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Good Roadside Viewing

Hiking Hell-Roaring
by Dan Hartman

May 4, 2014

     I left the cabin mid morning Friday.  I was heading for a hike down into Hell-Roaring.  As I rounded the curve west of Soda Butte Cone, I spotted 926 east of her den.  She was way out so I drove on.  West of Picnic I came upon a strange occurrence.  A large bull bison was traveling along the banks of the Lamar, being accompanied by a doe pronghorn.  I parked for awhile to make sure of what I thought I was seeing.  Sure enough, the bison stopped, the pronghorn stopped.  She rarely strayed more than twenty feet from the bull.  I soon figured out the love affair was one sided.  As the bison could care less.  Although, he made no move to drive her off even when she sidled up to within five feet of his face.
     Moving on, a coyote hunted just down the road and just past the ranch, ravens flocked on a carcass.
     In Little America, Ic ame across Bill and Ralph parked with scopes set up.  They're usually good for a bear sighting, so I stopped.  As luck would have it, a grizz and her two year old had just entered the trees.  We were making small talk when a lady came running over.  "Do you see the two blacks?" she exclaimed.
     We grabbed field glasses and scanned the sage flat.  Right away we picked out two gray wolves.  Then soon after the two blacks she had mentioned.  These four must be from the Junction Butte Pack.  They were too far to photograph so I drove on and finally reached my hiking destination.  It was about 10:15.
     I started down through the sage brush towards the timber below.  As I approached the trees two white-tail deer sprang away from me.  I don't see many white-tails but when I do they're usually here to tower.
     A basketball size chunk of petrified wood marked the beginning of the steep Antler trail that led down to an old road cut.  This then led through the trees to the first meadow and an old great gray owl nest.
     It was empty.
     I climbed higher upslope to check another snag.  Also empty.  As a matter of fact all the owl sign (white-wash and pellets) appeared to be at least a year old.
     A loud tapping came from the trees ahead.  From experiences hiking with Terry M,  I deduced the culprits were three-toed woodpeckers.  I got closer and sure enough, I was right.  It's good to know I learned something from Terry.
     I hiked on out into the open then followed a small stream down to the next bench and more meadows.  A small bog thick with young trees appeared to my right.  On my left a football size wet area.  At the west end was an old pygmy owl nest.  It's been empty for years, but I check it every spring anyway.  I found my reason for hiking down here no longer existed as the aspen tree holding the nest was down.
     Well, now I'll have to find another.
     Continuing on, I reached a high point that looked out over the vast Hell-roaring Plateau.  Perched on a rock, I glassed the distance for a time.  Suddenly a crash sounded from the boggy area.  Followed by a shrieking squirrel.  I wondered if a grizz had come across my trail.  I scanned a bit longer, but then heard huffing sounds.
     Well, I guess I won't go back that way!
     I re-tied my shoes and glanced at the steep rise behind me.  That's my way out now.  I started up keeping an eye on the bog.  Two deer darted away from the area.  I came across a game trail that led in the wrong direction but angled up.  I took it for a time, then cut back, climbed over the ridge and gained the flat bench above me.  A long "wuaaaa" sounded below me.  That would be the bear.
     I started a route that would take me directly to my car, roughly a mile away.  The steep climb had gotten my still weak ankles burning.  A freshly turned log with ants still scurrying about lay to my left.  Just ahead small bear tracks.  By the pad marks he was going my way.  I wouldn't mind seeing this bear.  A few hundred yards and I heard a crash above me.  That's probably my little bear.  I was just too tired to check it out.  There was still a lot of steep between me and my car.
     Antlers lay scattered about and old skulls from decades of elk using the area.
     I finally reached the highway and farther on, my car.  Ralph was parked there also with his scope trained on a distant grizzly.
     This was one of those days where what was seen from the road over shadowed what I found bushwhacking.

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View slide show

Love Sick Pronghorn

Pronghorn Bison

Pronghorn bison



Wrong Way Joe

White-tailed Deer

Three-toed Woodpecker


Big Elk Skull