I’ve been laid up for the last week, the result of a foot injury I received on my last hike. Frustrated I can’t be out exploring; I guess I’ll write about that last hike.
I chose a location north of Boulder Pull Out, a spot I’ve walked before but it’s been a while. I was hoping to come across owl sign and expected to find black bears just emerging from dens.
I belted on bear spray, pocketed a bottle of water and started the steep climb up to the first bench. Here I found a game trail and followed it east. Mountain bluebirds and
Clarks nutcrackers called from the timber.
I was looking for a certain tree I remembered finding some fifteen years ago. It’s a strange looking conifer that
instead of boughs full of needles seems to be constructed completely of mistletoe clumps or witches brooms.
I actually ended up being too high on the slope but luckily spotted the tree directly below me. It looked to be dead, but if it is indeed full of mistletoe it would appear that way as it’s still late winter, mistletoe would green with the warm summer weather.
Farther east, I climbed a high point to look out on the vast open sage country interrupted only by a small lake. This lake is actually what named this whole valley as it used to be shaped like America.
From here a trail
went off through the timber towards #9’s den, but I was more interested in what lay above me. Bench above bench that
climbed like a staircase to the rim of the canyon holding the Yellowstone River. It’s in these hidden benches I
hoped to find wildlife.
The climb to the first bench was steep but when I accomplished it, I only wanted to climb higher. Up and up I worked my way until finally only the rocky outcropping of the ridge top stood above snow cornices protruded out into space.
I wasn’t going to go any higher, so I began to explore. It
looked like a good denning area, but I found no sign of bears. Old wolf tracks dented the snow. On a lower ledge that stuck out from the forest I found bighorn sheep tracks.
Sitting on a rock, I glassed the scene before me. Junction
Butte was a bit lower than where I sat. I picked out more than a dozen bighorn. To the north lay Swan Lake. Directly across from me rose Mums Ridge. I spotted several more sheep on its rocky slopes.
A crash behind me brought me to my feet. It was only a
cornice breaking loose. The snow pushed it’s was down through the trees.
I decided to look for a way down. Zig Zagging back and
forth I avoided a straight down descent. As I crossed a rocky patch something caught my eye. Petrified wood shards lay scattered about. A large piece was layered with quartz. I turned in to a geologist and began examining the colorful rocks.
Farther down, I entered the forest again. Several dead
trees had cavities. I knocked on a few to see if any one was home. A high squeak let me know I had disturbed a flying squirrel. I continued down until I reached the sage flats. A herd of bison made me circle wide on my
return to my car.