DAY THREE - Thursday, October 7

WRAITH FALLS AND RAIN

We decide to go to Wraith, reasoning that even if we see no wolves there, we can still drive to Hayden early enough to see other things.

Barb and I are the very first to arrive at the Wraith Falls lot. Unfortunately, it is way too dark to see anything. We sit quietly with our lights and motors off, hoping for howling.

Itís not long before we are joined by others. Seems as though the word has spread. By first light at 7AM the lot is jammed full and cars are lining the road for a quarter mile to the east.

We do find the carcass and plenty of birds on it, but I see only one coyote.

However, itís nice to have a chance to say hello to all my Northern Range wolf watcher friends. I see Becky & Chloe, Colleen and Des, Calvin and Lynette, Susan and Reve and Larry & Linda. If not for this morning, I would have missed most of them.

Rick is here too, which pretty much tells me Iím not missing wolves in Lamar.

Calvin says he was here last evening and watched the Rescue Creek pack come down from Everts around 6:30. He said they fed for a while but it got dark fast. He and Lynette think the carcass is spent and they wonít be back.

At 7:45 Barb and I head back to Hayden. I find that driving the road from Mammoth to Norris so much easier in the daylight!

Swan Lake Flats is extremely pretty this morning in intermittent sun. By the time we reach Canyon, though, the day has turned dreary. We see no wolves, no elk, not even bison!

But I appreciate the fact that there are so few cars or people here.

We drive on to 3 panel and scope for a while, finding three groups of elk on the hills across the river. There is some interesting interaction between several cows but mostly they graze peacefully.

I find a red tailed hawk perched in a tree.

When more rain comes, we decide against another run to the east. Instead, weíll go south west, through Gibbon Canyon and on to Fountain Flats. We want to check out the Wapiti situation there.

As we turn towards Madison Junction, I reflect again on how long itís been since I drove this way. I have done so many times during summer visits but not much during the fall. So I find myself enjoying new vistas all along the way.

And I donít mean to sound misanthropic, but driving these roads in October with such light traffic is so much more enjoyable than being stuck behind a slow RV.

I am reminded of the endless variety and beauty that Yellowstone has to offer.

On the way from Madison Junction towards Fountain Flats, I am amazed to see how thick the new growth forests are, on both sides of the road. In my early visits I often camped at Madison, so I got familiar with this particular drive. In those early days, only a decade after the devastating fires, the new growth was only a few feet high, allowing me to see far beyond the road to distant mountains. But now, itís a wall of forest.

We arrive at Fountain Flats and accidentally bring the rain with us. We still explore a bit but decide against walking anywhere.

Time to go.

We drive back to Madison Junction and out through the West gate.

Itís been a very long time since I drove 191 and I donít think Iíve ever seen it in October. There are some absolutely stunning views and gorgeous fall color, purple, orange, pink, russet, scarlet and gold.

But when we get into Gallatin Canyon, the rain increases. I make use of the many handy pullouts so cars behind me can pass.

At Gallatin Gateway we leave the highway and take the rural route back to Bozeman, through lovely farm country. We pass a flock of wild turkeys and even more gorgeous fall color. Eventually we get to Cottonwood where we part company.

The sky is beginning to clear when I reach my condo at 3:15

Today I saw: bison, 2 coyotes, elk, a red-tailed hawk, turkeys and the spirits of Allison and Richard.

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