Today is my 70th birthday and it is a DOOZIE!
My poor car did NOT want to start today. It whines and complains but finally gets there. Once it does, the gauge reads a shocking minus 34! Thatís only 3 degrees warmer than my all-time record coldest day in the Park.
The sky is clear, with stars in view, so off I go.
I find fog at Warm springs and the temperature is already dropping.
At the Soda Cone, my car gauge registers minus 40, a new record for me. I wonder how Iíll convince myself to leave the warmth of my heater!
The fog grows through the Soda Butte valley, so thick that I turn off my headlights, trusting my yellow fog lights to warn approaching drivers of my presence.
I slow to a crawl at the Confluence, where the proximity of the river makes the soupiest fog of all. Thank goodness it thins a bit once Iím around the curve.
The valley is beautiful and eerie all at once.
I reach Slough and join several other cars already here. People commiserate with each other, everyone reporting the minus 40 temperature. Someone says they donít think a car gauge will go any lower.
I see Taylor driving back and forth. Rick explains that she is getting good signals for the Junctions to the south, but no one has found them yet.
Time to spread out.
I head to Crystal then to Longs but I donít get out, only looking through my binoculars.
Rick is using his window mount. I join him at Lamar River Bridge but succeed only in freezing my face and hands. I hear the radio crackle and Rick suddenly takes off to the east. What just happened?
I didnít hear the info but I follow him anyway.
I end up at Lamar Canyon West, along with Laurie & Dan. One of the guides has found the Junction Pack. I set up my scope and, with Laurieís help, find them in thick forest on Middle Ridge, a bit east of where we had them last night. They are passing through a small clearing full of short tree stumps. Again, due to very deep snow, the wolves move very slowly. The snow is up to their bellies!
Scoping is hard at this temperature: my breath makes frost on my scope eye-piece and ice forms on my muffler. My handwarmers are barely enough and my cheeks hurt!
But I am happy to see wolves!
I count 11 before they disappear into thick forest. For the first time in my life, I am NOT sorry that they went out of view because it means I can now go back to my car and warm up!
I drive back to Lamar River Bridge and sit there a while, having breakfast and coffee. I like this spot because itís in full sun Ė not that it helps much at these temperatures! Ė as well as a potentially good angle to find the wolves again.
By 9AM, the day has warmed to minus 39 (!!!!). I sit here with the heater going full blast. Laurie & Dan come by, telling me they are going into Lamar to try from that angle.
Rick goes there too.
I decide Iím ready to brave the cold once more and set up my scope. I talk with a visitor I met yesterday, who asks a lot of questions. I scope Crystal Drainage and the areas both left and right of there. Suddenly a wolf walks into my scope.
OMG! I just found wolves on my birthday!
Itís the Junctions again, back on another part of Middle Ridge, about 1/3 of the way below skyline. There are four in view, walking along a horizontal snow-covered berm with a lone tree at the right end. I see three blacks and one gray.
I call over the radio, hoping people at Slough can see them, too. Someone there radios to Rick and the people in Lamar.
I happily show the wolves to various people in the pullout. More wolves appear on the berm but soon turn south. They leave the berm, starting to climb the higher slope behind them.
Up, up, up they go, in a nice zig-zag line. I count 23.
The line moves slowly but itís clear they are headed to skyline. For a brief time we have a quintessential view of wolves silhouetted on skyline. People love it.
Eventually I retreat to the warm car and head east, figuring they will likely be visible from Coyote.
I find Laurie & Dan here with Jeremy and Taylor. The Junctions just came into view from this angle.
So now I know what the top of Middle Ridge looks like from here. I see the wolves, still at skyline, just as they stop their journey and begin to seek bedding spots. They are a lot further away from this angle, but itís a good view.
By 10:30, the day has managed to reach minus 29. Sheesh, thatís cold! The sky is bright blue and the sun makes everything look good.
Around 11AM, we decide to call it a day. I tell Laurie I have no intention of going out later!
Rick calls around noon. He checked with the Ranch and found out that the actual low at 8AM today was minus 47! A new record!
Today I saw: bison, a coyote, 23 Junction wolves and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.