When I step out this morning at 6:30 I find a thick layer of frost all over the car. Itís cold this morning Ė 28 degrees!
As I wait for the heater to melt the frost I find myself hoping that the Lamars will be in town today. At Footbridge I learn that Rick has their signals to the south but, alas, the whole valley is encased in a thick, low fog.
I scan from Confluence a while but itís impossible to see anything. Rick asks me to go to Dorothyís to relay calls between Slough and Lamar in case there is visibility to the west.
There is no improvement in the fog as I drive but it looks really cool. I do hear a report from Richard who is at Hellroaring. He has howling from there. Kirstie calls in from Elk Creek but has nothing to report other than that the fog is in place there, too.
Then I hear from Stacy at Hitching Post Ė he has howling from north and south. He gets a very brief glimpse of the Lamars in the Middle Flats heading west towards the old Druid rendezvous. The fog closes back in and no other sightings are reported. Carol & Mark climb the hill above Confluence West. It does them no good Ė they are fogged out there too.
In fact, it seems to be getting thicker as the sun rises (which sort of makes sense, meteorologically.)
I join Stacy on the rolling hills but see nothing except four bull elk in the confluence, heading south. That suggests to us that the Lamars are not south or in the confluence area. We start to think maybe we should head west, like maybe to Trash Can?
Just as I am packing up we get a call from Jim & Joelyn. They are at Trash Can and momentarily have 6 blacks south of the river running west. I end up at Mid Point. The fog is STILL really thick, so no one has anything for a while. Rick says the signals are good, though. They are out there Ė we just canít see them! Itís maddening.
At 8:44 we still have thick fog, but Rick sees them for another brief moment. He thinks they might headed up Amethyst Bench. Based on that, I decide to try from Dorothyís thinking maybe I can see above the fog. But the closer I get to Dorothyís the more the fog thickens. Instead of burning off, it seems to be growing even more.
Itís been raining the last three days and the ground is soaked, so I think it is reacting to the bright morning sun and is just rising right up.
At Dorothyís I find Richard & Steve. They tell me they saw Prospects at Hellroaring Ė first just 6, then eventually 10. We yak and laugh and wait for the fog to lift.
Finally, around 9:30 it starts to waft a bit, leaving tantalizing pockets of gauzy visibility. Mark and Carol are at Mid Point and finally call out that the Lamars are in view. We head there and finally I get a glimpse of them.
Thank goodness for the blacks! Through the fog curtain they appear as ghostly shapes but I can see well enough to make out 926F flirting with all the adult males (Dark Black, Mottled and 965). I donít see Twin but others do. There are three more blacks and one of them has a piece of hide. They tug on it and play a bit.
Now I see Twin Ė boy heís big! Ė a bit to the east of the others. He begins trotting southeast and the rest begin to follow, somewhat reluctantly. The fog comes in hides them once again.
Other watchers say they have them in sight, so I move to Trash Can hill. Mark & Carol and Charles and I scope together. They are bedded south of the river. I hear over the radio that both the Prospects and the Junctions are howling at each other at Slough (Junctions to the south, Prospects to the north). Many watchers are frustrated with the fog so they head there.
Finally the fog lifts for good and we begin a really nice, three hour sighting. Many of the adults are bedded comfortably, some scratching, but the pups are playful: Two gray and one black. Unfortunately, they all have mange.
I have not seen this configuration of Lamar wolves so I am inclined to stay here and get to know them. With Carolís help I do my best to recognize one from the other. Itís easier when they are this close. Dark Black is REALLY pretty but I like Twin a lot. He reminds me of 21 although I have not yet seen him be affectionate to 926. Mottled is cool-looking, too. 926 flirts with them all. One of the two yearling females is with this group - Little T. I get a good look at 965M, the only gray adult. He is still a good looking wolf, although he has mange now and is missing patches of fur.
Some bison come near and disturb them from their beds, so Twin begins moving further east. As they move I make inroads in recognizing one from the other. This is just what Iíd hoped for Ė to get to know these wolves a bit via a nice close sighting such as this. I had to wait long enough for it, but itís worth it!
The word from the west is that the two similarly sized packs are keeping their distance. Most people get to see 34 wolves today instead of just 9. But I am content.
Eventually the Lamars go out of sight in the eastern rendezvous. We think they are bedded in the eroded area, where it is cool.
I climb up Geriatric, but Iím a little nervous as I have no bear spray. It takes me a while but I DO find them. They are harder to see now, in high sage. I really would not have found them if not for the bison in the area, giving me clues by their behavior, as to where to look.
At about 1pm I head down. I donít go over to Slough because Iíve heard both packs are now bedded out of sight. Instead I head back to Silver Gate and spend a few hours talking with Laurie & Dan. Laurie wants to go back out tonight, so I re-arrange the car and she comes with me.
We get into a bison jam but finally head up Geriatric Hill. We find them right where I left them, in high sage. We watch all 9 moving east. They head into the confluence area, wade the river, sniff here and there.
Then we spot a grizzly in the confluence, walking west. He crosses the river downstream of the wolves and Iím not sure they even saw him.
Itís another nice, long, close sighting of my favorite wolves, roaming around comfortably in their own territory. Twin is leading them up onto the Middle Flats and towards Dead Puppy Hill.
We hike back down to the car and move to Footbridge.
There are a few other people here and they are delighted when we arrive and find the Lamars again, just as they near Dead Puppy Hill. The pack proceeds east, not in a line but in three of four routes. It feels like a great, old-fashioned Druid-style sighting.
I notice that the pups and yearlings are taking a route that brings them closer and closer to the road and suddenly realize they are going to CROSS THE FOOTBRIDGE itself in their journey back home to the north. Iíve never seen a wolf do this with my own eyes, although I have seen pictures and heard tales. I abandon my scope as they are moving too fast and simply train my binoculars on them.
Itís so cool.
I see three wolves trot quickly across the bridge and then lope through the sage towards the road. A black pup, a gray pup, and a black yearling cross the road quickly and safely just beyond the pullout. YAY.
Now we all move to the eastern end of the pullout to watch the rest of them make their way to 480ís crossing. They are no longer in a line Ė they are spread out all across the flats. But I do get to see Twin and 926 as they cross the creek. 926 finds something to roll in on the far bank. She is on her back with all her legs in the air.
Then she gets down to business and crosses.
The people in the pullout are really good Ė they do not jump in their cars to head east so they can be on the road as the wolves cross. In summer you cannot stop people from doing that, but this group is very respectful.
Once they are all across we wait for a howl but it doesnít happen. We linger in the pullout as the light fades, talking and chatting, reliving our lovely sighting.
Today I saw 1 grizzly bear, bison, coyote, elk, 9 wolves (all Lamars including 926F, Twin, 965M, Mottled, Dark Black, Little T and 3 pups) and the spirit of Allison