DAY NINE - Saturday, January 3


My first glimpse of the world this morning is white Ė two more inches of fresh snow on my car. It brushes off easily except on my windshield, which is iced over. Itís 13 below! But the defroster gets the job done and off I go.

Laurie and Dan are ahead of me because I had to pack everything up today.

I join them at the confluence. For my final day, I finally have Lamar wolves visible in the morning in Lamar Valley! They are basically in the same spot, low in the willows of the river bottoms.

However, there is a misty snow-fog this morning, making visibility troublesome. I mostly see dark shadows moving through the veil of snow. With the holidays, the plow did not get out quite yet but it should come through soon. It was easy enough to drive in as long as you go slowly, and I have to say, itís really pretty.

I keep thinking visibility will improve but it doesnít. Instead, thick snow builds up on the cars and on our shoulders and hoods and sleeves and scopes. And of course, itís cold.

Dave and Story decide to climb up Confluence hill with Rick. I think again about it but chicken out. Then Dave comes back down, telling us the wolves seem to be moving to the west. I have lost them in the snow anyway, so I start scanning to the west. Then Rick calls to say the photographer is out there again and he thinks this time they are spooked.

(Later they find the guyís tracks from his car at Hitching post. Rick spoke to him to explain what happens) I find the wolves for split second but then they disappear again. Finally, when they climb the old river bank, they reach an area that is slightly less fogged. Thank goodness there are so many blacks! Otherwise I donít think Iíd have found them. I count at least five, maybe six blacks. They are having a rally so itís hard to know which tail belongs to which body. But they stay in view long enough everybody in the pullout to see them.

They continue moving west. They spread out a bit and luckily the snow veil lifts just enough for me to count and I get all 8. The pups begin to play as pups will do when they are well fed and feel safe. One of them pounces in the snow sort of like a fox, but not as all out. I watch them tussle with each other, pushing the gray to the ground and rolling about. One pup is a homebody type, he/she stays with the alphas and I watch those three bed, while the other five keep playing.

Visibility is decent for a while but not very long.

Soon we get reports of howling at Slough and a brief sighting of some of the Prospects to the west near the Marge Simpson tree.

I stay here, since I feel I have not seen enough of the Lamars. But around 9:30, visibility begins to deteriorate again. The pack has moved to the southern r-v. The alphaís are bedded, along with two pups, leaving three blacks and the gray to continue their robust play.

With the snow thickening again I decide to head west. I join other watchers out on the knob. Steve is up on Daveís Hill. The Prospects now have a small carcass below the Marge Simpson tree. I canít see the carcass, and in fact, I canít see any wolves yet. They were last seen heading west.

Visibility is bad here, too, but more importantly there is a killer wind making scoping quite unpleasant. Nothing like a steady stream of ice pellets in the face! So when the wolves go out of view I call it a day.

I say my goodbyes to Jeff, Steve, Calvin & Lynette and Rick. I pack up and get in my car and crank up the heater. I take my time through the Blacktail as the road is kind of unpredictable. Once I reach the S-Curves, though, the weather improves considerably. In fact the sun actually makes an appearance! I stop at Blacktail ponds but there is hardly anything left of the frozen bison carcass.

I leave the Park and enjoy the new snow on the Gallatins. The sun comes out in full and the roads are decent. Nevertheless, I take Divide and Trail Creek back to Bozeman. Itís a little touch and go on the steep uphills, I have a bit of high-centering but Iíve been through worse. And still, I find this preferable to that crazy pass.

Another great trip!

Today I saw: bison, coyotes, elk, big horn sheep, 8 Lamar wolves and the spirit of Allison.

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