Well, we knew this was coming, right?
I walk out to a half inch of very wet snow on the car. Itís still snowing heavily, but so far itís melting on the road. Itís dark at 6:30 and 37 degrees.
As I often find in Yellowstone, the snow tends to diminish when I reach Round Prairie. Today it turns to a light drizzle.
There seem to be no wolves howling or visible in eastern Lamar so I continue west.
The day is getting darker instead of lighter. I begin to hear tales of very heavy snow in Paradise Valley, Gardiner and on the Blacktail. But it hasnít reached Lamar or Little America yet. I do see some cool fog banks hugging the higher slopes. We scope in various places without any luck.
Visibility is great all through Little America and but there seem to be no wolves around.
Laurie & Dan and I scope from Elk Creek for a while, then Rick radios for us to come west.
We end up at Hellroaring, where Jeremy has found the Rescue Creek Pack chasing elk. However, by the time I arrive, visibility has been lost. I set up near Rick and with his help I manage to identify some elk but they are just vague shapes obscured by the snow curtain. I search the edges for wolves but see nothing but white.
Jeremy and Rick had 10 before the snow got thick. Calvin & Lynette arrived just after that and saw one or two.
The lot is packed with guides and all my wolf watching buds. We visit and chat and try to make the best of things, hoping to get a break in the snow clouds. But it doesnít come.
I make sure to give my well wishes to Taylor and Jeremy who are leaving soon for their trip of a lifetime to Africa.
Stacy arrives and spots two mule deer below us. They are much closer and thus easier to see.
Jeremy says the Junctions are on Specimen but far to the south and out of sight. I ask if maybe they are using the high rendezvous near Opal Creek and he says itís possible.
If Dunraven Pass were open, I suspect weíd find them. But that option is not available.
We linger here until 10AM, then decide to head back east. The snow is heavy and wet and itís beginning to accumulate on the road.
Laurie & Dan drive ahead of me. Near Tower I tap the brakes and feel a tiny bit of shimmy in my back wheels. Hmm, thatís a bit surprising so I slow down. The temperature is dropping so I suspect ice is forming on the road.
Conditions worsen through Little America and into Lamar. There seem to be no plows out yet, so we are breaking trail through quickly accumulating snow. Iím fine until I have an oncoming car, and there are lots of oncoming cars, not all of which are driving slow enough for conditions.
I have some anxious moments when ice starts to build up on my windshield. I crank up the heat on the defrost which helps a lot.
At least there are no drifts to contend with.
I remind myself that conditions will improve once I get to Trout Lake. The close forest on both sides of the road always makes driving easier, even though it leads to higher elevation and colder temps.
I am relieved once we get back to Silver Gate, although I resign myself that we will likely not be going back out today.
We are just settling in when Mark & Carol call. They tells us that the Park has just closed all the roads including this one!
I find this really unusual. This is just some early snow, not a three-day winter blizzard. This road is a state route; the only direct access between Cooke City and Gardiner.
I thought the Park only closed this road when necessary to comply with unusual events such as the Covid pandemic or a government shutdown. And even then, local residents are permitted to travel through with no stopping. But Iíve never known them to close it for winter weather.
Out of curiosity, we call around to gather more info from our various friends to the west. Kathie says that Mammoth and Gardiner have twice the snowfall that we had at Hellroaring. She also suspects that there is only one snowplow driver since today is a holiday (Columbus/Indigenous People Day).
Well, nothing to be done but enjoy where I am.
We settle in for a snowy afternoon and evening and enjoy each otherís company.
Today I saw: bison, mule deer, elk, a lot of snow and the spirits of Allison and Richard.