DAY FIVE - Monday, February 20

WOLFLESS AGAIN

This morning I brush at least 5 more inches off the car. I think more than that fell overnight but the wind blew a lot of it elsewhere.

The temps are fairly warm, though, at 22 above. I set out in the dark, hoping my wolf luck will return.

Not far beyond the gate I see the plow stopped in front of me. Itís stuck. I guess the guy slipped a tire off the edge.

When Dan and Laurie come up, Dan says he thinks we can get around him, so I follow them. There is just enough room to get past him without getting stuck ourselves. The driver says heís ok and just radioed the ranger for a tow.

But we are now driving in heavy snow. The east bound lane is decent, so I keep my left tires in that lane. There is so little traffic this time of year, it makes that possible.

As I reach the Soda Butte Valley, though, itís obvious weíll have visibility issues today. The fog is heavy. Gorgeous though!

Norris and Specimen are fully shrouded and the fog remains thick all through Lamar Valley. Then again, there are no wolves to see here, so we are not missing them!

I notice an abandoned Sno Mo trailer at Fishermanís pullout. I suspect the driving conditions last night were pretty bad. Perhaps the driver figured heíd be safer without it?

Visibility in Little America is better (as it often is) but no one has wolves.

I pull in at Hellroaring with Rick and Jeremy. Apparently the Junctions are here, but once more, in an unviewable spot.

Jeremy says there could be a chance to see the Lupine Pack from Mammoth Terraces. Itís a long way to go, but it looks like it may be our only option.

Snow continues to fall lightly the whole way. I canít complain of the scenery though!

We see Susan & Reve in the lot below the S Curves. There is no parking but we stop a moment to check in. They managed to see a single black (Rescue Creek) bedded to the south, but visibility has deteriorated and it can no longer be seen.

Laurie updates them about the Lupine possibility and we continue on.

We arrive in Mammoth and wind our way south up the switchbacks to the wide curved pullout I call Canary Springs Overlook. There is an Environmental group here to which Jeremy will give a talk. His family is also visiting, so Laurie and I have a chance to chat with them. Nice people.

But there are no wolves in view. I join Calvin and Lynette up on a high snow pile, which offers an excellent view of Mt. Everts and the road as it winds up the hill from the high bridge. I can also see some of the residential areas of Mammoth. But not a single wolf.

The snow starts falling more heavily so some retreat to the cars. I stay out, talking with Matt and Cameron. I learn there are some golden eagle researchers in the Park, who are dragging chunks of road-kill carcasses down into observable spots in the river corridor to attract their study subjects.

I also learn that the bison hunt just north of the Park is still going on, making some residents very unhappy due to the stench of gut piles. So many bison have migrated to the west this year because of the deep snow. The late arriving family herds push earlier arriving families further north west, outside the parkís borders, where they can be shot.

Around 9:30 there is a distinct lessening of snow, so Calvin, Lynette and I get back up on the snow pile and scope as hard as we can. Still nothing but bison and elk. At 10:30 I give up and head back east.

The snow resumes and increases through the Blacktail. I had thought it might be clear enough to scope from Hellroaring, but when I get there, it is nearly white-out again, so I keep going.

By 11:30 I am cruising through the Soda Butte Valley. The sun peeks out for a bit, making everything look just beautiful. Many trees are freshly flocked and the road is easy again.

There is great variety in how the snow appears on the trees: some branches have been scoured bare by the strong wind, some trunks are caked white with wind-blown snow and others are fully dressed in marshmallow puffs.

I reach Silver Gate at noon and head inside for a rest.

Today I saw: bison, a coyote, elk, and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.

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