My last morning dawns clear and bright.
I drive into Little America for the last time on this trip and see one of those casually beautiful sunrises that happen here every day.
I leave both windows down the whole way so I can hear the birds singing. Is there any sound more beautiful than that of a meadowlark?
Lamar is empty and lovely, green and wild, lush and rugged. Just how I want to remember it.
I drive to the Footbridge, thinking that if I find Chloe and Becky I will join them on DP Hill. But I donít see their van. I get out to look at this beautiful spot and to burn the image into my memory. Oh, how I will miss it!
Then I drive back to Exclosure and park there. As I haul out my scope Chloe pulls in ahead. We hike up the hill and she tells me what Druid activity I missed last night. Apparently yesterday was 253ís day to be alpha. He led the main pack up the Specimen Ridge trail, presumably on a hunt. This left 286F and 255F with 302 and Ellis in the rendesvous. Then, as the light was dimming, those four wolves headed up the same trail out of the valley. Hmmm. This means it is somewhat unlikely that I will see wolves today.
I donít mind missing them as long as they hunt successfully and bring back food for the pups. By our calculations, the Druids have not eaten properly for several days. We scope the surrounding area to see what else is around. The cool weather continues to be a boon to animal watchers. There is a black bear to the west of the r-v and a grizzly roaming the high sage in the fan. Then we see another black bear well to the right of the grizzly, moving in and out of the trees.
I notice some bison moving toward a bare spot in the r-v and then I see a wolf! Itís the lame grey, bedded there, too injured to follow the pack. I wonder what sheís had to eat lately? She stands and resignedly removes herself from the bisonís path. She moves haltingly back toward the foothills. We see her lick her leg several times and Chloe wonders if this might suggest that her wound is infected?
The poor animal flops down and beds again. I canít help but wonder if I will see her on my next visit. I hope that she has a measure of the same luck or fortitude that enabled Limpy to withstand his injury.
I am pleased to report the sight of four elk cows in the flats, something Iíve not seen any other day of this trip. Do they somehow know the wolves are elsewhere? Then we see a coyote trotting along the bank above the river. Hmmm, maybe he senses the valley is temporarily safe for him, too? Also near the riverbank is a family of antelope and one feisty fawn. It seems to me that I have seen an unusual number of antelope on this trip, and especially fawns. I remember hearing not long ago that their numbers were declining. It sure doesnít seem so this year. Chloe wonders if the lower coyote numbers (due to the wolves) could be a factor? She says coyotes are the number one predator of antelope fawns.
We train our scopes on the high meadows of Amethyst Mountain and find an unusual pairing of ungulates: several bighorn sheep and two white tailed deer. I have never seen a white-tailed deer in Yellowstone, only mulies, and I didnít think theyíd be up so high.
Itís a beautiful morning, sunny and cool and I feast my eyes on this long green valley, every inch of it a visual paradise.
And now, sadly, itís time to leave. As I pack up my scope, Chloeís radio crackles with a report that the Druids are heading back this way. Well, if I have to leave, Iím glad itís on this hopeful note.
I hug my friends goodbye and say ďsee you in New Yorkď!
I drive slowly out of the valley, saying farewell to all my favorite spots. So long beautiful Lamar River, so long Blacktail plateau, so long Hellroaring. I smile to see even more elk in Mammoth, and I look up at Allisonís Hill and see the bright blue sky above it. So long, Allison!
I drive out through the Arch and start to cry again. Not from sadness, really, just because I love the place and I must leave it behind. So long 42, So long 21. Good luck Druids!
My last official animal sighting is a little vole that dashes across the highway at the Corwin Springs sign.
Another wonderful trip has come to an end. Thank you, Yellowstone, for sharing your wonders with me yet again. Thank you, Loons, for making it so memorable. Time to start planning for my next visit!
Today I saw: antelope (including a fawn), 2 black bears, a grizzly bear, bison (including calves) a coyote, 2 white-tailed deer, elk, a vole, bighorn sheep, ground squirrels, 1 Druid wolf (the lame grey female) and 3 Loons