It's about 5:20 when I finally get going. And the day looks overcast.
Instead of starting at Hitching Post, I run into Rick at Footbridge. He has 859's signal to the north and Doug has just set up at eastern curve to scope from there. So I park at western curve to cover this angle.
And it doesn't take long. I see Doug looking up on the high knoll opposite eastern curve. I look there too and suddenly wolves appear! Right on skyline. One, two, three! I can tell one has a collar, so that's 859. The light is still so dim I can't even distinguish colors yet. And then the wolves raise their noses to the sky and howl! Oh wow! It nearly makes me cry.
Then I see more shapes move up the back of the hill and join the howlers. There are now FIVE wolves on the hill, engaging in a greeting frenzy. I hear half-howls and whines and whimpers. I see tails wagging and nose nuzzling. Yes, it's both black puppies and I realize now that they are the ones whimpering and whining.
Oh, how sweet!
Then just that quickly they all disappear out of view, over the back of the hill. I radio Laurie & Dan and learn that they saw what I did from further east. Some people come up to say hi - the family that saw the cougar yesterday. They are good spotters so I ask them to help me find the wolves again. They ask where they should be looking and I tell them what I know about their usual route back to the den hills, through the area where the aspen grow.
Shortly after this they spot movement in that very area. It's a deer - moving warily below the aspen into the open. Hmmm.
I get a little distracted by the incessant squawking of some kind of bird in the willows on the south side of the road. Then I see a weasle dash away from that area. Hmmm, I can't help but wonder if he may have been the cause of their distress.
We keep checking and re-checking the aspen area, but no one sees anything. Then one of the guys points again "look on skyline!" I do and see our deer, now pronging up that slope, the same slope where the wolves howled. Then suddenly two wolves explode into view, chasing the deer. A black and a gray. They are in dead earnest.
The deer changes direction and bounds to the north, aiming for the treeline. I lose the wolves, then pick them up again, then lose them. Next I see a second black running flat out to the tree line. We catch a metalic glint as the sun hits his collar. It's 859.
He disappears into the trees.
After this excitement it's quite for a while. Laurie, Dan & Rick move up to this area and we compare notes. Laurie says she and Dan were able to see a bit more of the chase than I did. She says she thinks they got the deer.
She also agrees with me that we saw Middle Gray, Black Female and 859. While we are wondering where Big Gray is, we hear a long, low-pitched howl just north of us. I smile and say - there he is!
We don't see him, of course, but it makes sense.
After about a half hour, a black is spotted, moving west. I search the hill and finally get a glimpse of her. It's the Black Female returning from the north. Laurie sees her long enough to see she looks fat, meaning she has probably just eaten.
While I wait for more action I have some great conversation with several folk about wolves, bison and the hunt. It is always so nice to meet good people who care about wildlife. And these folk are ecstatic that they just saw wolves.
Welp, it's nearly 9AM. I've had my coffee (with cold milk, natch) and a great morning wolf sighting. It's as good a time as any to say my goodbyes. I am sad to go but glad to have gotten such a great send-off.
Many hugs and thanks later, I am on the road, making my long slow drive throught the most beautiful valley on earth. The huge bison herd has moved back to the western side of the confluence, all over the old Druid rendezvous area.
Another large herd is sacked out close to the road at Picni. I stop to take some digiscope photos.
From Dorothy's I see a pronghorn with two fawns, and watch some geese with goslings. At the osprey nest lookout I finally see all three chicks. And again I see the parent bird sheilding them from the sun by spreading her wings. I just love that gesture. The other adult arrives, carrying a helpful stick. Lots of people stop to look, including lots of kids. I lower my scope to show them the birds and one little girl pronounces them "awesome".
It's fairly quiet through Little America and Tower Junction, but there is beauty everywhere. I stop at Floating Island Lake to listen to the sounds.
At the entrance to the 6 mile Blacktail road, I run into a bear jam. It's for a lone blackie, prowling the boulder field on the south side of the road. I get a glimpse of him but there is no good place to stop so I keep going.
As I come up the rise approaching Children's Fire trail I see more cars and some motorcycles stopped ahead. I stop, too. One cyclist is off his bike, camera in hand, waiting. On-coming cars are stopped and cameras are pointed south.
A large black bear suddenly crests the hill on the south side. He pauses for a second, then crosses right in front of my car. He stops to glance over at the motorcycle dude, as if warning him to come no closer. Then he turns north and disappears into the woods.
I drive on, hoping the others will be smart enough not to pursue him.
After a stop at Blacktail Ponds, where I see more geese and goslings, I head on to Mammoth and have my visit with Allison. As I am comuning with her a blue bird flies across the road.
Another wonderful Yellowstone visit is now behind me. I cap it off with a stop at the Wildflour bakery and bring back yummy treats for me and Barb.
TODAY I SAW: 2 black bears, bison, geese and goslings, pronghorn, 5 wolves (all Lamar Canyon including PUPS!) and the spirit of Allison.