Saturday, June 19, 2021
It was a pretty quiet day in the Park. I think of how the light looks on Barronette Peak early in the morning. As Lamar Valley woke up each day, the sun’s shadow moved slowly across the foothills. A sea of bison, many of them cows and calves with their dark brown and red brown bodies. The calves lie flat against the earth. Sometimes I wondered if they were still breathing. Each calf paired with its mother or an older sibling. One calf lay huddled against a yearling or subadult. Watching them, one cannot imagine them not having feelings for one another; they are a family.
We saw a fox near Warm Creek on our way in, but no other wildlife besides the bison herds and a few pronghorn. Even Slough Creek was not as crowded as it usually is. A black wolf made its way to the top of Specimen Ridge above Jasper Bench and crossed over. We tried to follow him and see him cross to the other side, but lost him as he went over the ridge. A grizzly sow chased a boar away from her coy, loping after him down the slopes to Jasper Bench.
From Coyote we drove back through Lamar Valley and stopped in front of a large herd of bison cows and calves. I watched some of their interactions: a calf rubbing its head against his mother’s and draping his body over her. Then he started to nurse. It was a good day to watch all the little calves lie splayed out in the grass, content. There seemed to be hundreds of little bison.
On the north side of the road, a pronghorn doe led her newborn fawn across the hills. She watched the crowds, carefully stepping higher through the tall grass, turning around to keep her eye on her fawn, who slowly followed her. Suddenly, a different herd of bison on the other side of Soda Butte Creek exploded across the valley. Hundreds of bison, including calves, took off for no obvious reason, barreling over hills and just kept going. Hikers walking the trail along the river huddled together as the bison galloped past them. I’ve never seen anything like it.
When I think of what I loved about this trip it’s the moments we just sat and looked out at the mountains and meadows, forests and rivers. The water in Lamar Canyon frothing wildly. The osprey lifting her head out of the nest and turning to look around, calling for her mate. Days filled with watching wildlife going about their lives. Hot afternoons cooling off in Soda Butte Creek. I wish we had seen the Wapiti Pack, but there’s always the next trip.