July 31- 5 AM rolled in way too quickly, but the prospect of more wolves got us out of bed right on time. We headed straight to Slough Creek this time, arriving by 6 AM, and were rewarded with views of the four pups frolicking and playing, plus a good look at the alpha male, who is black. It was good we got there early, as shortly after light hit the hillside (around 7), they all retreated back to the den. We took another "quick" drive down Lamar Valley, but it was mostly a lot quieter than yesterday. Until the place we were planning to turn around, that is; we found ourselves between the entire bison herd's bedding and feeding grounds, and got front-row seats to the entire herd crossing the road. On the way back out of the Valley we saw one grizz in the same spot as yesterday along the river, and another (again, we think one of the same ones as yesterday) further down the road. Then on the way back to Dunraven Pass, there was another huge traffic jam. It was in a spot we'd seen a bunch of elk at 5:30 AM, but this time it was a mother grizzly and two cubs, quite close to the road. Close enough that looking through binocs was almost unnerving. We saw yet another grizz later on out in the Hayden valley south of Canyon (we stop whenever we see people looking out with binocs or scopes, which considerably ups the chances of seeing things). So that was 6 for the day, 11 sightings for the trip, and most likely nine different individuals.
Heading south, we made a quick stop at the Mud Volcano area. This has another of my favorite features in the park, the Dragon's Mouth Spring, which looks for all the world like a dragon's lair, an ominous steaming cave above a surging grey pool - dost thou hear the monster breathe? That stop was cut short and made considerably more interesting by the fact that the entire area has been taken over by bison. The longer trail uphill to several features was closed by the presence of a herd on the path, and while we were there, one huge male fed just above the Spring and then took a stroll along the sidewalk through the parking lot, while another wandered through the other side of the lot. Needless to say, the "keep 25 yards away" rule was violated by many, including us (but we at least kept some space and a fence between us and them at all times, a policy by no means shared by all. One dude didn't even move off the sidewalk as the bison walked by - good way to get gored, dude.)
We had a nice lunch along the Yellowstone Lake and dipped our feet in, then headed up to Craig's pass near Old Faithful (almost made a complete circle of the park) for our afternoon hike. We did a nearly level 6-mile round trip to Shoshone Lake, a large, beautiful lake with no road access. There is a virtually pristine geyser basin on the other side of where we were, but that would have been another 9 miles each way. Maybe someday. The lake was gorgeous, but the trail had the most mosquitoes I've seen since the Adirondack field work days, so we determined to make record time coming back out, and did the three miles in 62 minutes. Not bad for some six and nine year old legs.
Rolled into Grant Village around 6 PM, had dinner and then went to a junior ranger talk on bears and a nice stroll - the campground is right on the lake. But the weight of two huge days is on me now, and the Grand Tetons call tomorrow, so it's time to call it a night.