05 May 2008

Spring Hike: Being Al/l-O/one

My tolerance for what generally counts as human culture is about two weeks. For two weeks, I can be around people, function relatively normally, and not act like a total misanthrope. I can satisfy myself with my excellent walk to and from work, chatting with the local ravens, and watching the bitterroot rosettes spring to life:

And the chunky, early spring predator wasps working the sagebrush/knapweed prairie (they sting & paralyse an insect, lay an egg on the insect, and stash it in a small ground burrow):

But the terrible environmental ethics of people begins to get to me, and each day I have to witness ongoing processes of mutilation, such as this ATV track near Big Butte that gets wider and deeper each year:

So I "lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my strength," and head out for a hike. Someplace where there is not another soul in sight. This fine day it was in the shadow of death, that is to say, in the shadow of the Anacona smelter. There are plenty of signs of bad environmental ethics here: the still-barren landscape was heavily damaged by arsenic, acidic fumes, heavy metals, and other fallout from Anaconda Copper Mining company smelters. Still, the damage is historical, and slowly fading away like this old fence line:

And there is remarkably good forage such as the grasses recover the land, and this old growth bitterbrush:

RTD and I saw a lone mulie doe and an enormous bull moose. Strangely, both were extremely skittish. This is normal enough for mule deer, although they usually run 100 yards or so and then turn to look back. This one ran clean to the other side of the open valley (a half mile or more away) before she even slowed down. And (as I learned from the tracks) bullwinkle hightailed it up over one ridge, through a shallow wash, and then up over the next ridge before heading down into thicker cover.

RTD and I also saw two large coyotes , or what I thought at the time were coyotes. We got just a fleeting glimpse of them as they trotted across a small snow field and up over a distant ridge. I wished afterward that we had hiked over to check out their tracks, for they did not look quite right for coyotes: their heads seemed large, and they carried their tail almost horizontally. Hmmmm... Wolves would explain that skittish deer and moose. Sure wish I had hiked over to check out those tracks.

We hiked up the drainage as far as we could go without snowshoes, taking in the good view of Short Peak and Mt. Haggin:

And pausing for a pot of noodles and a hot cup of tea:

Greatly refreshed, and ready to face the human world for another few days, we hiked down the ridges and back to the truck.

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