Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Over the River and Through the Woods..

From YellowstoneLive

..to grandma's house we go. Except this grandma was more the Little Red Riding hood type. Off on the Clear Lake - Ribbon Lake Trail we spotted wold tracks larger than my palm. For miles we walked the same path as the endangered animal. The gait measuring over 2 feet from the one paw plant to its next. He walking the trail just as we do to avoid the billions of dead fall from the 1988 fires. We finally reach the end of the long banana-shaped loop. As we make the turn the snow starts falling. Our eyes on the ground in front of us like the nose of a hound dog following the wolfs every movement. Stopping to point out the change in gait or pause in their travels.

Suddenly the tracks turn off trail into a meadow along a stream. The snow begins to blanket us filling the dark tracks with white fluff. After a moments discussion and a check of our watch, off we go over the river and through the woods to grandma's house we go. We see his (or her) ability to jump over 5 feet onto snow-covered logs, balancing securely on the slippery surfaces. We see him duck and weave through the lodgepole pine saplings following contours and hillsides. Our fingers get colder as our jackets get darker from their soaked fibers. We continue in the 4 inches of snow ducking and weaving just as one of the ultimate stalkers and ultimate family man animals did. We wonder is this the popular trail name Lone Wolf or simply one of the pack searching for prey. Is it an alpha male, and how fast was he moving? Will we catch him? Is he running from us? Is he leading us to Grandma's house dressed in a mumu with a roaring fire and gaping mouth waiting for us? We tromp on.

Rising up a hill we see a clearing ahead. A glance at the map and the GPS shows this as an unmarked or unmapped pond. We pull out our longest lenses and sharpest eyes searching for the steely eyes of the great predator. Grey or white fur and piercing eyes patiently watching us in complete stillness.

No luck. Wet and cold, fingers numb and stiff with thumbs thought strong yet not able to push a simple button, like the arm you sleep on thought movable but alarmingly dead, we turn back. Now we follow, eyes to the ground, the three tracks. Two human, one wolf. Unsuccessful, but excited. We return to the trail and continue on the trail. Warming ourselves with fast hiking laying first tracks for a moment.

We walk and walk and then.. pick up more tracks. It's another wolf, even bigger prints. The sun is setting so we hurry on keeping our nose to the snow (or feet to the trail, if you will) trying to make it back to the car by nightfall. Feet moving swiftly we enter a field and spot bison (buffaloni's as we like to call them) grazing further on in our path. Panning left into the open meadows we spot three other dots. Zooming in for the shot and then in review we see the hump of grizzlies. A sow a cub and a large male.

Suddenly making it back by dark stops with the snow.

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