Thursday, May 19, 2022
We woke to rain pounding the roof and icy weather. Slush formed on the windshield as we loaded the car and drove through the northeast entrance. Lamar Valley was quiet so we headed toward Mammoth and the southern part of the park where we hoped to see the Beryl Springs bear and her cubs of the year. Herds of cow elk traveled cautiously through Little America while a single gray wolf fed on one of the carcasses left by the grizzly sow near Junction Butte. It must have been one of the Junction Butte Pack wolves; unfortunately, the wolf took off shortly after we stopped.
There wasn’t much traffic this cold, rainy morning. The sun came out intermittently, but the temperature still hovered around 37º. Near the location where we expected to find the Beryl Springs bear, another grizzly ambled through a wooded meadow filled with deadfall; a beautiful, silvery brown bear. It wandered aimlessly over logs until a ranger shot off a cracker gun (a gun that creates a loud sound simulating a gunshot), scaring the bear – and everyone watching. The bear quickly moved into the trees while visitors continued watching, following the bear as it climbed over deadfall and traveled along the edge of a lake. The ranger watched with us and explained this bear, a sow, had been fed last night by someone; the Park Service has a zero-tolerance policy for fed bears and wanted to make sure she stays away from the road.
We drove on, looking for the Beryl Springs bear and her cubs, but it seemed like the wildlife was sleeping in this morning. The road from Norris to Canyon was lined with a wall of snow plowed about two feet high and Cascade Meadows was a blanket of snow. This part of the park is definitely still in winter.
From Canyon we wound our way past LeHardy Rapids and Otter Creek towards Yellowstone Lake. Hayden Valley was dusted with snow, bison and elk scattered through the valley and on the hillsides. We stopped at Alum Creek and Grizzly Overlook, hoping to catch sight of the Wapitis, without luck. The Wapiti Pack has eluded us for a couple of years now. The pack ventures to the northern part of the park in winter, following elk, but they are back in their own territory now. The Wapiti Pack has a new alpha pair now, 1270M a black wolf and gray 1203F, and the pack is probably busy with denning.
The southern part of the park and the lake area is a world in white. Snow and ice covers Yellowstone Lake and surrounding ponds and streams. We drove all the way to Silvan Lake which was completely covered by snow and ice. The eastern part of the park feels so remote; isolated. It’s beautiful and at the same time a little frightening.
Silvan Lake is where we turned back, stopping once or twice to look for the Wapitis again. Hayden Valley is such a huge expanse; it really is breathtaking, especially when hardly any people are there as it was today. Continuing north, we passed a black bear with a cinnamon cub foraging in the woods along the road near Mammoth Terraces. A line of vehicles crawled past as people leaned out of car window to take pictures of the pair. In Little America, there was another small bear jam near Junction Butte where a young grizzly was grazing high on the slopes. It pointed its nose up to sniff something in the air, following the scent as it traveled over a ridge.
Dunraven Pass is still closed, so the drive to the southern part of the park made it a long day. Missing the Wapiti Pack, Raspberry and her cub. and the Beryl Springs bear was a little disappointing, but seeing part of the park still in winter was awesome.