Yellowstone Reports

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Laying Trails

Frustration and a little satisfaction
by Dan Hartman

Jan. 15, 2011

I laid another snowshoe trail this morning. It wasnít really the best weather as the temperature was around 25 degrees. As I expected, I sunk into the soft snow a foot to a foot and a half. At least the trail would be a good one if I didnít kill myself in the process.
I had started from the first bridge, just east of Upper Barronette. After a hundred yards through the timber, I broke out in to a huge meadow. To the left one would eventually meet the Soda Butte stream then follow it up to a higher meadow. That was a trail for another day. This morning I turned right. Climbed a short hill and re-entered the forest. There at the top a sign was nailed to a tree announcing the presence of a wildlife trap. It was for a wolverine research program that was abandoned two years ago. The trap was gone. On down the other side I entered a small canyon that was sided with rocky out croppings. An old packrat nest was tucked in a crevice near the top and I really wanted to check it out but impassible deadfall blocked my way. I retraced my steps and found a way around. More deadfall kept me drifting right and before I realized it the highway came into view. This was not the way I wanted to go. Once again I turned around and retraced my path to find another way through. Again I drifted right and was frustrated when I heard the snowplow pass by. The snowshoeing was difficult and I did not like wasting energy laying trail I didnít intend to use later. I found another way through. This time I recognized a huge lodge pole that was full of carpenter ants. I hadnít been here in years and was surprised the tree was still standing. Across a small opening in the trees I spotted a grove of leaning aspens. Years ago my daughter and I found a Williamsonís sapsucker nest there. Winding up through the trees I finally located the cavity and along the way several others. One aspen alone contained ten holes. To keep from going out the way I came in, I needed to find a way over the ridge to the east and circle back to my car, so I headed east up a step slope. I had just reached the top when I realized I could have wound through a ravine to my left and avoided the steep hill. Turning around I started back down, performing a face plant along the way. I found the ravine and wound my way through. It was proving to be a good route until I stood looking at a huge fallen spruce that completely blocked by way. With a sigh I turned around for what seemed the tenth time and made my way back to the steep slope. (At least this trail was already in.) Reaching the top again I meandered my way through the trees until finally I found myself perched above the little canyon. Along the way I had discovered four more cavities and lots of elk trails.
I remembered a narrow cave that was used by a bobcat several years ago. It is so well hidden that if I hadnít been here before I never would have found it now. There werenít any tracks leading in and the cave appeared to be unused.
When they built the stone bridge back on the highway the rock was quarried where I now stood. Here and there were drill marks in the rocks.
As I worked my way down the backside I remembered all the bear beds my daughter and I found up here one summer. It appeared the bears hung out amount the rocky damp cliffs to escape the heat of mid summer. When I reached the flat meadow below, my trail in wasnít far away and I was soon back at the car, tired but somewhat satisfied.

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View slide show

The Big Meadow

Sinking Deep


Leaning Aspen




Bob Cat Cave

Drill Marks

Bear Claw Marks