DAY ONE - Friday, April 15

THREE FROM WRECKER

Welp, my remodel is finally finished, and I am headed to Yellowstone.

Itís 11:45 on a partially sunny day, not yet 20 degrees. The last 4 days have been filled with snow but we had only a dusting overnight. Our grass is already green but each day the bright April sun manages to melt the snow despite the sub-freezing temps. Last nightís low was 12.

Despite all the snow in the last few days, the roads are clear, with just a bit of melt water on the pass itself. There is a bit of road work going on below the pass, narrowing to one lane on the S curves. This is fine with me as it forces everyone to slow down!

On the far side of the pass I am happy to see fresh of snow high on the Bridgers and Absarokas. The exit ramps and the frontage roads are all steaming as the sun evaporates the remaining moisture.

In Livingston, I see mule deer grazing near Murdocks. There is more construction south of Livingston; they are widening the road. Cars and trucks are kept to 35mph for a few miles as we drive over dirt and gravel.

Once past this construction, 89 is free and clear. The flats in Paradise Valley are bare of snow but the higher slopes and peaks still a gorgeous white.

There are elk in the Tom Miner area and both north and south of Yankee Jim.

Iím now inside the gate and pull over to have my visit with Allison. I ask if sheís chilly today and how she likes the snow level. Mammoth Campground looks about 1/3 full.

Oh, am I happy to be here!

On my way across the high bridge I see a giant chunk of compacted snow in the west bound lane. With no one else around, I stop and put on my flashers so I can get out and move to the side. Itís really heavy and hard to move. I think it might have been a chunk that dropped off a passing bus.

Itís huge, at least a foot square. I manage to get it well off the road near the railing and drive on.

At Blacktail Ponds I stop briefly and see a sandhill flying to the east.

There are bison grazing in Phantom Lake.

I stop at Elk Creek and find an email update from Laurie. At her suggestion I stop at Wrecker, where there are two cars parked and four people with scopes on the hill.

Junction wolves were seen here earlier this morning. They have a carcass nearby out of sight. The people had a black in view a while ago. I set up and find two shapes I try to make into bedded wolves. But theyíre not!

Bill arrives and soon after this we find a single black wolf trotting to the north. Next we see a gray, following the route taken by the black. And finally a second black near some big boulders.

Itís great to see Bill again. And great to see wolves, too!

I keep going east and find very little snow in Little America. I stop at Slough to look towards the den. Some of the females have localized here in the last few days but I donít see them. But I do take some time to re-familiarize myself with the main landmarks in this area.

On I go into Lamar. Ahhh, such beauty! I am so glad to see it again!

There is hardly anyone else here, which is also nice. I think I passed only two cars! The snow level here is decent. The peaks and slopes of Specimen are still white, although the lower north side is mostly bare.

There are only a few bison in the valley.

On I go, further east. I pass the various side-channels that I like to see. Right now, they are covered in snow. I look forward to keeping track of their progress until the day they become rushing torrents. Little did I know what would happen later in June!

I reach Laurieís a little before 5 and begin to unload. We have a nice reunion, a great dinner and then Dan makes a fire.

Iím so happy to be back!

Today I saw: bison, sandhill cranes, mule deer, elk, three Junction wolves and the spirits of Allison and Richard.


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