15 August 2006

National Parks and Mussigbrod Lake


A friend called to invite us to Yellowstone, but not in August. The parks are always nice. We especially like to catch Yellowstone on the “shoulders” of the busy season—in May and October. There’s nothing like seeing large charismatic fauna up close because they are so well habituated to human presence. Mammoth is a favorite. There is a good campground there, and it’s a nice hike up to the “boiling river” where the hot springs enter the Gardiner River. That’s a nice October campout, with golden aspens and bull elk bugling as they lead their harems through the campground at dawn. We camped in Arches several years during spring break, and might start doing that again once Emily is away (there’s been a big swim meet that week for the past 5 years). The Moab area is usually a welcome respite from the Butte winter, though we did get wake to about 6 inches of heavy wet snow there one year. Good memories, those parks.

If you want to hike the backcountry to see grizzlies, I recommend Glacier. The bear density seems higher there (MUCH better carrying capacity) and the mountainous geography means that you can sit in one place and view a lot more terrain. Keep that pepper spray on your belt or backpack strap, and know how to use it. Hikers have been mauled while they fumbled with the trigger lock. The pass above the Granite Chalet (I forget the name of the pass—maybe Swiftcurrent?) is a short hike from the highway, and it’s good bear country. For a real adventure, hike the trail into Granite Chalet that comes off the pass at the top—it’s the so-called “Garden Wall” trail. Very narrow ledges that you must sometimes share with goats. Those rapier sharp horns right at crotch height give you something to think about! Don’t look them in the eye. Good memories, those parks.

I’ll probably get started on research come September. For now, it’s summertime in Montana and I begrudge every day lost to office or to yard work.

Mussigbrod Lake campout was wonderful, the lake warmer than I ever remember it. We played for hours with the Tahiti boats, including swimming from them out in the middle of the lake (past the weed beds that clot the shorelines). They are a little hard to get in and out of in deep water (much harder than a canoe—which is easy once you get the technique down), and once I inadvertently flipped Roly-The-Dog out of my boat. I was worried for her, but she nonchalantly swam the ¼ mile or so back to shore, and was ready to go in the boat with me next time I went out. Little Adler is just 6-years old and yet he is totally comfortable with paddling way out into the lake. I also fished with Adler, and he caught a bunch of grayling—including 4 completely on his own. Adler is getting to be a good shot with the BB gun, with no can safe at 20 feet or so. Brent & I made my annual hike through the 2000 burn Saturday morning, leaving camp after a quick cup of instant coffee at 6 a.m. We saw and kicked out several bunches of elk, including one confused spike that jumped out of his bed, ran a short ways, then stopped and came back toward us before taking off again. Of course, while we were gone, Jan had a mulie doe parade her 3 fawns right past the tent as she was drinking her brewed coffee. Some trees are beginning to blow over, but for the most part it’s still easy to travel cross country. This might be the last year for that, as my forester friend tells me it is inevitable that the trees will soon blow over creating an impassable landscape of pickup sticks.

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