DAY NINE - Saturday, December 3


Today is my last morning. Itís cold again, 3 degrees. I am hoping for decent viz today and more importantly, wolves where I can see them!

I am so grateful for the plow drivers who make the road so easy to drive on. Donít think Iíd want that job, but I sure am happy they do it!

As I wait for the light at Lamar Canyon, two elk come up from the river below and cross the road ahead. They scramble up the rocky slope towards Secret Passage.

I find the Junction Crew at Crystal and check in with them. The Junctions are not in view, but are likely on the north side of Junction Pass. The plane is expected to fly today so we will watch where it circles.

Laurie, Dan and I set up at Lamar Canyon West, hoping maybe the plane will help us find them. Instead I spot sheep in the cliffs, plus scattered elk and bison. The plane circles above Junction Pass, just as Taylor predicted.

The crew canít do much but keep driving back and forth, checking signals, hoping the pack will eventually move into a viewable spot.

Looks like itís going to be another frustrating day.

We stop at Elk Creek and talk with Rick. Itís a beautiful day, with bright sunny skies. Around 9:30 I say my goodbyes to Laurie & Dan, thanking them again for a lovely visit. I say farewell to Rick, too.

On the drive out, I notice a lot more trucks carrying snowmobiles in the park today. Six of them pass us at Elk Creek, and I see at least six more west of there.

At the east end of Phantom Lake I see a lone elk cow grazing. Then a mule deer buck appears and walks right by the elk cow, just feet apart. I guess the grass is good here, so all species want a shot at it.

At S Curves I join Jeremy and crew who are searching in vain for Rescue on the Painted Hills. We yak about all sorts of things, including his upcoming trip to India and the Himalayas. I am almost to Undine when I am shocked to hear my phone ring! I pull into the lot to answer. Itís Rick. He says ďCome back. Junction wolves are visible from Yellowstone River Bridge.Ē

I am so grateful to get his call, and amazed that the timing happened just as I came into a cell service area. Thatís kismet! Before I turn around, I find a text from Laurie and Dan with the same message.

My friends are SO GREAT!

I head back east and meet Rick at the Ski Lot. He shows me the wolves. Yay! I see six! I thank him profusely for contacting me.

He says the crew has a closer view from Yellowstone Bridge, but that lot is chock full (itís small). Someone at Tower calls to say the view from the outhouse lot is good, so, since thatís closer, we head that way.

At Tower we find them again, easily. I see the same six from before plus two more. I radio Laurie & Dan, thanking them for trying to reach me. They have been watching for the last half hour and are on their way home to Silver Gate.

Rick and I go to the bridge lot and find room. We set up and have an even closer view. I recognize 907F bedded near two other wolves. Three pups run downslope playing. I see another four wolves bedded further east.

The crew is quite relieved to have finally found their wolves.

Itís now after 1PM and a ďwarmĒ 16 degrees. I chat happily with Taylor, so glad that I didnít leave the Park wolfless. She shows me two more wolves up higher on the hill, bringing my count to eleven, six blacks and four gray.

On that happy note, I put away my scope and head west, for real this time.

I have lots of icy spots on 89 on the way back, and the Bozeman side of the Pass is awful due to trucks throwing slop, going too fast. I get off at Bear Creek Canyon and take the slow way home.

Today I saw: bison, coyotes, elk, bighorn sheep, 11 Junction wolves including 907F and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.

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