I leave Silver Gate a little late, around 6:30, but with a shorter trip ahead of me, it works out about the same.
There is a bit of a cloud over The Thunderer but the light is growing as I go.
My wolf-watching day starts right where it ended yesterday, on Exclosure Hill. The black Druid pup is up and active. He howls quite a lot, first this way, then another, seemingly searching for companionship. He finds the remains of a bison carcass - the head and horns - from weeks ago, and chews on that a while. He walks this way and that.
We look in vain for other wolves. Where is the gray pup? Where is 571?
It's a friendly group up here with me: Laurie and Bonnie and Ashley and Laura and several other people I've gotten to know over the last few days. We chat softly and shiver together. It's windy and cold up here today!
Someone spots a moose out in the flats beyond the big fan. Wow, nice!
One of the peregrine falcons is seen perched on a different point of the snag from last night. But we see no hunt this morning like we did last night.
Then the black pup draws our attention again. He has set off to the east in a very determined way. I wonder if he got a response to his howling that we could not hear? He reaches the old riverbank and disappears down the embankment. Then we notice another black - a larger-looking adult - out in the middle flats this side of Norris.
The pup wanders around the river bed, as if sniffing for a scent trail while the adult black starts to head south toward Cache. Each of them howls from time to time but it doesn't look like either of them really knows where the other one is.
We see the pup move quickly up the far bank and emerge into the western edge of the middle flats. But as he does this, the adult, who is far south of the pups position, does the opposite and heads downhill to the river bottom. We want to shout to them both "over here!" but we must have faith in their noses and ears. The black pup looks this way and that as if saying "where did you go?".
From my angle, I can't see the adult in the riverbed at all and now I lose the pup, too. But a few minutes later we suddenly see BOTH wolves in the river bottom near a fallen log. Although none of us saw them make contact, they are now clearly together so we know these are both Druid wolves.
The adult moves toward the rendezvous and the pup follows, in a fairly non-chalant manner. They seem unusually indifferent to each other. Hmmm. Most of the time when I've seen wolves meet up after an absence, they are exhuberant in their greeting behavior, even when only a short time has elapsed.
The two wolves proceed back to the rendezvous about a three-lengths apart. The yearling goes to the bison skull and the pup wanders over to the hump and beds. When the yearling becomes bored with the bison skull it moves toward the hump and I smile to see it gracefully leap across a little branch of Chalcedony Creek. When it lands on the other side, a small gray head pops up from the sage. Aha! The little gray pup is here after all.
We expect to see a happy greeting between the gray pup and the yearling but we don't. Hmm. Perhaps this yearling is just a very independent type. A bored teenager?
The pup lowers its head again and disappears into the sage. The black pup remains bedded and the yearling now turns and heads for the trees. So, we amuse ourselves by finding other animals. This morning we find a fairly large herd of elk up on Amethyst Mountain, including a gorgeous bull who poses on a momentary sunlit bluff. I find a number of big horn sheep on the craggy cliffs west of Amethyst and a golden eagle flies over our heads.
And right below us is a herd of 7 pronghorn, walking right along the river bank.
The day is actually growing warm - now that's a first for this trip! But then I check my watch and realize it's time for me to start my exit back to Bozeman.
I big goodbye to Laurie with many thanks and head downhill. I drive slowly through my beloved valley but realize I just am not ready to go yet. So I stop at Dorothys and make some coffee. Of course I scope a bit, too, and find two bald eagles, 7 sandhills and a lone coyote trotting west across the flats with something in its mouth.
I lean against the log railing and sip my coffee and look out at the great beauty. I just gaze at it, letting it sink in to my very pores, hoping that I can conjure up the sight and smell of this wonderful place when I'm back home.
Then on I go through the rest of the Park. I see a beautiful bull elk near Wraith Falls and enjoy seeing Bull #6 wreak some havoc at Mammoth. There are many bighorn on the cliffs as I head down Gardiner Canyon, including two young males who rear up and head butt each other. They smash pretty hard but I do not hear the classic "crack" sound. Their mating days are in November so I guess these two were just having an early practice.
As I near the exit, I realize with a shock that I have not said hello to Allison this whole trip! So I pull over by the river and turn the car to face Kite Hill. I have a belated visit with my dear departed friend and it does me a world of good.
Now I can head out through the arch and go on to Bozeman.
By the time I get to Trail Creek Road it is raining again! Welp, rain is a good thing in these parts so I can't begrudge it falling. It has become the signature of the trip and I suppose I could do worse! A wetter fall means less fires so that is a very good thing.
Thank you, Yellowstone for another memorable visit. No matter how plans are made and changed, time is never wasted in Parkadise.
See you at Christmas!
Today I saw: antelope, bison, 1 coyote, mule deer, 2 bald eagles and 1 golden eagle, a peregrine falcon, a moose, 11 big horn sheep, 3 Druid wolves and the spirit of Allison.