15 August 2006

Spring Weddings and Hikes


Jan & I will be at Josie Youderian's wedding at the 320 Ranch in the Gallatin this weekend. Josie graduated from our program last year. She is marrying a fellow named Chad--it's a good story how I met him: we nearly had a head-on collision as I was driving out too fast from Bear Mtn with pieces of a bull elk in the back, (exhausted having shot him first thing that morning (it was one of the few elk I've gotten out of the woods in the same day), while Chad was driving in too fast with a cow elk tag in his pocket. I suggested he walk past the gate on the road and hunt the parks, he did, and he shot a cow that evening (as he told me when I saw him on campus the next day).
Anyway, an offer to hike LaMarche Creek trail brought back good memories. That is a lovely trail, and I have hiked it in and out many times. It gets a lot of horse use, as you will see by the ruts. There are usually elk and moose in the willows and meadows along the creek. The creek is full of trout. It's a long way in to the divide, but if you do get that far there will be lots of snow in June. The woods are very wet this time of year. The skeeters are also emerging in force now.
I had a largely uneventful but beautiful hike yesterday up along the ridge north of Moose Cr and then back down through the creek bottom. I was hoping to find some sort of old logging road or trail, since elk use that area a lot but I've hesitated to follow them not knowing how I might get a dead one out. Many times I have had elk bail off the top of Bear Mtn and run into the upper valley (which is a sort of a big bowl). What I found was a lot of scrambling over rocks and deadfall on the ridge, and a lot of scrambling over deadfall and through woody brush (tag alders, alpine laurel, and some other species I did not recognize) through the bottom. For the most part, the whole basin seems to be a hellish jungle full of elk, moose, and bear sign. Lots of fresh bear sign, so I was not surprised to see a tawny-golden colored little bear flipping rocks in a slide area at the very head of Moose Cr as I watched through binoculars from a steep rocky point a half mile away. Later, down in the bottom, a calf moose heard RolyTheDog and I crashing through the brush and came crying over to investigate us. I pleaded with it to please go away while Roly and I hurried off in the opposite direction. I am terrified of moose in thick brush. It rained much of the day, but did clear around noon so it was delightful to shed my raincoat, build a fire, and enjoy a hot cup of tea. I kept adding punky wood to the fire to discourage the skeeters. I will stick with my judgment of not following elk into the upper reaches of the Moose Cr valley. It's a pleasant enough hike, but nowhere you'd want to haul an elk from.
I have seen several mule deer bucks in the velvet. Their antlers are very noticeable now. Some elk bulls already have antlers two feet long.

We had a late crowd at daughter Emily's graduation party. Some of the hunters and I got into a nice beery conversation about elk racks. The following morning, Brent & I took a nice long hike along upper California Cr in the rain as Brent was interested in seeing some Indian stuff. He was amazed at how many antelope were in that area. They were seldom seen there when he lived here 10 years ago.
We have the last (I hope!) of the graduation parties tonight -- for Emily's friend Keith who has been admitted to the Air Force Academy. The party is at their family's place up in the Highlands, so I hope to learn a little about the elk there. Leroy (he teaches here at Tech) and others consistently kill bulls there, but though Dave & I hunted it hard for a few years we never figured it out.

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