I simply had to try and see some wolves.
So last Thursday before my Utah visitors showed up, I arose at 5:20AM (on my day off!), inhaled a bowl of cold cereal, packed some snacks, my camera, binoculars and a camp chair, and with the sun hard in my eyes drove about 30 miles northward to Hayden Valley. By 7:00AM I had parked my car at Grizzly Overlook and was pretty much settled in for the long haul (or at least for the rest of the morning). This is prime wildlife–watching territory, and several hospitable wolf–watchers were already out and about with their spotting scopes and cheerful chit–chat. Many of these folks come year after year to watch the wolves in Yellowstone, often staying for weeks at a time and frequently returning later in the summer or even in the winter. They are not in the least interested in trying to approach close enough to the wolves for any sort of photograph but are content to use their scopes and binoculars from a mile and a half away. They recognize the packs from these distances, the alpha females and alpha males, their histories and their young pups. There is a wildlife ethic here among these wolf watchers that is palpable.
|Hayden Valley fog|
|Hayden Valley early morning|
|Watching for wolves|
|Hayden Valley at Grizzly Overlook|
I slowly made my way back to the overlook where I had staked out a little nest with my camp chair and tripod. I like my nifty little point and shoot camera, a Canon PowerShot SX10, and I know it doesn’t take spectacular photos from any sort of distance. None of that mattered. I am content to just know the wolves are there.
And then I thought I saw something moving. It seemed to steadily travel left to right, now visible, now hidden, up and down between the sagebrush–covered ridges and swales of the far side of Hayden Valley. “I think I see something. The sagebrush is moving.”
“Where?” they all asked excitedly, peering through their scopes.
“Between that sparse row of trees on the far left side of the river.”
And then we all soon saw the one, then a second, then a third gray wolf, all in a line, heading left to right towards what is known as Rendezvous Point far across Yellowstone River and Hayden Valley, where the dark tree line fades into the pale sagebrush flats and where the Canyon Pack does indeed often rendezvous. We watched them through binoculars and spotting scopes, threading their way to disappear behind the tree line.
For the next few moments I could only gaze into the distance where these wolves of Yellowstone had passed. A bit later someone noticed five wolves as they passed from right to left, away from Rendezvous Point, closer to the river’s edge this time but still riding the waves of pale dusky sagebrush. This was the Canyon Pack without its three new pups. I forgot to ask if the pups would have stayed by themselves while their mother went out hunting for dinner. Perhaps the pups were there with the rest of the pack all the time, hidden from sight by the thick sagebrush cover. I don’t know.
For the next two hours we sat and watched, but no more wolves made their presence known to us. I was meeting my friends from Utah that afternoon, and so around noon I headed back to Grant Village, the sun no longer hard in my eyes but my spirit content with a morning’s sightings of the Canyon Pack.