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Gray Ghost 163 of the Druid Peak Pack by John W. Uhler ©

Gray Ghost 163 by John W. Uhler - June 1999 © Copyright

June 1999 Trip Report

01 June 1999 - Tuesday

At about 8:00 am Roger and Kay had spotted two grizzlies on top of Specimen Ridge. We watched them until they disappeared. We then headed east down Lamar Valley. At a turnout just east of the Soda Butte Cone, the Druid Peak Pack was trying to encourage a coyote pack to move out of the area. There was a little confrontation between the coyotes and wolves and they both won, sort of. The wolves convinced the alpha female to move her den. The wolves tried to dig the den out, but gave up and moved a little ways off. At which time the alpha female moved her six coyote pups to safer territory. Wolf number 163 was visible on the hillside and made his way back down to the coyote den site. The coyotes were gone, but he checked to make sure.

Gray Ghost 163 of the Druid Peak Pack by John W. Uhler ©

Gray Ghost 163 by John W. Uhler - June 1999 ©

Number 163 is a beautiful gray male. He thrilled us all as the den site was fairly close to the road. When we got Judy and Matt to setup their spotting scope on the den site we had a fantastic closeup shot of just the face of 163. Beautiful yellow eyes with black streaks in them and a dark black line running down his face between his eyes to just above his nose. What an awesome sighting for all who were there to enjoy. He was visible for about an hour and moved down to the road and then walked for about 500 yards parallel to the road on the north side and then crossed the road and roamed back and forth along the valley east and into the trees. One of the closest and best wolf sightings I have ever had. 163 is a magnificent animal and we felt that he may be getting ready to start his own pack. A big strapping handsome wolf.

In the Clouds by John W. Uhler & copy;

In the Clouds by John W. Uhler - June 1999 ©

During the day, we spent some time at the Lamar River Trailhead turnout watching all kinds of wildlife. Three bighorn sheep on the cliffs of Mount Norris, elk and buffalo in the valley, Canada Geese, ducks, magpies, mule deer, ravens, yellow-headed blackbirds, grackles, red-winged blackbirds, meadow larks, red tailed hawks, barrow's goldeneyes, green-winged teal and antelope were all sighted, watched and enjoyed. When I headed back to camp, I saw one black bear by Rainy Lake north of Tower.

In the evening, we made our way back to the Lamar River Trailhead turnout and watched and visited with whoever happen to stop by.

We had four grizzlies (sow and three cubs) going east on the foothills below Mount Norris. Then one long griz appeared going west below the sow and cubs. We also saw a mountain goat on the cliffs on the north side of the road opposite Mount Norris.

A couple from California on their way to visit family in South Dakota stopped by. The wife really wanted to see some bears and she was talking like a dutch uncle to get her husband to wait a while and see if any bears appeared. The five grizzlies made their appearance and they were thrilled. It also just happened that the Druid Peak Pack was at their den site and howled for them and everyone had a thrilling evening to say the least. What a great day! We stayed until dark and then made our way back to camp and bed.

Nuttall Violet by John W. Uhler ©

Nuttall Violet by John W. Uhler - June 1999 ©

02 June 1999 - Wednesday

I was up at 5:30 and out at 6:00 am. When I arrived in Lamar, a black female wolf, number 105, of the Druid Peak Pack was lying in the tree line on the south side of the valley. This was about .25 of a mile west of the Lamar Picnic area. We watched her from 7:00 to 7:45 am.

I then headed towards the Lamar River Trailhead turnout. We watched buffalo, elk and antelope play in the meadows. We saw a qriz in a high mountain meadow called "Little Tree Meadow." It was feeding on an elk calf for quite a while and then moved west and out of sight.

We then watched a family of four badgers come out of a den that was occupied by a coyote den the day before. They were fun to watch scurrying about and playing and digging.

Ruddy Duck on Glacial Pond by John W. Uhler ©

Ruddy Duck by John W. Uhler - June 1999 ©

I was just about ready to head to breakfast when a family from Germany stopped and wanted to know what we were doing. They asked if they could look at the bison through the scope. Then they wanted to see the elk, I just let them look at whatever they wanted and we just talked and had a great visit. It was neat to see their excitement in viewing the wildlife and the park.

I then headed to Cooke City and the Soda Butte Lodge for breakfast with Frank and Bill from Illinois and Judy and Matt from Colorado. It was really fun to get to know these folks better and share some time and our lives. Great company and friends.

Coyote by John W. Uhler ©

Coyote by John W. Uhler - June 1999 ©

After breakfast I was headed back to camp when I ran into John (Twosocks) Humphrey and his wife. A few coyotes had taken an elk calf and they were feeding on it while keeping the cow away. We chatted for a while and agreed to meet later in the valley to share some time together.

The evening found me back in Lamar. Wolf 105 was out just west of the Lamar Picnic area on the south side of the valley. She was out from 7:00 pm on. We sighted one lone griz at the east end of Lamar Valley just south of Mount Norris. Then we headed up to the Lamar River turnout. We spotted four griz (sow and three cubs) heading towards the Druid Peak Pack den area. The alpha male and a few of the pack members came out to greet the grizzlies. They had a stand off. The sow and cubs took a detour up and around the den site. We watched the bears and one gray wolf from 9:10 to 9:30 pm when it was too dark to see. It was a great night with great friends.

We called it a day and headed back to our respective camps.

03 June 1999 - Thursday

Mark Schwartz Wildlife Observer and Storyteller by John W. Uhler ©

Wolf Watchers by John W. Uhler ©

As I was headed out to enjoy the morning wildlife viewing, a black bear came out and meandered around Rainy Lake just north of Tower around 7:15 am. At a turnout just east of the Lamar Ranger Station, Judy and Matt has spotted a gray male wolf, number 163. We watched and waited for the rest of the pack to show up, they did not. We watched him from about 7:45 to 9:00 am. We then headed to the Lamar River Trailhead turnout. We watched elk and buffalo and ducks, but no bears or wolves made they appearances.

We headed to the Soda Butte Lodge in Cooke for breakfast and gas. The gas was cheaper in Soda Butte than the park and Gardiner. That was the first time I had ever seen that and it was a very welcome change!

Bill and Frank from Illinois and Judy and Matt left for home. We had had a fantastic time together. They all had a great sense of humor and we had a real blast visiting and sharing our time and scopes and food and jokes in the park. A time to never be forgotten.

I think it was the day before, Bill and Kevin (from Michigan) split and when up to Slough Creek while we stayed at the Trailhead turnout. Things were very slow at Slough and there wasn't too many other folks there. As it started to get dark, Bill and Kevin heard some drumming and though that maybe the prairie hens were in mating season, which they were. But the drumming was not from a hen.

Slough Creek Sunset by John W. Uhler ©

Slough Creek Sunset by John W. Uhler - June 1999 ©

A group of Native Americans were in the park on their way to work for the job corp. One of the young men had decided to perform a ceremony in Slough on a hillside above Bill and Kevin. They heard the tom tom and looked up and on top of the hillside they noted the young man. The sun was setting, the sky was beautiful and they had chills running up and down their spine and they took it all in. They felt highly privileged to be there and hear the drum and chanting and felt like they had stepped back in time to yesteryear... what a great experience. I got chills just from them recounting the experience.

I really hated to see them leave as we had made this annual trip for the past few years and felt like family. What a great experience we had together. Each person there was fantastic and made the experience more enjoyable and just a little better. I know we can all hardly wait until next spring in Yellowstone.

Evening found Roger and Kay and myself at the second turnout in Lamar just scanning the hillsides looking for bears or wolves. John Humphrey and his wife stopped by and joined in the fun. We visited for a while and looked and listened. Nothing was going on so we all decided to head to Slough Creek to check it out.

When we arrived at Slough, there was a grizzly sow and three cubs working their way to the top of the mountain. There had been another grizzly out below them but it had disappeared before we arrived. We watched the bears head over the top and out of view. As we chatted, the bears made their way back over the mountain and into view as they were headed down towards some elk.

Moose and Calf at Tower by John W. Uhler ©

Moose and calf by John W. Uhler - June 1999 ©

We were joined by Mike from Baden Baden, Germany, Jens from near the Swiss border, a young lady from Bavaria, Germany, a fellow from Australia, two ladies from California and others. It was fun to watch their excitement at seeing and watching the bears. We had a great visit and time together.

As we were watching the bears, we enjoy a spring thunderstorm. We just covered the scopes and huddled together by the side of Roger and Kay's RV and the wind and rain mostly blew over us. It was great to meet these folks and learn about their lives and what they were doing and share the time together.

The storm broke and mother nature treated us to a brilliant sunset with all the colors that one could imagine. We chatted on and the stars came out and filled the sky and we gazed at them and the planets through the scopes. What a great evening and time together. We all parted company better for the time and association together. Great evening!

04 June 1999 - Friday

I was up at 6:00 am and on the road. From Coyote overlook we watched a griz and three cubs make their appearance at 7:00 am on an elk kill. We also had a single black bear cross a meadow on Specimen Ridge. The grizzlies moved off the kill and into the trees. The black bear had moved by an elk herd and killed an elk calf. The elk herd chased the bear hoping that it would drop the calf. The bear did not drop the calf. After a good chase, the elk herd stopped and moved back away from the black bear. The bear moved into a small area of three trees and a dead fall. It laid down by the downed tree and fed. The elk stood a short ways off.

The sow and three cubs appeared again and headed towards the black bear and it's kill. When the griz were close the black bear stood up almost nose to nose with the sow. The sow backed off and made her way around the black and headed south into the trees with the cubs following. This all happened on the large plateau above the Lamar River at the west end of the valley.

The sow and cubs appeared again and made their way over to the cluster of trees and the black bear. They detoured around the bear and trees and went into the trees just up the steep hillside above the Lamar River.

The black bear moved off the kill and headed southwest into the trees and out of sight. I then headed west towards Slough Creek.

Slimpod Shooting Stars by John W. Uhler ©

Slimpod Shooting Stars
by John W. Uhler - June 1999 ©

Just past the Lamar River bridge, some folks had their scopes setup. When I pulled in, Roger and Kay had seen several of the wolves of the Rose Creek Pack. We watched the hillside, but they did not re-appear. We watched the elk and other wildlife on the hills and dales and then headed for a place to eat lunch.

I had lunch at the Yellowstone Picnic area and just relaxed for a little while and then headed back to camp. It was a warm clear day. The morning was the coldest of the week, with a good frost on the windows. There had been no bugs all week and that was one of the firsts for an early spring trip. Last year they had us for breakfast, lunch and supper. It was a welcome change.

Evening found me at the second turnout in Lamar Valley. We had a great crew there to visit with and to spot bears. A lot of old friends showed up and there was always some new. We had a fantastic evening together and one of the best evenings for watching bears ever. What a time. There were bears everywhere.

Grizzly by John W. Uhler - April 1998 ©

Grizzly by John W. Uhler - April 1998 ©

A griz was spotted working its was down the meadow and clearing known as the Ski Slope. It had made its way just about to the trees when all of the sudden a very large griz came out of the trees and the chase began. I had never seen two grizzly bears move so fast, it was amazing to watch them run back up the mountain and over the top. Grizzly bears can move, they trucked at full bore up and over that mountain like it was nothing. We were in awe at the spectacle!

From 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm, we had seven grizzlies on the plateau and meadows above the Lamar River. A sow and three cubs and the rest were singles and one black bear. We had an amazing evening of bear watching and visiting together. Don was heading back to England, Kevin to Michigan, Bill to Pennsylvanian, Mark to Minnesota and me to Utah.

I really hated to see this evening and trip end. We had had such a fantastic time together and one of the best years for watching bears and wolves in Yellowstone. Words cannot describe the events we had shared this week with all our old and new friends. A great big thank you to all for helping and sharing and making this one of the most memorable trips home that I have ever experienced. You are all great and all I can say is next year will be even better, even if we don't see as many bears and wolves, it will be better because we will be spending it together. Take care my friends until next spring in the Stone.

Yellow-headed Blackbird by John W. Uhler ©

Yellow-headed Blackbird by John W. Uhler - June 1999 ©

Wildlife Seen on This Trip

Antelope, bald eagles, bears - five black and forty-four grizzlies, badgers, Barrow's goldeneyes, bighorn sheep, buffalo and calves, Canada geese, chipmunks, ducks, elk and calves, ground squirrels, magpies, two moose, a mountain goat, mule deer, the fun loving ever present ravens, red tail hawks, sandhill cranes, trumpeter swans, wolves - two adult members of the Druid Peak Pack and much more.

Sunlight, Trees and Mist by John W. Uhler ©

Sunlight, Trees and Mist by John W. Uhler - June 1999 ©

See the May 1999 Trip Report for the beginning of the story.

The Gray Ghost
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