I slept well last night; in fact so well that I am running late this morning!
A light snow is falling, but I doubt the prediction last night for 9 more inches. Baronnette looks exquisite in the early light, looming high on my right.
As I pass the Soda Cone I see some bull elk on the northern slopes, and I find a coyote perched on the hilltop opposite the Hitching Post.
By the time I get to the Confluence, about an inch of snow has fallen, judging by the tracks of cars ahead of me. It is just enough to make everything fresh and beautiful. I grin when I notice there are no tire tracks at all heading east.
I see Laurie at Dorothy's and learn that Rick has signals for the Slough Trio, in the general area of Secret Passage. I scope from here a while, but the snow makes for pretty poor visibility. I move down to Coyote and scope with Jeff, while Laurie and Dan go on to Fisherman's.
We can hear sandhills cooing but can't find them through the veil of snow. Some bison walk up the road and pass us, sporting an attractive dusting of white on their wooly backs. We find a few birds flitting about in the Secret Passage area which makes us hopeful for wolves, but not enough to convince us that a carcass is nearby.
I suggest we head to Slough to try from that angle and drive west. As I come around the curve at Lamar canyon I see Rick in the pullout. He signals me to join him. He's found the wolves! They just crossed the road in front of him.
Jeff, Laurie & Dan arrive and Rick tells us as he was driving west he saw wolves coming down the north side of the hill. He stopped and backed up to give them space. The wolves hesitated, but then came down and cross, continuing down the rocky canyon to the river. He shows us their pawprints in the freshly fallen snow.
We line the edge of the road above the river, searching the hill on the opposite side. Jeff finds them, first and then we all see them, weaving between trunks and boulders, about half-way up. I only catch glimpses but I do see all three. It's 755M,754M and the 06 female. Yes, she does look pregnant!
We follow them until they top out, and get one very good clear view of them trotting to the northwest. All too soon they are out of sight. We wait a little while, then head to Slough, but we never see them again.
At Slough I hear more news: the Silver Pack is thought to be in the Tower area, and the Canyons DID make a kill last night. They are visible from an overlook on the edge of Gardiner Canyon. This bodes well, so I drive further west. I hook up with Rick again at Curve. He has Agate signals!
I hop out to get directions on where to scope and somehow lock my keys inside my car. I am very embarassed but Rick assures me this happens quite often, so much so that Rangers are now trained specifically to resolve such situations.
Rick calls a Ranger for me and I stay here to look for Agates. Jeff arrives to keep me company and we search mightily but do not find any wolves. About two minutes after the Ranger arrives, he has my car door open. I sign some paperwork and off he goes. THANK YOU MR. RANGER!
I review my actions and remember hearing an odd beep that I had ignored. Welp, another lesson learned!
But the Agates remain elusive so on I go. A little later I am walking down the hill from Wrecker Grade to join Rick on the shoulder. We look to the southwest and in a few minutes I have my second pack of the day!
First I find a bedded gray, then a collared black. It's the Silvers! The snow continues to fall but not quite so heavily as before. Another gray appears - and Laurie tells me this is the old alpha male. I see his poor injured ear. He stands with his head low, a bit apart from the other two, who are bedded together.
The old guy has some mange (although his legs are hidden and I can't really see it at the moment) and I wonder he is unable to bed in snow? He looks decidedly unhappy, but that could be because of the tilt of his ear. He does not look relaxed. He does eventually bed down, but I got the impression that something is not quite right.
A few minutes later, the alpha female comes walking over from the right. She is not really a pretty wolf; she looks kind of scruffy. Her coloring is a dull beige. But she is clearly pregnant, so clearly she's attractive to 147. The gray bedded near 147 is also pregnant but I never see her stand up so I can't tell.
The alpha female receives a very subdued greeting from 147 and the uncollared female and she beds near them. Then I see movement higher on the hill and to the left. It's another gray, 753F. She is a very pretty wolf and seems to have a wonderfully affectionate nature to boot. She stops to nuzzle the old male, with her tail wagging like a pinwheel.
Then she bounds down through the sage to the others and I see her lower herself in happy submission to 147 and the alpha female. Next she flops next to her mom and then rolls over and "embraces" the alpha female with her forepaws.
I've now seen all five members of the Silver Pack. Visibility continues to improve and soon I see patches of blue above me. But it still looks very gray in the east so maybe those 9 inches will fall after all!
The Silvers remain in view a long while, but the action dwindles to an ear twitch or two. So eventually I carry Layla back to my car and head off.
I go back to Dorothy's to try to find the Slough Trio, now that I can actually see the tops of the hills, but I find nothing moving up there. I do see a coyote running right at the river's edge below Fisherman's pullout. He looks back a few times and keeps running. I keep expecting to see another coyote chasing him, but nothing appears. Hmmm. Something spooked him, that's for sure, but I never learn what it was. He finally changes directions and heads up the hill toward the road.
The snow has finally stopped but now it's gotten quite windy. So I begin to head west. I check on the Silvers and find them in the same spot. I help a few other folks see them and that feels good. I scope at Elk Creek by myself for a while but see no wolves.
So I decide to try to find Calvin & Lynette. Maybe they will still have the Canyons.
Welp, this is my lucky day. I find my friends at the same pullout across from the Mammoth Campground. And they still have their wolves in view!
Calvin shows me where to look. The three wolves are bedded low on Mt. Everts, but higher up than they were yesterday, on one of the long, eroded fingers of that singular peak. The slope is covered with freshly fallen snow and all three are relatively easy to see, that is, as long as you know where to look!
The alpha female is half-hidden behind a sagebrush, curled up and resting, while the two males are bedded with their heads up. Calvin tells me I can still see the carcass by walking straight out from here to the overlook and I see a clear path leading in that direction. He adds that the wolves finished a second feeding about a half hour ago.
I decide to postpone that hike till later, because I am staying in Gardner tonight and want to check in first. So, down the hill I go. At the 45th parallel I have to stop for elk on both sides of the road. Turns out they are trying to get away from a man with a camera who keeps trying to get too close.
As I come out the Gate a flock of mountain blue birds comes soaring by. Oh! Amazing! A huge flock of gorgeous, irridescent blue males. Oh they are beautiful! And there are many pronghorn and elk in view down here as well.
Once I get squared away at the motel and have a bit of dinner, I head back up the Canyon and stop again at the big lot. Alas, Calvin and Lynette are gone, but the wolves are still in view. They are on the same slope, but have shifted their positions a bit.
Peter the smugbug photographer has just come back from the overlook to get his camera and tripod. I am happy to have the company so I head out with my gear for a peek at the carcass below. However I neglect to check on the wolves periodically as I walk, and by the time I get set up I can no longer find them!
At first I figure they have headed to the carcass and all I need to do is wait, but they never show up.
The carcass is quite visible - half in and half out of the water on the far side, just downstream of a "V" shaped gravel bar. It is covered with black birds and one bloody-faced bald eagle.
I continue to scan for the Canyons, as does Peter, but we never find them. A little later, a Ranger tells us he saw a white, a black and a gray moving east just above the river while he was driving up from the Boneyard.
Well, I do enjoy seeing the view from here, but I hope Calvin and Lynette will forgive me for losing their wolves. With a bit of time to spare before evening, I drive to the Upper Terraces, seeing many elk, bison and one intrepid coyote. I scope the area, hoping to find the Canyons on the move, but don't find them.
Ah well, back down the Canyon I go. I stop at the big lot just inside the Entrance Gate and watch elk on one side and pronghorn herd on the other. Soon I am totally surrounded by ungulates which suits me just fine! I notice that many of the elk have enormous clumps of mud stuck to their hooves. I guess mud season has begun and I wonder how hard it is to run with that extra weight?
I turn in early tonight for one reason only - to watch LOST. Hah! I guess I am aas addicted to that show as I am to Yellowstone!
Today I saw: bison, 5 coyotes, a bald eagle, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, 11 wolves from three packs: Slough Trio (including 754M & 755M), the Canyons (including 712M) and the Silvers (including 147M & 753F), and the spirit of Allison