Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Just stuff

This last weekend I went for a hike. I was eager to try out some new crampons out on the trail. I've been trying to stay active this winter. Exercising like a normal person at a gym or jogging is not my deal. I need to feel like I am on some adventure; this is my motivator. Anyway, the snowy trails get packed down and then ice over, making it hard to hike safely without using poles or any type of crampon (strap-on spikes for your feet). Full-on crampons are overkill; it's not like I'm trekking over a glacier and scaling walls of ice. So I ordered some medium-duty crampons and received them last week.

The canyon that I hiked up this weekend had more use on its south side. I was not interested in bumping into people, so I went up the north side. At one time, this canyon had a wagon trail up it that miners built to get up to their claim. Ranchers used this way as well to get up to the flats above for grazing. In 1930, overgrazing of the hills and flats above this mining operation led to a small disaster. After a hard rain storm during the spring runoff, and instability from the overgrazing, a flood washed out much of the mine, mill, and road that was located up the canyon. My intentions for choosing this route on the north side of the canyon was to retrace what I could of this wagon trail.

The trail up to the highest Bonneville shoreline was sandy and steep. Approaching the mountain, the trail became overgrown with scrub oak and maples, but I could make out that a wider than normal path existed there at one time. It was at the start of this higher trail that I picked up on moose tracks and scat. This trail took me up into a bottle neck between two cliffs and dropped in just above a small waterfall. It was here that I lost all trace of the wagon trail, but picked up some cougar tracks; I followed.

The surrounding cliffs are prime area for predators to get a good vantage of what is coming up or down this canyon. During warm months, the flats are host to big animals, such as deer and moose, and of course, beaver, which have made more than several dams up there. Birds of prey, bobcats, and mountain lions have prime real estate in this bottle neck, essentially being able to keep tabs on what food is coming through and then pounce on them. Coyotes mostly hang out below on the benches.

I have never had such a hot spot for wildlife this low in my county than in this canyon and on the side I went up. (The south side trail is more developed and popular, but follows the bench and then switch backs ascend up and to the southeast over to another canyon). Most people don't want to deal with unimproved trails and bushwhacking. This is what I count on when I am picking a hike that will give me a more unique experience.

Anyway, I was mostly psyched hiking up, following the moose and cougar tracks. But then I had to make the descent; something about turning my back to the mountain made my hair stand up on end. This feeling of having cat eyes on me was a bit too much. I was at a point where I really needed snow shoes. The snow pack was up to my thighs, and if I had to stand my ground it would be very hard not to appear vulnerable. So I picked up a tree branch and swung it around my head, beat it on tree trunks/rocks, anything to make me look big and threatening. If anybody was able to hear me, they would have been treated to my "outdoor voice" version of self analysis. It's always the same on these more isolated adventures: I'm all brave and eager on the way up, and then paranoid and twitchy heading back.

I made my way down with the setting sun. It was quite a sabbath for me; one where I didn't have any judgment or expectations from people, but God and nature deciding whether to grace me with beauty and grant safe passage. I probably should have taken somebody with me, but I figure my only sin is in not having taken any pictures.


Megan said...

What a fun/begging to be eaten adventure! I too have had the feeling of being watched which quickly turned my bravery into a full fledged retreat. There's nothing more exciting than being stalked by something that could remove my skin with a few licks of the tongue :).

Christielli said...

You'll have to do something like that again AND take pictures!

I like reading about your adventures in nature.

I also like stuff.

Outdoorsy Girl said...

Awesome!!!! Wish I had been there! Then again, maybe not so much fun for you after the last time. But at least it might have been fun for you to hear me ask Smith and Edwards if they have any used crampons. :)

The Grunt said...

Megan~ You are a bit luckier than I, as far as prettier canyons/hikes being right in your backyard, but the mountain lions don't care. They'll eat whatever.

Christielli~ I will take pictures. I have taken pictures of other hikes in this area from this summer. I need to get my shit together and do posts on some of them.

O-girl~ You could have done this hike since this hike started at 5,000 odd feet above sea level and not the 7,000 or so feet starting point where I took you. You would have felt some altitude fatigue, but not got in danger unless you head toward the top. Btw, the crampon story never gets old.

Jules said...

I am Man.. hear me roar. That's what comes to me after having read this. Actually, it sounds like an amazing adventure, one that would have naively delighted myself, had I been there. I tend to not think about the dark side of life. Someday that will probably get me eaten by a cougar. I get lost in the beauty and the action and I don't think about consequences. Twitchy wouldn't describe me. Innocent and naive does though, in instances like that.

The Grunt said...

Jules~ Being innocent and naive in the wilderness is good, so long as you have someone backing you up. I do have those moments where I'm like a child lost in the woods, but am too fascinated with the experience to know when I'm in trouble. I've got just the story to tell for that one, as well. My deal is that I've had too many close calls and encounters with the dangers of the wilderness that my guard goes up right at the moment things go "crack".

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