DAY TWO - Sunday, December 6

MAGICAL DIAMOND DUST

Iím out a bit late, at 6:50. Itís cold; minus 1!

As I drive in, I notice a delightful phenomenon, that somehow, I just never took note of before. My headlights pick up thousands of sparkles in the snow, like tiny diamonds, twinkling. And not just along the road, but in the forest on either side, too. The effect suggests a dozen tiny tinkerbells dancing in the forest.

Itís just gorgeous and magical and makes me smile.

My first stop is at Lower Hellroaring where I see Doug M and Rick, looking purposefully to the north. Rick helps me point my scope at the right spot. I see one wolf, far away, walking from left to right.

He says the view is actually better from Upper so I pack up and head there, where I find everybody else.

The Junctions are traveling left of Hellroaring Creek, above the frozen pond, just east of the basalt cliff. I see one black and one gray.

People are spread out all over the lot, trying to keep 6 feet apart. Several of the more nimble folk have found spots lower on the overlook cliff to the left. The rising sun makes viewing quite difficult this morning. I donít mean to complain about clear weather, but the lack of clouds makes viewing tricky at this time of the morning!

The plane arrives and reports to Jeremy that more Junctions are traveling across ďthe talus slopeĒ.

I donít know where the talus slope is (I do now!) and have never seen wolves in this spot before so I add it to the list. Once I find it, I see three more wolves traveling here, two blacks and a gray.

Some visitors arrive and report that they saw a large pack of wolves up on Everts this morning. They were howling. Most likely this is Eight Miles.

The Junctions move further and further west. I see them on and off (mostly off) and it remains tricky to find a good angle. By the time I find a decent spot to set up my scope, the wolves move again and I find myself blocked by a tree or two.

Itís a bit frustrating for all of us. And my poor toes are not used to the cold. Tomorrow, I vow to add toe warmers. The wolves are out of view again so I try driving down to Lower HR, which also warms my toes a bit.

From Lower, I find the talus slope and all the other places I saw them from the Upper lot, but I donít find the wolves. I do see a few bull elk at least!

I decide to give up and continue east and enjoy the scenery. The diamond dust continues to sparkle under the bright sun.

There is steam coming off Rose Creek and a large bison herd south of Hubbard. Itís still quite cold, only 13 degrees. Lamar looks particularly gorgeous under blue sky. All the trees are frosted and sparkling, like a living Christmas card.

I stop at Confluence just to admire the area. There are endless variations here on the theme of frost. There is cracked ice with frosting and sparkles on top; clear, glistening running water and stretches of pure white snow. Even that sparkles. The endless shades of white and silver are varied and astonishing. Everything is glittering in some gorgeous way.

I am reminded of a passage about the beauty of the newly created world from Tolkienís Silmarillion: ďBehold the snow and the cunning work of frostĒ!

I drive on to Silver Gate and thaw out a while, then head back in around 3PM. The day has ďwarmedĒ to 27.

There are four moose at Round Prairie, including two bulls. I spot two coyotes hunting: one near Curve and the other at Elk Creek.

I drive straight to Hellroaring but find none of the crew here. Hmm. When I check in with Jeff over the radio, I discover the wolves can only be seen from a spot that requires a difficult hike.

I donít feel like doing that, so I return to Lower and scope from here. You never know, I reason to myself, they could get up and move east, right? But luck is not with me this evening. I do find many bison and several elk.

As dusk approaches, I drive east. All through Little America it feels like Iím the only one here. The mountains to the east grow salmon pink from the setting sun.

I stop at Dorothyís just to enjoy the beautiful stillness. This is such a rugged, wild valley. And so beautiful.

At Round Prairie, my four moose have grown to six! They are all together in the center of the thickest willows to the south. At first, I count five but then I realize that one of the five has an extra hump, which turns out to be the sixth animal. One bull is just huge, or at least his antlers are. Wow.

Today I saw: bison, coyotes, elk, 6 moose, 8 Junction wolves and the spirits of Allison and Richard.

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