of tall grasses. It’s open and welcoming, both wilderness and safety. On the way back, we spook a very handsome, light colored coyote. We are happy to see more coyotes this trip and all the coyotes we’ve seen so far are beautiful and healthy looking.
We spent the rest of the afternoon looking for wildlife. At LeHardy Rapids there were seven juvenile harlequin ducks sunning themselves on the rocks. They are a sort of gray with no striking features like their parents. At Yellowstone Lake we sat on the beach and looked out toward the Absaroka Mountains. The lake water is clear and sparkling; bison graze near the hotel cabins and a bull elk lies down in between cabins and lodge pole pines. He is a handsome fellow; closing his eye, he settles in for an afternoon nap. On the distance slopes another bull elk herds his cows and suddenly a chorus of coyotes breaks the afternoon peace. The walk made me wish were staying at Lake Hotel again. It’s so peaceful here – I could stay for days.