DAY TWO - Wednesday, September 22


Well, as the saying goes…the best laid plans

When I arrive at the motel to pick up my friends, I am met with unexpected news. C has the sniffles and a low fever and a bit of dizziness. They are both concerned he may have Covid.

So, they are going to skip wolf watching. Instead, they will pack up and drive to the Mammoth Clinic to get a rapid test. M insists that I go watch wolves as planned and that she will check in with me later.

I walk back to my car in a sort of robotic state, seeing all my careful plans fall apart, overwhelmed that my friends’ wonderful, carefree adventure might have to end.

I drive west in the dark, as I have so many times before, but instead of imagining where I will find wolves today, I imagine every scenario that my friends might now be facing. If C is sick, then M might be, too. Which means I may have been exposed, and that I may have inadvertently exposed Laurie & Dan and Maureen and Rick.

Moreover, if C is ill, how do they get back home? They drove here; will he be ok to drive back? They can stay with me, of course, if they want to or if they need to, but will they want to remain so far from their home? Should they fly? Is that safe for them? For other passengers?

This is not what I usually think about!

I reach Exclosure, still in my semi-robotic state. I pull over, pack up and climb the hill.

And wouldn’t you know it, the Junctions are in view. They did cross the road last night and are bedded in the old rendezvous, scattered about. A few of the pups are playing.

I try to watch the wolves but after a few minutes, I realize I’ve made a mistake. My friends are in trouble, and I need to be with them.

So, down the hill I go.

I drive through the beautiful landscape, glowing in early morning light under a clear sky with gorgeous fall color all around.

I find them at the Clinic and they are glad to see me. It doesn’t open until 8:30 but they tell us to go around the back. Very soon the wonderful staff comes out and talks with C as he sits in the car. They administer a rapid test.

It takes about 15 minutes. While we wait, a resident bull elk helps us deal with the tension by bugling and strutting majestically past us, at a safe distance.

To our great relief the test is negative.

We celebrate with hugs and I text Laurie so she’ll know she and Dan and Maureen and Rick have not been exposed after all. I try to convince M & C to drive back to Lamar with me since the wolves are likely to still be in view. But they decline, with many thanks, expressing a wish to get on the road to Old Faithful and continue their adventure.

So, once more I drive east, enjoying the views and the color and the fact that my friend’s trip is preserved after all! I also thank Allison for whatever part she played in all this!

I find Laurie & Dan still on Exclosure Hill with Rick and Jeremy. I climb up and once again my scope is full of Junctions.

However, I learn that the Pack ran into serious trouble two days ago. In their natural wolf-style travels, some of them crossed the Park border into an area frequented by “hunters”. The result is that three members of the pack are now dead, including two of the pups I have been watching since April.

It’s upsetting but I take some comfort from the wolves themselves. The six remaining pups, two black and four gray don’t seem to show any ill effects from their recent loss.

I still hope that the adults will remember enough to keep them away from that area in future. The season has just begun and in my heart, I know I must prepare for more loss to come.

Two separate gray wolves, one uncollared and one collared (1272M I think) come in from the east. The pups run to them and get a feeding. The pack has a big rally, then a smaller group holds another one, with furiously wagging tails.

Here, again, is something to admire in wolves. Despite their losses, they still express such robust affection for each other.

Around 11:30 I tell Laurie I’m going back to Silver Gate to pack. She and Dan plan to stay in the Valley to attend a memorial for Nell.

I manage to get back in time to attend the memorial myself. And I see a moose along the way!

The service is very nice, with many people telling heart-warming tales of our dear departed friend. Now I say my thanks and goodbyes and head west.

My last Park sighting is of two mule deer eating willows near the Main Gate.

Today I saw: bison, mule deer, elk, a moose, pronghorn, 12 Junctions (including 1272M plus the 6 remaining pups) and the spirits of Allison and Richard.

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