Last night I had a lovely Christmas Eve with John Uhler & Family (Carlene & Rachel) along with my PBS-star-buddies Chloe and Becky. While I was puttering around in Bozeman, Chloe and Becky were in the Park all day, watching wolves (Druids and Agates) and even a Loon (Auwingwalker)!
The weather last night was cold and a bit windy but clear skies with spectacular stars. I had a bright sliver of a moon to light my way for the whole drive from Bozeman to Gardiner. I don’t much like driving in the dark but I had Allison’s tape to keep me pumped and rockin’.
My first morning in the Park dawns clear and bright. Becky, Chloe and I head in over mostly dry roads - until the Blackail - then they become quite icy and we slow down appropriately. A coyote tests our brakes but thankfully no bison! Although I feel a bit less vulnerable against the shaggy beasts this trip - the car I’m driving is a Toyota Highlander - a Hybrid I‘ve called Heidi. The starter takes a little getting used to but I really like it. So far I seem to be saving gas, too.
We meet Marlene Tower and scope there a while, and then Elk Creek looking for Agates but do not find them. Do see a lot of elk and bison, and on an old carcass two coyotes and several birds. As the light grows and reveals the beauty of the landscape I smile to myself and think how happy and lucky I am to be seeing it on Christmas Day.
It’s cold - 13 - but no wind so it is quite tolerable. Chloe and Becky decide to head for Hellroaring and I follow my urge to see the Lamar. More coyotes and a bald eagle on the Tower carcass, many small elk herds through Little America and two substantial herds in Lamar.
But before I get there I see my first otter in Lamar Canyon. I have always wanted to see one here. He is quite robust and you can see his loping tracks on the snow-covered ice.
Then into Lamar which looks so welcoming and gorgeous. No wolves here but more and more coyotes, then three more otters at the confluence, perhaps a mom and two pups? They are extremely entertaining and I see the adult eat four fish in less than a half hour! When I remember to look the other way I see two bighorn posing and resting up on the cliffs.
Then comes the big payoff! Druids! All 11 are bedded on a snowy slope at the edge of the old den forest, in scope-view from Footbridge pullout. This is my Christmas present from Yellowstone. I only see 9 total but one of them is 302. This handsome boy looks terrific, still so black except for a white patch on his chest and his gray chin. There is not much activity but we do get to show them to quite a few visitors who have never seen a wolf.
The day ends with a second wolf-pack sighting, the Agates! I see 8 total and get to watch the pups cavorting with each other, very much like I saw in the fall. They are visible from Wrecker Grade in an area east of Garnet called “Pleasant Valley”.
Today I saw: bison, 9 coyotes, dippers, ducks, 1 bald eagle, elk, 4 otters, 2 Bighorn sheep, 17 wolves (9 Druids and 8 Agates) 4 Loons, 8 wolfers and the spirit of Allison.