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Mallard and Ducklings on Rainy Lake by John W. Uhler - 17 July 1998 © Copyright

Mallard and Ducklings on Rainy Lake by John W. Uhler - 17 July 1998 © Copyright

July 1999 Trip Report

27 July 1999 - Tuesday

The crew for this trip consisted of Rebekah, my seventeen year old daughter and her boyfriend, Tyler and yours truly.

We packed and hit the road at 11:00 am. We had a fun drive as traffic was light and construction wasn't too bad. Except for the normal construction around Pocatello, Idaho. In the book, "Journal of a Trapper [1834-1843]" by Osborne Russell, he mentions the problems the mountain men and trappers had with construction in the same area. Some things never change... ha!

Just a little ways past Blackfoot, Idaho the Tetons greeted us. They were negligeed in a lacy blue and it was great to see them again! They escorted us all the way north over Ashton Hill and up to the Buffalo River bridge and Ponds Lodge.

We arrived at West Yellowstone at 4:30 pm and I had a few business contacts and then we had supper at the Chinese restaurant. They had great food and we were on out way into the park by 6:30 pm. We did not see a lot of wildlife between the west entrance and Madison Junction. We did see the two trumpeter swans on the Madison River. They have been there forever and it was good to see them. I did not notice and new cygnets.

The rivers looked about normal and there were folks enjoying the beauty and fishing the Madison and the Gibbon. Most of the pot holes have been patched on the Madison to Norris road, but now they are bumps instead of holes... but bumps are better.

Hayden Ringlet by John W. Uhler - July 1998 © Copyright

Hayden Ringlet
by John W. Uhler - July 1998 © Copyright

We had a nice easy drive (known as the bump and dodge) to Norris and then headed east to Canyon and then north over Dunraven and Mount Washburn. The wildflowers on the drive over Washburn are spectacular.

As we turned east at Roosevelt and headed towards Lamar, we were excited to do some bear and wolf watching. There were not a lot of folks at the turnouts at the west end of Lamar.

Now, for the dedicated wildlife watchers and Lamar Valley Regulars, the road that is paved is unbelievable! They are doing a great job, heck even the dirt road is better than what we have had to endure the past years... try to get up before winter and it starts to break up. It is a great sight and ride to sore shocks... ha!

We stopped at the Outfitters Turnout just before the Lamar River Trailhead Turnout. A black wolf had been spotted earlier on the north side of the road, but nothing was in sight while we were there. We visited for a while and then headed east towards Pebble Creek Campgrounds. About .25 of a mile after the Soda Butte Cone, we noticed some animals just above the Lamar River on the south side of the valley. Rebekah spotted them first and asked what they were. I was driving and just glanced at the one, it was quite large so I guessed that they were buffalo. She said, there are some small bumps with the bigger one. I pulled over and sure enough, we had a sow griz and four, yes four cubs. It was the first time I have ever seen a sow with four cubs. It was about 8:50 pm and the bears headed up the river bank and along a small open meadow and then up and into the trees. Tyler was thrilled as this was his first trip to Yellowstone and first grizzlies. It was exciting and I told him that this was not the norm, folks have been coming to the Stone for years and had not seen grizzlies. Great way to start our July trip!

Pebble was full, we went to Tower, it was full, so we made the long bumpy drive back to Slough Creek for our evening rest.

Today we saw: five grizzlies, buffalo, Canada geese, ducks, elk and calves (along the Gibbon River), and two trumpeter swans.

Yellow Salsify by John W. Uhler - July 1998 © Copyright

Yellow Salsify
by John W. Uhler - July 1998 © Copyright

28 July 1999 - Wednesday

We were up at 6:00 and on our way by 6:30 am. Just before the main road, a large badger walked out on a hillside by the side of the road. He just stopped and looked at us, which never ever happens. Here is where Murphy's Law came into effect. I grabbed the camera. I had just bought a new Energizer battery. The camera was dead, the bunny was not running, heck the bunny was not even limping... he was dead, dead, dead and I was not a happy camper. The badger smiled at me and winked and grabbed the bunny carcass and headed into his den... I sat dumbfounded and fore lorn at my bad fortune... For those who would like to know, the Energizer battery for the Cannon EOS Elan, EL2CR5, does not work! What a major bummer! We do have the memory and it will probably never happen again, but at least we know that badgers have a sense of humor, no matter how sick it is!

We arrived at the Outfitters Turnout and at 7:00 am we watched three wolves from the Druid Peak Pack, two grays and one black. There was a kill there and they just roamed around the kill area and laid in the high grass and sage brush. We watched the wolves until about 8:30 am and then they took a nap and weren't seen again. We also saw buffalo, a coyote and ducks.

We then went to Pebble Creek and staked claim to campsite 10 for the rest of our stay. It was a nice site. Shade from the sun and a wind and rain block by the trees.

Since Tyler hadn't been to the park before. We headed to Tower and to the base of the falls. We then headed to Canyon and the brink of the Lower Falls and we saw the Upper Falls on the hike down. Artist Point was our last stop at Canyon. There were three hugh bull elk on the west side of the road that gave all the passer bys a great thrill. Majestic animals!

We then headed for Norris and a hike around the geyser basin area. Steamboat was steaming and hissing and splashing and that was a thrill in itself. We sat and waited for Echinus Geyser. It did all the indicators, the pool filled to overflowing and started to boil, then it shot up to about a foot and that may be stretching it and died or fizzled... we walked around the basin and then headed to Mammoth.

We toured Mammoth and the Albright Visitor Center and relaxed for a few minutes. We then headed to Lamar and the Outfitter Turnout (we could not use the Lamar River Trailhead turnout as it was torn up and under construction). There was a large black bear above the Tower Ranger station at Roosevelt. We first saw her about 7:00 pm and let everyone that was there get close up and personal with the bear through our spotting scope. It was fun to watch their faces as very few had seen either a bear or spotting scope. We met some great folks.

Wild Rose by John W. Uhler - July 1998 © Copyright

Wild Rose
by John W. Uhler - July 1998 © Copyright

At 7:50 pm at the turnout, we had two wolves, a gray and a black back near the kill area (which was on the other side of the Lamar River in the meadow just before the south tree line). We watched the wolves until 9:00 pm and were eaten alive by the mosquitos. One word to the wise, Deet! Two small children were sucked dry and all that was left was their skin...

We headed back to camp and some shelter from the storm of bugs.

Today we saw: antelope, a badger, buffalo, ducks, elk, a bald eagle, magpies, ravens and five wolves of the Druid Peak Pack.

Damselfly by John W. Uhler - July 1998 © Copyright

by John W. Uhler - July 1998 © Copyright

29 July 1999 - Thursday

Pay Dirt! I had mentioned to both Rebekah and Tyler, that it would be nice to see the whole pack, pups and all.

We scoped out the hills and dales at the Outfitter Turnout, nothing, well no bears or wolves. There were buffalo and antelope out and about on the wide open range. We then headed to the Lamar Ranger Station and checked out the hillsides there. We had a small herd of elk on the south side of the valley below the Specimen Ridge trail. There were four very large bull elk up on the ridge line and they were great silhouettes, very nice.

We drove to an area known as mid point, it is about half way between the ranger station and the Lamar Picnic area. We stopped and scoped out the area. We noticed something black coming out of the the tree line, it was 21M the alpha male of the Druid Peak Pack. He walked over the open meadow and when he got close to the sage brush, six wolf pups came out to greet him... It was cool to say the least. He had been out eating and he regurtated food for the pups.

Then things got exciting, the rest of the wolves came out to greet him and the pups moved out into an open area to play and to lay around. Wolf number 163M came out and the pups greeted him and jumped all over him. He walked east down the valley and slowly but surely all the other adult wolves came out of the sage brush and greeted the pups and slowly worked their way into the open area.

Then the alpha female came out. She is a beautiful wolf and there is some exciting news, she is turning white! Her face is white, her tail is white and her sides are turning very light. She is number 40F, and if you remember, if you have been following the wolves, 39F was known as the white wolf. That is neat to see 40F turn white and look somewhat like 39F.

This sighting was fantastic, we were all excited to say the least and just drank it all in. Our eyes got tired from staring through the spotting scopes but we didn't want to miss all the interaction between the wolves and pups and to see the whole pack together was a dream come true! We were ecstatic!

We watched them from 7:30 to 10:16 am when they split into two groups, one went south into the trees and the others returned to the sage brush and out of sight. There are seven adult wolves in this pack and six pups. There are four gray pups and two black pups. The one black pup is a real bruiser, he is almost as large as the adult wolves and the other black wolf is the runt of the litter. They were all cute playing and romping and jumping and tussling together and with the adults in the open meadow. What a treasure to experience.

We witnessed this event with two other wildlife watchers, Judy from Colorado and another local friend. Man, the trip was made for me when we saw the bears... this was the icing on the cake that I never thought I would enjoy... but the Energizer bunny had slowed to a pitiful crawl and was left for dead, so no photos.

Buffalo Calves by John W. Uhler - June 1997 © Copyright

Buffalo Calves
by John W. Uhler - June 1997 © Copyright

We then drove back to camp for breakfast and then headed for Hayden Valley and the Mud Volcano area and then on to Old Faithful. The Old Faithful Inn is my favorite building in the world, it is rustic and beautiful. We watched Old Faithful erupt and then toured the Inn and the Lodge and looked at and enjoyed Earl Concho's western art work at the Lodge.

We saddled up and headed north. Just a little north of Gibbon Falls, there was a brown black bear along the west side of the road that gave visitors a real thrill. The bunny was dead and I have no pictures but great memories, I think... We then drove to Gardiner and Helen's for supper and the best black raspberry shakes in the west!

After supper, we headed back to Lamar. There was a black bear just off the road on the south side feeding on some berries. This was just west of the Yellowstone River bridge as you are headed east from Tower Junction.

In Lamar Valley, we stopped at mid point, but there was nothing moving so we headed east down the valley. We arrived at the outfitter turnout and joined in the fun, we watched, buffalo, antelope, elk, sandhill cranes and anything and everything moving. We stayed until dark and a young man from Philadelphia, Pa and his father joined in the group. Judy (from Colorado) served John (from Philly) her world famous Alaskan hot chocolate. We had a great evening together.

We met John Voight's look alike. He is a writer and teacher in up state New York and goes by the name of Brian A. Connolly. He was also camping at Pebble and our neighbor in campsite 11, we had a great time visiting together.

He mentioned that he woke up about 1:00 am and the moon was so bright that the birds were singing. He said it was a neat experience and lasted until about 3:00 am. I was sawing logs and missed the whole thing, but it sure sounded like a great experience. I know it was a full moon as there were some folks from Madison that were at the turnout with us that were waiting to take pictures of the moon. What a great trip and experience.

Today we saw: Antelope, one black bear, one brown black bear, buffalo, ducks, elk, ravens, and thirteen members of the Druid Peak Pack.

Rose Pussy Toes by John W. Uhler - July 1998 © Copyright

Rose Pussy Toes
by John W. Uhler - July 1998 © Copyright

30 July 1999 - Friday

We were up at 6:00 am and packed. Our gear was wet from the rain, but we had to head for our home away from home. The day before we had had thundershowers and they were nice as it cooled things down as it had been really hot and it also helped with the bugs. There were not nearly as many bugs as on Wednesday night.

When we got to the main road, the valley was socked in with fog and visibility was about zero. We slowly drove to the outfitter turnout and said goodby to friends and wished them continued luck and blessings with their visit and time in the park.

We had a great time in the park and poor Tyler thinks it is easy as pie to come to Yellowstone and see bears and wolves, but he knows that I have gone to the park and been skunked as far as bears and wolves go, but never as far as family and friends go and time in the Stone.

At Ponds Lodge, the Teton's were there to greet us. There were negligeed in lacy white. They journeyed with us south to Rexburg and then bid us a fond farwell until next time we head north, home to the Stone.

Today we saw: Antelope, buffalo, Canada geese, ducks, elk, and two sand hill cranes.

Mountain Dandelion by John W. Uhler - July 1998 © Copyright

Mountain Dandelion
by John W. Uhler - July 1998 © Copyright

Wildlife Seen on This Trip

Antelope, a badger, buffalo, Canada geese, ducks, elk, five grizzlies, a bald eagle, ground squirrels, the fun loving ever present ravens, red tail hawks, sandhill cranes, trumpeter swans, wolves - all thirteen members of the Druid Peak Pack, and much more.

The Gray Ghost
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