DAY FOUR - Sunday, September 20

34 JUNCTIONS!

I find beaded water on Arrow this morning from last nightís rain. I hope that it has cleared out the remaining smoke.

And boy has it! The view from Exclosure today is crystal clear. Only now do I realize just how bad it has been the last three days!

As I am climbing up, a wolf chorus breaks out. Oh, wow, how lovely to hear! I raise my scope and immediately see pups making the now-familiar mad dash to the right. An adult has just arrived, bringing food. Susan and Reve recognize 1229 as the arrival. She is a busy girl!

As the light grows, I settle in to basically a repeat of yesterdayís great viewing, but with much clearer skies. We see six more feedings; two from the left (east) and four from the right (west). The alpha male limps in from the west and behind him comes old slow-poke, 1047. He may be slow and he may be demoted, but he still provides for the family.

Next from the west is the gray male. He is totally swarmed by pups and has to hop over several of them to get away after delivering the groceries.

With help from various others I identify 907, 1048, third mother and the husky yearling. Again they are spread out so you have to move your scope to find everyone.

We are treated to another wonderful howl session to which we all quiet down and listen. Itís really gorgeous, so many voices, low notes, high notes, happy and sad notes. I record some of it on my phone!

Now 996 comes in from the east, and five alert pups run to him. I am pleased to say that he is very attentive to them, which is a welcome change from his usual aloofness.

I make another sweep for a count and get ALL 34! Woo hoo!

We talk about how great this sighting is, how easy. We are also pleased that in this time of pandemic strife, so many visitors, many more than usual for this time of year, are being exposed to the second largest pack in Yellowstone history. We wonder if they have the mistaken impression that itís this easy to see wolves all the time!

As the morning progresses, the feedings stop and various wolves look for places to bed, even the pups. Although a couple of them begin a ďpull my tail gameĒ, chasing back and forth, quite charmingly.

Then one black yearling is spotted to the west, taking a walkabout on his own.

Most of the adults move up into the trees, looking for bedding spots in the shade. Some pups follow them and begin to walk on a log, playing king of the hill.

The alpha male takes a bedding spot near some aspen trunks.

A bunch of pups, almost all of them gray, are not yet ready for a nap. They start to play on top of the Middle foothill. Itís very enjoyable to watch. But eventually they tire and head back to the yellow grass, bedding flat out.

I decide to pack up and drive west to explore a bit.

I see Taylor at the ranch so I stop to say hello. She is watching the walkabout black yearling, so I scope with her for a bit. She is concerned that he is aiming for the river and there are already people walking out that way. But to our relief, the yearling turns and continues west.

At Slough I drive down the campground road. I always see interesting things down here, and there is hardly anyone around. Rick is here, talking with a couple of very nice independent film producers whom I met earlier this morning on Exclosure. They are talking about his books and are thrilled to have seen wolves today.

Itís a gorgeous day, a perfect (to me) 47 degrees. The fall colors are really great down here. There are also lots of ducks on the water and lots of beauty. The high peaks all got snow last night. That looks really pretty, too.

I check my email here because itís one of the few hot spots in the Park and discover that my friend Ron has won another Emmy, as has his daughter, Jasmine. Wow, thatís so cool!

I continue west as far as Tower and fill up my tank, then drive back east.

At Confluence, I stop to admire the aspen and to see if I can spot the Junctions from here. I do! I find various bedded wolves plus a lone pup sniffing and wandering around by himself. I also find some pronghorn in the river bottoms, and up on the bank I see a bison staring down a pair of hikers.

Back east I go and spy a pretty mule deer buck just outside of Silver Gate.

I am delighted to hear that Laurie & Dan want to come out for the evening session.

We set up on Trash Can as usual. And the Junctions do not disappoint; we see a total of 19 wolves. Itís a bit windy and a tad chilly, but the air is clear, so weíll take it.

There are no feedings tonight but plenty of pup play to keep us happy. They dash and chase all over the place between the middle and western foothills.

On Middle foothill there are some distinctive boulders and orange rocks. They play ďking of the boulderĒ for a long time here, pushing each other off in turn, jumping and ambushing each other. Itís just darling. Then a few head off, wandering here and there on their own.

Someone notices a big bull elk with a harem of about 20 cows up on a shoulder of Norris. These are the first elk Iíve seen in Lamar for quite a while.

As the light wanes a thin fingernail of moon rises.

The temperature drops and I am glad I brought an extra jacket up this hill. But we are losing the light, so we bid goodnight to the wolves and head east.

Today I saw: bison, sandhill cranes, a mule deer, ducks, elk, pronghorn, 34 Junction wolves (the whole pack) and the spirits of Allison & Richard.

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