Bozeman sports a bright blue sky as I leave for the Park. Itís 9AM, a cool, 37 degrees. There is still a good deal of fall color in town even though it is technically past peak.
The day I arrived there was snow on the ground from a morning storm, but it has since disappeared. I have been issued a cute little car Ė a new species called a Ford Eco-sport. It fits very well in my garage and has heated seats!
Just before I leave I talk with Laurie who tells me the Junctions are visible at Slough near the Marge Simpson tree. She says Bill found them while everyone else was looking for them from Elk Creek! There is quite a lot of traffic this morning but the roads are dry and driving is easy. Along 89 I enjoy seeing snow on the mountains, although the lower slopes have just a light frosting.
The sky remains clear as I drive so I have to apply sunscreen against the hot Montana sun. I see many mulies around Emmigrant and several pronghorn just outside the entrance gate. Tonya is manning the gate so we chat a bit.
Itís now 11AM. I see many elk cows grazing in Chinese Gardens, guarded by a big bull. I visit with Allison and see another harem of elk with two yearling calves, guarded by another bull, nicely silhouetted on the ridge above the river.
The Blacktail road is closed, probably due to all the early snow the Park has gotten. I see bison on all the ridges in the area.
I stop at Hellroaring overlook, seeing one guy here. Heís from the wolf project and shows me a grizzly sow with two coys. Nice way to start my week. No wolves are visible here, though. He says the Junctions are still to the east at Slough.
As I arrive in Little America I radio to see if Laurie is still out. Carol replies and confirms she is. I join Carol & Mark, Stacey, Rick & Laurie at Lamar Canyon West and set up my scope. Most of the Junctions have already moved out of sight but Iím in time to see four of them Ė three blacks & a gray.
It is thought that they have a carcass in the area. I see two bald eagles perched in a nearby tree which adds to the evidence. Laurie fills me in on the activity of the day and then we head east.
I see a single moose at Round Prairie, but then I see Laurie stop just before Pebble to talk with someone in the opposite lane. I join her in the small lot just east of the campground. She tells me the Lamars are in the area. 926F was just seen from the Thunderer pullout, crossing the road to the north.
I stay here as Laurie heads back to Round Prairie. Moments after she leaves I hear a howl, a single voice, unmistakably a wolf. Itís 1PM. I hear no answering howls but try very hard to find the howler in the forest. I hear the howl again, very close. Plaintive. Laurie says 926F often gets separated from the pack and tries to reunite with them. I just sit here, by myself, listening and trying to catch a glimpse. Little did I know then, but this was to be my final encounter with her. She was shot, legally but unethically just outside the Park, seven weeks later.
Laurie searches from various angles but does not find her. Eventually we give up and head east to Silver Gate. As I unload my stuff we talk about her upcoming procedure. She is very worried about it and I try to assuage her.
We have a nice visit and a good dinner, then head back out for an evening viewing.
We stop at Pebble and talk to people but no one has seen any wolves. They are all looking at moose. I keep going and join Rick again at Lamar Canyon West. Stacey has been here the whole time, waiting for the wolves to move again. I see a canid but it turns out to be a coyote. Rick kindly sets me straight but itís very embarrassing!
Our patience is finally rewarded and around 3:45 I see all 11 Junctions as they suddenly re-appear, moving between the Marge Simpson tree and the Southern round tree. At first they are in two groups, one heading right and the other heading left. The group heading left wins as the right group changes direction to follow. We only have them for about 5 minutes before they go out of sight again.
Someone suggests ďBoulderĒ so we all pack up to move there.
Unfortunately, we do not find them again despite some serious searching. So, as the light wanes I head home.
Today I saw: 3 grizzly bears, bison, a coyote, elk, pronghorn, moose, 11 Junction wolves plus the howls of 926F, and the spirits of Alison & Richard