DAY ONE - Tuesday, November 282


I am leaving Bozeman on a bright, sunny day. It’s 32 degrees at 11:20.

There is very little snow yet, except for the dusting on the highest peaks of Paradise Valley. The Yellowstone River looks pretty icy.

It looks more like early October than late November to me.

I am wearing a heart monitor for a few weeks, due to a bit of a scare before Thanksgiving, when I was hospitalized for the night due to feeling unexplained light-headedness and shortness of breath. Hopefully the results will give me some clarity. My symptoms only lasted a few hours that day, and I feel fine.

Not much wildlife until I get to Dry Creek road where I see mule deer.

At the main gate I see many pronghorn. That’s interesting; they are usually long gone by now.

I stop at the high pullout to visit with Allison. I scope McMinn bench and find sheep. I also find several photographers who seem to have climbed up to get “head-butting” shots, I guess. The rams I see are grazing.

Laurie sends me an email, saying she saw Junctions from Geriatric today and that she and Dan are likely go back out this evening.

I stop at Blacktail ponds, which are frozen over. No ducks, no cranes; but the area is always pretty to look at.

So far, the roads feel quite empty of cars and visitors, which is normal for November. This year, however, there is not enough snow to attract any skiers or snow-shoe fans.

At Nature Trail I see the Rescue Crew, along with friends Kathy and Ray.

Ray shows me where to look. I see four wolves bedded together on a low hill west of the Triangle forest. Another single wolf, a gray, tools around a bit west of that spot. He says there are several more out there but might not be visible at the moment.

For the last couple of days, the adult group has been separated from the pup group (which happens quite a lot in fall). But today they are all together again.

I meet new crew member Pito, who is very personable and helpful. I hand out my little mandarin orange treats.

I thank Pito and Ray and continue east, finding a bit more snow on the ground through the Blacktail.

There are numerous bison herds in Little America. They look happy to have so little snow! The calves of the year are fat and brown. Most hillsides are bare and brown/gold, but a few pockets of snow hang on in north-facing spots.

A single coyote trots by, on a mission to the west.

Lamar looks great, empty and wild and wonderful. Even now that I live a life of minimal stress, I can feel my body relax when I view this valley. My smile broadens every time.

I find the Junction Crew up on Geriatric, along with friends Kathie L and Jeff A. They have wolves in view! Once I get set up, I see several wolves bedded in deep sage.

Apparently, they have a bison carcass nearby (but out of sight, natch).

Jeremy welcomes me back and I meet new crew member Aubrey.

I see 907F and eventually the alpha male. Apparently, the pup is not with them at the moment but she was here earlier. I count four blacks and three grays.

Laurie and Dan arrive and climb up to join us. Shortly after they are set up, the wolves stir and begin to howl. One by one they rise and stretch, then meander southeast, heading to their carcass for another feast.

I think it’s a very good omen to see two packs on my first day.

After about an hour, the wolves become harder to see so we call it a day and drive on to Silver Gate.

Just past Footbridge, a red car passes me (I am going about 40), crossing the double yellow on the curve. Granted, no one is coming in the opposite direction, but it feels odd for someone to be in that much of a hurry. The car then passes Laurie & Dan near the Soda Cone (they are going 45).

I see the fox at Lower Baronette, giving me a two-pack, three dog day.

As I approach Warm Creek, I see flashing Ranger lights ahead. Guess who’s been pulled over? Yep, the red car.

Today I saw: bison, coyotes, elk, a fox, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, 11 wolves (4 from Rescue and 7 from Junction, including 907 and the alpha male) and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.

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