Saturday, October 6, 2012
Silver Gate, Montana

    It's 9 degrees when we leave the cabin, sinking quickly to 5 degrees as we enter the Park. Ice crystals coat the doors of the 4-Runner and early morning darkness makes it hard to see anything. The meadows around Warm Creek and Barronnette Peak are empty. Just past Trout Lake, a great horned owl is perched on a pine tree branch. He is large - about 18 inches tall, and pale gray. He sits quietly, back to us, and rotates his head around to see who is looking at him. First one way and then the other. He is quite close, about 5 yards away. Suddenly he spreads his wings, launching from his perch, showing how large he is.
   The Lamar Canyon Pack is bedded in the old Druid rendezvous site again. Spread out near the sage in the eroded area and grass they look like rocks at first, but the blacks are so dark. Finally, a gray stands and sniffs through the sage, hopping up and down. The sun is out and shining brightly, but the air is like ice on my face. I pop in and out of the car to thaw out.
   The gray wolf has started something. Heads rise up, howling echoes through the air. The wolves get up from their rest and huddle, prancing around each other. The pack rallies, beginning to move east through the sage, back toward the trees. We lose them quickly and head east toward the Confluence to get a better view. Parking at Hitching Post, we can see across the creek to the tree line. In a short time the wolves have made their way down the Valley. Through an opening between aspens and cottonwood trees, one by one the wolves appear and drop down to the river bank. We count four blacks, but find it difficult to track the group. At the rendezvous site, I counted first eleven, then twelve, then ten wolves, so the whole pack of thirteen must be there, including pups. They are heading up Cache Creek to hunt. We won't see them again today.
   As the sun gets higher in the sky, it warms the Park little by little: 5 degrees, 12 degrees, then 18 degrees. A group of bison steps into the Lamar River just west of Slough Creek, while pronghorn watch from a nearby slope. Frost coats the grass; gold leaves flutter in the wind. We do not have autumn like this in Texas. Before leaving the Park we stop at Rescue Creek. The water rushes under the bridge as a warbler flits from shrub to shrub.
    Outside the Park it looks a little like winter. Snow covers mountains and horses paw through the snow to forage. Some of the mountain sides are bare and brown and others coated with snow. Not ready to go home yet and already thinking about next time.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2012