Mountains Don’t Care

The Rocky Mountains don’t always care. Warm and cool air converge, clouds bump and grind and generate lightning, and when on a ridge this can cause anxiety. Our first day out of Steamboat was a road walk. A guy stopped and offered a ride. He knew about the trail and said, “So you have four more miles on pavement. Do you want a ride?” It was tempting. But the walking wasn’t too bad, so we declined. It was a kind offer, but our legs weren’t broke. We listened to a book on tape, A Canticle for Leibowitz, a really wonderful post-apocalyptic story that focuses on the rebuilding over thousands of years after a nuclear war. The story starts in a setting in the southwestern desert, and it reminded us of the basin. While listening to the story cars drove into the forest, bow hunting season opened this weekend, and there were a lot of people out there. I’m fascinated with bow hunting. It seems intense to kill a large mammal with an arrow. We talked to a couple of really nice guys and they explained they have to be within about 20 yards and target the upper lungs or the heart. I think you’d be more aware of the life you’re taking when you are that close to the animal, and have to be pretty good with your aim.

Summer storms hit this weekend, and we spent most of Saturday in rain and lightning. We took a long alternate to avoid the ridge walks, and added a few miles to our stretch. Sunday was better, with only an afternoon shower and we made our way through the Never Summer Mountains, which are very wet and lush. There were many different types of mushrooms out, I wanted to take pictures of all of them, but was reminded by Jacob that if I did that we wouldn’t get very far. Instead I chose to take photos of scat along the way. We were descending from Bowen Pass and came across fresh Moose and Elk Scat. I heard movement in the forest and looked through into the eyes of a large Bull Moose munching away on willows. He was maybe 20 yards away, and was very intimidating. Jacob came over to take a look, and the moose looked more intently at us. Most people who live around areas with moose talk about how they don’t fear bear, but they are very wary of moose, so we tried to give this guy his space and hoped he wouldn’t get angry with us. I really wanted to watch though, because the antlers are so big and heavy and when eating it seems it would be a pretty big hassle. Eating 20,000 calories a day of leaves is probably hard enough as it is without a huge rack getting in the way.

So we continued down the trail and as we passed more Elk scat Jacob and I wondered about the shape of their scat. I said it looks like smashed Hershey’s Kiss’s, Jacob said it looks like a bullet with a conical cap. Either way, it’s hard to imagine how it comes out of a butthole like that. We wondered if the Elk had some extra muscle to make the shape, but it would actually be formed in the intestines. So what is it in an Elk that makes their scat like that?

More trail questions that we have yet to answer.

We left the Never Summer Wilderness area and entered Rocky Mountain National Park early Monday morning. Jacob’s folks met us really early and we dropped off some of our pack weight, and were able to hike with only food and water and some minor other things for the day. It was so wonderful to slack pack! The area has some family history-years ago before they had kids Jacob’s parents did their first backpacking trip together to Flattop Mountain. After they had kids they came out again with Jacob and his sister for a family trip. Three-year-old Jacob was more interested in being a backpack than backpacking, and family lore is that he wasn’t much into walking. So his dad carried him up over these high mountains along with the pack on his back. Current Jacob is obviously much more into backpacking. And doesn’t seem to mind walking so much.

The park was beautiful, and we had a lucky day-the clouds decided not to bump and grind. A fire burned through a section along Tonohutu trail this summer, and we walked through the area. Flowers were blooming below the charred trees. As we made our way up toward Bighorn Plateau a sign on a rock warned us that the Mountains Don’t Care.

The trail up to the Plateau was a nice grade and smooth. I dreamed of a future trail run along the loop we hiked. Maybe one day.

A herd of Elk grazed beside Ptarmigan Point. If I were Elk around here I’d stick to the National Parks and avoid the Forests where arrows fly. These Elk weren’t afraid of us.

Rosalie and Dan met us on the North Inlet trail as we came down near Grand Lake and we came across another well-endowed Bull Moose munching. This one also decided to eat instead of charge. Thanks, Moose!

Grand Lake has an awesome pizza place and we tested our hiker appetite by each devouring a 16″ veggie pizza. It was so delicious.

We have a few more hours before J’s folks head out, and I can’t say thanks enough to them and to all our friends and family for the love and support~

We’ll head out into the high peaks tomorrow morning. I wish you all a happy September!

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