DAY NINE - Wednesday, December 15


Heavy snow is falling this morning, with another 2 inches already covering my car. It’s 22 at 6:45AM.

There are fresh fox tracks in the driveway once again.

I am expecting the snow to let up at Round Prairie, but it doesn’t. In fact, once I get past Trout Lake it has clearly increased. Plus, a fierce wind is blowing from the southwest, creating drifts across the road.

There is little visibility at the moment; I can make out only the bottom third of Mt. Norris and can’t see Specimen at all.

I can’t go much over 20, since the drifting is quite irregular. As I come around the curve at Confluence east there is a sudden Wall Of Bison on the road. Yikes! I hit the brakes and start a slow slide. Oh no, I’m gonna hit them! At the last second, the herd skitters away from me, giving way just enough for my car to come to a stop. I just sit still for a minute, catching my breath.

Whew, that was close! I radio L & D to watch out.

The herd remains on the road but starts to move west so after a few more beats, I follow slowly after. I know Confluence pullout is up ahead, so I decide to park there and wait until they move around the curve at Exclosure. But instead the herd veers into the pullout so, with no cars coming towards me, I take advantage and creep past them all in the left lane.

But the blizzard is still quite ferocious so I stop at Trash Can for a while. It’s cool to see how the gusts shape and re-shape the mounds of snow across the road. The single set of tire tracks (Rick’s) I had been following are now obliterated.

Rick radios to me that he’s run into unusually heavy drifting between the Ranch and Dorothy’s that he’s just gotten through. I thank him for the warning.

The saving grace in a situation like this, of course, is there is the lack of traffic. I set off again, just creeping along, amazed at how hard it is to see the edge of the road. I am grateful for Rick’s warning because when I reach that spot, the drifts are REALLY high, over a foot in several places. But my trusty Subaru gets through just fine.

Things improve a lot beyond Dorothy’s but I still go very slowly.

Laurie & Dan radio that they have stopped at Picnic and will scope a bit to the southeast, once conditions improve, as they are sure to do. Laurie is hopeful that the Junctions will soon return from their territory check.

Conditions are better through the Canyon but as I head down the hill towards Slough, heavy snow returns. If the Junctions were up on Divide Ridge we wouldn’t see any of them.

The snowplow is stopped in the Crystal lot, which is not a good sign!

I continue west at a snail’s pace. At Tower Flats a ghostly elk herd emerges up ahead, crossing the road from east to west.

Although it’s tricky driving, I generally enjoy the heavy snowfall. This is normal for December and might start to make up for the general lack of snow overall. Plus, it makes things very pretty. I’m happy to put up with the poor visibility if it helps get the Park “back to normal”.

Once I get to Elk Creek, the snow lessens considerably. I make it to Hellroaring and check in with Jeff and John W. They say Jeremy was out this morning and give me the update. Currently no signals for either 1228F nor her Wapiti beau 1234M. Apparently 8 Mile signals were good to the south from Nature Trail, but he didn’t see them.

I decide to head that way since there is no point in scoping from here. Visibility is better on the Blacktail but still not good. Unfortunately, the biting wind makes scoping unpleasant, so I don’t last long.

Back east I go, stopping here and there, checking in with others on the radio, scoping whenever the snow lifts enough to see anything. I look from Elk Creek a while, despite the wind. Specimen is in whiteout, so I check the closer areas. An elk herd moves over the eastern crest of Vader Hill, probably the same herd that crossed the road earlier this morning.

Around 11:30, with no sign of a change in the weather, I follow Laurie & Dan back east.

Today I saw: bison, elk, some fox tracks and the spirits of Allison and Richard.

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