Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mystery Antlers Defy Reason

While hiking along Yellowstone River Trail on an 18 mile day hike, my friend showed me a tree that apparently has swallowed a massive elk antler. Now, we have proposed several theories:

How did this antler get stuck in this evergreen tree, and when did it happen, 50 years ago, my guess.

The big picture is worth a thousand words, just for the surrounding scenery alone.

This is not a piece of modern art. Its the tip of the antler, and the colors are enhanced.
Yesterday I did a 16 mile hike along Lava Creek trail, heading to Blacktail Creek Trail head. Half of it became a bushwhack of sorts. I came across an entire Elk skeleton, a ten point rack, head, spine and legs. I figure it was a griz feed. Wolves would have scattered the bones.
I hike alone, carry bear spray, write poems aloud, and basically scare off all but the bravest of badgers. They are mean enough!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Lava Creek-Boiling Springs Bushwack Report

I love a river trail. You know you always have access to running water, able to refill water bottles and rehydrate on those blistering hot days. I carry simple chlorine for all my trails. One day after work, I slung my day pack on my back, the bear spray-survival sling over my shoulder and headed out.
I crossed the employee yards, headed steeply downhill to the Mammoth Springs campground, crossing that to the trail heading across the road to Gardiner, then onto the trail to the river. This time turning right, I hiked a half mile, coming to this suspension bridge. A sign showed three trails could be accessed after crossing this narrow steel bridge.

A nice trail headed left, so I took that, having always wondered what lay across one of my favorite evening river points. At first the trail was easy, meandering through sand, heading down to the river, then steeply up the bluff to avoid wading. After awhile I was directly across from the Boiling River swimming hole, favorite place where the water runs warm, almost too hot, too swim. Many tourists strip to bikinis and take advantage of this miracle of nature.

The sage brush was as tall as me, and soon my shoulders and arms were covered in scratches. I didn't want to wimp out. I searched for the trail, found many game trails, found no definite horse or hiker pathway. I finally concluded it was time to head back.
An undisputed saying among long distance hikers is that no two people can hike the Continental Divide Trail the same way. The trail in still uncompleted. Nature takes its toll, making reroutes necessary, guide books are outdated and information abundant for alternate routes. Unlike the Appalachian Trail, the CDT is unblazed and inaccessible for many miles.
I felt that way the afternoon I did this bushwhack, coming across stuff on the way back that I never saw. This elk met his demise sometime this spring, his limb yanked from his body. There were abundant gnawed bones and lush green coves for animals to hide out. I could see few human signs of passage, a truly memorable experience.

I love my Merrell boots (15 ounces each) on these bushwhacks. The high tops have proved to be well worth the extra couple ounces. I wear long cargo pants and don't need gaiters.