One summer morning while the air was still cool, Carol and I decided to take another little hike behind the cabin. We grabbed our binoculars and headed out. I am notorious for finding wild animal droppings and kicking them around with my foot or smashing it with a stick or stone. In hunting, we call this “looking for sign”. In other words “poop”.
The summer flowers are in their splendor. Red, purple, white, orange, yellow and shades in between. Butterflies, grass hoppers, blue birds, squirrels, chipmunks and other creatures not as easily seen are all darting around the forest.
My quest for fresh sign (poop) was not going well. I explained to Carol that many times we find the big game we are looking for in an area where there are no fresh poops, I mean sign around and sometimes when there is fresh sign around we do not find the game. She said that was a line of sign (poop). Anyway, we are enjoying our hike and all of God’s creation around us.
•stop, don’t move! Look over there! Wow!” There stood a large bull elk standing sideways to us. The sun was still low in the sky to the east of us and shinning directly on this magnificent beast. “Who is full of poop now, huh?” The rays were glistening off of it enormous rack and with its tuff around its neck looked like a classic pose in Field & Stream Magazine. What a sight and thrill. We watched as it trotted over the ridge after it caught our sent. They don’t smell that great either. We looped around in a direction that might give us another glimpse but without success. But that was great! See what you can kick up if you don’t take your camera.That afternoon we went on another adventure. This trip was to Lake Mountain Lookout. This is a mountain about thirteen miles to the east of the cabin on yet another primitive road. The scenery was great and also changes as you wind around, up and down this mountain road.
As we pulled up to the access road to the top of the mountain we discover that the gate is locked. There is a lookout tower at the very top and we suspect that you can see all the lakes that dot the White Mountains from that tower thus the name Lake Mountain.
The trip up the mountain by foot is an adventure all in itself. The elevation at the gate is about 8,000 feet and climbs to 8,501 feet above sea level. The road curves around the mountain at a very steep climb. There I am looking for •sign” again. You already know what that is. The road is very gravelly. If you had a mountain bike, the downhill trip would be very treacherous. You would have to be careful not to pick up too much downhill speed. The slightest touch of the breaks could be disastrous. I knew first hand, but that is a story for another time.
Look at these skid marks.” They were going perpendicular to the road and continue from one side of the gutter to the other. The skids were parallel and 18″ apart and there were matching marks coming down the steep mountain side and then continuing on the down hill side. What could have left this scar on this straight, downhill, pine needle ski run? Elk are not usually found on steep, heavily forested slopes. Deer and Elk normally travel in a zigzag path thus creating game trails with hair pin curves. When they are startled, they may run straight up and over a ridge and then are known to stop to check out the advancing enemy. We must have kicked up a bear! We walked another ten yards and found another set of skid marks. Two bears!
Upon reaching the top, we had another one of those spectacular panoramic views from the bottom of the look out tower. There were two problems though. One, the monsoon clouds moved across the mountains below and we could not see any lakes. Two, the lookout tower was locked and unoccupied. The sign on the gate stated the locked gate policy because some vandals did some damage and ruined the experience for the all the legitimate nature lovers.
Then big disappointment came. After returning to the cabin and checking out the topographical map of Lake Mountain Lookout, I discovered that it wasn’t named for the view of the surrounding lakes. It has a lake on top of the mountain just over the ridge from where we stood. We missed seeing the lake. Poop!