The elk had the dorm surrounded yesterday, but we managed to escape. Many critters have been acting strangely recently. The ravens have been calling in higher pitches and standing on the ground letting humans get too close. Last night I watched a magpie harass one of the elk by repeatedly landing on her back as she lay on the grass and then when he tired of the elk, he stuck his head down a ground squirrel hole and pulled out some fluffy burrow lining.
Saturday morning, we set off early and chilly on our group hike which looped around Terrace Mountain. Our starting point was about five miles down the road, but at the hike's midpoint we were back above Mammoth, so everything you'll see here is within walking distance of me right now. The first couple miles passed through flatlands filled with the sound of sandhill cranes. Our view ahead was high mountain and low cloud.
But we weren't going up there. This was more our style.
We were soon following the route which was taken by the stagecoaches which once transported tourists in Yellowstone. But don't think flat--some folks were so frightened by the downhill plunge of the road, they headed back east as soon as they could.
We saw the cones of coneflowers.
And heard the cries of Clark's nutcrackers. We found parts of an elk skeleton. Half of our group was from China and they eagerly posed with the bones. Understandable. Then one of them asked about my hiking stick and posed arm in arm with me and my stick as a photo was taken. The next didn't want me in the photo; just the stick.
It wasn't hard to picture the bear cub who climbed this aspen.
We made a detour to a hot spring away from the road. Along the way, the water was boiling.
And I saw my first marmot.
Later in the hike, we found a marmot tail. Not from that one though.
After visiting the hot spring,
we headed back into the woods and found an aspen grove, not very common here.
Shortly afterward, there were happy butterflies.
As we climbed out of the woods, we had a nice view of the lovely patterns of Mt Everts.
And the less harmonious appearance of Bunsen (same guy as the burner) Peak.
Some flowers gave a change of scale.
Before we headed on into the area of a long ago landslide and the rockscape it left behind.
The NPS offers ranger-led hikes of this loop. Their description includes this:
A brief portion of this trail has a sharp drop-off on one side. Hikers who are afraid of heights may be uncomfortable on a portion of this trail.
I'm here to tell you that there are actually two portions of this trail which have a sharp drop-off on the left side. I have no photographic evidence because my eyes didn't leave the trail until I had crossed those portions.
But afterward the eyes continued to see beautiful views.
And I found my first Yellowstone thimbleberries, few and in that meaningless stage between pretty flower and tasty berry. Probably won't make a return trip to try to get the couple dozen there. I settled for eating a nearby currant.
And soon the final destination.
The white bus, not the mountains.
Sunday's long road trip was a disappointment as far as our main reasons for making the trip but brought a few rewards: a good lunch, a good book about Yellowstone which I hadn't seen in Yellowstone, a medium distance view of a bald eagle over a river, and two very close looks at ospreys.
Tomorrow's a half day followed by the office picnic, and next week it's Christmas in August. Nothing scheduled yet for this weekend, but my roommate leaves Saturday and having the room to myself again (hopefully until I leave) guarantees a good weekend. I have eight weeks remaining.
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