DAY FIVE - Tuesday, September 12

CARDIAC HILL

Itís a mild 44 degrees as I head down the hill in the dark. For some reason there is more traffic than usual driving east today.

I go in and out of a light drizzle through the Soda Butte Valley and Lamar. My idea is to start at Elk Creek this morning in case the Junctions are still up on Specimen.

As I pass Tower, I notice the ďspace capsuleĒ is finally gone. That sure took a while!

I scope for almost an hour, till about 7:30 but find only elk and bison. The clouds did a good job keeping the sun from my eyes this morning, and also delivered a beautiful sunrise.

I donít feel like going further west today so I drive up to the big Antelope Creek pullout. I hear a distant elk bugle but find no wolves. I head back down, spying some mule deer near Calcite springs.

I find Celia at Dorothyís. She has news that wolves are being seen from Level one on Cardiac hill. Sheís about to hike up so I decide to join her.

I havenít been up this hill since there were Slough Creek wolves in this valley. Itís a very steep climb, and quite long, but I want to try.

It takes me a very long time but once Iím up I see Jeremy, Rick, Kristina, Dave and a half-dozen others. Teresa is still in the pullout. The have had Junctions in view but right now they are out of sight.

Jeremy promises me Iíll see a wolf today.

Itís a warm 70 degrees but right now it feels like 90! It takes me a while to catch my breath but eventually I find a level spot to sit and shorten my tripod legs so I can scope. About 15 minutes later, Jeremyís promise comes true.

Several wolves move into view, wandering around the low meadow. Most of them bed down in various spots but a few continue to mosey about, sniffing here and there.

This is my first view of the Junctions current favorite ďrendezvousĒ area. Itís a low, kind of oval shaped meadow at the very back of the bench, probably 400 yards long and 200 yards deep.

There are numerous boulders scattered about and a thin stand of trees on the left side, which leads to Jasper Creek. Behind the meadow is a low hill with a row of trees. Above that is the lower portion of the familiar high slopes visible from Dorothyís lot.

This meadow cannot be seen at all from the pullout, nor even from half-way up Cardiac Hill. You have to be at least this high. Itís also very far away; too far for me to see collars, but those with better eyes can make them out.

Jeremy confirms there are currently between 18 and 22 Junctions in the Pack, although only a few are in view at the moment.

Right now, two blacks and two grays move slowly upslope until they disappear into an island of trees and bushes. They then reappear beyond the ďislandĒ, climbing another low slope until they disappear into a thicker row of trees at the back.

Once I lose these four, I scan the meadow and find another gray, now following the route of the earlier four. And thereís a third black, larger and darker, which appears from the right. This wolf goes into the area where I lost the others.

A fourth black catches my eye, meandering into view heading to the same spot. Then the dark black comes out at the edge of the thick trees to the right. This wolf howls, then bounds back into the trees.

My count is 7, three grays and four blacks. Jeremy says I saw 907F and the black pup, but I didnít recognize them while I was seeing them.

At the moment, though, Iím out of wolves. Itís nearly noon and the sun is relentless, so I decide to call it a morning. A good morning!

Itís a bit tricky going down, too, but I take my time, switching back and forth a lot, using my stick for balance.

I have to detour at the bottom when a few bison wander by, but they keep going and leave me alone.

I take a break in Silver Gate and head back out around 4:30.

I stop at Dorothyís where I find Gary, Celia and Kristina. We talk about how the fall color is increasing everyday, with golds, yellows and russets predominating. From this pullout we enjoy seeing several drainages with spots of orange and yellow aspen.

We watch bison, pronghorn and sandhills roaming the flats. Although we see no wolves, itís a very pleasant evening in the most beautiful valley in the world.

Today I saw: bison, coyotes, sandhills, elk, pronghorn, 7 Junction wolves (including 907, the pup and five others (three blacks and two grays) and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.

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