Today is my last day. I have lots of mulies near the road on the way in and I notice a bit of wispy fog on the road, I guess due to the rain yesterday.
I join Rick at Pebble and we try out several spots that offer a view of the carcass, but we see no wolves there.
I decide to go further west. As I come down the hill past Trout Lake I see 3-4 cars stopped on the road, all with their flashers on (itís still very early). I stop behind the last car and with my binoculars I see 926 in the sage to the north, about 100 yards from the road. I get a quick look at her. There is no one behind me, so I turn around and drive back to Soda Butte East, so I can pull over safely.
I find her again from here and enjoy watching her all by myself. I can see more cars parked at SB Midpoint. They might be seeing her or perhaps another Lamar wolf. 926 keeps lowering her mouth to the ground and I wonder if maybe sheís eating something.
She raises her head and clears up the mystery. In her mouth she has the entire hind quarter and leg of an elk. Did she carry that sucker all the way from Round Prairie? She is trying to pick it up and carry it up hill, but itís enormous! She tries about 3 times, then gives up and continues up the hill without it.
She is not as large as her mother, and this looks really heavy. But she is just as un-fazed by set-backs as her mother. She's not gonna waste time with this huge morsel while she has a full stomach. "Feed the kids first, then come back" she seems to decide. "Or get the man to bring it".
Hah! I just love her!
No matter. She is on a mission, moving fast. I try to follow her in my scope but canít keep up. I try with my binocs and do find her again. With all her gray mottling, she has become nearly the same color as sage and shadows.
I follow her a while but soon lose her in the trees. I donít think Iíll see her again from here so I decide to head west to where the other cars are. Dorothy and Kevin and Rick are here, but when I arrive I discover that they had been watching Small Dot, also in the sage hills to the north, but further west.
He has now traveled out of sight, toward the den.
Over the radio I hear that Doug is up on Geriatric Hill and has at least one Junction wolf at the trusty bison carcass. So Dorothy and I drive west to join him.
By 6:45AM I have a two-pack day! 996M is in view on the now 6-day old bison carcass. I canít imagine there is much left but he finds enough to fill his belly. After a little while he begins to move slowly west and we are able to follow him a long time.
We also see the raven nest high in a cottonwood tree above the river. You canít miss it because the baby ravens are really noisy!
There is more radio chatter: Melba is in Lamar today, east of the cone. She has found 926 again, who has come back to the elk haunch. As I climb down the hill to my car I listen to Melba describe how the daughter of the 06 has found a way to carry her prize up hill: slowly. Itís possible she ate part of it or managed to break it into a few smaller pieces.
Dorothy and I set up at Eastern Curve in hopes of catching a glimpse as she heads back to the den area. Alas, she eludes us, but itís nice to scope from here for once. We keep a sharp eye out in case any puppies might venture down but we donít see any.
Kevin calls from Coyote. He has spotted three Junctions heading west. They are identified as 907F, 1047M and 1048M. Dorothy and I travel there, but arrive a few minutes too late.
Instead we see 996M, scent trailing the others. We watch him climb the eastern end of Jasper and trot across the bench. As expected, he heads toward the back of the bench and fairly soon we lose him. That area leads to the Crystal Creek drainage, which is one of their usual routes back home.
Once he goes out of sight, we scope around for other critters. Someone finds a black bear low on the front of Jasper, turning logs and grazing. I find the bald eagle nest and see single fledgling fed by an adult. And we find a few elk and numerous pronghorn.
Alas, the time has come for my goodbyes. Iíve decided to head back east to tidy up Laurieís house before I go. Once thatís done and Iíve re-stocked the ice in my cooler, I pull out the driveway and start for Bozeman.
But Iím stopped even before I get to the gate. They Park has finally started the road repair job. Itís annoying but necessary and Iím hoping the pullouts will soon be free of gravel and usable again. One of the workers tells me they are starting here and going all the way to Tower. My wait is 20 minutes, and then the pilot truck arrives and lead us through. But still, itís as pretty a place as you can imagine for a traffic jam.
I notice that all the creeks are muddy again. Itís all due to the rain last night which I suppose was far heavier in the mountains. The color of the water in Lamar Canyon looks like how I like my coffee! And the lupine is so gorgeous, whether you are seeing it at a distance (the purple sage) or up close. Itís every shade of blue and purple. Just beautiful.
There is a large herd of elk with calves past the High Bridge on the rolling hills to the north of the road. Cars are pulled over haphazardly, and people out of them, running up the rolling hills to take photos. The elk are bunched nervously on a further hilltop, looking exactly as they do when wolves are around.
In Mammoth I say goodbye to Allison and talk with my office, then set off for the highway drive. It turns out to be easy and pleasant, and Iím back in Bozeman by 3PM.
Today I saw: a black bear, bison, coyotes, mule deer, 2 bald eagles (including a fledgling), elk (including calves), pronghorn (with fawns), a raven nest (with ravens), 2 wolves from two separate packs (996 of the Junctions and 926 of the Lamars) and the spirits of Allison and Richard.