DAY FIVE - Saturday, December 30


THE JUNCTION PACK

Itís still snowing as I leave today. Itís 27 degrees.

I notice the plow ahead of me, so thatís helpful! As I pass the avalanche site I see how extensive it was. Glad it wasnít worse!

Yet again there is no activity in Lamar so I continue to Slough. The Junctions are in view again so I pack up for the hike out to Bobís Knob.

The wolves are first seen bedded on a snowy knob. I count all 8, two grays and 6 blacks. They probably feasted on the carcass again last night, but there are coyotes and many birds on it right now.

969 seems restless to me and soon she walks away from the bedded pack and heads up hill. One by one the others rouse themselves, stretching and yawning. Then they dutifully follow their alpha.

Alas, they go out of sight fairly quickly. The coyotes start to squabble a bit and then the wind picks up. After about a half hour of no wolves, I head back to my car for some coffee.

Once I get to the lot, I see Jeff is here on his little stool. Just as I finish my coffee he announces he has found the wolves again, much higher on the slope, a little higher and to the left of the den cliff.

Perfect timing! I set up next to him, locating them quickly with his good directions. We both notice a herd of elk in the general area. The wolves go out of sight yet again but then re-appear. They have quite cleverly circled around the rocks and are now approaching the elk from above.

Quite quickly the elk bunch up, but then most of the wolves bed down, as if tired from the climb. But the ones that do not bed begin to charge. The elk start to run and soon spilt into three groups Ė one runs east, one west and one uphill. I try to follow the wolves. A single bull stops and stands his ground. The wolves run past him. They continue chasing the western group until they enter a forested area and I lose them all. I look back at the remaining elk to see if I can tell where the wolves are from where they are focused. But then Kara calls over the radio. She is scoping from Crystal which offers a slightly different angle. She still has four bedded wolves in view (probably the four with limps).

After a bit, she calls again to say her wolves have gotten up and are now headed east. Sure enough, those four come into our view in my scope. Then I realize I have more than four Ė in fact all 8.

Looks like they did not catch an elk this time. The wolves continue east for a while and we get another good long look at them. Then 969 leads them into another forest and soon they are out of sight, again.

We are all happy for the sighting. We talk and share Christmas treats. Steve takes his two retrievers out for a short walk on their leashes. Suddenly the dogs freeze like statues, growling and huffing. Up ahead, on the campground road is a single coyote, confidently trotting right towards us.

The coyote keeps getting closer but then he freezes, too. He sees the dogs. Steve has a good tight hold on the leashes, and they are both taut as can be. After a really cool Mexican standoff, the coyote shows its intelligence by leaving the snow-packed trail, heading off into the sage, giving the dogs a wide berth.

I get part of it on video and it still makes me chuckle.

Now I hear a report of otters at Picnic, so I head back east. When I reach mid-point I see dozens of cars stopped along the road and dozens more people way out in the snowy flats. They have somewhat foolishly walked out towards the river to see the otters.

Itís more dangerous to do so, here, than at Picnic, because there are little channels and marshy areas between the road and the river which are probably frozen. But they are also covered with snow so you donít have any way of knowing what might crack under a humanís weight.

But the sighting seems to be over, because most people are now walking back to the road. I scan the river and seen nothing moving there, so they have probably moved on.

I drive on to Round Prairie and find a moose. I think there are several more out there, but again, visibility is impaired by steadily falling snow.

I decide to head in early again, today. This endless snow is taking its toll. I think people who went west did see other wolves today but itís too late for me to head there now.

Today I saw: bison, coyotes, elk, 1 moose, 8 wolves (including all of the Junctions) and the spirit of Allison



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