I begin my last morning by scraping another two inches of snow off the car.
The temp gauge reads 22 as I head down the road. The newly fallen snow reveals the overnight wanderings of creatures great and small.
My concerns about low visibility vanish by the time I reach Pebble Creek. The snow has stopped and it looks like the day will be fine. I thoroughly enjoy my last-day look at the newly draped valley and the freshly whitened peaks.
I stop at Slough and head out to Bob's Knob. Rick has signals for 755 and 754. We see a single alerted elk peeking its head out from behind a boulder up on the ridge west of the Slough den area. She is probably seeing the wolves we are looking for but only Laurie catches a brief glimpse of one black.
Jeff finds a grizzly further out, roaming the ridge so we watch him a while, hoping he might scare up the wolves, but no dice. We also notice a golden eagle in one of the bare trees near the river.
Eventually Laurie and Dan and I head to Aspen to try to find 754's group from that angle, but they do not want to be seen today. A snow squall comes in so we give up and head to Hellroaring.
Calvin and Lynette have been here since dawn. They caught the Silvers moving west of the river, as if returning from a successful hunt. We do see birds coming and going to a spot where the Silvers emerged near a bend in the river, but whatever is down there is hidden from view. The wolves have moved to the extreme left of the view from here and are very hard to see, hidden behind rocks and trees.
The only way to see them is to place your scope on the very edge of the cliff and look to the left. My problem with that is due to the fact that the cliff is still covered with slippery, ice-crusted snow, and you know how I feel about cliff edges!
I try my best but never manage to see what the others see, despite their patient and explicit directions.
So I decide to head elsewhere. I end up at Tower, looking for the Unknowns. I don't find them but I do see a grizzly in the carcass area. Then I notice the yellow plane flying. It spends a good deal of time in the Yellowstone River corridor south of Mom's Ridge.
A little later I hear they saw 754's group chasing elk near the big basalt cliff, and made a kill near the river.
About an hour later I am standing on a windswept hill south of Tower, huffing and puffing, looking down at a beautiful view of a bend in the Yellowstone River. The sun is now out full and we are shedding layers like crazy.
Laurie finds birds congregating in an area that we think marks the carcass spot, but we see no wolves. We can't really see a carcass, either, but the bird activity is pretty telling. There is a herd of elk coming up the hill from the river to the west of us.
We scan a rocky butte above the river, looking for the kind of spots where wolves might choose to rest after a meal. Yet even all these practiced eyes can find no wolves. Then finally Dan sees movement on the opposite hill from us, below the basalt cliff. A lone black wolf trots in the open, heading east; a black wolf with no collar. Aha! It's Narrow Blaze.
He turns his head frequently to look behind him, so we think the other wolves are still in the neighborhood. I am thrilled that my efforts to get up this hill have paid off in seeing a wolf at all, especially a sighting without obstructions and no scary drop-offs!
Narrow Blaze moves here and there, sniffing and listening. He heads toward a rocky outcrop, then eventually aims for a forested area that I guess is above the confluence of the Lamar with the Yellowstone. We follow him in and out of the trees and then finally lose him.
I swing my scope back to the carcass area - it's in very deep grass so I can just barely make out a dark lump there. There are two large birds nearby - one is a bald. The other could be a golden but I think perhaps it's a juvenile bald.
We hang out a bit longer and the wind kicks up. Despite the very warm sun, I start to get chilled. The signals for 754 and 755 are no longer clear so it's a mystery as to where they are.
But Laurie & Dan and I call it a day and head down to the cars. It's about 12:30 so alas, it's time for me to go. I say my thanks and goodbyes and head back west.
By the time I get to Mammoth, all evidence of the morning's snowfall is gone. In fact, it looks as if it hasn't snowed in weeks! I stop to say farewell to Allison and head down Gardiner Canyon one last time.
Another lovely trip to YNP is over, full of memories, sweet and sad. I take Trail Creek back to Bozeman, which rewards me with additional wildllife viewings of pronghorn, mulies, three white tailed deer and a yearling fawn, my first ground squirrels of the year and a beautiful owl.
Today I saw: bison, 1 grizzly bear, bison, coyotes, mule deer, white tailed deer, 2 bald eagles, 1 golden eagle, elk, an owl, pronghorn, 1 wolf (Narrow Blaze) and the spirit of Allison.