Friday, September 29, 2017
The fog cleared earlier this morning. I have grown to appreciate the beauty of watching the veil lift as swans and geese float on the Yellowstone. The geese’s’ white feathers under their wings look like a layer of snow. On shore the swans and geese tuck their heads under their wings in 26ºweather.
Grizzly Overlook is almost empty; perhaps people gave up looking for the Wapitis, finally accepting the pack is not at the rendezvous. Where are they? When the fog lifts we can see the rendezvous clearly, the “sandbox” and the little “Christmas tree” where we usually see wolves lie, and the area is empty. There are so many places they could be, even in the meadows behind the stands of pine trees that aren’t visible from here. The Wapitis have a lot of mouths to feed, so they need to follow the elk. But, Hayden Valley is littered with elk herds right now, so this is puzzling.
Earlier a guide spotted a grizzly on a far slope on the west side of the valley. He ambled up the slope and disappeared into the trees. We barely saw him. All is quiet at Mary and Sedge Bays. Bison graze near the thermals. The waves of Lake Yellowstone are stronger today, rolling into the shore. This area used to be a given for grizzlies, but it doesn’t seem that way now.
Elk herds spread out across Hayden Valley – at Trout Creek, Alum Creek, and on the slopes opposite turnouts down the road from Trout Creek. They pop up everywhere. We’ve seen herds on the slopes above Mary Bay, grazing in between deadfall and along the road across from Lake Corral where we saw horses for the first time, grazing. After all these years I never knew Lake even had a corral. The old western wooden fences are noticeable, but I’ve never seen horses there before today. They may be horses used by Park Rangers.
When there are no wolves, or bears, or other “big events” in sight it gives me time to appreciate the other wonders of the Park – the hoar frost, the color of the sky at sunset, the calm of Lake Yellowstone in the morning. Driving up the road near the Mud Pots we spot a large, brownish bird perched in a dead tree looking down at the river. After studying it for a few minutes we realize it’s an immature golden eagle – by its brown feathers, the shape of its head and beak, the look in its eye.
When it finally warms up to 49º, we hike Mary Mountain Trail. We have tried this before and the trail is always, always, wet, even according to the guidebook. The trail starts out dry enough, but quickly deteriorates into unpredictable stretches of mud, or turns into a stream bed, so we are forced to hike around it several times.
Despite the poor trail conditions, this is a fabulous hike into Hayden Valley. There is so much you can’t see from the road and the trail goes straight across to the other side of Yellowstone and is 20 miles long. Past rolling hills, it’s just us and a few bison grazing. Somewhere in the trees and beyond the ridges is that bear we saw this morning.
A little disappointed that we are wolfless, we drive back and forth looking for wolves, coyotes, bears. As the sun begins to set a string of cars lights up the road along Cascade Meadows. People walk out into the meadows, searching the trees. We assume it was a bear someone saw, maybe the grizzly from last night. When the other cars leave, we wait, watching from a distance while bison graze across the road. The sky glows pink across the horizon as the sun sets. The grizzly never appears.