Friday, November 3, 2017

Day 10: It's a bear! It's a beaver! It's a....

September 3: I woke up and hit the trail a little after 7:00. James was still packing up when I left, but he seemed in no hurry to leave wanting to stay warm in his tent. He did tell me that he didn't like cold, and I wondered how he'd fair later down the trail on the days when it got below freezing or it snowed. I still wonder....

Hiking by the Copper Mountain ski resort

I expected to find Gabe down by the Copper Mountain trailhead camped out and still recovering from his late-night hike, but I didn't see anyone camped near there. Did he get off the trail? Or was he just well-hidden behind a tree or brush? Get lost and camped in the woods where he slowly died of malnutrition and lack of water? I don't know! I never saw him again.... But I liked to think that he walked into Copper Mountain, got a hotel room, and took a day off to rest and recover. =)

The trail ran through the ski area by Copper Mountain, at the very edge of civilization before steadily climbing 2,500 feet up a moderately-steep grade to Searle and Kokomo Passes. Most of the day the trail led through trees which provided few views, but near the pass I finally got above tree line and enjoyed the expansive views--even if they were marred with quarries and other mining activities. Not exactly natural, but it was fascinating to see.

Between Searle and Kokomo Passes, I caught up with a bicyclist who was excited about something.

Definitely some mining activities in this area!

"Do you have binoculars or anything?" he asked.

"Not binoculars, but I have a camera with a zoom lens I can use for that purpose. Why?"

"I think there's a bear!"

My ears perked up this. I really wanted to get a photo of a bear! And I had a fancy camera to do it!

"Where?!" I asked, looking out down the canyon below, not seeing anything that looked even remotely like a bear.

Do you see a bear? Yeah, neither did I!

He pointed out, and I still didn't see it. He pointed again, and still I didn't see it. He pointed some more towards a bush maybe 30 feet away when I finally saw.... I don't know what it was, but it wasn't a bear. It was the size of a bear cub, but not a full grown bear. I hadn't seen it before because I thought it was far out in the distance--not 30 feet away! I was looking in the wrong place.

He seemed to realize that it wasn't a bear, though, and thought maybe it was a large beaver.

That didn't seem likely to me. A beaver? Here? There wasn't even a creek nearby. I hadn't been able to get a good look at the animal, though, because just as I finally realized where it was, it ducked into the brush and I lost sight of it again. I saw it for maybe half a second--not even long enough to get a photo. It could have been a beaver--it seemed like the right size and shape for that--but the environment didn't seem very beaver-like which is why I was skeptical.

I hung out at the location for about five minutes, hoping whatever the animal was might poke his head out again and I'd be ready to get a photo of it--whatever it was. The bicyclist continued on.

After five minutes, I gave up and continued on myself, and a few minutes later, I saw a definite marmot run by some rocks and duck into a hole. A marmot. Yes! That's what we had seen! It wasn't a bear! It wasn't a beaver. It was a marmot! That makes a lot more sense than a beaver.

But I still hadn't been fast enough to get a photo of it. Curse their shyness! I wish I had seen that first marmot sooner, though. He had stood out in the open for quite awhile while I was looking in the wrong place for him.

Further up the trail, at a nice viewpoint, the bicyclist had stopped for a break and I told him that he had seen a marmot. He seemed incredulous of the idea. "That was a big f**king marmot." Admittedly, I didn't get a really good look at it, but I didn't think it was an R.O.U.S. Maybe a little chubby, but otherwise it seemed normal to me. But I'm sure it was a marmot.

I didn't see anymore marmots, but a chipmunk started running around where we had taken a break and I started chasing around the chipmunk trying to get some photos. They was hard, though! Even with my zoom lens, the chipmunk was very small, very fast, rarely stayed still, and wouldn't let me get anywhere near it. At my closest approach, I was maybe 30 feet away. But I at least did get a few photos of that critter.

I had a tough time getting a photo of this chipmunk! But... I got the photo! =D

The mountain biker continued on, never to be seen again. He was heading downhill now and I had no hope of keeping up that fast of a pace!

The trail then steadily dropped about 3,000 feet towards Camp Hale--an old WWII training camp for mountain warfare training in snow and cold-weather survival and a prisoner of war camp for "about 400 of the most incorrigible members of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's Afrika Corps."

During the 1960s, the CIA secretly trained Tibetan guerrillas because of the similarities of the terrain with the Himalayan Plateau. In 1965, the camp was dismantled and the land given to the US Forest Service.

So the camp is no longer there, although ruins of it can still be explored. Also, there are signs up everywhere warning of unexploded ordinance and to stay on the trail and don't touch anything if you don't know what it is.

I didn't see anything that might resemble unexploded ordinance, but I did see a snake which I was none-too-keen about touching. (I did, however, whip out my camera and zoom lens to get some photos of it!)

A snake sunning itself on the trail.

And a little further down the trail, just before the trail re-enters the woods and climbs out of the valley, I set up camp for the night. Right behind a sign warning about unexploded ordnance. =) I figured it would be safe to camp there, however, because clearly it had been used as a campsite by many people before me. If there were any explosives in that location, the previous campers should have long since found it. There was even a fire pit located there so I figured the immediately area had even been scouted for firewood over the years.

But still, technically speaking, I think that counts as camping in a minefield--a new first for me! =)

With my zoom lens, I could really zoom into the snake! Also, it made me wonder how often animals find unexploded ordnance then accidentally blow themselves up?
The trail passes a disc golf course by Copper Mountain--so a new hazard to watch out for: flying discs!
Copper Mountain ski area
There's even snow here for some sort of event!

It lies! There are no "easy roads" on the Colorado Trail!

Searle Pass

More signs of mining activity! I think this might have been a settling pond or something.

Oh, if only I could find explosives! How much fun I could have! =)
Cataract Falls

About 15,000 people were stationed here during WWII for mountain warfare training.
Don't let the blockade fool you. That's just to keep out vehicles--not hikers! I'd set up camp just before the trail dives into those trees ahead.
Camp Hale ruins
I set up camp behind this sign. =) See my pack? I haven't set up camp yet, but that's where I'd spend the night.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Really nice photos Ryan. Glad you managed that heavy new camera!! Thanks, Seagull