Friday, October 14, 2011

Into the Mountains of Wyoming


Three in the morning came very early, but that was the time you got yourself ready to go.  The plan was to be on the road by 4 AM, at the trailhead unloaded and heading up the mountain by 5 AM.  I had planned before I came to do some horseback riding, but never found the time.  If you are going on this type of trip in the mountains, I recommend to do some riding at a local stable just to get the feel and prevent saddle soreness.  Comfort grew on me later in the trip. 

There was a quarter of a moon shining down. At the higher elevations it helped to light up the trail.  We wove around on the trail and I could hardly see the guide in front of me when we were in the timber.  What really amazed me was he initially walked up the mountain pulling his horse behind him.  Later on as the trail became steeper he mounted up.  The group consisted of three of us going up the mountain.  The guide in front, myself and a wrangler employed by the outfitter made up the party. 

Upon reaching a level area in the darkness, the sound of a bull elk could be heard as he bellowed below us in the timber.  The guide stopped, gave a thumbs up, pointed up higher, and we continued to ride up the mountain.  At this time it became a little lighter, and the ruggedness of the mountain could be seen along with the steep terrain we were climbing.  For me this was an outstanding experience and we had not even begun to hunt.  Just being there and doing what I was doing was thrilling. 

The first meadow we checked out.  The horses are to the left in the trees. 

Upon reaching an open area, the horses were tethered.  We started walking up the mountain into a meadow that extended upward to the top of the mountain.  It had gotten lighter and visibility was good.  Everyone hunkered down.  We waited and scanned the area below for elk moving out of the dark timber.  We also listened for bull elk, but heard nothing. 

After about 90 minutes we mounted up on the horses and rode higher up the mountain. 

Top of the mountain behind me.

At this point, I want to point something out that should be of vital interest to any flat lander like myself.  In my 60s, I still work out regularly, but the altitude really hit me hard the first two days.  I really got winded climbing up the mountain.  If I go again, which I probably will, I am going to try to get on an exercise program that will help with this problem.  I never got tired physically until the end of the day, but I got really winded on the climb.  I also drank about two liters of water daily to stay very very hydrated.  If you read any of the books published about climbing in the Himalayas, you will see that the climbers always force enough water until their urine is clear.  That was a goal I had set for myself.  Altitude sickness caused from dehydration is no fun and I did not want my trip ruined over that.

Checking out a meadow below us.  Our guide had killed a bull elk in this area.

We moved the rest of the morning along the ridges and top of the mountain, looking down into valleys in search of elk.  Around 11 AM we found an open area and tethered the horses.   Here we broke for lunch and a short nap. 

Later we moved down the mountain to the area where the bull elk had made his presence known.  In this area, cow calls were made, and we looked for elk sign such as droppings, rubs or wallows.  If you don't know what a wallow is, it is where a bull elk tears up the ground with his antlers, pees in the dirt and then rolls in it.  For him and her this is like expensive men's cologne. 
By 3 PM we were totally moving down out of the mountains.  The weather was unseasonably warm because of all the sunshine on the mountains.  In fact it could be almost described as hot, and everyone was shedding clothing. 
Grand Tetons in the background.  It can't get much better than this, but it does.

Many more days to go and this was starting out as an excellent adventure.

Angus and me.  This horse was really a big boy.

Riding along a mountain trail

Good fishing, good hunting, and good luck.  Hank

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The outdoors suppliers have some great sales going on right now.  As we move into hunting season, I believe they are overstocked and now is the time to cash in on some great bargins.  You cannot own enough gear.  It's a status symbol.  Plus it goes hand in hand with bragging rights.


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