DAY FIVE - Saturday, January 28

ANOTHER LUCKY BREAK

This morning I brush another 4-5 inches off the car. Itís 14 degrees and somewhat windy. Looks like we are in for another day of bad conditions.

I find fox tracks in Silver Gate.

Inside the Park, only the west bound lane is cleared. I radio Rick and Laurie so they know what to expect. Rick says itís normal because the plow starts at Silver Gate and goes up to Cooke first.

Snow falls steadily all along but when I get past Trout Lake the real fun begins. A very strong wind blows from the northwest, causing spears of drifts along the flat sections of the road. In a few places, they are a good 6 inches deep.

In Lamar the drifting gets worse, reaching across the lane, so I can only go about 10mph. The valley is thick with fog and thickly falling snow makes frequent white outs.

I decide to stop at Trash Can, just to take a short break, but I canít find the pullout! Iím passed it before I recognize it. I see the information panel at Picnic so I stop there instead, letting Rick and Laurie go ahead.

Conditions get worse at the Ranch, but they are worst of all west of Coyote, where the depth and size of the drifts force me to stop several times, in order to edge into the east bound lane to pass them.

I finally get a break in Lamar Canyon where the rock walls and trees limit the wind.

We find conditions in Little America only marginally better. The lot at Slough is thick with snow. We stop here a while, and I actually consider working up the nerve to hike out to Bobís Knob.

But I end up having my muffin and coffee instead. Guides and visitors coming from the west have nothing to report but snow and wind.

Around 8:30 we get a miraculous call: wolves in sight from Long Pullout!

When I arrive a very kind visitor helps me find them. Through the snowfall I see five or six wolves running west, in front of the tree line. They disappear behind a berm.

Apparently, they were first seen running down from Specimen along the wide ďski slopeĒ, chasing a deer.

When my wolves go out of sight, I notice magpies in the area. Hmm, looks like they got the deer. I move to the western end of the lot and find 8 or 9 Junctions feeding on the carcass.

With Laurieís help, I recognize 907F and the alpha male. To the left is another group of wolves, some with chunks of meet and one with a leg.

Two pups are playing near a low knoll to the left. After a while, I see a large gray wolf leaving the carcass area, heading back east through the trees.

A deer wonít last long among 23-24 wolves! More and more wolves join the ones walking back east through the forest. My high count so far is 14, which is pretty good for a ridiculously snowy day!

Again, we count ourselves lucky. If they didnít happen to be this ďcloseĒ we wouldnít see them at all.

Around 9:45 all the wolves are out of sight, but they treat us to a lovely howl.

I am dreading the drive back through Lamar, but around 10AM we set off. Luckily, the plows have removed a good number of drifts and the wind itself has removed a lot of the snow. I can see the road surface much better than this morning, which really helps.

Itís still snowing but not quite as heavily as before.

East of the Soda Cone I see the lights of a ranger car. A snowplow has gone off the road. Oh no! It looks like the driverís efforts to clear the north side drifts tempted him too close to the road edge. The truck is on its side, perpendicular to the pavement, with the blade on the west bound lane, sticking up into the sky. The east bound lane is clear.

A pair of rangers sit in their car, waiting for the tow truck. They tell me the driver is ok.

The snow gradually lessens once I pass Round Prairie. We are back at Laurieís before 11AM with a temperature of 6.

Itís an understatement to say I am glad to be here!

Today I saw: bison, 14 Junction wolves including alpha male, 907, 1340, several pups and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.

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