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Alpha Male of the Druid Peak Pack by John W. Uhler ©

Druid Peak Pack Alpha Male by John W. Uhler

May 1999 Yellowstone Trip Report

29 May 1999 - Saturday

I was up at 5:00 am, finished packing the car and was on the road by 6:00 am. The crew for this trip consisted of John Denver doing the driving and me doing the singing... It was a clear cool morning and a great day to be heading back home to spend some time with family and friends.

Traffic was light this time of the morning and I made good time. Road construction was normal. The highway through Pocatello (Poky) was torn up as usual. It seems that they have been working on the same road and areas since before the park was founded. I don't think they will ever finish it!

The Grand Tetons were covered is haze and clouds. It was one of the few times in the last couple years that they were not there to welcome me home. None the less, I started getting excited to be that close to the park and another great spring trip just ahead.

Yellow-headed Blackbird by John W. Uhler ©

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

I arrived at the West Entrance at 11:45 am and started to head east and north to the Tower Campground to stake a claim for a place to stay. The Madison and other rivers were higher than normal this early in the spring. Saw elk and buffalo and Canada Geese along the way. The Gibbon Falls was roaring with water and a welcome home.

Tower was not crowded, so I claimed site 29 as my home for the next week. I setup the tent with a little help from the folks in 28 and unpacked the car and headed out towards Lamar a little after 3:00 pm.

At the second turnout past the small wooden Lamar Valley sign I sighted some friends from years past and stopped in to join in the fun. Some folks from Utah stopped and joined in (another friend, Larry had told them what car to look for) we all had a blast watching bears and wolves. Bill and Bobby from TX, Frank and Lennis from Shelley, ID, Roger and Kay from Coeur d' Alene, ID and other wildlife watchers and old friends gathered together for another great spring in the park. Bill is one of the best story tellers that I have ever met and being from Texas he had some tall tales to tell! Ha!

A short while after we had all met and renewed acquaintances, a couple driving a Dodge pickup from Washington pulled into the turnout. They had seen my car and came down the group asking where John was... I wasn't sure I wanted to meet these guys... ha! It was Bruce and Geri Conard from Sumner, Washington. We had been friends for the past three years over the net and the page and I didn't know if I wanted to ruin our friendship by meeting in person. Ha!

It was great to meet old and new friends and feel at home again. Bruce and Geri got out their new scope and binocs and joined in the watching, story telling, joking and fun. They were just part of the family and fit right in. Geri started it all by spotting a gray wolf on a hillside behind and east of the group. By the time we all turned and looked, the wolf had disappeared from sight and never was seen again and that started an evening of fun and wildlife viewing.

Roger and Kay had a bore and sow grizzly spotted in the salad bowl and we watched the pair move down the mountainside and into the woods. That was about 5:25 pm. Another lone grizzly appeared at about 6:00 pm and worked its way across the meadows and out of view. Another lone griz appeared about 7:15 pm, but amid the close appearance of wolf number 21, he had to play second fiddle.

At about 6:30 pm, the alpha male of the Druid Peak Pack (number 21) made his grand appearance. He was down in the large open meadow below us feeding on an elk kill. He is a large black wolf and a credit to his species, a beautiful wolf. He walked down along the meadow and the Lamar River and gave hundreds of folks in the valley a treat of a lifetime. He stayed down in the lower valley until about 8:45 pm and then made his way north across the road and disappeared over the ridge top.

What a great way to start a spring trip! Great friends sharing the experience of a lifetime. It was a blast. We stayed until dark and made plans for the next morning and day.

Today I saw 4 grizzlies, one wolf, buffalo, elk, Canada Geese, barrow's goldeneyes, red tail hawk, antelope, magpies, meadow larks, yellow-headed blackbirds and more.

30 May 1998 - Sunday

Palish Larkspur by John W. Uhler ©

Palish Larkspur by John W. Uhler - June 1999 © Copyright

The alarm clock went off early at 5:00 am, it was raining so I check at 6:00, 7:00 and finally at 8:00 am the rain had let up. I headed out towards Lamar. I wanted to see how the ducks were enjoying the day.

As I drove past Rainy Lake just past Tower there were two young mule deer out feeding. I parked and watched them feed and slowly move into the trees. As I have made these many journeys to Yellowstone, each time I have come to enjoy nature - all of it - wildlife in all its shapes and forms - scenic beauty and friends. I use to get irritated at buffalo jams, now I think to myself, why not, these folks have never ever seen a buffalo or elk roaming free in the west. They should and need to enjoy them for themselves, their family and friends and the future.

Like most things in life, we really don't appreciate it until we lose it. We all need to notice nature more, not just in Yellowstone but right at home. There is wildlife and wildflowers, birds, mice and much more all around us. If we would just take a few minutes to stop and be quiet and listen and watch.

We have lost much in the name of progress, for the good of man, nature be dammed. We or our parents have helped to make some animals extinct, plants, rain forest and such. If a little planning and cooperation had been enjoined these things could of been saved or helped to still be here to be enjoyed by all.

I do not mean or condone or encourage extremes on either side of the fence. We use to have a common sense approach in dealing with each other and changes or problems, now it seems that everything is driven strictly by money and business. That approach does not and will not work. We need to be more open and have a spirit of friendly cooperation to work together in taking care of our needs, the environment and the great place we have to live on. This earth is ours to take care of and tend wherever we are. Okay, I will get off my soap box and back to the trip. Please excuse my digression.

It was a rainy day and visibility was not the best. But, even with poor visibility, Bill Hambin was able to see eight grizzlies and one wolf earlier this morning. Bill is the best wildlife spotter I have ever met.

Bruce and Geri stopped by and we headed to Cooke City and the Soda Butte Lodge for breakfast. We had a great time and enjoy the bumpy ride along the way. We had a great lunch and time visiting and then headed back to the park.

I went back to Mammoth to stop by the Visitor Center and fill up with gas. The rain had let up and it started clearing up. At about 4:00 pm we were at the same turnout as the day before watching for bears. When I pulled into the turnout, Bruce and Geri and Roger and Kay were watching a griz making its way along the Lamar River. As I was watching the griz, it turned uphill and started slowly walking towards a stand of trees. We all figured he would walk up and out of sight. Just before he was at the top, he turned and took off like a bolt of lightning downhill towards the river. He was chasing an elk calf. We all trained our scopes and binocs on the struggle. The elk calf hit the river first and we saw it struggling for its life. It made about three splashes in the water before the griz in two large lopes was on top of it. The struggle was over.

The bear carried the calf to a little island and sat and had its supper. We all had watched this amazing event in awe of the speed of the bear and nature taking its course. It was totally amazing. We felt like we had watch something that was both horrifying and natural, if that is possible. We felt sorry for the calf and the cow that was standing nearby but awed that we were able to see the forces of nature at work in the flesh. Awesome is the only word for it.

While the bear was feeding, ravens, magpies and two bald eagles showed up for dinner also. They all took their turns after the bear had finished. The bear stayed around from about 4:00 pm to about 6:00 pm.

We also saw three other lone grizzlies out in the different meadows on the south side of the valley before dark set in on us. Another great day. Bruce and Geri bid us a fond farewell and they reluctantly headed back to Washington with their new scope and binocs. I tried to talk them into letting me break them in for them, but they just didn't know me well enough to do that or so they said. It was hard to say goodby to them but our time together was fun and great and we look forward to our next trip together.

Today I saw four grizzlies, elk, buffalo, mule deer, Canada Geese, bald eagles, magpies, ravens, ducks and much more.

Black Bear by John W. Uhler ©

Black Bear at Roosevelt by John W. Uhler - June 1999 © Copyright

31 May 1999 - Monday

I was up at 6:30 am and out the tent door at 7:00 am. Light rain low clouds and very poor visibility. A friend stopped by the turnout and told us that there had been a wolf sighted at Slough Creek. We headed to Slough. No wildlife action there besides Canada Geese and some ducks. No one had seen the Whoopers this year (I did not see them at all this week). Elk were contently grazing on the mountainside meadows.

Some friends from last year showed up at the turnout. Mark Swartz from MN, Bill from PA, Don from England, Mark from CO, and others. It was good to see them and share in the fun of the another spring in Yellowstone. We had fun spinning yarns and lore of the fine points of wildlife watching or almost watching wildlife... you should of been here five minutes ago... It was good to see old friends and familiar faces.

I saw a large black bear on an elk calf kill just above the Tower Ranger Station. It was laying down in some tall grass on the other side of the knoll feeding. I met some friends from Utah who had filmed the who event.

I headed to Gardiner for breakfast. I met some friends from Kansas who use the web site to plan their trip. We had a short nice visit in the restaurant but fun none the less.

As I came out of the restaurant, the sky was clearing, the sun started to break through the clouds and the day looked much better.

I spent the afternoon taking pictures and exploring the glacier ponds, plant life, wildflowers and birds. It was a great afternoon.

The evening found me and friends at the second turnout watching for bears. What a great evening. We were treated to eight grizzlies along the valley from Mount Norris to the tops of Specimen Ridge. A sow and three cubs, and the rest were single grizzlies and one black bear on Specimen. It was an outstanding evening and fun was had by all in viewing wildlife and visiting together.

When I got back to the campground, Roger and Kay had a nice fire going and we sat and chatted about the day and the fun we have had over the years in the park. We were joined by Judy and Matt and then the stories got thick as the smoke and deep... ha!

What a great way to end a perfect day in Yellowstone - a great campfire, smoke, friends and some great stories and laughs. We all slept well.

Wildlife seen today: antelope, buffalo, elk, deer, 8 grizzlies and two black bears and much more.

Wildlife Seen on This Trip

Antelope, bald eagles, two black bears, buffalo and calves, Canada geese, ducks, elk and a few calves, ground squirrels, 16 grizzlies, some magpies, mule deer, the fun loving ever present ravens, and the alpha male of the Druid Peak Pack.

Lamar Valley Sunset by John W. Uhler ©
Lamar Valley Sunset by John W. Uhler ©

See the June 1999 Trip Report for the rest of the story!

Roger and Kay at Tower Campgrounds by John W. Uhler ©

Roger and Kay at Tower Campground
by John W. Uhler - June 1999 © Copyright

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