This morning is the coldest yet - minus 20! But, like yesterday, there are also beautiful stars and a full moon.
Round Prairie wears a beautiful fog blanket. No moose visible so I keep going. Soda Butte Valley is quiet, so I continue.
When I pass Confluence and come around the curve I am astonished at the sight of the setting full moon. Itís huge and bright, just starting to sink beneath the tops of the skyline trees. And just now dawn is breaking, so there are layers of color that make a simply awesome sight.
And if that werenít good enough, Iíve just heard wolves are in view!
I join my friends already at Trash Can and set up my scope. Way up above the rocky knob, the same place we had them on New Yearís Eve, are the three Lamars.
Little T is standing broadside, silhouetted on skyline near a tree. Sheís looking down towards the ranch Ė or more likely, at whatever is left of their carcass.
A second black is there, too, partially hidden behind the branches of the tree. I see its tail wagging. Then I see a collar and a pair of distinctive ears. Itís 926F. And Small Dot is bedded to the left of the treetrunk. It looks like the females are trying to rouse the male. He finally he gets up and they all move over the crest and out of sight.
Most of us drive on to the Ranch in hopes of picking them up again.
We do, but after a cursory look at their carcass, all three wolves move back towards the rocky knob. Then they travel higher and come out in clear view along the ridge. Itís a really gorgeous picture: three wolves on a snow ridge with sun behind them!
They bed again and become hard to see so I drive back to Picnic, where I find them again. A little while later, the plane flies in. As a result of that noise, 926 and Little T get up and walk downslope to join Small Dot, who has sensibly bedded under the protective boughs of a tree.
I then hear a confusing report of a wolf seen from Dorothyís, but it turns out to be a coyote.
Itís a beautiful way to start my morning, and to allow me to leave the Park on a high note. I say my goodbyes and thanks, and head west.
The sun is out and the sky is clear. Itís still below zero but warmed to minus 7. But seeing the snow covered landscape under the bright Yellowstone sun is so soothing to the eye. My goodness, this is beautiful country!
I stop at Lamar Canyon West when I see Kara. She is here with Rhonda and Dora Ė they found a beaver down in Lamar Canyon! I enjoy seeing that critter, and Kara points out his tracks. Very different from otter tracks.
I thank them for this sighting and say my goodbyes.
At Lower Hellroaring I see Calvin & Lynette, so I stop to say farewell to them. But first, they show me wolves! They have the 8 Miles again Ė possibly the same six we saw yesterday. They are flat out asleep on a snowy bench above Geode creek. Hmm, thatís a spot where Iíve never seen wolves before. Iíll have to add that to my repertoire of places to scan in the future. I see 5 blacks and a single gray.
But now Iíve got to go, so I head west to Bozeman.
By the time I reach Gardiner is has climbed above zero to a relatively toasty 16 degrees. I visit with Allison and tell her how happy I am with all my sightings this trip.
I decide to drive back via Trail Creek in order to break the jinx of my getting stuck last year. And it works. It is so gorgeous back here! And despite there being a heck of a lot of snow, I am not driving in a blizzard and my car handles just fine.
I see many mule deer, including some bedded in willows with just their heads sticking out. In the end, this drive builds back my confidence and I reach Bozeman just after 2PM.
Another wonderful trip to Yellowstone!
Today I saw: a beaver, bison, coyotes, mule deer, elk, 9 wolves from two packs: 926, Little T and Small Dot of the Lamars plus and 6 of the 8 Miles, and the spirit of Allison.