My last morning starts with bight Orion above me.
On my way in I pass a lone jogger on the left side of the road, wearing a black outfit and reflectors on his shoes but no-where else. Not sure I'd want to be in his shoes if a bison came along.
So far this morning, no one has any wolves so when I see Jan & Bill stopped at Trash Can I pull in next to them. We three set up on the little hill and scope for wolves. It's COLD! We see a grizzly leaving the are where the little bison calf carcass was. He heads into the flats toward the trees.
We see elk in many places. We see bison. We look for wolves on the Norris slopes, at the confluence and all over everywhere. None. A visitor comes up and joins us for a few minutes and finds a bald eagle in a tree. We see ravens and coyotes now on the little bison kill.
I turn my scope to the cliffs on Amethyst and find some sheep. First I see three of them right on the ridge line. One big one and two small ones. Then the two small ones leap into the air and suddenly they are running straight down a cliff. Then I see they are chasing each other. It's probably lambs playing. Then all three of them go dashing down a cliff, and then I see a fourth sheep that seems to be chasing the other three. They stop and rest and I get distracted. The grizzly comes into view again so I watch him.
Jan and Bill think that there are lots of people in the Park. It seems quite empty to me, but all the folks who are here for an extended time feel like the Park is crowded. Laurie and Anne have mentioned the same thing. I guess I have a different perspective!
After a good 45 minutes of shivering Jan says let's try at Slough. So off we go.
We have two bison in the road in about the same spot where I nearly got clobbered last night. But the eventually move aside and let us pass.
We pull into Slough and set up at the first pullout on the right. It's a tad warmer here but not much. The scenery is stunning though and it's fun to share the morning with Jan and Bill. We hear elk bugling and see quite a few of them. We hear ducks quacking and bison grunting nearby.
I begin to scope up on Specimen in the Crystal drainage when suddenly Jan calls out. She's got a wolf. I get lucky and see it, too. A black, running in the rolling hills behind Peregrine (I think) then I see more. Five total, four blacks and a gray. Looks like Sharp Right to me but it was a pretty quick sighting. The animals are heading west, pretty quickly. We find another bald eagle in a tree.
Jan calls this in and Laurie and Anne (who are up in Lamar Canyon) find them from that angle. We three do our best to keep these wolves in sight, but every time we find them we only have them for a few seconds before we lose them again. I think we need to be either higher or further west.
We end up at Boulder, a pullout that has been particularly lucky for me this trip.
I realize I may have already reached my quota for the day. It is "late" in wolf-sighting terms to see more activity but there's no harm in trying. I set up behind Laurie and Jan on the little hill and in no time at all, we get the whole Slough pack in sight! Wow! They are in a low slope of Mom's Ridge (some people refer to it as Sheep Cliffs, although I have never seen sheep here.). I enjoy watching our girls, and old 490. They take a route that goes pretty straight up hill and you can see 490 dragging,
A coyote chorus breaks out nearby and I am always game to try to find those dogs when they are howling and yipping up a storm. I finally find them. There are five animals in all. Boy, can they make noise!
I swing back to wach the Sloughs again. They have not made too much progress. I think their job is hard on them, patrolling all this territory, day after day. But it's a treat to see them and it's another chance to get to know these individuals a little better. We hear a report that some of the Hellroaring wolves were seen on a carcass from Hellroaring. We also hear that since the wolves left, there have been three separate grizzly bears on that carcass. The last one to arrive, the one that is still there now, is apparenty a gigantic bear that scared the other two away.
We hear this while we are watching our Sloughs and I can't help but want to see that bear myself. We have the Sloughs in sight for a good half hour as they make their way slowly up the rocky slope. Then they take a turn to the left and we lose them behind a ridge. It's hard to tell where they might come out so we all begin to scope in every which way.
After a short while I hear Laurie say softly "what is that?" and then she tugs Jan by the sleeve. Jan looks in her scope. Laurie has spotted a mountain lion! A thrill runs through all of us on this hill and we want nothing so much as a peep in Laurie's scope. I try to line my scope up with hers and she does her best to pass on helpful tips but sometimes you just don't want to move your scope when you have such a prize within it.
I hear her say "the orange tree" and finally find that spot only to learn that the lion that I have yet to see is now two lions and then three lions. Laurie and Jan both have them in sight now. Jan is the one who saw the third. She thinks a mom and two grown kittens. You'd think three moving animals would be fairly easy to spot, right? But try as I might I don't have them. Jan finally drags me over to her scope and lets me look within.
I see a rock ledge and many trunks of conif...OH MY GOD!
THAT'S A MOUNTAIN LION!
I don't want to move but I do. I go back to Layla because I now know where I'm looking. Far to the right of the orange tree. I have it. I have THEM. I see the second cat. I watch them walk across a patch of sun, blonde cats with white legs (inside) and distinct cat faces. I see two tense tails that arc slightly up. They pass a rock with a hole in it and disappear into tree shadow. I step back to let Bill get a read on the spot. I am astonished.
When I look again they are gone but I try to find them again and do, much further to the right. Again I see two. The leader cat walks past what looks like a dead tree and sort of half hops up on..a rock ledge? Where is the other? Gone again. Both gone.
I stand there for many minutes afterwards trying to catch movement but we all seem to have lost them. That's all you get! A momentary glimpse and that is it! Whoa!!!That is the coolest sighting.
For future reference, the spot is way up on the skyline, on the ridge behind (further northwest) the one we call Mom's Ridge. I can uhssure you that I will never pass that pullout again without taking a look up there - at least in the early mornings when the sun warms up those rocks.
And I started the day thinking I was gonna be skunked!
A while after this I hear that the Sloughs are visible again from Rick's pullout. I need a break for food and necessarys so I decide it's time for me to head west. I think Jan and Bill have an errand in the opposite direction so I hug them goodbye. I loved spending time with you two! Safe trip back. Deadwood lives!
Next I find myself at Elk Creek and to my delight I hook up with Anne here. And to my further delight, there are wolves in sight. Not the Sloughs, but the Agates! They are still on their carcass from yesterday. I would have expected them to have left last night.
I don't mean that as a complaint! Instead of being skunked, I get two full packs of wolves, two cougars and a grizz! This is an excellent last day.
I have a nice chat with Anne while we watch the Agates together. The pups are playful this morning, but not quite as rambunctious as last night. I meet a woman named Karen who I presume is a Loon, but since I'm a space cadet I don't know if she is "Krazy Karen" or another Karen. I think I'll ask, on the Loon Page. Oh, maybe she's the wolfer Karen, who writes sometimes for Ralph's page? Sorry, Karen, for my being so airheaded.
I don't like to leave a wolf sighting while the action is still going on but the time has come and I need to get back to Bozeman. I say goodbye to Anne and then I say goodbye to Laurie and thank her again for letting me stay at her house. I will miss them both.
Then off I go to Hellroaring. I am sure the big griz will be gone by now but NO! And there is a man here who helps me find it. It's possible I may have found it on my own because this bear is SO big! It stands over the carcass and rips into it, using its powerful front claws to rip one way, then the other. It lunges at the birds and swats at them. He doesn't want to share a single morsel!
What a great last sighting.
I drive slowly through the beauty of the Blacktail plateau, drinking in the views. I find that the Old Gardiner road is open so I drive that instead of the canyon. I stop and have a nice, quiet visit with Allison. I hear crickets! And distant elk bugling. I tell Allison about my continued good luck, seeing wolves and seeing two cougars! If feels good to spend some time this way.
The drive gives me a chance to see some otherwise hidden fall color and I love the unusual angles it offers of Mt. Everts, too. I am so reluctant to leave that I just keep driving more and more slowly.
Another superb trip has come to a close. I am grateful to all my Loon friends and wolfer friends for sharing their time with me and to the new folks I met this trip.
I drive out through the arch and into the non-Yellowstone world.
Thank you, you wonderful place. See you again at Christmastime!
Today I saw: 2 grizzly bears, 222 bison, 2 cougars, 2 x 2.5 coyotes, 22 mule deer, 2 bald eagles, 222 elk, 22 magpies, 22 ravens, 2 x 2 bighorn sheep, 2 complete packs of wolves (Slough Creek 8 and Agate Creek 13), 2 x 3.5 wolfers, 2 Loons and a double helping of the spirit of Allison