Monday, March 26, 2012

Read the Fine Print

One relatively easy hike that I took in Yellowstone in 2010 was the climb to the top of Mount Washburn and down the other side to the main loop road. I started on the Dunraven Pass Trail, climbed up to the summit ranger/weather station, and then used the Chittendon Road Trail to descend.

I was hoping to see Bighorn sheep along the way, for I'd been told this was a good place to spot them. And I finally did see a small herd on the way down, but it was all ewes and lambs. None of the big males with the formidable horns.

The big excitement for me was climbing another peak over 10K feet in elevation. This was all new stuff for me. Before this trip, the highest mountain I had ever hiked was Mount Mitchell here in North Carolina, which is a shade under 6,700 feet above sea level. I had wondered if I'd have problems with altitude, but I hiked as easily at 10,000 feet as I do at 3,000. So there were no worries for me there. I have known people who get sick at relatively low altitudes, so it was a relief to know I wasn't among that unfortunate group. Part of it was probably that I had plenty of time to acclimate by sleeping for a few days in the lodges which are all around 7,000 to 8,000 feet high.

I did this hike alone. I did encounter a few people who arrived on the summit from the opposite direction, and I bumped into a group when I was almost at the end of the hike. But most of the time I was alone. And it was only later--after Andy and Carole had arrived to pick me up that I noticed the signs mentioning heavy grizzly bear activity and not to hike alone.

Oh, well.

From the Dunraven Pass side. I was surprised to see so many dead pine trees. In some places in the Park all of the forests were dead as far as you could see. Apparently they've been the victims of some type of insect infestation.

When you're in the big western mountains, the high country of the East almost fade from memory. It's only after you return and begin hiking in the Appalachians again that you recall their own allure and grandeur.

In the sheltered rest area below the ranger/weather station I was visited by a little ground squirrel expecting handouts. I ignored his pleas for food and just took his photo.

On the way down, via the Chittendon Road Trail. The fire tower/ranger station/weather station behind me on the 10,000-foot summit of Mount Washburn.

These mountains are rugged, for damned sure.

I stopped to look down this steep draw.

Looking back up the Chittendon Road Trail as I got close to the end and my ride.

"Heavy grizzly bear activity?!" Now they tell me.

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