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A surprise walk

Its starting to feel like the Canadian Rockies here, raining every day, even if just a little bit.  Last fall I had driven up an old fire road that’s usually closed.  I wasn’t sure if they only opened it in the fall for hunters, so I took a drive over there, and sure enough, the road was closed and the gate locked.  I parked and walked up the dirt fire road that leads to high meadows.  This area was home to the ’88 fires and the lush undergrowth shows it.

There’s been so much rain that the forest is lush.Lush forest

More and new wildflowers appear every day.Paintbrushes

Calypso bulbosa - Fairy Slipper Orchid-endangered

Saxifraga odontoloma

A loud almost bell-like sound announced the presence of a marmot hanging in the rock pile below us.  Koda went crazy.  He knew he couldn’t get to the marmot, and that fat marmot just kept teasing him.Fat Marmot

As we ascended higher, the reef cliffs came into view.  A Golden Eagle sat in a tree near the old road cut.  Our presence caused him to take to flight.Looking up at the limestone reef

There was a lot of fairly fresh grizzly scat along the road, but the only recent prints were elk.  Occasionally there were faint bear tracks, and it seemed like there might be two bears, indicating a sow and cub.

Pretty fresh bear scat.  Can you see the penny at the right for size?

Pretty fresh bear scat. Can you see the penny at the right for size?

Along the road, there were lots of berry bushes–thimbleberries and raspberries.  A perfect place for bears in the fall as well.

Thimbleberry

Thimbleberry

Way up near the top of the ridge, I suddenly heard a loud high-pitched consistent chirp or call.  I thought it was coming from a large bird and looked towards where I heard the sound, down the hillside.  Meanwhile, the smart animal with me, Koda, was looking up the hillside into the wooded bank.  I turned around and there was an elk in the timber.  Confused about the sound, it seemed to have been coming from the elk, although not at all like the bugling I’ve heard in the fall.   It was a contact call I found out later, between that elk and her calf.

As we headed towards the top of the ridge, an old fire cut from the ’88 fires, now overgrown, was covered with Geraniums.  Apparently these plants like disturbed areas.

Geraniums in disturbed area-old road cut

Geraniums in disturbed area-old road cut

The ridgeline meadows were magnificent.  Plenty of water and waterfalls along the way.  So much water so high up.  The old fires had provided great forage areas.High meadow and old burn

Koda catches a whiff

Koda smells out the grizzlies

On the way down, Koda stopped at the cliff edge.  I thought he was looking at the view.  My old dog used to relish the views from high ridges.  But Koda is different.  He’s still young and not prone to being pensive nor reflective yet.

I stepped to the edge and noticed two grizzlies below in the tarns.  I don’t know if Koda saw them, but he certainly smelled them.  I bet they smelled us too.  At first I just saw a smallish black bear, and, from afar, tried to make out whether he was a grizzly or not.  It was hard to see the hump or his face clearly enough.  But then, following about 20′ behind, I saw a large brown grizzly.  I assumed the black bear was her two year old cub.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have my new camera with me so the shot is far away.  But, that’s about the distance I like to see bears from.

Look close there's the grizzly

Look close there's the mama grizzly. Black cub is in the upper left corner.

I glassed the bears for as long as the mosquitos would let me.  They moved down the mountain, through the scree and downed timber, foraging as they went.  What a privilege to see these magnificent animals.  As always, I carry bear spray, but what I use the most is my mosquito spray!

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2 Responses

  1. Koda is such a beautiful dog. Could you imagine having a sense of small that good? It would be another world! What a gorgeous landscape. Nice to see the new life following the destruction. It’s so natural. Wish we weren’t sitting on so much dry tinder out in the west from decades of fire-suppression. Now I guess we are stuck with it.

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  2. Hi Bonnie, there is so much beetle kill in these forests, that along with the fire suppression, we are in for some big fires. Not if, but when. Thanks for your comments.

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