My last morning is cold and clear and the stars are wonderfully intense. I drive out in the dark as usual and stop above Blacktail Lakes to await the dawn. I am hoping to hear one last wolf howl. Instead I am treated to a chorus of coyotes. It's very nice.
I wish I had enough time to go all the way to Lamar again. But I content myself with watching elk moving on the far slopes and just soaking up the great expanse of wildness around me. Dawn comes and it is exquisite. I stay as long as I dare and then head back slowly. I stop and watch the Big Boys for a while, especially the elkamoose (for Aneita's sake). I notice another fellow with a broken tine at the end of one antler. Then I wind my way back to Mammoth. I leave a diet coke for Carol outside her hotel door, along with a note of thanks to her and Mark for their friendship and generosity.
Then reluctantly I say goodbye to the beauty. Goodbye to the peace and serenity, to the harshness and the softness, the comfort and the cold. Yet, as is so common on my trips here, there is one more surprise left. I wind my way down the dreaded canyon road and reflect that I didn't see a single antelope. I am debating whether I can squeeze in a quick drive down the old cemetery road when suddenly there one is. On top of a snowy ridge a pronghorn poses. I pull over and stare up, amazed. But it's not just one, it's two, three, in fact, four of them! The first one looks down at me as if to say "We've been here all along. Where were you?"
I thank them and take their picture. Then I drive on, through the arch (tradition) and then through town to the highway. Goodbye you beautiful, generous, wonderful Park. Thank you for another full, rich, fantastic visit. Now, more than ever, I am grateful for the wild places of the world.
I have no travel trouble (thank goodness) on my flights back, nor with luggage or security. I actually get in early, just before midnight. The whole trip felt blessed from beginning to end. I really don't know how I get so lucky, but I am thankful for it. And I can't wait for next time!
Today I saw: 4 antelope, bison, elk, many mule deer and one golden eagle.