DAY TWO - Monday, July 25


I leave Lake at 4:45. It’s chilly, at 37 degrees.

A sliver of a moon and numerous starts light my way north. One of them is Venus, er…Earendil, so I whisper my Elvish prayer. The clear sky could be deceiving, since fog only arrives with the sun.

I’m the only one on the road, which is just how I like it. A few elk cross the road just north of the Fishing Bridge intersection. I arrive at Alum at 5:20. It’s still pretty dark, but I can see fog building over the water. I see no wolves on the sloping hillside where they were last night.

I hear geese honking but no howling. The fog creeps across the road and into the flats.

I open my hatch and start to make my morning coffee.

At 6:20 I see a gray wolf on the sloping hill, moving south. The fog creeps higher but I can still see the wolf.

I reach for my radio when Steve calls from Grizzly Hill. He has a gray and two blacks! Soon after this, I lose my wolf in the rising fog.

At 6:30 Steve calls for an update and I tell him about the fog. Then I hear a familiar voice say “come this way”. It’s Rick! Hah! Unit 1 is here!

I pack up and drive south, spotting his car, and then him on the northmost slope of Grizzly Hill.

I join him and see the fog is now nearly gone. Rick points out the famous “rally rock”, which I now see for the first time. I also see several wolves standing on the flat part of it.

There are other wolves to the right of these, just left of a power pole.

I count 5 wolves, including 2 pups. Rally Rock is an outcrop protruding from a gully between two sage hills. The middle of the rock is flat while the right end is shaped a bit like a big paw, with four or five rounded “toes”.

I see two gray adults, a black adult and the two black pups. I am beyond happy. This feels so right, watching wolves in the early morning with Rick.

The wolves stay in view for over an hour and a half, often going in and out of sight behind the hill or into thick sage. I see various pups lick the muzzles of various adults, hoping for a feeding.

Eventually I see another pup for a count of three. And I see another black adult for a total of four. Besides these 7 wolves, we also see elk and bison and eight sandhills.

Once the wolves go out of sight, we all stay a bit longer, talking and hoping the wolves will re-appear.

After a while I decide to take a drive over to the Northern Range, although there have been no encouraging reports on which to follow up.

The wildflowers up on Dunraven are just astonishing and many people pull over to take photos of them. There are whole hillsides of yellow and pink flowers, growing in clumps, almost like the potted flowers on people’s porches in Bozeman. Seeing these happy colors against a backdrop of bright green grasses on the hillsides is just delightful.

I look for paintbrush along the way. Aha! There it is! I pull over and wander along the roadside near a little trickling spring. A great variety of wildflowers grow here, including the pink-red paintbrush that caught my eye. I also find magenta-colored trumpet flowers, asters, daisies, light blue harebells, a stalk of what looks like white lupine and an orange flower sort of like a mini-mum.

I’ll have to check my wildflower book when I get home.

I end up at Elk Creek where I scope a bit, even though I know it’s way too hot for wolves! I try Hellroaring, but find only bison.

On my way back I see more wildflowers, some coral-colored paintbrush growing with purple lupine and yellow buttercups.

I check in at Canyon and then return to Hayden. Soon I find myself in a typical summer event, inching forward in a long line cars, all for a single bull bison grazing along the roadside.

I arrive at Grizzly Hill about 5:15, park and haul my scope up the hill where Rick and I were this morning. It’s 73 with a bit of wind, a beautiful day.

I am joined by Steve, Dave & Sylvia and then Laurie & Dan. They just checked into the Chittenden Lodge. The drive to Silver Gate from Bozeman took five hours! But Laurie says the views were breathtaking.

At 6:30 we see our first wolves. Two black adults, one with a slight limp, appear just beyond the power pole, coming south. They are followed by a black pup.

The three animals move past the pole into the gully and disappear behind the rally rock. Soon a black pup comes out from that spot, goes up the sloping hill (with the wallow) and disappears into thick sage.

The wind dies down and the sun emerges from behind a cloud, making it warm again and I take off my coat. We soon get a second glimpse at the Wapitis, when a two additional adults appear, one black, one gray. They are followed by two black pups. This group mills around in thick sage for a while, becoming very hard to see.

Eventually the adults set off past the power pole.

We also watch elk moving in the flats, mostly cows with a single calf and a handsome young bull. A line of bison marches towards them from the north and the elk give way.

Around 9 we pack up and say our farewells, with a promise to meet here in the morning.

Today I saw: bison, 1 coyote, sandhill cranes, elk (including calves), geese, 6 Wapiti wolves (including 2 pups) and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.

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