Wolves and a Dash of Mountain Shenanigans

Because we came looking for wolves, upon our arrival we asked in the visitor center where to start looking for them in this huge, huge park that is largely inaccessible this time of year. Lucky for us — and I suppose for them, as well — a couple days earlier one pack had taken down an elk in a spot that was within eye-sight of the road. We were given a brief description of the place and were told, “Just look for the line of spotting scopes and the buses for wildlife tours.” And it was very true — as long as you knew the general area and were out early in the morning, if the wolves were visible you’d see a line of spotting scopes set up, usually in front of a couple buses. And because we’re all kindred spirits in our search for wolves in the crisp mountain air, if you weren’t one of the first to be set-up many would be very kind in sharing what they were seeing.

And on our second day wolf watching, we certainly got very lucky. When we arrived one pack — The Mollies — was about a half mile away, in clear view tramping around and playing as canines do. A short while later, two wolves broke from the pack and made their way back to the fallen elk where they chased the magpies and ravens off and scrounged for a few last pieces.

As they did so, they’d take break now and then to howl back and forth with the rest of the pack.

Now we stood about a half mile from the main group and the two on the elk. While it felt very safe with the couple dozen people around, it didn’t escape myself or my husband that we were awfully close to these wild wolves.

Putting aside my innate distrust of wildlife, I watched in awe.

I’d seen packs of coyotes and heard both wolves and coyotes howl, but never like this. It wasn’t where they all get together and howl in a group as they are often depicted. Instead these wolves were clearly “talking” back and forth. Having a conversation while a mile apart. It was incredible.

For the most part, while we wildlife watched it was cold — in the teens & 20sF — and that’s a little brisk for standing still even for the winter hardened, fully equipped Wisconsinites that we are. I was very happy to have finished my Connectivity Gloves before the trip. They were actually quite a bit warmer than I expected and they absolutely saved my fingers when snapping photos with my phone.

img_2182As I mentioned before the trip, I purchased this kit from Feel Good Yarn Co and the fingertips of these have SilverSpun yarn making them compatible with my smartphone.

img_2181-1Plus, I really love the look of the two-tones of grey (I selected Storm Cloud & Silver Dust for my kit). For those interested, the pattern — by Mari Chiba — is extremely well written and easy to follow and it’s free on Knitty.

Because of the cold, throughout the wildlife portions of our trip we let the kids hang out and read in the car, calling them out to see things when we had good views. They were exceptionally patient, so as a treat we drove further on into the mountains to find fresh snow in which they could play. At home we’d been having an unseasonably warm winter and had very little snow, so having a foot of powdery snow to romp in was hugely exciting. We did a little searching and found a good spot, not far but far enough from where we’d viewed some bison and a couple moose and the kids were elated.

It’s a national park so Moose wasn’t allowed to play with the kiddos away from the road or parking lots, but he dutifully watched over his people as they built snow forts and played until they were too cold to play any more.

That is, of course, when he wasn’t posing majestically for photos.

We also embarked on a few short hikes including one up to Wraith Falls.

img_2021As was only right, there were more snowy shenanigans along the way. It was a nice short hike and because it’s rather popular, the snow was packed down so the hiking wasn’t hard.

img_2031Of course the waterfall was mostly frozen and dimly lit snuggled into a little fold in the hills as it was, but it was rewarding nonetheless.

And when you’re 8 and tired halfway through the hike…

img_2038Dad is always there to help you polar bear slide down the hillside safely.

Now it’s worthwhile to share that I was not super comfortable with the wintry mountain driving in our compact front-wheel drive car. True, we put new snow tires on before the trip and true we had everything we possibly could need to survive should — worst case scenario — we get stuck overnight in a ditch somewhere, but while the road through the Lamar Valley isn’t bad, there are slick spots and icy runs. For a fair bit of the time I was kind of a hot mess about it even though I did a decent job of just being quiet and letting Mr. Knitting Sarah focus on the roads Thankfully among his many talents he’s an excellent winter driver.

No moment was more harrowing for me, however, than a certain bison traffic jam.

I admit this doesn’t look bad, but there were moments when these behemoths were surrounding our car at which point I just put my head in my shawl and stopped looking. Logically I know these bison were not a threat, but a couple years ago I witnessed one get cranky with an unsuspecting Chevy Malibu in front of us in the Black Hills and take a swing with his horns at the car’s quarter panel. To this day, close proximity to these guys reminds me of that and kind of makes me squirm in my seat. Eventually they crossed the 2-lane bridge farther down the road and we got around them without incident.

We romped a bit more and then grabbed an early dinner so the kids could enjoy some pool time back at the hotel. As chief Moose-sitter during the kids’ pool time, I was able to do some spinning (Mr. Knitting Sarah volunteered to supervise the kids — he’d planned that out, too). As we wrapped up our time in Yellowstone I managed to finish half of my roving from Wolf Ridge Icelandics (on the left) as well as singles from a small 2.20z batt from Classy Squid Fiber Co.

img_2160-2I had a number of spinning options because this being my first trip with my wheel I’d packed way too much, but when I finished half of my Icelandic roving and knew I couldn’t finish the other half before it was time to pack up again, I selected this batt called “Japanese Garden.” It was small enough that I knew I could finish the singles before it was time to go so it seemed like a perfect little addition to my vacation crafting. I divided it in half and then created roughly 3″ wide strips just to make it easier to handle. My daughter was totally enamored with them and had a blast petting and handing them to me was I whipped through them. For me, I tried to embrace instead of fight the textural qualities of the batt. In the past, I’ve tried to treat batts like top and worked to eliminate the slubs, but after watching Amanda’s spins on Instagram (she’s the lady behind Classy Squid Fiber Co) I really wanted to let these unique fibers sing. More on those results soon…

I’ll be wrapping up our time in Yellowstone tomorrow with a final spectacular hike and more knitting on the road, as well as some final thoughts from the experience.

Stay tuned!

14 responses to “Wolves and a Dash of Mountain Shenanigans

  1. Thank you so much for this post! What a super-great trip you had, with just the right amount of nail-biting excitement! I’m looking forward to the next post!

  2. I so enjoy reading about your outdoor adventures both at home and away. I would never think of taking a winter outdoor vacation. Here in coastal Virginia, a snow flurry sends us into disaster mode. Your photos are stunning and a pleasure to see. Love the snow angels!

    • You must really be bracing yourself this weekend then! We’re from Wisconsin where winter reigns for almost half the year — just have to find a way to have fun no matter what the weather! It helps to have lots of woollies, snowpants, parkas, and pack boots, too!

  3. As a Yellowstone Ranger it is great to hear about your experience in the park. Although we see millions of visitors a year it is very rare to ever here what people really thought of that experience. Thank you also for making Moose obey the rules…he is a beauty!

    • We really treasure our parks and I just love sharing the joy we find in them. And we appreciate that it’s important to respect the rules with regards to dogs in these wild places. And in Yellowstone it’s so important to remember that it’s for the preservation of the landscape, but also the safety of us, him, and the wildlife.

  4. Love the photos and your commentary. I’d be freezing my hiney off, though – it’s going to be in the low forties here in Houston over the next few days and you’d think it was going to be a blizzard! Love the knitted cap you’re wearing too!

    • LOL! I got a big parka for winter last year that’s rated to 5F standing still and -45F for moderate activity. That’s how I stay warm! My Saugerties Hat helps a lot, too!

  5. It seems I am always late reading your posts, but I just want to tell you how much I enjoyed this one. Yellowstone is on my short list of places to visit and you have really added fuel to the flame! Thank you for taking me away from the daily routine for a few minutes while I enjoy reading your posts. Living in GA, all that snow is wild to me! Got a bit chilly viewing the photos of your kids in the snow! Hahaha : )

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed — I actually love that the blog format is such that you can read whenever you have time. πŸ™‚

      I’m glad I could enable/encourage a trip to Yellowstone! It’s one of those places that should be on everyone’s bucket list of places to go. I suppose a Southerner would find the snow a little bananas — we got a fresh 5inches yesterday here at home! True to form, the kiddos were outside from the time school ended until the time it started to get dark. Thank goodness for down parkas, snowpants, and warm boots — oh, and don’t forget all those warm woollies, too!

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