DAY TWO - Wednesday, January 25

WENDY'S MORNING WISH

Iím out at 6:55 in a cold 4 degrees. There are two fresh inches of snow on the car, easy to brush off.

I notice a single set of wolf tracks starting at Warm Creek, and continuing along the south side of the road all the way to Ice-box canyon. I can see several spots where the wolf stops to investigate something, then moves on. The tracks are slightly filled in so maybe from last night.

Nice way to start the day

When I come around the corner past Exclosure I can see two cars up ahead at Picnic pullout.

As I get closer, I see three people with scopes facing south. It sure looks like they are watching wolves. I gotta say, this is exactly my fondest wish very single morning as I drive into the valley from Silver Gate, that I will find wolves in view in Lamar.

And they are.

Moment later, I join Jeremy, Taylor and Rick, watching the Junction Pack moving west just in front of the trees. Itís a beautiful view in the early morning light, blacks and grays moving steadily but slowly through thick snow, saving their energy by following each other in a long, silent line.

I count 15 before they turn slightly upslope into the forest. I hear Jeremy say 22. We hear a lone howl behind us, perhaps in the Exclosure hill area. Jeremy and Taylor turn around trying to locate it but donít.

Bob L joins us in the lot making me grin. Itís been quite a while since I shared a pullout in Lamar with Bob with wolves in view.

The Junctions do not respond to the lone howl but continue moving quietly through the trees. When they go out of sight, we move to Mid-point, where we find them quickly, coming out of the trees onto a nice open slope, in fact, the eastern end of Square Meadow. Their line has tightened up as the snow here is even deeper. This time I count 24.

As the leaders reach the top of the slope, they stop to sit for a while. Although there is some play by the pups, most of the wolves seem interested in staying here for a rest.

Rick suggests the view might be better further west, so we move to Dorothyís.

As usual, Rick is right about the view. The wolves are now bedded on the left side of Square Meadow, in two groups with a small stand of conifers between them. Some of the pups still have the energy to chase each other. One carries a stick starting a game of keep away.

Rick points out a collared black wolf bedded lower on the slope below the stand of trees. We both think this is the demoted former alpha female, (1382F) but we now think it might have been New Mom (1386F).

Sometimes during mating season, the dominant females become aggressive to lower-ranking females, and those females protect themselves by staying somewhat apart from the pack. Itís always sad to me to watch this, because wolves WANT to belong to a pack. They instinctively seek the comfort of their pack mates and this shows they are sometimes unable to do that.

I watch a while longer but once the activity slows down. One black remains restless, exploring here and there. And one gray pup tries in vain to get others to chase him/her and finally gives up, plopping down in the snow. A little later, I see a coyote and a bald eagle in the same area.

I start to get chilled, so I head east. But first I stop at the Ranch to check the view from up at the barn. Itís ok but Dorothyís definitely better. While Iím here, though, the lone howler pipes up again, still from the north side of the road to the east. This time the pack howls back. But they do so while bedded; none of them get up. I interpret this to mean that the lone howler is a straggler, a member of the pack and that they are basically saying ďwe are here, hurry up and join usĒ.

I continue to Silver Gate for a break, telling Laurie & Dan about the Junctions being in Lamar. Unfortunately, Laurie is feeling a bit under the weather and plans to stay in today.

Around 2:30 I head back to Lamar. A light snow is falling and the temperature is a tolerable 14 degrees.

I see Michael up at the barn with his clients, so I drive up and join him. He tells me the wolves got up around 2:15 and had a rally. They have moved west from Square Meadow and are now travelling above the Amethyst drainage forest, on a long open slope. This slope trends upward to a high peak which connects to the A-Z meadow.

The wolves trudge slowly upwards in an easy-to-count line (I get 23). The higher they go, the thinner the snow becomes Ė I suppose due to wind. We start to see more of their legs.

When they get really high, we move to Dorothyís. Rick is here so we compare notes. When the wolves disappear over the top, we decide to try to find them from Slough.

Michael finds them from this angle. I first see several pups romping and playing just below the crest of Middle Ridge. The adults in the pack are led downslope sometimes by a gray and sometimes a black. I notice one black hanging back behind the group but canít really identify it.

The pack begins to follow the skyline near Middle Ridge while pups continue to play. Itís thrilling to see so many wolves way up there on skyline. Several visitors who pull in to use the outhouse are delighted to see wolves through our scopes.

They turn west along Specimen Ridge and all too soon we lose them. Around 4:30 I head back east.

Today I saw: bison, coyote, a bald eagle, elk, 24 Junction wolves and the spirits of Alison, Richard and Jeff.


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