This morning I wake easily, luxuriating in the comfort of the soft, warm bed, with a roof, four walls and a carpet! Ha! My arm is sore and swollen and when I look in the mirror at the enormous bruise I find it a bit disheartening, mostly because I have no way of keeping it on ice - even if I could find ice!
But I decide that since I am in Yellowstone I ought to try to see some wolves, so I soon a begin to bustle about, gathering my things and dragging them out to the car. I try my best to be quiet, but I'm happy to see Gary and Laurie already up as well.
They whisper and point to two lovely mule deer grazing quietly in the forest right in our backyard, in fact, framed perfectly through the picture windows of our rooms. Gary and Laurie are exceedingly helpful to me, carrying my heavy stuff into the car. They have to head south so we eventually say our goodbyes, with many thanks and hugs.
It takes me a while to figure out how best to drive with a lame appendage but I figure it out. As I head up the Dunraven Road a fog appears on the right, making beautiful images. A bull bison grazes close to the road, sleek and muscular. I top the pass and head down the s curves, finally stopping at the spot where Calvin, Lynette and I had so much Agate luck one year. A man and his wife are the only other folk here. After scoping a bit, I find several gorgeous bull elk on the hillsides. I ask the man if he's seen any wolves and he says, "they're still there, you just can't see 'em". Woo hoo! I have wolves in front of me and didn't even know it! He gives me the spot and suddenly some white rocks I had seen earlier grow ears and tails.
I start seeing more of them and he tells me what he saw in the half hour before I arrived. More and more Agates appear from behind trees or knolls and soon I see a bunch of them mobbing a large gray who appears from the left. The large gray trots along, trailed by three or four smaller wolves, licking his muzzle. Then he lowers his head and they all lower theirs, grabbing morsels of food he just released for them.
I notice a gray wolf with a dark back who is resting separately from the others. I think this might be 113 but it turns out to be the alpha female, 472. I know I am watching mostly Agate pups but wish I had Laurie L or Annie W to tell me who I'm seeing. My high count is 12; three blacks and 9 grays.
I end up spending four hours here, watching various Agates come and go with lots of sleeping in between. Little did I know that Laurie L was two pullouts further down. I get out my folding chair and adjust my scope to sitting height. Then suddenly I am surrounded by loving arms - it's Mark and Lori. Yay! We hug and congratulate ourselves again and they both inquire about my arm. We watch wolves together and gaze across the landscape at the place we were two days ago. You can see the steam of Coffee Pot from this spot. It's so hard to believe we were in that place!
Eventually Mark and Lori have to go. We hug again and thank each other. I stick around a while and then head down to Tower. I see more bison near the road and some bighorn sheep at Calcite, as well as a small family of mule deer with two darling fawns. And I see two osprey soaring above the canyon.
I head east and see scattered bison, elk and antelope, and some lovely beginning fall color. Mostly I am amazed at how green the Park is - Little America looks particularly nice, nearly as green as it was when I last saw it in June. The water in Lamar Canyon is very muddy, which makes sense for all the precipitation the Park has gotten lately.
I see an injured cow bison just north of Fisherman's. Poor thing, I wonder if she may become part of a story in the life of the Sloughs in the next day or two.
I can see cars stopped way ahead in the road beyond. I pull in at Dorothy's and see why. A large grizzly is wandering the flats near the river, near the outlet of Amethyst Creek. He is grubbing and grazing but one of the easiest to see grizzlies ever! I see many bison and a few antelope in the valley, but the only elk I see are up high.
I look for wolves in all the usual places but come up short. It is the wrong time of day to find my wolfer friends. I am delighted to see so many September flowers, though - some purple daisys (cone-flowers?) harebells, some small yellow ones and small white ones. And everywhere the unexpected green, green, green.
Near Picnic I see a coyote right on the riverbank feeding on what looks like an old carcass. He tugs and tugs. Dozens of cars stop right in the road for photos. I also see geese and some awfully young-looking bison babies. It's warm enough now to have the windows open and I hear snaphoppers.
At the confluence I see ducks and notice that although the water level is low, everything still looks amazingly beautiful. Everts thistles stick way up above the fading grasses. At Footbridge I realize that for once I see no snow at all on the highest crags of Norris, the Thunderer nor Abiathar. Today has become a picture-perfect day. My car temperature gage reads 70 degrees!
I continue up to Silver Gate and stop to visit Laurie. Her husband Dan is here and it is really nice to meet him. Laurie shows me a DVD she got from Bob which includes scenes of the Hayden pups frolicking on the hill above the Yellowstone. Priceless shots. I head up to Cooke City but end up turning around due to road construction. I decide I don't need gas that badly. So I turn around, head to Silver Gate cabins and get a room for the night. I had thought about camping, but with my sore arm I decide to splurge (!). No sooner do I get inside than the lights go out. I think it's just my cabin but then I realize the whole place, in fact, all of Silver Gate, has just lost power. I use the warm weather and remaining sun to dry the last of my still damp gear.
Around 5PM I head back down into Lamar. I stop at Barronette and find two mountain goats. I stop at Round Prairrie to scope for Druids but find a coyote instead. I enjoy watching him.
Next stop is the Confluence, where I watch a small group of antelope - one buck with 9 females and three fawns. I find a bull elk on a high slope of Norris and just enjoy the beauty of the confluence. I head west and end up back at Dorothy's. Rick comes by and tells me that the Sloughs are in their high rendezvous, up above Jasper. He asks if I might want to climb up Cardiac with him? I hestitate a moment, considering my tender arm, but I can't resist. So I put Layla in my backpach and head up after him. Unbeknownst to me, though, Rick is going to the third level, where I have only been to level one. But surely this is no harder than climbing out of Fairyland?
And once I get there, huffing and puffing, I am rewarded with the sight of the Slough alpha male - which turns out to be my very last look at him. (He was, alas, hit by a car four days later). I also see 380 and several pups. It's nice to have a chance to chat with Rick, too. I ended up seeing 9 Sloughs, I think Rick saw 11.
We head back down before the light is completely gone and I am VERY careful, reminding myself that falling again is NOT an option. I make it and get one last look at the grizzly before I head east for the evening.
I also see several mule deer as I near the Park exit.
The power is still out when I return to my room so I brush my teeth by flashlight. I have a good laugh at the inconvenience, since I could have saved the money and just camped in the car. But still the bed is comfy and the water runs! Really the only hard part is bringing stuff into the room with one arm, holding the flashlight in my sore hand. Without a single light, Silver Gate is dark indeed. Alas, the clouds hide the stars.
I fall asleep easily around 9PM and the lights come back on at midnight!
Today I saw: antelope, 1 grizzly bear, bison, 4 coyotes, mule deer, elk, geese, 2 osprey, 4 bighorn sheep, 21 wolves (Agates and Sloughs) 6 Loons and the spirit of Allison.