trip report day 2

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    Posted by michael in tucson ( on July 05, 2005 at 21:05:36:

    In Reply to: trip report day 1 posted by michael in tucson on July 05, 2005 at 21:03:11:

    5-30-05 Day 2

    Last day to sleep in for awhile. We are up by 7:15, get packed, breakfast at the Timberline, back to Alís to check out (will be back on the 6th & 7th), shop at Market Spot for the week at the cabin, and on our way to Silver Gate at 9:15, not bad with a three year old.

    Adult eagle above the nest but no eaglet showing itself. Three swans just west of the bridge. Since Hayden was asleep last night we stop and and sit and watch for a short time. As I take some pictures, I find out how excited we were last night. There is no film in the camera. Load the camera and this time actually take some pictures of the three swans, one adult and two youngsters. Hayden asks for his checklist, finds and circles the trumpeter swan, and then spends the next ten minutes talking about what animals he has already seen and marked on his list. Bison and elk along the Madison, and lots of bison plops in the road near last nightís jam. Pretty convincing, that it was a bison jam. We stop and glass at both Gibbon Meadows and Elk Park trying to make a wolf appear, but itís just bison and elk today. Next stop Swan Lake Flats. A pair of trumpeters on the lake, along with lots of ducks and a pair of sandhill cranes. We make a pit stop at Albright Visitor Center where there are pregnant elk cows resting on the bright green grass of Mammoth. After Hayden gets a nice close look at the mama to be elk, we again head out. The plan is to get to Silver Gate by about noon, so that we can visit with friends from Utah before they have to head home. A beggar coyote has created a big jam at the Wraith Falls trailhead. He is moving back and forth along the road, and there are lots of people out and taking pics. He finally crosses the road one car in front of us and takes off. Hopefully he did not get any rewards as he begged at each vehicle. We have a small mule deer buck cross in front of us on the Blacktail Plateau. Hayden is asleep and will have to add a coyote to the list later. We decide to not stop at Slough Creek and are soon in the Lamar Valley, green and very little snow to be seen. There are many bison at play but with Hayden still napping we continue on to Silver Gate. Unfortunately, we have somehow messed up the rendezvous with our friends. While we are extremely bummed by this, we do have Yellowstone to ease the pain.

    We are staying at the Silver Gate Cabins. While the cabins have taken some hits from folks on the chat page, this is our fourth year ( we already have reservations for next year) and we enjoy staying here. There has been some work done on our cabin since last year and I expect there will be more before next year. We get checked in, unpacked and set up. Traveling with a three year old necessitates including a lot of really important kid stuff and Hayden is soon comfortable in the cabin. Actually he loves the place. He decided to toilet train ten days before we left, being a little unsure how it will go while on vacation, we bring daytime diapers, underalls, nighttime diapers, underwear and a marvelous portable potty seat, [Karlie has already become the queen of hauling the plastic bag (holding stated potty seat) into many of the bathrooms between Tucson and Yellowstone]. Lest some of the readers of this wonder why Iím not hauling the plastic bag, as a general rule womenís public bathroom toilets are much less disgusting than menís. Soon after we began the trip Hayden informed us he would not be wearing any underalls, and religiously lets us know when he needs the bathroom. There will be no accidents on this vacation. Sorry for that interlude but those with small children will read with wonder and yes we are very grateful to our son for making this potentially trying time, just down right fun.

    After eating a good lunch/dinner combo, we are ready to head into the park. Our first stop is a coyote den on the north side of the road a little east of Soda Butte. My first thought is that this den would not be here if the Druids were using the traditional den site, and then the fun factor takes over. You can see the den and pups without optics, but watching through the binocs as Karlie sets up the scope brings a big smile. There are five pups falling all over each other, the energy level is very high. Karlie watches through the scope and then decides to let Hayden try. As he looks through the scope he lets loose a great laugh, no doubt he saw the pups. As we watch I see our friend Anne and she catches me up on some Northern Range happenings. She has been here almost a month, and I am of course jealous. An adult coyote appears at the den, and it is soon obvious that it is mom as the pups all try to nurse at once. Mom is not too thrilled, must be close to time to wean them. Mom hangs around for awhile then slowly moves east. She stops to bark and yip at the pups and then disappears up a draw. We will stop many times to watch the pups and adults over the next week. We have to wait as four yearling button bull elk cross in front of us just east of the footbridge. At the hitching post we stop to use the bathroom and Hayden is thrilled with it. There are animal tracks on the floor and animal pics on the ceiling, whatís not to like. During our time in Yellowstone, he will ask to stop at the bathroom just to see the tracks. Whoever thought up this educational diversion at NPS has my thanks. It was a big disappointment for Hayden when there were no tracks in the non-northern range bathrooms. Anyone for an email campaign to spread bathroom education throughout the park? As we continue west there are many large bison bulls near the road and sometimes on it. Hayden pays lots of attention to these big boys and also points out other bison on the valley floor to us.

    We pull into Slough Creek, and park at a small pullout above the first large pullout. We get a little help finding the den site (sage den) but once we have it in the scope we see four pups, two black and two gray, and the gray yearling babysitter. Karlie and I share the scope, watching the pups crawl all over the gray yearling, what tolerance this wolf displays. At this distance the binoculars help see the wolves but reveal very little detail of the actions. Hayden gets a little restless so he and I walk further up the hill and talk to Rick. Emily, who is with the Wolf Project , and working with Rick introduces herself to us. She is a friend of our very good friend Mike, and knew we were coming. She recognized me from Mikeís description. It is great to meet her. Turns out there are other members of the pack heading north. I get to share a scope and watch eight Slough wolves in single file, probably heading out on a hunt. Shortly after I get my chance to view, they are all out of sight. No reason to rush back to Karlie, since they are now out of view. I visit a little more and then Hayden informs me that he needs to pee. Time to try and show him how to pee in the great outdoors. Not surprisingly nothing happens the first try, so we walk back but soon turn around for another try. Second time is the charm, success, Hayden is quite proud, and we head back to mommy with the news. Karlie is also impressed and oh by the way there is a grizz above the den. I get on the scope and spend some time watching my first grizz of the trip. It is certainly an adult and moving along very deliberately with nose in the air. Oh what smells are the winds carrying to you bear? It must have been good because he is soon out of sight over a ridge. At this point a ranger shows up and lets us know she does not like where we have parked, and we need to move now. While it seems odd, we are off the road, we pack up and decide to head back toward Silver Gate.

    There are some people pulled over at Coyote so we stop. Everyone is looking north of the road and I quickly find a sow grizz with a cub of the year (this proves to be the only coy I will see this trip). I help Karlie get the scope set up and we take turns watching. The sow is definitely cruising for elk calves, and there are two cow elk following her as she moves through the sage. The cub is pretty small and often stands up on its hind legs, trying to find out where mom went. Mom on the other hand stops now and then turns and probably vocalizes to the cub (obviously we are too far away to confirm this). Somehow the little guy keeps up as mom covers a lot of ground. When they disappear into one of the many tucks and folds of the hillside north of the road, we wait, hoping to have them reappear, but after about ten minutes no luck. I have spent some of this time searching Specimen Ridge and Jasper Bench. There are lots of elk and bison everywhere, but no bears or wolves. As we head further east we see lots of pronghorn on the flats north of the river. Several are close enough for Hayden to see clearly and he quickly asks for his check sheet. Just west of Soda Butte a mule deer crosses in front of us and Hayden gets a good view of it also, making sure to find and circle it on the checklist. We stop to check out Round Prairie and see elk near the treeline. It is now about 9 PM and we see lots of elk in the openings all along the road back to Silver Gate. A short stop at Barronette Peak doesnít produce any mountain goats. Four mule deer greet us as we pull into the cabin, two does and two yearlings, only a little smaller than the does. I set the alarm for 4:30 and we are soon all in bed. Sleep comes slowly as I think about today, nine Slough wolves and four wolf pups, three grizzlies, trumpeter swans, coyote, bison, elk, deer and so much more, a tremendous beginning to this years trip.

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