I am out at 6 today. Barb has decided to linger a bit for more light so she can get photos
At Pebble I come across an accident – a pickup truck on its side in the meadow to the south. Several medical people are on the scene tending to the injured driver.
I see Stacy and offer to help. He says I should go on; the guy is alive and an ambulance is on the way.
As I drive downhill towards Trout Lake, a car in the opposite lane has its flashers on. Bison in the road! A big bull is right smack in front of me. I brake hard and some of my stuff slides forward. But no disaster. The bull and his buddies amble off slowly, oblivious.
I wonder if one of their buddies may have caused the accident at Pebble?
I get to Trash Can and soon I am distracted by wolves in view.
Just like yesterday, a group of wolves heads west from the rendezvous, visible in the gaps between the tops of the cottonwoods. Again they are led by 1229. It seems to me that she is employing a different gait today, a faster, more determined trot. She looks like she is “on a mission”.
The wolves continue further west so I move to Hubbard Hill. I find 1229 again. She has gotten far ahead of the others. Most of the trailing group are puppies, and they get distracted pretty easily. One group of four puppies (2/2) have made it to the Big Fan, while 1229 is already climbing the eastern side of Amethyst bench.
The second group is five wolves (3/2), who are only now approaching the Big Fan. The route 1229 is taking suggests she is headed to Slough.
The group of five stalls out on the old riverbank, at a spot where Rick says there is an old bison carcass. The closer-following group is now crossing Amethyst bench.
There is still a single black bedded in the rendezvous so we have 11 wolves total.
Two wolves at the old carcass start to roll in it. Ugh! This is my least-favorite wolf behavior (hah!) After they do this a while, four of them continue to the west, leaving one gray who continues to gnaw on something.
The group on Amethyst now stalls out too, fooling around here or there long enough for the second group to catch up. We see a brief greeting and a little romping but soon they get down to business and drop into Amethyst creek.
All 8 appear on the other side, rushing up a steep, bare hill. They seem joyful as they race each other to the top, then turn to the right. This is the route to Jasper Bench and we know we are about to lose them.
I check the old carcass and see that the gray has left and is now scent trailing the others.
I drive further west and stop again at Coyote, where I find Larry & Linda. They just saw 1229 on Divide Ridge. She was silhouetted on top for a moment, then disappeared over the crest.
We expect to see the others soon, following her trail.
Barb arrives and I fill her in. But we fail to find any more wolves from here. I suggest we try Lamar Canyon west.
Larry & Linda and I set up here while Barb goes into Little America. From radio reports we know that people are spread out, awaiting the sight of the traveling wolves. Kathie is at Boulder hill and hears howling. She says it’s coming from the northeast.
Hmm, where I am is northeast of Boulder. I don’t hear howling but when I lift my scope, I see wolves!
One, two, five, seven! Four grays and three blacks. They are above the thick young aspen forest, below Crystal Rock. They sit on their haunches, staring downhill. I can see them howling but cannot hear it.
Rick has them in view from the Crystal lot, along with Barb and dozens of people.
The wolves move into thick cover and I lose them, so we move again, this time to the Slough lot where we join Becky & Chloe. We scope from just off the road. The pups come into view just east of the Specimen Ridge trail.
1229 is already trying to cross the road near the Lamar River Bridge. The rest of them stop near the trail by some very large boulders. They howl plaintively, clearly hesitant to get any closer to the road.
They are quite visible from the road and have drawn a huge crowd. Still, for some people, this excellent, clear view is not close enough. Dozens of them hike out to get closer, and in doing so, prevent the pups from completing their long journey. The wanted to cross the road to the north, to join the rest of their family.
There are maybe 25-30 people lining the crests of each of two low hills. Some are walking out even further.
Eventually 1229 makes it across, cleverly following the river as it goes under the road at the bridge. She is quickly followed by the husky yearling. But the pups are not as savvy as their older siblings.
After about 45 minutes of dithering, hesitating and plaintively howling, the pups turn and wander back into the young aspen forest. Maybe they will bed down there and try to cross again at nightfall?
For a brief time 1229 and the husky yearling are seen near the Marge Simpson tree. They sniff around and then set off to the west. It looks like they are following a scent trail of the rest of the Pack, heading towards the trough.
Linda and Larry and I hike out to Bobs. We are too late to see 1229 and the husky yearling, but Larry finds the pup group from here. They did not bed down but are now traveling east again, likely headed back towards Lamar.
We are proud of the pups for trekking all that way. Perhaps they learned some valuable lessons by doing it.
Eventually I head back east. Then Chloe radios that she and Becky have found the pups again from Hubbard. They are approaching the Amethyst drainage from the west.
I join them on Hubbard. Our spirits lift as we see the pups bravely finding their way home. We have a full count of the 8 adventurers. Then Chloe points out a 9th pup, a black. She says this was the first wolf they saw; that it was actually heading west, scent trailing the route the others took. She thinks this is the one that remained in the rendezvous while the others took their walkabout.
Chloe says the black was higher on the slope when the others appeared. He saw them and circled around. We all now watch him catch up to his/her siblings and have a very waggy-tail greeting.
Now they rush eagerly as a group across Amethyst bench towards home, like horses coming back to the barn after a trail ride. Then, unlike horses, most of them stop at the old bison carcass for another nibble.
One homesick black wolf skips the carcass and continues east, getting far ahead of the others.
We are a little worried to have these pups now totally on their own, without any adults. So we decide to meet again this evening to see what else develops.
And we do meet again on Trash Can hill, but have a very slow evening. We count all 9 pups but they are bedded nearly the whole time. I guess their trek to “almost Slough” and back really wore them out!
On my way back east for the night I see a moose in Round Prairie, a good-looking young male with small paddle-antlers.
Today I saw: bison, coyotes, elk, a moose, bighorn sheep, 11 Junction wolves including 1229 and husky yearling as well as 9 pups (5/4) and the
spirits of Allison and Richard.