I find no snow on the car this morning, but boy, is it cold! I have minus 6 in Lamar.
A pretty sunrise begins behind me as I head west. Nothing happening in Lamar but I am hoping the Junctions might travel to Slough today. However, when I arrive the place is empty.
I continue west and see Susan & Reve at the big Ski Lot so I stop to join them. They tell me the crew found the Junctions to the north from Elk Creek but all the lots are full, so they are scoping from here.
I tell them I’m going to try Rick’s pullout, which offers basically the same view with less trees in the way. Just as I am setting up, I hear Rick on the radio to Laurie, suggesting we try from Wrecker.
Wrecker is not yet plowed so I park on the road shoulder and hike down into the lot.
Laurie & Dan are here with Rick. He’s just found the Junctions. They are just east of the small basalt cliff on a rocky knob. One wolf becomes two, then five, then eight. Eventually we recognize them as the same group of 15 we have been following all week.
A few individuals are easily seen on a ledge of the cliff; others are more camouflaged on the rocky knob. I pick out 907F, easily recognizable due to her pregnant condition.
1229F is again the leader. She is just fearless, always up for an adventure.
She begins to walk downslope from the group. A few follow her but most remain up top.
The alphas and 1048M bed down in a level snow field near a large boulder. The rest of the group remains in an exploring mood. I shake my head when I realize just how far they travelled from yesterday afternoon.
We have excellent viewing. These are not ant-wolves but close wolves, making me very happy. Eventually everyone arrives and we have a 2 hour sighting.
Several wolves begin to explore the butte we call “Sheep Cliff”. I count 11 bighorn there, several levels above the wolves.
The sheep know these rocks much better than the wolves. They seem to fly over what must be uneven, rocky ground with drop offs on three sides!
They stop as a group, balanced on three separate rock pinnacles, as if daring the wolves to come up after them.
One black pup tries but it’s obvious he doesn’t have a clue how to get up there. He turns and walks away while the bighorn sprint from cliff to cliff even higher.
One wolf heads down to the river, carefully picking out a route through the rocky terrain. A few others begin to follow and soon we realize the whole pack is moving. All the previously bedded wolves are now up and traveling down towards the Yellowstone. We watch as each individual follows the trail, sometimes choosing a side route but all continuing in the main direction.
Last in line is 907F. She seems to get lost for a moment or two, then tries a different route, only to emerge back on the main “trail” taken by the leaders.
Once she goes out of sight, we try to guess where we might see them again. Laurie says when they are on the low route, closer to the river, it’s much harder.
We end up at Rick’s pullout. I amuse myself by recognizing specific areas I could see from Wrecker, including the “Sheep Cliff”. The bighorn are still there. I surmise that if I had been watching from here, instead of from Wrecker, I would have seen maybe half of what I saw. Although I might have seen them for a tiny bit longer once they started downhill.
We see plenty of elk & bison but the wolves never come back into view.
A little while after this we head back to Wrecker. They have been found again, slightly further west. Apparently they circled around the far side of the Sheep Cliff. With Jeremy’s help I find a total of 8, bedded down in snowy sage.
It’s nearly 10AM, so I decide to get started back to Bozeman. The sign-up for the Covid vaccine for my category starts at noon. Bozeman has been vaccinating people all through February and I am eager to have my turn.
I say my goodbyes and thanks and head off. I notice the diamond sparkles are back, courtesy of colder temps and fresh snow.
At Blacktail ponds I see two photogs (not Bob) pretty far out in the flats. I suspect they are looking for the otters. A photog still in the lot tells me they were out again this morning, and that he saw three wolves here last night.
I find out later that one was a Junction wolf and the other two were the remaining Carnelian wolves.
Just past Yankee Jim a beautiful bald eagle sails across the Yellowstone. I also see mule deer in various spots.
The clear day allows me a wonderful view of the snowy Absroakas all through Paradise Valley. I sigh with satisfaction. This is why I live here!
I arrive in Bozeman a little after 1PM and immediately set up my laptop. I go on the vaccine website but alas it’s already full up. I find out later it filled in 13 minutes!
Today I saw: bison, a bald eagle, elk, bighorn sheep, 15 Junction wolves (including the alphas, 907F, 1048M, 1229F, 1276F, and many others)
and the spirits of Allison and Richard.