Iím up early; heading out in the near dark. Itís so nice to be back in Yellowstone!
I make it all the way to Dorothyís with no sightings. I stop here and check in with various other watchers but nothing has yet been seen. I put my scope back in the car and Iím about to head to Slough when I hear Dale at Exclosure on the radio. He has the Junctions! They are in the rendezvous, which means I missed them!
Laurie has just arrived so we head there. Dale updates us, saying the wolves are heading south east at a pretty good clip. We arrive at Exclosure and I hurry a little too much and slip on a patch of ice next to my car, crashing down on my hands & knees. I know Iíve scraped my knee but it doesnít feel any worse than that. Iím not going to miss these wolves!
I start the climb and see Rick already quite high. Iím not going THAT far! He says all 11 are in view. I stop at the first level spot and set up. I see them! The alphas, 907F and 1047M, are moving fast, in and out of sage. The rest follow in an uneven line behind them. They quickly reach the tree line and disappear into the forest.
I pick them up again in a slightly higher open section where there is a snow-dusted trail. This time I recognize 996M in addition to the alphas. Once these three are lost in the trees, I pan to the right and find the others. My count is now up to 7, then I find the three pups plus still-injured 1109, bringing up the rear.
This is my first good view of the Junction pups, who are nearly full grown now. Two blacks & a very pretty gray. They dawdle, as pups will do, especially since they have 1109F for company. Laurie thinks they are her pups.
I watch them as they follow the route their leaders took and soon I see them heading up the snow-trail and into the forest. All too soon they disappear from view.
We watch a while longer, comparing notes, hoping they will re-appear or suddenly burst out flushing a deer or an elk, but they remain out of sight.
So back down the hill we go. Next we head to Coyote pullout, where Bill H has kindly found a grizzly. In fact, itís a sow with two fat coys. They are grazing and grubbing to the north of the road, in clear view for a good half hour.
Itís a beautiful, picture postcard day today, lots of wonderful sun and clean air.
After a nice time with the bear family, we head in. I want to check out my banged up knee to make sure I did not do worse damage to it. Itís a bad scrape and my pants are slightly torn, but once I wash it, I can see it is only a surface wound.
I apply a little first-aid cream and a few band-aids and Iím good to go.
After a relaxing afternoon we head back out, hoping the Junction pups might return to the R-V on their own as they have been doing lately. But we donít see them. They are either in the trees out of sight or still with the adults.
Laurie gets a report from down south. A lot of Wapitis were seen in Hayden today, to the west of the road. We would have missed them had we driven there this morning but Iím always glad to hear the news. We call it a night and head back east.
Today I saw: 3 grizzlies, bison, elk, all 11 wolves of the Junction pack (1047M, 1048M, 996M, 906F, 969F, 1109F, the un-collared male, the un-collared female and all three pups) and the spirits of Allison and Richard.