Tuesday, June 6, 2017
This morning we found a fox and 3-4 kits climbing over a wood pile near the cabins in Silver Gate. The kits tumbled over each other and ran about while their mother watched from the top of a large dirt mound. The kits, an explosion of energy, scurried back and forth, jumped up and down the mountain of dirt, and crawled under sheds and outbuildings.
The weather was a little cooler and breezy today. At the edge of Round Prairie. a moose and her calf munched on willows along Soda Butte Creek. The pair stayed near the trees, often slipping back into the woods out of view. The pronghorn doe was still grazing on the slopes near Trout Lake. Though we didn’t see the fawn, it must have been there, hidden by tall grass and sage.
Today we drove south to Canyon and Hayden Valley to look for the Wapiti Lake Pack and grizzly bears. Yellowstone River winds through the valleys now green with lush spring grass. There was no sign of the Wapiti Lake Pack from Grizzly Overlook or Alum Creek. Down in the river valley a herd of cow elk crossed the shallows. A calf stood knee-deep in the water, patiently encouraged by its mother as the other cows look on. We stopped at Mary Bay to enjoy the lake, waves lapping gently at the shore while a duck bobbed up and down in the clear water.
Still early and warming up fast, we hiked to Storm Point. Lined with yellow violets, the trail winds through a forest of tall lodge pole pines and opens to a sandy meadow. Marmots scurried up and down the rocky hills of their colony and basked in the sun. Violet green swallows circled above darting back and forth as we reached the top of a rocky precipice overlooking the lake. Midges swarmed all around us. The trail back through the woods is thick with tall pine trees and some burnout. Sun filters through the leafless conifers lighting the forest floor.
This section of the Park doesn’t seem so crowded though the campgrounds are open at Bay Bridge and there is a store and ranger station at the marina. Swallows dive under the dock and in between boats. One of the dock posts has been hollowed out and transformed into a nest. Several years ago I donated a “bear box,” a metal bear-proof food storage container, in memory of my parents, and it was placed at one of the Bay Bridge campsites. It’s been several years since we’ve been here when the campsite was open and we took some time to look for it. I didn’t remember the exact campsite number, but after much walking we found it tucked away in a far section of the campsites.
Later in the afternoon we hiked the trail to Cascade Lake starting from Cascade Meadows. The hike is mostly flat with some very gradual uphill. It passes through a heavily wooded forest with quite a bit of deadfall. Several very large trees have fallen across the trail making some sections almost impossible to cross. At one point there was a loud crack and a tree trunk split and fell right in front of us. The trail also passes through marshes and meadows that would be good moose habitat.
As we hiked farther down the trail we met another hiker who warned us that the trail became very wet near the lake. He wasn’t kidding. The lake is surrounded by a large meadow filled with glacier lilies and yellow bells and the trail was covered with water. We left the trail and walked through the meadow while two other hikers coming back from the lake took off their shoes and waded through it.
Driving back from Dunraven we stopped to see a great horned owl nest at Calcite. One adult and 2 owlets were in view. The nest is built in the yoke of a dead pine not far off the road and is best viewed from a certain angle to see the owlets. We stopped briefly to check on the Slough Creek den and continued to Lamar Valley where a pair of courting grizzlies foraged high on the slopes east of Buffalo Ranch. Both the male and female were large bears, the male a chocolate brown and the female almost blonde.
It was almost 8:30 pm and the light was almost gone. Approaching Trout Lake, I looked for the pronghorn doe, but she was gone.