DAY ELEVEN - Friday, December 17


I’m out at my usual 6:45 time and find another inch of powder on the car. It’s 15 degrees.

I am hopeful that the Junctions might be visible in Lamar this morning, after our wonderful sighting last night. But the day has other plans!

When I get to Round Prairie, I have whiteout conditions, even worse than the last two days. I can’t even see the creek from the road!

The wind is back again, too, blowing thick snow against my windshield, building drifts along the pavement, making it nearly impossible in spots, to see the road edge.

The pack could be bedded in the rendezvous, but we wouldn’t see them in this blizzard!

I get as far as Picnic before it just feels too dangerous to continue. I radio Laurie that I’m going to turn around and just sit at Confluence, to wait out the worst of it.

Shortly after I pull in, another car joins me. I can tell by the way the people are excitedly pointing, that they’ve found otters!

I brave the blowing snow and cross the road to see for myself. Yep, it’s the same mom and two I saw yesterday, even closer than I had them. They cavort quite charmingly but I don’t stay out long.

Instead, I radio the sighting to others, then settle back to enjoy my breakfast and coffee in the warm safety of my car while the snow rages.

It’s almost 8:30 before the intense squall finally passes.

I continue west and by the time I reach Dorothy’s I see a patch of blue sky!

But I find no wolves from here, just some bull elk. It starts snowing again, but this time it’s just a light snow shower, and no wind, thank goodness.

With nothing yet in view, we dutifully spread out from the Institute to Hellroaring. Still, no-one finds any wolves.

I discover Jeremy at Wrecker, where I learn both good news and bad news.

The good news is that 1228F was indeed one of the wolves we saw last night, so she is once again reunited with her family. He did not get the collared Wapiti wolf in Lamar, though, so he thinks the collared black was a Junction. I suggest it could have been 1229F, based on the behavior I saw. My theory is that she may have left the pack to seek her sister and they returned together.

However, the bad news is that the Junctions are not in Lamar but up on Specimen in the Antelope Creek area. Unless they move again, we will not see them this morning.

Rick and John and I scope from Elk Creek for a while since it’s the most logical spot where the Junctions might travel into view. But we have no luck.

By 10:30 the snow seems to have ended. The sky turns bright blue and sunny.

Oh boy, how gorgeous the Park looks under four days of fresh snow. Sparkles everywhere!

I am happy to say that the last four days have brought a decent amount of snow, bringing the Park to almost to normal levels, so I will be leaving on a positive note in terms of snow cover.

My next visit is planned for the week between Christmas and New Year’s, but I may have to cancel. It looks like my condo remodel could start as early as the first week of January, and if it does, I’ll need the holiday time to pack up and store my stuff before the demolition starts.

At 12:45 I leave Silver Gate with many hugs and thanks to Laurie & Dan.

My final drive through the Park is spectacular, with bright sun on a fresh winter wonderland.

The remaining wind makes many short-lived ground blizzards skittering snow over the road in Soda Butte Valley. I enjoy them when they are wispy and thin like this as opposed to the heavy drifting this morning.

I see the limping coyote roaming through Hitching Post pullout, looking for crumbs dropped by careless visitors.

There are few animals in view through the Blacktail, and even less cars or people, but it’s a lovely drive. I have my exit visit with Allison and ask her to keep the snow coming!

There are elk in Chinese gardens and more on the road just outside Gardiner.

I have excellent driving conditions on my way back. Paradise Valley looks much better than it did on my first day.

Bozeman has gotten its fair share of snow, too. I find nearly a foot on the ground when I get back. Yay!

Today I saw: bison, a coyote, elk, 3 otters and the spirits of Allison and Richard.

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