DAY NINE - Sunday, May 28

HOLIDAY TRAFFIC

We had rain again overnight. I suspect it will be chilly in the valley today.

When I arrive at Dougís lot, the Junctions are howling. Itís too dark to see them yet, but we know theyíre here!

When the light begins to grow I see 1276F near the den opening, with several other adult wolves around her. I think the howling was a rally.

I count four grays and five blacks. Itís possible that the hunting party that went west last evening has returned. The alpha male is here, along with many of the individuals I saw yesterday, including the handsome black male with the white chest spot.

907 is also here. The mothers take turns nursing the pups this morning. The black pup goes on another walkabout with 907 following close behind. When the wee one goes a bit too far for her liking, she gently picks it up and brings it back to the den.

There is a meadow above the den cliff where we often see elk grazing. On the left side of the meadow there is a jumble of rocks and in that area I see a nice fat marmot.

Around 9AM or so, all the wolves are bedded. There is a radio report from Lamar of several wolves being seen high up on Specimen, heading west, so I ask Laurie if she might want to try to find them from Elk Creek?

On our way there, we hear a separate report of a pair of sub-adult grizzlies on an elk-calf carcass near Junction Butte.

I have been spending all my time at Slough or in Lamar, and I am quite surprised to find how congested the roads are. I belatedly remember that this is Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. I think thatís the main reason I find myself in bumper to bumper traffic.

The slow drive makes us too late to see the bears, but I still want to continue west to Elk Creek. Laurie & Dan decide to remain at Boulder to visit with Bill.

I make it to Elk Creek and haul out my scope, only to laugh at myself, because Iíd forgotten that Iíd be scoping straight into the morning sun! Oh well. I swing my scope to the left, glassing other areas: Flat Top, Junction Lake and eventually, Junction Butte.

Suddenly a bear walks right into the circle of my scope. Then another! Grizzlies! At first, I think these are the sub-adults I missed. But as I watch them, I realize one is much larger than the other, and the larger one follows the smaller one. Hmm. They might be a courting pair. I call it in to Bill.

Maureen & Rick pull in and I show them the bears. They are on their way to Gardiner to get cake mix and icing for Danís birthday.

After they leave, John W arrives. We watch the bears a while. He agrees these are a courting pair. John finds a third bear below the Butte to the west. We canít tell for sure if this is a grizzly or a cinnamon black. Itís in and out of trees and I never get a good view.

Just when we are thinking of heading back east, a black bear jam starts to develop at the Elk Creek curve. John suggests we continue west and scope from Hellroaring.

We have the whole lot to ourselves and reminisce of many shared winter sightings from this spot. But today we find only elk and bison.

Soon the clouds build up and a bit of a drizzle begins. John heads west while I go east. The drizzle becomes a steady rain. In Little America I find myself in yet another long line of traffic, barely inching forward. Itís due, of course, to bison, but itís not really a bison jam because the animals are not on the road itself, just grazing close to the road. I understand why people are excited by this and why they want to stop to take photos, but they canít seem to figure out that all they need to do is to pull OUT of traffic, OFF the road where they can watch and photograph as long as they want. Especially in Little America where there are ample pullouts as well as flat shoulder space.

Ah well.

The jam finally clears out around Aspen. Once I finally get into Lamar I have smooth sailing for a while, then get stuck at Confluence for the Willow Bear jam.

I end up staying in tonight in order to help Maureen secretly bake Danís cake.

Today I saw: 3 grizzly bears, 2 black bears, bison (and calves), a coyote, sandhill cranes, elk, geese, a marmot, 12 Junction wolves (including AM, 907, 1276F, 1341F, 1384F, two uncollared grays, one collared black, two uncollared blacks, plus both pups) and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.

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