DAY SIX - Saturday, December 28

FROM AGONY TO ECSTASY

Each day has been getting colder. Today itís only 1 degree. Wow.

Kara is ahead of me as usual. I stop at Soda Butte east and pull on my extra polartec pants. Ahh, thatís better.

By 7:30AM itís 3 degrees at Hitching post. No wolves in view as yet.

Most people think the Junctions are likely to have ended up in the Slough area, given their location when they were hunting elk last evening.

I start to hike out to Bobís Knob to join Taylor and Nick but I forget my tripod. Once I am back at the car, Laurie radios. Kara found the Junctions to the north of Secret Passage from the Ranch.

I drive back east and set up with everyone else near the barn. Itís a ridiculously difficult spot and far away but Laure has seen 5 wolves total in the last half hour, as they moved through a tiny gap between trees.

There is some bird activity and with a lot of help from lots of folks, I do manage to see two wolves, each for a second or two as them move through the area.

We joke that other than seeing no wolves at all, this is the probably the absolute worst wolf sighting Iíve ever had.

At least there is no wind, and we even get a haze-shrouded sun for a while. By 11AM, the temp has climbed slowly to a whole 5 degrees. We are happy to watch several coyotes out in the open to the south for a while. Now why couldnít the wolves be out there?

As a way to warm up, I make a quick trip to Tower for gas, then head to Elk Creek for a quick scope around. All seems quiet.

I get back to the Ranch around 1:30 and find Kara the only person still here. And she has wolves! But itís not the Junction Pack. These wolves are on Specimen!

They are right on skyline. Really high. I can see one black for sure and several suspicious lumps behind that one. Kara says they all just bedded.

A coyote trots right past us in the parking lot. Heís really close but has no ill intent - he is on his way somewhere, just taking a shortcut.

Kara calls out over the radio and soon Becky, Chloe and Nick have joined us. We eventually count four black wolves way up there, and we speculate that we are looking at Mollies. Then a snow squall comes in and hides them from us.

I take out my phone and find that it has enough strength to send a text. I let Laurie & Rick know what we have.

Becky & Chloe suggest the view might be better from Dorothyís so they go there and report back. They do find them. Then more snow rolls in so Kara and I head to Dorothyís too.

After the squall clears, we can see the wolves have gotten up and are starting to move downhill, right on the knife-edge of a skinny finger of Amethyst.

As they move, four blacks turn into five blacks and 2 grays; one gray limps badly on its front foot.

Compared to the difficult and frustrating view of Junctions this morning, this sighting is extremely satisfying. Even at this considerable distance, these big wolves running down the knife edge of an open snow slope lined with trees is stunningly beautiful. The wolves stop for a bit and look over the far edge (to the south). We wonder if they are looking at other wolves or at elk or what. Then they continue their journey, entering an area of scattered trees. We see them moving between trunks and branches, then finally they reach an area with much thicker trees, where viewing is just about impossible. We speculate they could come out of the forest on the upper meadows of Amethyst bench.

We wait a while, in anticipation of seeing them again, but they do not emerge. Instead we find a fox emerging onto Amethyst bench, so we get another three dog day.

The fox seems calm, not running from wolves, and just goes about exploring the bench.

We express to each other what a wonderful sighting that was, and hope we can confirm somehow that they were Mollie wolves.

With our bonus wolves out of sight, we head back to the Ranch to check on the Junctions. We Natalie & Warren (who are Hayden Valley regulars). We do not find the Junctions again but we do show them where we saw the Mollies. Warren finds the fox.

Itís a nice way to end the day.

Today I saw: bison, 6 coyotes, elk, 1 fox, 9 wolves including 2 Junctions and 7 (most likely Mollies) and the spirits of Allison and Richard

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