Edit Note: I couldn’t get the photos loaded until this morning – as you might expect, cell & wi-fi can, umm, challenging up here.
I think Mother Nature wants me to spend more time writing. She sure as hell didn’t want me hiking today.
I took off for some back-country hiking in the few hours of nice weather we’ve got before the thunder storms roll in this afternoon. No problem, so far…I’m not going anywhere dangerous. Hell, I’m not going even going all that far from the little “village” in which I live & work.
One quick, background note: I do a lot of solo, off-trail hiking and camping back home in the Rockies…but there I carry a gun with me. The folks I work for up here – who also happen to be my “landlord” – have policies that make it impractical to have one, so I have nothing but a can of bear spray and common sense for protection. I’m not particularly excited to test either of those.
I’m not a half-mile from “home”, and just stepping into a thicket of young pines, when Ma Nature dropped her first hint. I don’t know who jumped higher, me or the elk. All I know is the damned thing was all of six feet away when we spotted each other…and I’m pretty sure we both pissed ourselves. I’ve heard elk described as “burly deer” a few times, but you don’t think about just how big they really are until you are – literally – nose to nose with one.
Never mind, I’m a big boy. I can handle myself. I continue walking the hills and meadows, spending more time just wandering and taking pictures than doing serious hiking. I find a small trail, old and no longer really used, so I decide to follow it. I’m pretty sure it goes to Cascade Creek, then curves south to Crystal Falls, so what the hell…that sounds good to me.
Another quarter-mile or so and I turn a blind corner to find…bison. Frickin’ bison. Big frickin’ bison. Two are eating breakfast right next to the trail while the third is staring at me like he’s reconsidering the whole herbivore-thing.
Okay, okay…I did back up about twenty yards and snap some pictures first. Then I fled.
Screw the trail, I’ll just head uphill and go deeper into the woods.
I had to take training on bear biology and safety for a certification I’m working on. Rule #2 is: a big, steaming pile of morning fresh bear shit is a good time to turn around.
Of course, Rule #1 is: a dead elk is a good time to well-and-truly get the fuck out.
I saw both.
A wave to the invisible-yet-nearby bear, then, and I put the better part of valor on full display.
Please keep in mind that I’m still less than two miles from where I live and work.
Maybe I’ll try the trail again, that sounds good…going the other way this time. Ooh, the trail is curving back towards the little bear camp-out I just ran away from fifteen minutes ago. Better yet, there’s a tree with claw marks on it. Oh, how cute: the bear was sharpening its claws just for little ol’ me! How special!
Maybe it’s time to go home and write instead…