I wake to another two inches of powder on the cars. As we are brushing it off, I ask Chloe and Becky if they heard the wind howling last night? Oh yeah they did, it was whistling through the ceiling beams!
The plow has cleared the east bound lane, but not the west-bound, so Chloe breaks trail for us through the new snow. Driving is really no problem, except when occasional ground blizzards stir up little white-outs.
But they don't last long and soon the road is visible again.
For the third day in a row we are wolf-less all the way through the Lamar Valley. As we approach Slough, we see Bob's car, but then see him trudging back toward the lot. Ah, well.
So on we go west to Wraith Falls, where we had the Blacktails yesterday. There is nothing in sight when we arrive, although signals indicate the collared alphas are present. The snow is pretty thick and the wind is fierce, with strong, sustained gusts.
Scoping really difficult but we try anyway! Then Calvin and Lynette arrive, which brightens our moods if not the weather. We catch them up and hear of their travels but soon find ourselves being pelted in the face with icy snow crystals. Ouch!
Calvin thinks it might be worth it to scope the hill south of Wraith, and figures out we can do that with the wind at our backs if we move west to the Undine lot. I follow them and we try from that angle, but we don't find anything.
Then Rick calls, advising us to drive east.
We gather again at the big Nature Trail lot. Kip spotted two wolves to the south and soon I see them: one black and one gray. It's hard to ID them through the driving snow, but the black wolf is Big Blaze and the gray is the same submissive pup we saw with him yesterday.
This is one of the most difficult sightings to maintain because the wind has such a bite! I try to use my car as a wind-break, but it really doesn't work. So I just grin and bear it.
It helps that there is activity going on. The gray races around Big Blaze like paparazzi around Brad Pitt. Just like a star, Big Blaze ignores the attention and keeps looking back to the south. The gray is so solicitous, your heart just goes out to him. He dashes here and dashes there, wheeling and turning and wanting so badly for someone to play with. And all the while the wind and snow is blasting away!
A second black joins these two. At first we assume it is Lady Blaze but we find out later that this wolf is a yearling male. Both these yearlings seem to really love Big Blaze. They seek his attention, just like the Druid yearlings loved 302.
The trio moves across a snowy ridge to the west and finally out of sight. So, we do the logical thing: we move west to try to find them again. We end up at the long north-side pullout, the same spot where we watched the Blacktails on a carcass in April.
From here we can see them quite easily. Despite the dreadful weather we have a pretty nice sighting. They seem to be sniffing for tidbits from past carcasses. We realize now that the black is not Lady Blaze, mostly from watching their behavior towards Big Blaze and vice versa.
Eventually, Big Blaze picks a bedding spot beneath a conifer and the gray disappears into the thick willows. The other black moves up the hill, out of sight.
Becky, Chloe and I discuss our options and decide to head back east while it's still early. We are still a bit nervous about the Lamar Canyon pack having a run-in with the Mollies. And where are the Agates? They are Chloe's favorite pack and we refuse to believe they are gone for good.
We meet up with Rick again at Slough and walk out to Bob's Knob with him. He does get Mollie's signals from here so we all help him try to find them. We have a nice chat and scope for nearly an hour, but alas, the Mollies elude us. At least the weather here is considerably milder here than on the Blacktail. The snow is much lighter and the wind is only and occasional breeze.
At one point we notice a herd of bison moving through the trailhead out-house area. We know the Mollies hunt bison so we wonder if they are running for that reason. But no wolves appear. Then we see people hiking and skiing on the Slough Campground road (which is normal this time of year) so we figure that will probably keep the Mollies out of sight until evening.
We decide to make another attempt to find otters, but luck is just not with us this trip. The drive affords us many views of the most beautiful valley in the world, though, so it is time well spent. 8~)
Eventually we drive back west, back to the blowing wind and the driving snow. Despite this, we find a big crowd at the long pullout, and just manage to squeeze in. Richard is here, with Mike and Karen. They yell over the wind, helping us find the three Blacktail wolves stil in view.
Big Blaze is still asleep under his conifer, but the two young males are up and moving, looking as if they want to go somewhere but can't decide where.
We notice some visitors walking along the ski trail behind the comfort station a half-mile west. The wolves are clearly aware of the people there and seem to be a little anxious to be further away from them. They soon begin to trot up the hill and to the east. Then the black begins to lope and turns for the road.
Next wee see brake-lights glow as a car stops in the road. No doubt the passengers have just seen the wolf heading straight towards them. Then another car appears, coming DOWN from the S curves, moving rather fast.
My heart is in my throat, hoping the west-bound car will slow down. I see a streak of black on the road and the oncoming car stops just in time!
Whew that was close. But what a treat for those visitors!
The black yearling seems aware it just had a close call: it really puts on speed and races across the wide meadow north of us.
Richard tells me that he's heard of a carcass somewhere near the east end of Everts, close to the Rescue Creek trail. The black seems to be heading right for it, hell bent for leather.
A little while later the gray crosses the road right where his black pack-mate did, surprising and delighting a few lucky visitors.
But our dear Big Blaze is still bedded and unaware of the drama.
With no active wolves to watch I become more aware of the wind's punishment. My face is killing me! So we start to talk of dinner and soon we are packed up and heading in to Gardiner.
Dinner becomes a comedy of errors as we are thwarted at the Two Bit when they have nothing vegetarian for Chloe. We try the Town Cafe but only their bar is open. So we end up at The Mine which is jam-packed (because it's the only game in town!).
We have to wait a bit for a table, but we enjoy each others company so much it's no problem. Besides, we're out of the wind!
Then we head across the street and check in to the Super 8. I smile when the clerk gives me my key. It's room 121! 8~)
Today I saw: bison, coyotes, elk, bighorn sheep, 9 wolf-watchers, 3 Blacktail wolves, including Big Blaze and two yearlings, and the spirit of Allison