Day 27, June 6
I kinda hoped I’d sleep in a bit later than 5:30, but my body’s been programmed at this point. I returned my clients to Bozeman and had a free afternoon to start prepping for my next tour and immerse myself in a little culture (a movie!).
Day 28, June 7
Pick-up day for the new group! The sun was out, it was hot and my allergies were in high gear. I miss the rain already.
Day 29, June 8
On the first day of the second group tour, we headed out around 5:30. The first goal was black bears, but the northern road was curiously devoid of them and any other wildlife. Finally, out in the Lamar we started to see something. A great swallow shoot (yes, swallows) at Soda Butte, pronghorn fawns, bison calves and sandhill colts together in Little America, and finally back at Petrified Tree, the black sow with single black cub. At Phantom Lake, the sow with two black cubs was napping under a distant tree.
In the afternoon we returned to Phantom Lake to find the black bear family foraging down in the grass. The cubs soon disappeared behind some trees, but we waited them out. Eventually mom started moving west, and the cubs soon followed. I speculated that she may head toward the water, and that proved to be the case. But not for a drink… instead they all went for a swim!
It was pretty fun to see the little ones plowing through the water. They didn’t seem to be enjoying it as much as the sow, and quickly scrambled ashore while she cooled off a while longer.
We spent so much time with the bears that our other plans were waylaid. So we returned to Mammoth, where we got to see the two great horned owlets huddled on top of a chimney, my first view of them since they fledged. One of the adults perched in a nearby tree.
I opted for one more quick drive around the village, in case we lucked into an elk calf. Believe it or not, we quickly found one. This one was still wobbly, having trouble negotiating the hillsides above the road. We enjoyed photographing the little one, and then took some time to shoot more elk bedded on the terraces. One of them, perhaps an energetic juvenile, was prancing about, following the people on the boardwalk back and forth. It never leaped over the railing, but it made for some interesting video as the park visitors allowed the elk to approach far too close, even with their children present.
Overall, a great start to the tour!