Monday, June 04, 2007

Bighorn Pass trail

I just got back from Yellowstone NP and finally have some interesting hiking reports. While not my first hikes of the season, previous hikes were fairly mundane.

On Memorial Day I hiked part of the Bighorn Pass trail from the west side. I saw no one during the entire hike, it was almost as if no one had hiked or ridden on it since I left last fall. The weather was variable, windy, cloudy, and snowing lightly when I started and sunny when I finished. I went in past the Fawn Pass cutoff trail, about 4.5 miles total, when I decided I did not want to overdo and went back to the backcountry campsite and ate lunch.

The trail follows the Gallatin river through a broad meadow valley. For the distance I went in there is not much elevation gain, just a few bumps and once up along the hillside to avoid a swampy area. This time of year stock are not allowed on the trail because it is wet although the trail was fairly dry, even the snow didn't seem to add moisture. The hillsides were partially burned but some trees remained. Other hillsides are open meadow giving great visibility to search for wildlife.

I saw elk, mule deer, a coyote, and marmots along the trail, also geese and a hawk, I think a Swanson's. While eating lunch a cow elk came down and spent some time broadside to me, not browsing but not moving away, perhaps she had a calf nearby. When I saw the coyote, I was hoping for wolves but this unmistakable a coyote who was more wary of me than the elk, he moved away quickly once he saw me. No bears, although a large pile of scat close to the beginning made me more alert.

I've taken this trail a couple of times before and while I haven't seen bears or wolves, I have met others who told me about seeing them. Last fall, some horsemen saw 12 wolves in a pack earlier in the day. Another hiker I met a few years ago said friend of hers had seen a sow and 2 grizzly cubs in the distance the day before. I keep hoping to see both, I did see scat and tracks for both bears, not certain of species, and wolves.

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