Vacation notes (3 of N)

  • May 24: Memorial day weekend is in full swing and there are idiots everywhere.  I swear that the older I get, the more I sympathize with my father’s dislike of crowds.  We braved a bit of the crowd (keeping in mind that we’re already in the least crowded part of the park) and went up to Floating Island Lake to see if the sandhill cranes were nesting.  When we got there, a coyote was crossing behind the lake and the cranes, who were on the shore at the time, were putting on quite a display: loud squawks (or whatever noise cranes make), spread wings, raised heads, etc.  Basically, everything a crane can do to tell a coyote to go away… which he did.  There weren’t any eggs in the nest yet, so we left and decided to get away from everybody by hiking the Lamar Trail.  That was a very nice hike, we only saw one other group of people, but we did see many hawks and bluebirds.  We got down to Cache Creek and stayed for a while.  The rain didn’t start until we were a mile and a half down the trail home.  That would be great, except that it left us another 2 miles back.  We did have rain gear, but it isn’t very good and doesn’t breathe well, so we didn’t put it on.  Between the lack of rain gear and my putting my hat on the camera, we arrived back to the car tired and soaked, but happy.  A wet day of hiking is still better than crowds.

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  • May 25: Memorial Day itself.  There’s no way I’m going anywhere potentially crowded.  We did decide to do a few short hikes to get some pictures.  I went a short distance down the Lamar Trail to get some shots from the foot bridge.  We drove up to Tower Falls (saw a fox on the drive up there).  Unfortunately, the trail down to the base of the falls is still closed, as it has been for 5 years now.  You can hike down a half mile, but there’s not much to see.  That’s a bit of a shame, since Tower Falls is one of the nicer falls in the park.  Warning: don’t try this, it’s dangerous. So, getting fed up with the closure, I slipped over the barrier when no one was looking (for the record, this doesn’t appear to be illegal, just dumb) and hike the last tenth of a mile to the base.  FWIW, I can see why the trail is closed.  There are places where the trail is only 6 – 8″ wide (on one side of the mountain road there was a mountain, and on the other side there was nothin’ – there was a cliff in the air) and other places where there were trees down across what was left of the trail.  That said, it was definitely worth it to see the base of the falls again.  After that, we hiked up to Lost Creek Falls (behind Roosevelt Lodge).  On the way back to the cabin, we stopped by Baronette Peak and spotted a few mountain goats.  That evening, we went out into the park and saw two wolves in the valley.  We must have watched them for over an hour – there was a great deal of very dog-like behavior.  The subordinate licking the dominant one’s mouth.  The dominant one standing over the subordinate, etc.  We found it very interesting to watch – as did a coyote that was following the wolves in order to see when it would be safe to feed off of a nearby kill.

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  • May 26: It’s the day after Memorial Day… should be safe to go to Mammoth, right?  Nope, trick question.  There are always crowds at Mammoth.  On the drive up, we ran across a fairly large bear-jam, so we found a place to pull off in order to see what the fuss was about.  Turned out to be a young grizzly, maybe 40 yards from the road.  He had been bathing (missed that) and was climbing on a rock to dry a bit.  We stayed for a while, until the rangers had everyone leave since this bear had charged someone the other day.  Mammoth seemed dry.  More accurately, the water continually moves and has been moving away from the standard board walk areas for years now.  While we were looking at one of the features, we saw some college student reach into his pocket and when he pulled his hand out, his keys went flying onto the thermal ground where he had to retrieve it.  Probably my biggest impression from Mammoth was that it reminds me of one of the central themes from Gulliver’s Travels, that humans are comical when viewed from afar and grotesque when viewed up close.  Both aspects were on display at Mammoth (and in fairness, pretty much anywhere that people gather in numbers).  On the drive back, we watched a wolf crossing the road behind us.  Nothing too exciting that evening, a bear and two (though I only saw one) cubs.

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  • May 27: We went out and hiked Garnet Hill today.  There wasn’t too much wildlife.  We did see a day old wolf kill at the start of the trail, but there were only ravens on it.  We saw lots of marmots, as always.  Overall, the hike took longer than it should have.  We’ll need to allocate more time next year.  That evening, we saw a moose and her newborn (that day?) calf across from Trout Lake.  People believe that the moose was attacked by wolves (or bear) and then had the calf shortly thereafter.  The calf was fine, but the moose was a bit torn up, we hoped they would make it.  In the valley we watched a grizzly for a while.  It seemed that he was limping.  We ran into a griz researcher who confirmed that the bear was injured.  The researcher had a baited trap on the south side of the valley.  He hoped that the bear would follow that so that they could provide some help.

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