June 18, 2019
At first light we left the warm comfort of our cozy cabins. Our anticipated 5:00 start was delayed about 15 minutes as we were all tired from the previous days’ adventures. However, everything happens for a reason as we were greeted by a black bear walking across the driveway of the Roosevelt Lodge, a sight we surely would have missed had we left any earlier. Not five minutes later we spotted another black bear who casually walked out of the woods, onto the road behind our vans, and lumbered across the bridge to the other side of the Yellowstone River. For those of us who wanted to see bears on this trip we have not been disappointed. We have seen all the different flavors of bear: black bear, cinnamon black bear, and a grizzly.
After a field breakfast at Slough Creek we drove west to meet professional wildlife photographer and naturalist Dan Hartman to search for great grey owl nests off the beaten path. We didn’t have any luck with the nest but we did spot our largest owl in North America, the great grey, and we watched it hunting for pocket gophers in the meadow. The Hartmans then welcomed us into their home, which also houses a gallery, for a screening of a short documentary filmed and produced by Dan about life in the aspen trees. Along with being extremely knowledgeable about the wildlife in and around the park Dan was also a terrific story teller. He regaled us with several spine-tingling stories of close calls with grizzlies. (We were glad that Dan saved his grizzly bear stories until after we were out of deep woods.)
After warming up hiking through sunny meadows we headed to up the Beartooth Mountains to cool down. A short drive and a few thousand vertical feet later we were transported into a “winter wonderland” complete with snow, ice, and even skiers! We spent half an hour taking in the incredible views that being above the tree line has to offer. Being from North Carolina the novelty of snow in June begged us to throw snowballs and make snow angels.
We ended our time with Dan by watching a great horned owl on her nest with chicks. These owls (which we also have in NC) are named for the tufts of feathers on their heads that look like “horns”. After retreating to lower elevations we capped off the day in the best way possible…with pizza in Lamar Valley! Tomorrow will be our last day in Lamar Valley before we move on to the southern part of the park. In our reflections we agreed that the best way to spend our final day in this beautiful part of the park was to soak in every moment and be completely focused on the present.