Sunday, July 3, 2011

Mysterious Shapes

Can you identify this growth? Answer to follow.

I rode the group van to Bozeman yesterday. There was no way to fit as many restaurant meals as I would have liked to eat into the four hours I had to wander around downtown so I settled for a real bagel from one place and a spicy breakfast burrito from another. The pizza, and the Thai, and the Mediterranean, and all the others, will probably have to wait until October when I stay a few days there on my way back to the outside world.

I spent quite a while browsing at Vargo's Jazz City and Books listening to Chuck Berry's greatest hits, and wound up buying Squatters in Paradise about us Yellowstone seasonal workers, and Ranger Confidential about twelve years working in national parks. Although the sidewalk walking was making my foot a little sore, I decided to take the trail behind the library to recreate my first Bozeman hike and climbed a hill for view of snowy mountains in several directions. At my feet were a variety of wildflowers in many colors. I was wishing I could spend the night at my usual nearby hotel because it felt good to be back in town.

But it's just as well I didn't.

I went on a hike this morning to Lost Lake with one of the same people I visited it with last year. The standard bear warning sign had an extra note on it dated July 1st, which caught our attention.

Our first sightings as we climbed the steep trail were very much alive--a deer with twins. We didn't find the carcass, but we did find Lost Lake. Last year we were too late for the water lilies but they were blooming today. Oh, and see that rocky slope down at the far end of the lake? Keep your eye on that.

As we got a little closer to the far end of the lake, my hiking partner caught a glimpse of an animal moving into the water and thought beaver. We watched as the animal swam across the lake and shared thoughts along these lines . . . big beaver . . . too long . . . otter . . . probably some big mammal . . . elk . . . Lost Lake Monster . . . It wasn't until the animal reached the shore of that rocky slope that we realized we were watching a bear. My first bear sighting while hiking. And far enough away that I wished we'd been closer.

You might think that would be enough excitement for a four mile hike, but you'd be wrong. This was our next encounter.

We waited quite a while, but the bison showed no interest in moving off the trail so we decided to try to get around him which entailed climbing a steep hill on the left which was heavily covered in shrubs and fallen trees. It was quite a workout for the ankles which were easily imagined broken when not busy imagining being crushed by accidentally dislodging one of the big trees held in place by the smaller ones we were clambering over. I figured if my foot survived this bushwhack it would probably make it through the summer, but this week will be a big test.

Of course, just as we reached the point where we could start descending back to the trail the bison decided to move down the trail in the same direction we were going. They enjoy messing with us puny humans. We did get off the hillside and detoured around him again, this time on level ground.

Site of future thimbleberries:

Did you guess that the first shape was a great horned owl?

Although there are perfectly good trees around, the owls also like to hang out under the eaves of the park's administration building.

I haven't gotten any good photos of an owlet yet, but here's the best of the bad. This one looks much younger than the ones I photographed in June last year so the owls were probably delayed by the long snowy winter just like everything else.


Terry said...

Congrats. on the not-in-a-car bear sighting.

The first owl looks more like a wasp nest than a bird... that would be useful mimicry.

greentangle said...

Thanks. The bear was too far away and moving away, so I didn't get any adrenaline rush but that's probably just as well for my first time.