My mom (the wise botanist Susan Moyle Studlar) and I leaped from the car at stop after stop, and clicked away with our digital cameras. For most of the trip, my dad (Donley Studlar, political scientist of the world) drove, and took the opportunity to tilt back the driver’s seat and rest at most of the stops. Along the Lamar River, an osprey chick poked its fuzzy head out from the nest like a little periscope and peeped hungrily as it saw its mother soaring home, with fish in talons. By the bridge over the Yellowstone River near Tower Falls, a black bear sow and two cubs chomped on grass, ambled down the hill and hopped across the water. Their black forms disappeared and reappeared among the sage.
On green slopes in the Lamar Valley, with snowy mountains in the background, eight bighorn rams sat and rested, while a red fox trotted up and down and around in the foliage, listening and sniffing and periodically looking back over its shoulder. Farther down the road, we walked into the valley and saw pronghorns graze in the distance to the north. To our west, a coyote ran in a wide arc around a resting bull bison, perhaps cautious not to disturb the aggressive herbivore while hunting for ground squirrels. In a mucky place on the other side of the road, six mountain bluebirds alternately hovered and landed on the ground or on the sage. Remarkably, various wildlife photographers honed their telephoto lenses on the little beauties.
Back at the visitor centers and government housing areas, I met some familiar Homo sapiens. Many of my old comrades from past seasons of ranger work were back. I received hugs from Rosa and Dana, shook the hands of Michael and Corey and Mike. It’s seems like the months of November through April have faded into oblivion, and work and life in the Yellowstone community has returned, after a week’s hiatus. It is good to be back. And the return is made all the sweeter by the chaos of the winter months. On November 9, 2016, I thought that I might not live to see this day, that the newly-elected president might have started a global nuclear war by now. That is still a very real possibility and I remain concerned. But for now, I revere and revel in the wonders of the Yellowstone.
Photos #11-15 and #17 (of Black Pearl Spring with moss, lichen-covered boulder [broad view and close-up], Eriogonum, and Ross at Storm Point) by © Susan Moyle Studlar. All other photos by © Ross Wood Studlar.
Due to limited internet access and other demands on my schedule, it may be two months before my next blog post.