DAY THREE - Monday, October 21

NORTH SIDE/SOUTH SIDE

I find another inch or two of very powdery snow has fallen overnight. Arrow comes equipped with a very good defroster and my windshield clears up fast.

Itís overcast and still snowing, so we might have visibility issues again today. The temp at 7AM is a normal 25 degrees.

As I pass Trash Can, I hear Carl over the radio. Heís at the Ranch and has spotted wolves, the same four as yesterday (969F, 1109F and two black pups) heading up Amethyst Bench. I park at the ranch and set up next to Rick who has just arrived from further west.

We both find them as they reach Amethyst creek. They disappear into the gully and quickly emerge on the other side. They head up hill in a line, moving west.

We have them for maybe 10 minutes but then a snow-squall comes in and covers everything. Laurie arrives and we agree to meet at Dorothyís to try to re-acquire them from that position. Alas, the snow is just too thick.

Carl reports that visibility is improving at Slough (this often happens on a snowy morning). Since the wolves are on a route that suggests they are heading to Slough, we go there.

We set up on the side of the road, facing Divide Ridge. Dale & Faye are here, too. After about a half-hour Dale is the first to spot them. He finds 969 just left of the Crystal Rock, among some bison.

Jeremy joins us and I learn that the rest of the Junctions are to the north. He says, if the snow clears, we are very likely to see them.

On that advice, several people head out to Bobís Knob.

Now I hear howling, and itís coming from both sides. Cool!

Faye is looking north while Dale looks south. The snow clears just enough for Faye to find the main Junction group. Yay! I swing my scope north and find them just above the diagonal forest. I see 2, then 4, then 7, then 10 then 13! It looks like they have a carcass out there, because they are moving to and fro in that ďconveyor beltĒ type of behavior. I see full bellies, a few bloody muzzles.

Several of the pups begin to play and romp.

When I turn back south, 969 has left the blacks at Crystal and begins to make her way down the slope, aiming to cross the road. Itís obvious that 1109 and the two black pups are not as eager to re-join the pack. I sure canít blame 1109 because she gets beaten up by all three of the females.

We can see all three blacks now, sitting on their haunches, looking to the north but unwilling to keep going.

The main pack has moved further east, closer to the horizontal forest and the zig zag willow area. They are all over the place and itís hard to get a count.

Then suddenly most of the pack start to rush downhill in front of the diagonal forest, converging in the spot where the flats begin. They are after something, tails up and excited. I lose most of them when they reach the flats. A few stay up in the gap between the two forests, as if watching what is going on.

Laurie figures it out. 969 has arrived and they were rushing to greet her (or perhaps to pounce on her a bit. I have now seen 17 wolves this morning, 3 grays and 14 blacks. Pretty cool!

I check the time because Laurie has an appointment in Gardiner at 11AM. Sheís having her snow tires put on for the season. Well, itís too bad we both have to leave such a nice active sighting, but thatís the way the cookie crumbles. We pack up and head west.

It starts snowing again just past Tower. And it gets worse and worse as we go, accumulating quite thickly on the road. Visibility is downright bad. I canít believe Iím putting this brand new car (and myself!) through another blizzard on windy wilderness roads! But Arrow is a champ.

It looks like we are gonna be a bit late, but folks in Montana are forgiving when there is weather. As we reach the high bridge things clear up a bit.

We find construction in Gardiner Ė they are fixing the bridge over the Yellowstone. We are only a little bit late and there is no problem. We have a very nice lunch at The Wonderland Cafe, then I drive Laurie up the Jardine road so we can take a photo of its conditions for Kathie. While we are up here we see a nice coyote.

Our drive back is radically different. The snow is finished, the sun is out and the roads are nearly dry! However, at Hellroaring, we find ourselves stuck in a mystery jam, presided over by a ranger. We later find out some visitors had gone off the road further down, and the snow plow is helping to get them out.

We are stopped for 20 minutes, but in an awfully pretty place.

As I pass Longs, a coyote dashed across the road. We get back to Slough to find there are still wolves in view. Dale & Faye fill us in. Apparently, visibility was bad for most of the time we were gone. It only recently cleared up, and when it did, they saw a bunch of wolves jump up from their bedding spots on a snow slope between the Diagonal and Horizontal forest. Faye says they rushed up hill and converged on something. She thinks a coyote caught a deer and the wolves noticed so they rushed up and stole it.

She says the coyote was seen running for its life across the lion meadow. Laurie and I wonder if it was the same coyote we saw bolting across the road in front of us?

When I get my scope set up I see two bloody snow areas, with several wolves still eating at both spots. Others roam to and fro. Then I watch four wolves come from below to join the others in a happy greeting. Laurie IDís them as 996, the beautiful gray yearling and two other blacks. We also see the alpha female, 1047, 1048 and 907.

Again we hear howling behind us to the south. 1109 and her two pups are still in the Crystal area, almost camouflaged against a backdrop of dark pines and bare aspen trunks.

We also see three deer in that area.

Back to the north we watch the alpha female pin several pack members, and several pups playing ďtoss the hideĒ. The alpha female picks up a bone and walks around with it, and is playfully mobbed by pups.

I turn back south and see the two black pups take some tentative steps to the north, as if yearning to be with the other group. But they change their minds and go back to the edge of trees. I see 1109 turn and disappear into the forest. Very soon the pups follow.

I have to leave early tonight to attend a phone meeting, so I head out around 3 to get back to Silver Gate.

Today I saw: bison, 2 coyotes, elk, pronghorn, 17 Junction wolves (including 969F, 907F, 1109F, the alpha female, 1047, 1048, 996, the gray yearling and lots of pups) and the spirits of Allison and Richard

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