While Cindy and Kelly tuned in to watch Downton Abbey Sunday evening, I headed out into the night. It's still ten days from the official start for my owl survey but the full moon promised some action.
As I walked to the car a boreals song drifted from the forest southwest of our cabin. Well, at least I heard one! I stopped on my to the Park and picked up my good friend, Jeff Hogan, to ride shotgun. Even though we had high clouds, the moon still lit up the landscape. The Thunderer glowed like it was being lit up by sun rays.
At Pebble Creek we stopped to listen.
From here we would retrace our drive back to my cabin. At post 1 1/2 we detected singing far to the southwest. This is an owl I hear every year but have never actually seen.
At the east end of Ice Box Canyon we made a quick stop. In 2010 I found my first boreal nest just to the north. Since that year this area has been silent. We listen a minute. Nothing. We were about to climb back in the car when an eerie wailing-yelling exploded from the canyon.
Jeff's first reaction, "Somebodys in trouble!"
I admit that's exactly what it sounded like.
Splashing sounds followed. I called down into the canyon.
More splashing, then something moved upstream.
If I had to describe the sound, it was somewhere between a large human and a mountain gorilla. So really there's only one answer.
Jeff wanted to climb down for a look. But, I stopped him. We didn't have snowshoes and post holing down to a possible mad grizzly, "or Sasquatch" was not a good idea.
We listened for a while longer. Nothing.
Driving farther east we tried to find a hole to look down into the canyon. With the almost full moon one could see fairly well. We saw nothing.
Finally, we gave up and checked the rest of my listening posts. At post #4 we heard a boreal singing loud and clear. I'm even pretty sure I know the cavity he was calling from.
The rest of the drive was quiet, but we didn't really notice. Every scenerio of what must have occurred in Ice Box Canyon was running through our heads.
Mountain lion killing an elk?
Grizzly falling in to the Soda Butte?
Nothing really made sense.
I'm glad Jeff was there with me. Between us there isn't much in the woods we haven't experienced. In the end we would always some back around to Big Foot. And laugh "a bit uneasily". If one ever wandered what a sasquatch would sound like. That was it.
At 8AM the next morning Cindy dropped me off at the east end of Ice Box. We had gotten a half inch of snow overnight but I could still make out where Jeff and I had climbed up on the bank the night before.
I strapped on snowshoes and started zig zagging down. Right away part of the mystery became clear. Coyote tracks appeared from everywhere. "There must be a carcass".
I made it to the waters edge then followed the many tracks headed east. Across the water, I made out wolf or possible cougar tracks running along the bank. Ahead of me stood a thick patch of spruce that had grown on the creeks edge. The many coyote tracks were going in and out and beds were scattered about.
I didn't have bear spray so didn't try to force my way through the trees,but instead circled down past. I still hadn't seen any sign of bear or that other thing. There was a week old snow filled trail from a bison or maybe a moose. Farther east I found myself back on the streams edge. On the far bank I could see where something big had climbed out of the creek, walked along the bank for 30 or 40 feet, then re-entered the water.
"There's our fella".
Being across the water, I couldn't examine them closely and the fresh snow blurred the edges. I climbed back up to the highway and was soon picked up by Cindy and headed home.
So in conclusion, the mystery was left unsolved, as every really good mystery usually is. The sounds we heard are already starting to blur in my head. Was it a grizz chasing coyotes off a carcass? I always assumed Yetis eat meat. Maybe he was doing the chasing?
I've got a file somewhere in my brain that contains unexplained occurrences from my forest travels. I'll place the Ice Box episode there and maybe something will happen in the coming years that will explain what we heard.
I'll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions, because I sure can't.