Iím out at 6:30AM, at 22 degrees. I have stars overhead, and a bit of frost on the car. This will be my last morning for a while, so I hope I see Junctions today!
I start at Dorothyís. Rick joins me and we both hear faint howling. We both feel it was more than one voice and surmise that it came from the Crystal area, so off we go to Slough.
We find dozens of cars here already. People have heard howling but have not found wolves yet.
I hear the howling myself. It seems low, maybe in the river corridor. Rick suggests Daveís Hill so a bunch of us pack up and follow him. I get winded so I stop half-way up. I hear howling again and set up to take a look. And there they are!
I see four, five, six wolves, romping uphill just past the carcass area. They must be pups because they are chasing and wrestling each other. It is so heartwarming to see how much they seem to enjoy each otherís company, rolling around on top of each other, play-fighting and wrestling.
I climb higher and hear more howling but this time it comes from the northwest. And itís a lone voice.
People at the top are searching for the lone howler. I watch the pup group a while, finding a black pup perched picturesquely on a high boulder. There is also a collared adult gray here with the six pups. She turns out to be 1228F, who had been missing from the group on Friday.
More howling erupts from the west and Frank finds 907F curled up on a little hill near the southern round tree. She is howling to her babies.
Her babies howl back, joined by 1228F. I wonder if they are each saying to the other ďcome here!Ē Laurie thinks itís likely that the rest of the pack is bedded near 907, just out of sight behind the hill.
The pups continue playing and posing, while 1228 moves restlessly about, howling every so often. She is slowly working her way higher on the slope. The pups seem to love climbing on boulders.
Two grays perch together on one of them, backlit by the rising sun.
I turn my scope to 907 just as she is changing her bedding spot. Then behind her I catch a glimpse of a black with a gray muzzle.
After this a full group howl from the adults begins. Laurie is right again!
We find a bald eagle near the adults but donít see any other birds that might indicate they have a carcass there.
1228F moves higher on the hill and eventually into a thick stand of young aspen. They take their time, but the pups eventually follow her and we lose them one by one.
Itís a bit after 10AM and this is the day we are all leaving, so itís time to head back to Silver Gate.
We take our time hiking down and I walk around saying my goodbyes to my various friends.
Iím back on the road again around 12:30. As we reach Slough Laurie radios for an update. There are still wolves on both sides of the road but they are now mostly out of sight. About an hour ago, a few adults snuck across the road to join the pups. By all accounts, the greeting was a happy one.
Our friend Joe K is here visiting, happy to have seen some Junction activity. He says the pups wiggled their butts and tails so hard that the adults gave up some food!
We say goodbye for now and continue west. At ski lot, the denned black bear is still drawing a huge crowd.
On my drive back, Paradise Valley really lives up to its name. Sunlit snow on the high peaks, dark green/blue forests below that, lingering fall color at the tree line, golden grass on the low slopes and in the flats, and then the deep blue sparkling river.
It looks fantastic. This is why I live here!
Today I saw: bison, elk, 9 Junctions including 907F, 1228F, an adult black plus 6 pups and the
spirits of Allison and Richard.