I find two inches of fresh snow on the car this morning. It’s 19 degrees. The snow has stopped, though, and it’s easy driving in.
The temp drops to 10 at Round Prairie and I enjoy seeing the sparkles on the freshly fallen snow.
I find the crew and Rick at Wrecker. Signals put the Junctions in the river corridor, but no one has seen them yet. We spread out. John is at Rick’s; Jeff at Elk Creek, while I join Laurie & Dan at Boulder.
9AM comes and goes yet still nothing. I move to Rick’s. The sky is clear, and visibility is good. Finally, just as I’m pouring my coffee, the radio crackles to life and I hear the magic words “Come to Hellroaring!
Today it’s Cameron who found them. The Junctions have just returned to their boulder-strewn hilltop. A few of them nose around their Tuesday carcass, picking at the bones.
When the hungry few give up and return to the group, they spark a rally and that evolves into a delightful play session among the pups and yearlings.
After a while, the adults move down towards the cliffs, going quickly out of sight. It takes a while, but they begin to emerge to the west. My count rises from 18 to 20, which is the full pack, currently.
For a while they continue to travel in plain sight moving west, then angle north, aiming for Hellroaring creek. Once across the creek they continue uphill for a while.
The alpha female turns left and aims for the tornado drainage. The pack follows in a mostly single-file line along this well-worn route. When they become hard to see we move to Lower HR. Dan finds them from here.
Their overall direction seems to be towards the Cottonwood drainage, on one of their usual trails.
They head uphill into thick forest, and I pan ahead seeking the next open area where they might come out. Sure enough, I catch glimpses, some short, some longer, as they emerge into those snow-covered meadows.
I see a few bull elk at the back edge of trees. Some of the wolves run after them, but the elk soon reappear on a ridge above the wolves, so it was not a successful hunt.
The pack continues westward, towards a long line of trees that marks the edge of Little Cottonwood drainage. Just before they reach those trees, most of them stop and a rally develops. Then they bed for a while. Laurie and I suspect these are adults who need to catch their breath!
We think they might stop here but after about 15 minutes they are up again, continuing their journey west. Just before noon they disappear into the trees.
The day is gorgeous, and we all enjoy the low winter sun.
Laurie & Dan and I agree it’s time for our break.
On our way back I see the limping coyote near Picnic. I stop to watch him a while and my friends get way ahead.
When I start driving again, I feel like I have Lamar all to myself.
At moose meadow (Lower Baronette) I see a few cars stopped. Aha, it’s a moose to the north. A gigantic bull!
I pull over and get out with my binocs, smiling at several other visitors who are enjoying the sight.
I ask the man “Is this the biggest moose you ever saw?” “No” he says, to my surprise. I guess he’s been to Alaska. “Second biggest?” I press, teasing him. He relents and says “Well, it’s the biggest moose I’ve seen in Yellowstone, how’s that?”
I grin at him.
I take a few photos and continue on, slowing down for a tiny squirrel who dashes across the road at Warm Creek. Well, I saw Bullwinkle; now I’ve seen Rocky!
We decide to stay in tonight and hope for wolves tomorrow.
Today I saw: bison, a coyote, ducks, elk, 1 moose, 1 squirrel, 20 Junction wolves (including the alphas,
907F, 1048M, 1228F, 1229F, 1276F plus 13 others, and the spirits of Allison and Richard.