DAY FIVE - Tuesday, December 30


36 BELOW ZERO!

Itís minus 22 in Gardiner today. Clear and cold.

I get up earlier than usual because I am checking out of the Super 8 so I can stay with Laurie for the rest of my trip. As I head into the Park I speculate that the action will be in Lamar again because of the carcass yesterday. I have an uneventful drive with an added treat of a coyote in Lamar Canyon. But the real news is the temperature. My gauge reads minus 36!

I reach Dorothyís just as Rick pulls in. Laurie is back at mid-point. Signals indicate the Lamar family is still at their carcass, but the super cold temperatures have created a fog inversion. A thick blanket of white lies over the flats. We can see the bench and above, but nothing in the flats, from road to river.

That doesnít stop us from trying! Little wafts here and there lift the fog enough for brief moments of clarity. During one of these, Rick finds them and lets me look through his scope.

He asks how visibility is in Slough Ė I tell him itís fine, so he heads there.

While Iím here looking through fog at sporadic wolf movement, Steve has found the Prospects at Slough. He is on Bobís Knob and says the wolves are climbing which means we can probably see them right from the lot.

I head there and join Rick. They are on a rocky knob west of the old Slough den area. I see a total of 7; three blacks and four grays. Iím told this is the ďall maleĒ group, which may be interested in splitting from the Prospects, just as the Prospects split last year from the 8 Miles. Mating season is a month away and they are likely scouting out available females from the Junctions. There are several in that pack who will be breeding age this year.

It is crazy hard to scope when itís this cold. Your scope fogs up with every breath you take, then ices over. And if you wear glasses, like I do, your glasses do the same thing. So you have to either hold your breath when you look, or constantly scrape and wipe the glass!

Sharing your scope only makes this worse! However, I learn a valuable lesson today which I should have learned years ago. I can scope without my glasses and see quite clearly. So for really cold days like this, at least I avoid the double burden of keeping my glasses AND my scope un-fogged.

I also learn that I can take it at 30 below, but 36 below is just too much. I last about a half hour, then have to rescue my nose. I have a nose and neck gaiter, which keeps me warm but it makes lens fogging worse. So I leave the Prospects and head east to warm up, hoping the sun has burnt off the fog by now.

When I get to Lamar, though, itís STILL fogged in. I continue to Picnic, hoping for a shot at otters. Nope. I head back to mid-point and scope for as long as I can, which turns out to be about a half hour. During that time the fog lifts here and there so I do see the Lamars bedded out there and one was walking.

But the cold gets to me so I hop back in the car and return to Slough. Instead of stopping there, though, I move on to Aspen, where I join Calvin & Lynette. They have the male Prospects bedded on a snowy hill and the sun is behind us, so the viewing is good. Itís warmed to minus 27 so itís more tolerable (!)

Signals for the Prospect alphas are not received today nor did Rick get any indication of the Junction wolves - except for 870 whose seems to be somewhere near Wrecker. She is an available female. Maybe the Prospect males will be interested in her? Iíd love to see her get some hunting help but I wonder if her injury will dissuade them?

Finally we hear that Lamar has cleared, so we head back east.

I set up again at mid-point. I see a coyote bedded on a hilltop looking forlornly at the carcass area. One black pup is wandering around and becomes fun to watch. It rolls on the ice a bit, cleaning its fur I guess, then roams the river corridor, sniffing here and there. Several more blacks pop up to join the meanderer, then there is the gray pup, too.

Big Gray emerges from the gully, licking his lips from another meal. His belly looks full to bursting. A bald eagle perches patiently in one of the cottonwoods. Story and Dave are here again and Laurie & Dan join us for a while.

Five of the pups begin to play. They follow a lone bison for a while, then cross the river to the south. Three of the blacks bed right on top of the bank, leaving themselves quite visible against the snow and making them easy spots for us to show many delighted visitors.

Then the fifth black comes out to join them and they all head into the river corridor, approaching a log jam and nosing around like pups do. Then Big Gray appears again and finally Steve finds 926 so I have now seen the whole family.

Rick and I talk about the progress of Nateís book about the 06 and whether or not there might be a film version.

I reach my limit of cold (again) and have to pack up and get somewhere warm. Jeff and Steve invite Kathie and me to join them at Miners, so I head that way. I see a bull moose in Round Prairie again. We have pizza and a strange Canadian dish that Jeff orders, called Poutine. Itís really weird but oddly good and itís fun to hang out with these folks on such a cold day.

I drive back to Laurieís in time to see them head off to dinner with their friends Dale & Bobbie. I bundle up and transpose some of my notes.

Oh, boy, it feels good to be warm again.

Today I saw: bison, coyotes, elk, bighorn sheep, 1 moose and 15 wolves from two packs (all 8 Lamars plus 7 male Prospects) and the spirit of Allison




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