An owl calls as we open the door at 6:15 a.m. A haunting sound, it lingers in the air. Then there are two, calling back and forth to one another. What are they? Great Grays? Big-horned owls? The sky is still black and studded with stars. The past two days the moon is still out at noon.
    Everything is quiet now. No moose to greet us at the Ranger Station or Pebble Creek. The sun is coming up and it looks like it will be a clear morning in the Lamar. The Slough Creek Pack is bedded down at their rendezvous site. The seven core members are present, which includes the alpha male (490M) and new alpha female (380F) and beta male (377M). The alphas are black, as are two subordinates, while 377M is a large grey male who one wolf watcher described as "the guy you would call to pull your truck out of a ditch." We watch them lounge in the sage until they suddenly get up and begin trotting west toward the kill site near the cottonwoods. We follow them until they disappear into the trees and up over a bench and up Mount Norris, out of site. We watch the alpha female lope after them, up a hill past a coyote who looks on surprised and curious.
    So they all disappear and we make our way down the road, following their path and making plans as to how to spend the rest of the day when the Sloughs magically appear near Hitching Post and offer up a spectacular howl. So we, and others, turn back to Hitching Post which falls silent. One or two wolves are visible in the distance and they are difficult to see.
    We climb a the hill near Trash Can turnout, and watch the alpha female return to the rendezvous site and others appear one by one, until the core group is once again bedded at their rendezvous site. Four wolves are black and three are a very pale gray. We watch them lift their heads gracefully upward. Minutes later we hear the sound, unmistakable and penetrating. Watching wolves howl is almost as much fun as hearing them.
    We chased and watched wolves all morning. Then we hiked into Round Prairie from Pebble Creek. It had clouded over by then. No wolves or bears, but three geese. At Pebble Creek we saw a pair of Clark's Nutcrackers. It starts to rain after that and rains all afternoon. We drive to Mt. Washburn, but it's miserable in the rain, so we turn back. At one point, a large herd of buffalo bunch up in a turn-out off the winding road. It 's almost as if they don't know where to go. I feel sorry for them, especially the young ones, huddled together. They look frightened.
    I hate driving Dunraven Pass in the rain. In the sunshine it's beautiful - a winding road through a thick forest of tall slender pines. But rain makes the winding road treacherous, so we headed towards Silvergate.
    We stopped at Tower where "Rosie" was entertaining a large crowd. She is an eleven-year old female black bear who released her cub in June. She was very close to the wall (and people) but just kept eating her way through the grass to the parking lot.
    It rained all afternoon until almost 5 p.m. so I walked down the road to Cooke City and back. I love the smell of the earth after a rain and wood fires burning. The sun didn't last long and it was drizzling by the time I reached the cabin.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2006