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Yellowstone for mine eyes only

A friend came up late morning to help me plant more trees.  A squall came in and with it a fierce cold wind.  After several minutes the weather settled down, the sun shone through brilliant cumulus clouds but it was still hovering above freezing.  This continued several times all morning until I’d had enough.  Hungry and cold I suggested we quit for the day and head to the house for lunch.

Since I’m needing some poles to repair a gate, we decided to see if we could make it up to Beartooth Lake to cut some lodgepole poles.  The road was clear and this typical May weather had brought new snow into the mountains.  Pilot and Index Peaks were covered white in snow, the deep of the blue sky setting them off.

We got a little past the maintenance yard and then got stuck in the snow.  I let the dogs out while my friend shoveled and I pushed the truck.  The dogs, like 2 kids, went wildly romping around the deep snow pack.

That adventure foiled, my friend suggested we see how far we could get towards Cooke City.  About 5 miles from Cooke, the road was full of snow, although a plow had gone over it.  The sign said ‘Road Closed’ but we kept on.  My friend said they run a plow now so that the heat of the sun will melt the rest off.  That way there’ll be less work to do come May 7th when the NE entrance officially opens.

Once into Cooke, the road was clear and dry and we decided to head for the Lamar.  By now it was about 6:30 pm and a perfect time to catch some wildlife watching.  But as we drove into the park, a deep fog appeared and it started to snow…sleet really.  My friend commented that he’d been coming here for 50 years and during that entire time the willows had never been able to grow.

“You’d have to have come here for that long to see the difference.  The willows are growing now.  They’ve never been this big.  The elk used to use the Lamar like cattle.  They’d be down in the river bottoms.  Now the wolves keep them on the move and the brush is coming back.”

As we continued towards the Buffalo Ranch, the sky cleared.  We kept commenting that we wished we’d brought our cameras.  I thought about it as I walked out the door, but figured I was just going to cut poles.  Instead, the air, the sky, the mountains, the weather was magnificent…a special day, a special light.

We watched a grizzly for a while nosing around for food.  Three sand hill cranes hunted nearby.  Elk grazed easily in the valley, while a Bison, beginning to shed, rubbed his back on a rock.  No one was in the valley.  It was left to the wildlife.

Coming a little north of Crandall on the way home, a grizzly bounded across the road in front of us.  It was about 7:30 and I suppose he was headed out for his evening rounds.  We stopped and watched him climb up the rocky cliffs on the other side of the highway, so close to the homes around there.

A spontaneous surprise, the day was full of typical May weather, my favorite time of the year.  Snow, sleet, sun….dry, wet, foggy, brilliant need-your-sunglasses light.  And lots of wildlife. Although we kept commenting how, of course, where’s your camera when you need it, I reminded my friend “This was a day just for our eyes only.”

One Response

  1. Nice account of your drive. Hope you carry chains and a winch or come-along if you ever get stuck bad. Plenty of snow here this week!


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