DAY SIX - Friday, February 14

OH NO, BLOWING SNOW!

Well, weíre back to having new snow overnight. Not too much, though, maybe an inch. Itís not terribly cold, at 22 degrees, but the wind is blowing.

As I drive in, the wind really kicks up, blowing snow across the road, making it hard to see. It makes for slow going.

When I reach Round Prairie, conditions get worse. I realize scoping will be tricky today. Despite these conditions, I see the moose at Confluence again. He is no longer bedded but standing stoically in blowing snow.

By 7:45 we have decent light but nearly white-out conditions.

I continue my slow journey through Lamar and Little America. I end up, like yesterday at the big ski lot. A few people who got here earlier saw a few of the Junctions briefly, in the same spot as we had them yesterday.

I consider climbing the steep snow-bank and braving the harsh wind but after a minute of icy pellets smacking my face, I change my mind.

But, now that I know the wolves are still there, I decide to head back east to find an easier viewing spot. Tower is no good, so I try Yellowstone River Bridge. Itís full again but the viewers are not seeing anything from there anyway. So I try what worked yesterday, namely Wrecker grade.

Almost immediately I find canids in the place where we had wolves yesterday, but these animals are coyotes.

Pauline and I think they are the same band of five we saw in the flats yesterday. They likely fed on what was left of the Junctionís carcass and are now headed east.

So, we go back to Tower, hoping to wait out the squall. Itís just too blustery and unpleasant to try to scope right now so I content myself with coffee and a second breakfast in the comfort of my car.

Around 10:30 the sky lightens a bit but the curtain of falling snow is still too thick. We can only barely make out trees on the hillside, much less any wolves.

I head back to the ski lot, hoping the wind might have lessened. In a short break from the squall a few of us get a glimpse of a few bedded blacks on a rocky hilltop. They look like they want out of the snow and wind, too!. One of them gets up and then a second. They move down the slope among the rocks. But then the squall returns with even fiercer wind and I lose them.

I donít mind scoping in snow but I draw the line at ice pelting my face. I decide to call it an early day. Especially after yesterdayís wonderful sighting, this is just miserable!

I am not the only one heading back east. Rick is heading back and so are Laurie & Pauline. As I reach Curve lot, conditions really deteriorate. Itís nearly impossible to see the road, so I put on my hazards on and just creep along at 10mph.

Laurie & Pauline & I stop at Curve and I suggest I might sit here a while to wait it out. Instead Laurie recommends I follow her as we continue east. I trust her experience so on we go. Although I admit these are probably the worst driving conditions Iíve ever faced, the saving grace is I know this route, there is very little traffic and Iím with trusted friends.

All the flat areas invite the wind and blowing snow. Rick becomes part of our caravan, behind me. He radios encouragement that once we get to Trout Lake where the forest closes in, it will likely be easier.

Iím sure heís right but weíre not there yet! The wind brings some truly severe blasts, and the snow just obliterates your view of the road.

I follow Laurieís tail-lights; we go slow and steady and make good progress. The worst section is between Confluence and Hitching Post. All through this section the wind is unfettered and boy does it blow!

As I near Soda Butte (one landmark not utterly obscured) I see a car stopped in the pullout, and its driver looking north through binoculars. Heís watching a bull moose, walking slowly through the open meadow. The moose seems to be aiming for a large Douglas fir as if seeking some relief from the storm in its sheltering boughs. He lifts his long legs high, making slow but steady progress.

We finally reach Trout Lake and just as Rick predicted, conditions improve considerably.

Hooray for trees! They bear the brunt of the wind and snow, sparing us the worst. The rest of the drive is much easier to bear, but still we are relieved once we are safe inside in Silver Gate.

Coming back early gives me plenty of time to pack and clean up, and to chat and visit with my hardy friends.

We have a great ďlast dayĒ dinner and then hit the sack.

Today I saw: bison, coyotes, elk, a moose, 4 wolves (all Junctions) way too much blowing snow and the spirits of Allison and Richard

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