When I step outside this morning it seems quite warm but by the time we reach Mammoth it is full scale snowstorm. Nice! We have no trouble driving in it. In fact I much prefer driving on snow to driving on ice! We donít need no stinking snowplows! 8~)
As the light grows, we can see the effects of the extra layer of white and I think it makes the Park look even better. Just before Slough Creek Campground we stop for some coyotes in the road - there is one, then two, three, four, five of them! Clearly a family on a winter morning outing. The whole day turns out to be full of coyotes. Alas, it is not full of wolves - we go wolf-less today, despite our valiant and continued efforts to see through falling snow. The Sloughs were seen by others for a very short time behind the Institute, but by the time we arrive, they have disappeared behind a ridge. No one ever sees them come out.
We also try in vain to find the Druids. We know they are bedded somewhere on Norris, between Footbridge and Soda Cone, but they remain elusive. In our defense, visibility in the entire northern range is, um, really bad. All day. Beautiful, oh yes indeed, but no good for finding wolves!
But no matter - it is a rollicking good day anyway. Becky and I hike to the old Picnic area and explore down there (hoping for otters, but they must be at the same out-of-town wildlife convention as the wolves) But we see cool tracks and there is nothing quite like trudging through a foot of fresh powder!
We also see lots of bighorn sheep - some on Norris and some on Amethyst Mountain. And oodles of elk - lots of beautiful, stately bulls and many cow and calf herds, all very relaxed since there are no wolves around to bother them. And of course bison (which have so far stayed off the roads, thank you very much!) And the scenery is (need I say it?) spectacular. On our way up to Cooke for lunch, the Park looks its very best - Beautimus Maximus I have named it. This is what winter is supposed to look like in Yellowstone!
But the day is all about coyotes. They are everywhere: mousing, running, trotting, exploring everywhere you look. And as the dusk descends and the snow comes down more heavily, obscuring every hill that wasnít already obscured, the coyotes begin to serenade us. First one pack, then a second, and a third, wailing and crooning and barking and snarking - it goes on and on, echoing in super-surround stereo. Just when it begins to dwindle, another voice starts all over again and the others come in to comment back and forth. I get the distinct impression that these coyotes have run all the wolf packs out of the valley. They are reclaiming it for their own. At least for one day, at least for this evening.
Today I saw: bison, 17 coyotes, dippers, elk, 5 bighorn sheep, 6 wolfers and the spirit