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One last drive

The proofs in the snow

by Dan Hartman
Nov. 3, 2014

     Cindy and I sunk the last screws in our new bathroom roof and looked around.  The sky was darkening.  A snowstorm was in the forecast.

     "Let's get in one last drive to the Beartooths", I suggested.

     By 4PM we were ready.  With our daughter Kelly, who is spending the winter with us while she puts the finsishing touches on the Cooke City Museum, we crossed Cooke Pass then passed the Travel at your own Risk sign on the Beartooth Highway.

     I had a goal in mind.  I was hoping to find a snowshoe hare or possibly a weasel to see if they had turned white yet.  Also, would I finally spot the great grays from my summer nest. 

     Well, we hadn't gone far when I noticed a white ball out in the forest a ways.

     Snowshoe Hare!

     We parked and I crept closer.  He still had a black patch on his forehead, otherwise he was completely white.

     On our way again, snow soon lined the roadsides.  Past the fire road snow covered the highway, soon becoming 4-5 inches deep.  We turned off at Beartooth Lake and plowed through the snow down to the water.  Fresh wolf tracks followed the gravel drive.   I wandered if it was the black I had photographed back in July.

     We walked along the water a bit before heading back down.  We could have gone farther but we were loosing light fast because of the impending storm.

     At the Fire Tower Road, we turned off and started up.  Almost instantly we crossed grizzly tracks.  Many grizzly tracks, like a herd of bears.  Probably the sow and cubs Drew and I filmed for Geo on our camera traps last Fall.

     We crossed the tracks again on the next curve, but then they appeared to head east, away from the road.  We turned back after another quarter mile as the steep road was becoming hard to manuver in the snow.  A flock of rosey finches passed overhead.

     Dropping in elevation, we soon left the snow behind, although the black sky to the west promised snow would soon cover everywhere.

     The road to Lily Lake was like washboard.  Another flock of rosey finches circled around our car.  At the lake, fresh moose tracks trailed down into the water.  In fact, mud still drifted out from the underwater tracks.  These were fresh.  Walking up and down the lakeshore, we were unable to find where the moose climbed out.  I was starting to think he had drowned himself when Kelly found his tracks leaving through a willow patch.  I followed a bit but found only a fly catcher nest from last summer.

     On our way back in the gathering gloom, Cindy spotted a young bull moose near the intersection to Cody.  He appeared to be headed for a beaver pond we know of over the nest rise.

     As we started up Cooke Pass, the rain began.  First as a mist then changing to a downpour.

     We were back at the cabin building up the fire in our fireplace, when the rain turned to snow.  Within a few minutes the trees were sagging with a heavy white.

Note:  We now have our bison, "Struggling Upstream" posters available. Check our website for details.  www.wildlifealongtherockies.homestead.com


Photos

View slide show

Snowshoe Hair

Beartooth Lake

Wolf Tracks

Snowy HWY

Grizzly Tracks

View From The Fire Road

Fly Catcher Nest

Young Bull Moose




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