Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Specimen Ridge - Part 5

The Tetons were behind us but the adventures were not. We rolled north into Yellowstone National Park with the idea of hiking Specimen Ridge. In the back country permit office we hammered out a plan. We park at one end of the trail, hitch a ride to the other side, camp 1.5 miles of the trail along the Lamar River, and hit the ridge the next day. The next day we would hike the 32km with all our gear and it would turn out to be one of the best days I've ever had.

It was nearing the end of the day by the time the car was parked and we were ready to rock. Worried we wouldn't be able to catch a ride, we need not fret as a family, decked out in hunting camo and driving a pick-up truck, told us to hop on in. Cruising through the Lamar Valley in the back of a pick-up is DEFINITELY the way to go.
Rolling in the truck

As we set out across the valley floor toward the river the excitement was already building. This IS the spot for Grizzlies and Wolves in the park and we were fully expecting to encounter one of these creatures on foot.

However, we were ready. Pre-trip, I had purchased what my cousin affectionately referred to as the "the bear shank". Yeah, it was a big ass hunting knife and I wasn't going to be afraid to leap on a charging Grizzly and thrust the point of the blade into its neck, thus slaying the beast, saving the day, and being a badass the rest of my life! Ha! ...we also had bear spray so perhaps no heroics would be required...

Tim rocking the bear shank
We had a raging blaze (à la fending off elephants in Kenya size) going at camp by the time the sun set and we were set for the night. We encountered no bear of wolf but did have to shoe away two Bison in order to pitch the tent. Perhaps the morning would be different.

Sun going down over the camp
 And it was. Taking a page from the voyageurs, we worked up an appetite before eating breakfast. Having successfully forded the icy cold Lamar river, we ate oatmeal and drank water which smelled like bison shit, but what's a man to do. Thankfully the filter did the trick, and we were not plagued by any bowel discomfort.

Up the far bank we went, and were just beginning the long steep trek up the mountain side when from the corner of my eye I saw it ambling in our direction. Perched on a little rise, we watched as a very large and old looking Grizzly climbed up over the bank, and proceeded to walk beneath us. I'll admit it, I was very nervous. Tim, he was unfazed! Wishing the bear a fine morning, he fulfilled a long held desire to encounter a Grizzly in the backcountry! We were ecstatic!

Scarface, 21 yrs old!

And then the excitement never faded. As we were pushing ourselves up and almost to the peak, in what truly felt like magical fashion, Tim raises his bins to a nearby tree to behold more awesomeness. Rosy-Finches! Grey-crowned, and to my absolute joy, Black! As I write this two months later, it still brings a huge smile to my face and a wonderful laughter! For a birder from the East, Rosy-Finches hold this mystical status. Elusive denizens of the Mountains, I have been dreaming of seeing these birds since I first opened a bird book of North America!

Grey-crowned Rosy-Finches

With Rosy-Finches and Grizzlies fueling our spirits, we raged the peak and tore across the mountain ridge leaving elk bones and bison in our wake. I yelled out to the world and couldn't have been happier!

With the music of Howard Shore in my head, we hiked, ran and birded the rest of the 32 kms as if we were born to do it.

  Specimen Ridge you were wonderful!