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Yellowstone White Wolf

Yellowstone White Wolf

Me dancing in Yellowstone up on top of No No Hill

Me dancing in Yellowstone up on top of No No Hill

“There is a photographer on top of the hill.”

{Hiker/photographer to you}

“There is a wolf on the hill.”

“Won’t be for long, it will be scared away.”

“That would be DD.”
{Don’t want to know}

Beautiful sunny day in Yellowstone with no wolves running around and so I decided to do some much needed exploring away from the road and exercise my right to hike in Yellowstone! Yep, visitors are allowed to hike off of the road.

Normally I do quite a bit of hiking when out and about in a national park but it has been tough in Yellowstone because there is always this fear that wolves will be out there and someone will think that I hiked out to see them and report me and get me thrown from the park. This fear came about in the beginning of my stay when someone proudly described to me how they catch photographers going too close to the wolves, take photos for documentation and turn them over to law enforcement. When the story was complete I felt sufficiently warned – intimidated and threatened.

As time wore on I felt more and more frustrated about wanting to hike but it often seemed like there were always people watching wolves in many of the hiking areas. And while I couldn’t see the wolves and didn’t know if they were miles away or close – or in which direction, I had come to realize that actions are often misconstrued or second-guessed and so would move on. At one point I finally asked the ranger in charge of the whole thing what was the best way to go about my business and do my hiking without creating unnecessary problems for myself. Must admit that I expected some sort of answer that would assure me that hiking was allowed in Yellowstone and if the area wasn’t closed that there was no problem. Instead I was told about how rude it would be to ruin people’s opportunity to watch the wolves. Not anything like concern for the animals but concern for the people who watch them every single day. And definitely no room for any other type of recreation or visitor enjoyment in the park.

After awhile I began asking if it would be okay if I went hiking – just to make sure and let everyone know that there was no intention to disturb the animals. Well, to tell the truth, none of my efforts were good enough. Law enforcement rangers had told me that it was okay to hike and to not worry about it if the trail was open – and just make sure to back off if I encountered an animal. And they had also told me that it was fine, during the slow days of winter, to stop in the road and take photos if wolves were near by, but unfortunately didn’t cover the part about what if I couldn’t see those that were way up on top of a hill above me. And so it all became a guessing game, a futile effort to have supernatural powers of knowing everything that was going on without being able to see it. That just plain wore me out!

I gave up! Yellowstone is my national park also and I had given everything that I had for the opportunity to spend the winter near the park but my attempts to please those who can not be pleased had netted me nearly zero in off road exploring and enjoyment, as well as photos of the wolves. The winter nearly over with and it was time for Deby to take care of Deby – finally. As long as I was falling within the rules of the park and what law enforcement had told me, then those unwritten, judgmental and exceedingly over protective unwritten rules were no longer my problem. So what if I got to walk the Reports hall of shame! And, it was way too late to worry about being gossiped and lied about and having my reputation destroyed. Time to enjoy my/our park!

Back to today! I had always wanted to hike way out in Lamar Valley but had gotten the impression that it was no man’s land, which is not true at all. There was a new snowshoe trail leading out towards the Cottonwoods near the ranch and so I decided to go for it and get out in that valley.

At the pullout I ran into some visitors from California and got to talking with them. They were telling me about how a guy in Cooke City had told them that the wolves had destroyed everything and that there were only two moose left in the park. “Well, that isn’t true,” I told them. They asked me about the wolves and I got to share some of my favorite stories about the Lamar Canyons, as well as describe how the habitats of other animals were returning because of them. They then asked their son if he wanted to hike out into the valley with me.

Flying over Lamar Valley

Flying over Lamar Valley


Lamar Valley

Lamar Valley

What fun it was to take an enthusiastic young man, who is crazy in love with nature and wildlife, and hike out over the sparkling snow. The best part was introducing him to his first grizzly tracks. Fresh that morning, some big old grizzly had gone through and crossed the river. And then we also found the remains of a deer carcass. His mom told me that getting to hike out there and being introduced to tracks was probably the high light of his trip. Wish that I had known when younger that I am a natural born teacher when it comes to sharing nature.

And we saw our first Snow Geese for the season!

Snow Geese fly over Lamar Valley in March

Snow Geese fly over Lamar Valley in March

They loaded me up with food that they couldn’t take back on the plane and I headed out towards Tower. I pulled in at the Garnett Hill trail and contemplated another hike for just a minute. I so wanted to get to the top of that hill and look down on Yellowstone River. Upon seeing my first colorful moth of the season, I was out of the car and into the warm sunshine.

Nobody else was around, that I could see, and boy did it feel good to get out there! While walking along, looking for a gentle slope up the hill, I found an old elk carcass that looked well-eaten but the hide and a leg was still there. Lots of fur. I wondered when that cow had been taken down. On up the hill, the snow getting deep in some areas, the top was not the top. Had to continue further before being able to see down into the river gorge. Up, up and up and finally there.

All spread out before me - What a view.

All spread out before me – What a view.

I looked west over the river and was suddenly filled with joy and freedom. Screw all of that judgment, I had a right to be there at that moment. I set the camera up to do a couple of self-portraits but did not plan to be jumping for joy and yelling out to the world. I had broken free! I continued on to the east end of the hill and looked down at the bridge and the road below me.

The Yellowstone River runs through it

The Yellowstone River runs through it

After awhile I turned to leave and then spotted my new friends below and one of them was coming up the hill. When he reached me he explained that his son had gone charging up the hill like a Mountain Goat and he wasn’t sure where he went. Ah, there my new young friend was, up on top of the same hill. I gave them the bear spray talk – like don’t go anywhere without it. And, then they told me that they had heard that there was a wolf over there somewhere. Really? Apparently they were able to see it and me through the scope.

My new friend from California

My new friend from California

Not sure how close we were to one another and didn’t stick around to investigate. Once I knew there was a wolf nearby no way was I going to risk disturbing it.

Back at the bottom of the hill I learned of the above conversation. The young man told me that he had watched as I took my self-portrait and threw my arms up. I only blushed a little. Here I thought that I was having a private moment and all of the while had been in the fish bowl eye of the scope. Boy were they going to be assuming and talking now!

I laughed and smiled because, without knowing it, I had been dancing on a hill with a wolf! Wonder what the wolf thought or if it ever saw me?