I took these pictures a few weeks ago.
It was cold, and although we had had snowfall a few times by now, it had not stayed.
One of the things we look forward to throughout fall is heading out the North Fork.
By this time the tourists have all gone home.
The East Gate of the park is closed.
And the animals have begun to move down from the mountains, to take up residence in the "low lands" of the North Fork for the winter.
Every few weeks we head out there to monitor the wild life.
To determine how many bison and elk and big horn sheep have moved down, and how close we really are to winter proper.
On this particular Sunday we drove into town early, as we so often do on Sundays, and ate brunch at the historic Irma Hotel.
Again........the tourists are long gone..........and at this time of year we relish in the "just us chickens" - the locals - that are left behind to hibernate for the winter in this now-quiet town.
After a delicious all-you-can-eat brunch we headed west.
Through the canyon between Cedar Mountain and Rattlesnake Mountain.
Through the tunnels leading to Buffalo Bill Dam.
Past the dam and past Buffalo Bill Reservoir.
Through the tiny mountain-surrounded community of Wapiti.
Until eventually arriving at the Shoshone National Forest that would take us all the way to the East Gate of Yellowstone National Park if we wanted to drive that far.
Before we made it to the forest we looked to our right and were excited to see a herd of a couple of hundred elk.
They were standing in the middle of a huge pasture - a common place to see them.
And they were surrounded by the rugged mountains that we have come to love so much.
LC pulled off the highway and I climbed out of the Suburban to snap some quick pictures.
Another vehicle pulled off the highway at the same time - another local couple doing the same thing that we were doing.
Monitoring the wild life in the area now that the tourists were gone, the weather had turned, and we had the highway and the world to ourselves.....................
Ten miles further down the highway we pulled off again.
This herd was smaller, more watchful, and grouped tighter together.
As I snapped pictures LC and I looked around for signs of what may have spooked them.
We saw nothing.
It was an overcast and very cool day, and the mist sat low in the canyons between mountains.
The leaves on the hardwood trees were still bright yellow, but would be gone soon enough.
And even though there were plenty of wolves and bears in the area, on this day we could see none.
But something had scared these beautiful animals and they watched us closely even though we were a long way from the herd................
30 minutes later we were deeply in the forest.
We had pulled off the highway and driven a short ways down a gravel double track trail that paralleled the Shoshone River.
This was a favorite pull off of ours, and many times we have walked along the trail, walked along the river, enjoyed the sight of the pine-tree-filled mountains that surround it.
It is a beautiful place and we were there at a beautiful time of year in mid fall...................
As I was standing above LC and Kory snapping random pictures of our surroundings, I saw LC studying a tree.
He looked up at the tree.
He looked up at me.
He wordlessly pointed high on the tree, I turned to look at what he was pointing at, and was stunned...................
There were large claw marks on the tree.
One set high, one set much lower down, and one more set close to the base of the trunk of the tree.
I studied them for a moment and then turned to look back at LC.
Wordlessly we both looked at each other and then looked around us.
They were without a doubt bear claw marks.
High enough on the tree to have been made by a grizz..................
We had been to this very same place more times that we could count over the years and over the three times that Cody had drawn us back.
We had enjoyed the lushness of this place in summer.
The starkness of this place in fall.
The beauty of this place when it was covered in snow and ice in the winter.
We had taken pictures last winter of a herd of big horn sheep that was plodding through deep snow right at the turnoff to this place.
We had driven around a lone bison that was standing in the middle of the trail - normally a gravel trail but at that time covered in snow.
We had walked through the trees following the river and walked up the trail to the highway while I snapped picture after picture of this wonderful place.
And never once had we seen such clear evidence of a grizzly bear as those claw marks on the tree.
I climbed over the rocks and down to meet Kory and LC at the river..............
Looking back at The Beast and the tree with the claw marks..................
Claw marks above and below LCs extended arm................
As we did every time we visited this place, we wandered by the water for a few minutes and then climbed back up to the trail, intending to walk and take pictures.
We wandered up trail about 20 feet and then wordlessly turned to look at each other.
The trees and bushes were thick.
Beautifully yellow in mid fall.
On both sides of us was thick undergrowth, thick brush.........perfect cover.
For a cantankerous bear that was trying to eat as much as possible before going into hibernation.
There was no getting around it...............we were creeped out.
And so we headed back to the Suburban...................
We drove just a little further before turning around and heading back to Cody.
There would be no all-day and epic adventure.
But we saw beautiful on a mid fall Sunday...................
Fall, temperatures, fall, fall! Let the weather mellow and the year fall into peacefulness.......................Terri Guillemets