Table Top TrailLaying in snowshoe trails
by Dan Hartman
Dec. 19, 2014My friend Steve and I decided to put in a snowshoe trail at the upper Soda Butte bridge. It's a trail I ran consistantly for some twenty years but because of my ankle problems last winter the snow had been smooth and un-traveled by humans for two years. Originally Steve and I were going to lay the east loop but fresh tracks of a huge bull moose leading west changed our minds. So the west loop would get done first.
We followed the moose tracks up the first rise but when it headed back down towards the highway we headed the opposite direction. Marten tracks, old and new traveled back and forth, almost as if he was running a grid pattern. Snowshoe hare sign showed in the thickest spruce stands. Ermine track,s a day old, hunted around a downed snow burried tree.
We climbed up through an aspen dotted slope. The white trees sporting many woodpecker cavities. On past a 10 foot slab of granite and we reached a natural cave. With anticipation I peered inside. Nothing seemed to have changed since my last visit two years ago. Even the jaw bone lay where I had left it.
Not wanting to push our way farther, we re-traced our trail back down through the aspens, then turned east to climb a steep side hill to gain a high rise where we dropped down to a rocky out-cropping. Here a cave is hidden in plain sight. From a distance it looks like a smooth rock face, but when one gets a few feet away you realize there is a break with a narrow winding cave. I found it some ten years ago by following bobcat tracks until they appeared to disappear into shear wall. Today there was no sign of usage.
We dropped off the back side of the out-cropping to enter the level forest below. A check of a cavity high in a snag and we emerged from the timber to cross a wide meadow.
Steve and I started on the east loop, but my ankle was starting to complain so we quit after a couple hundred yards and returned to our vehicles.
This is an open invitation for anyone to experience the trail and help keep it open. Heck, make it a scavenger hunt and try to find the features I spoke of.
Just park at the Upper Soda Butte Bridge, then cross the road to the south where the trail starts at the base of the hill.
Table Top Mountain
Fresh Marten Tracks
Day Old Ermine Tracks