Wildlife Encounters

August 6th, 2012

      Last year, a woman and her dog encountered a cow and calf moose while hiking in Millcreek Canyon. The moose attacked them after the dog got too close. I discussed it on the WasatchHiker.com Facebook page. Meeting a cow and calf moose on the trail can be one of the more dangerous encounters in the wild. A cow moose will fiercely defend the calf when she feels threatened. On the Facebook page discussion, I gave the recommendation to leave the trail and skirt around the moose giving them a 50 feet of clearance, and then continue on your way.
      I hike solo quite a bit, and have often wondered what to do when encountering a moose right on the trail. I usually hike in the evenings after work, and when I do, I race the sun to see how far I can go and still get back to the truck before sunset (I try to leave a 30 minute cushion). That doesn’t leave a lot of time for delays.
      Last week while hiking the Timpooneke Trail, some friends and I got to experience the scenario mentioned above with a moose encounter of our own. We saw a lone moose earlier in the day in the Giant Staircase area, but it was a few hundred yards away. Coming back down, we could see the moose from a quarter mile away, and could see it was near the trail we were about to cross. We got down to the bottom of the big switchback near the Giant Staircase and saw 2 other hikers about 100 feet in front of us. They were looking at something on the hillside, out of our view, and had a look of shock on their faces. I hollered at them asking if they had seen the moose. They said yes and pointed. Apparently they didn’t see the moose until they actually passed it. We continued walking a bit and spotted the moose grazing on some willows just a few feet off the trail, about 50 feet from where we were.
      We stopped and considered our options. There was no way to skirt around the moose. Downhill would have taken us through a ravine that would have resulted in some serious bushwhacking. Uphill was not an option because of cliff bands in the area. We decided that since the other hikers made it ok, perhaps we would try just walking past her. We lined up about 5 feet apart and started walking. I was in the lead, and kept an eye on the moose, watching for any reaction to our approach. We were about 20 feet away when she turned her head to look at me. In another step or two, she made a slight movement in my direction. I stopped immediately and backed up a bit. It was at that point I noticed another moose in the brush about 10 feet from her. Up to this point, we had no indication she had a calf with her.
      We backed off to consider our options again. The sun would be setting in less than 30 minutes, and we didn’t want to be walking in the dark. While we were talking, the calf moved across the trail, so now the cow was above the trail and the calf was below the trail. This, of course eliminated all options except one. We just stayed back and watched. After about 5 minutes, the cow moved onto the trail and just glared at us (see picture below – the calf can be seen hiding in the brush in the lower left corner).
Moose Encounter on Timpooneke Trail
      We considered the possibility the cow wanted to moved up the trail past us and decided to just move out of the way for now. We climbed a steep little hill above the trail and just sat down. Meanwhile, the calf moved further down the ravine. After another 5 minutes, the cow followed. Once both were about 50 feet off the trail, we continued our hike.
      I’m not sure if we made the best decisions, but everything worked out ok. We warned other hikers on our way down. With moose, I still think the best thing you can do is stay 50-100 feet away, and don’t do anything that might seem threatening. Moose will usually just look at you and continue eating.


New location for Blog entries

June 26th, 2012

NOTE: new WasatchHiker blog entries are no longer posted here. They are now located on Facebook and are updated 2-3 times a week. I inlcude trail reviews, pictrures, videos and hiking-related news. Subscribe to this link if you would like to read them: http://www.facebook.com/pages/WasatchHikercom/138811969476059

Life is like climbing a mountain

September 9th, 2011

I often hike solo, because it gives me the freedom to go as fast or as slow as I want, and it gives me the flexibility to change my destination on the fly. Don’t get me wrong, I also like hiking with people because I love discussing things as we’re walking up the trail – especially what I learned from my solo hikes.
🙂
During those hours when I’m the only human around, I often reflect on different aspects of life in general and of my life in particular. Those are the hours when I am “recharging my batteries”. Seriously, it feels just like that. (new tagline: “Stressed? Go climb a REAL mountain”). Anyway, last week I hiked up to Enniss Peak, the peak west of Lone Peak. As I stood in the parking lot at the Orson Smith trailhead, I saw the mountain, and thought to myself, “How am I ever going to get up there”. But as I started walking up the trail, the way presented itself. That’s when I started thinking how climbing a mountain can be (and often is) used as a metaphor for life. The fact that I actually climbed the mountain that day drove some of the following points home for me.

So here’s my metaphor – Life is like climbing a mountain. People look up at where they need, or want, to go and think to themselves “how am I ever going to get up there?” Some people come to the conclusion it simply can’t be done, and they give up without even trying. I think to myself, “I don’t know yet if I can make it to the top, but I KNOW I can make it to that next turn in the trail, or over that next obstacle”. Goals aren’t meant to be easy, but if you take them in small segments, they’re not that bad. I reached one part of the trail, looked up and saw nothing but steep jagged rock walls. I asked myself, how am I going to get through that. As anyone who has hiked with me knows, I’m Ok with heights until there’s a big dropoff on one or both sides. But, I kept walking up that path and pretty soon I was above the jagged rock walls – another life lesson: someone has climbed that mountain before you. They’ve found the easiest route through the obstacles, and have created a path for you to follow. All you have to do is stay on the path, and it will take you to your goal – it’s as simple as that. Some people think, “I don’t like all these switchbacks“ (which are meant to make travel easier, in addition to preventing erosion), “I’m just going to leave the path and make my own route.” Maybe they like the challenge, or think they know a better way, but ask anyone who has bushwacked for 3 hours to go half a mile. Most would rather have a trail to follow, especially after the 3 hour detour. Shortcuts might seem easier, but in reality, you usually end up working harder and are more exhausted than if you would have just stayed on the trail.

Most of our mountain peaks have trail going all around them, but very few have a beaten path all the way to the top. The conditions are so harsh near the top that most peaks are void of plant life or even dirt. Trails are marked by cairns – stacks of rocks. As you get closer to your goal, it might get harder. You have to climb over rocks. The air is thinner, so you have to breathe harder to get enough oxygen to your already tired muscles. This is when it gets exciting. You’re almost there. Think about all the hard work you’ve put into this journey to get this close. If you just keep putting effort into it, there’s euphoria waiting for you up there – a HUGE sense of accomplishment. You prove to yourself that if you can do this, you can do anything. The reward is well worth the effort, despite the doubts you may have had at the trailhead, or part way up when you didn’t think you could go on. Well done – no one can take this away from you, and you’ll always have it to reflect back on when life down there presents you with challenges.

See you on the trail.

Sharing a Passion

July 22nd, 2011

I went hiking with some friends earlier last year.  As we walked up the trail, it seemed I was continually spouting off a plethora of information:
“What are the clouds and wind telling us?” “That tree is a pseudotsuga menziesii – talk about an identity crisis!  It’s not a fir or a hemlock!” “How do you know if you’re getting enough water?” “Trekking poles can be useful at times.” “I only buy hiking boots with Vibram soles”
 
I went on and on, observing the environment and talking about hiking techniques.  At no point did I get any indication they tired of my ramblings (unless that’s the reason they started walking faster).  They told me “You should share your passion on the web; other people might find this stuff useful too.”  The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea – I work in I.T., so I know my way around computers; I’ve hiked Wasatch and other trails my whole life, so I know how to walk in the woods – why not share it!  So here it is.
 
My goal is to share knowledge and experience in 2 areas; day hiking basics and hiking Wasatch trails.  I’ll focus my comments not only to solo hikers and groups of friends, but also to families.  I have a wonderful wife (who lets me hike a reasonable number of days each year) and 3 growing boys.  They don’t like to hike the distances and elevations I do, so I’ve found a number of trails that are ideal for families of all ages and fitness levels.  I hope these pages help you gain the knowledge and appreciation so your passion for the activity grows.
 
I welcome your comments, knowledge and experience.  My opinions are formed from my experience, in which case, I might have come to the wrong conclusion on a subject – if so, let me know.  Or better yet, agree with me wholeheartedly.  🙂
 
Oh, one more thing, why Day hiking, as opposed to overnight hiking; well, because you can reach most places in the Wasatch without the need to camp out, and I like sleeping in my bed at night.
 
Happy trails, Eric
eric@wasatchhiker.com

Hiking Is Not Exercise

May 14th, 2011

Hiking is not really exercise.  Exercise is what you do to get fit, and it usually involves dreaded hours of staring at a wall while doing something on a hamster wheel.  Getting fit as a result of hiking is just an unnoticed side benefit, and can be more effective than exercising on purpose.

 

 Yesterday while climbing a hill, I noticed I push myself to keep going until I can’t go anymore.  Then I stop and rest just long enough to catch my breath before taking off for another stretch.  There’s no way you would see me doing that on a treadmill. 

 

When you’re hiking, there’s no need to reach down inside yourself and latch onto a goal to motivate yourself to continue.  Each step is a reward in itself.  You look up the trail, and you just want to get there.  Then you reach your destination, all tuckered out and happy – proud that you got to where you wanted to go.  You pushed yourself as hard as you physically could and you made it! . . .  now you get to turn around and take yourself back to your truck – which is by now several miles away and thousands of feet below you. 

 

Exercise?  What does that have to do with hiking?

A Father’s Proud Moment

September 23rd, 2010

 In 2009, I hiked approximately 135 miles, climbed 50,000+ feet and reached 6 peaks over the course of 17 trips.  Of all that, this was my proudest moment:

 

 

Me with my 2 sons – Alex and Sam – near the Mount Timpanogos summit.  They worked hard, and reached their goal.  It was a great day.

 

Here are more pictures of the hike: http://picasaweb.google.com/ericbean/Timp2009ScoutHike

 Eric

A Close Encounter

July 26th, 2010

The Photo

The Story

 

It was a Saturday morning in June 2007. I was making my annual trek up Timpanogos and this was my first time on the Aspen Grove trail. I always took the Timpanooke trail before. No one was available to go with me, so this trip was solo. I headed up the trail wondering what the day had in store – maybe I would hit Robert’s Horn (BTW, the plaque at the start of the trail incorrectly labels the Second Summit as Robert’s Horn. Roberts Horn is actually the peak on the right, NE of Emerald Lake).

I had just passed the information shack when I saw a young couple walking backwards towards me – strange. When I was about 30 feet away the man spun around, obviously startled by the sound of my footsteps. He says, “There’s a moose up there! I hate moose, you can go ahead.”

As I rounded the corner and pass them, I see this moose about another 30 feet away. I say “Oh, that’s just a yearling, I’m going to get his picture”. They keep walking backwards as I whip out my camera. As I push the power button, I noticed that the moose heard us talking and it started walking toward me. I put the camera up and focused it. “Dang, it’s in movie mode!” I hurry and switch it to picture mode. At this point, I noticed the moose is starting to trot toward me. I think to myself, “I think this moose wants to get by me”.  More likely, it wanted to run me over!  It was only 10 feet away and closing. I hurry and snap the picture and take off to the left (hence the blurriness). “Oh crap” I thought, “there’s no way to get through the bushes here. I’ll just have to push off the moose as it runs by me”, still thinking it just wants to get by.  Just as I had that thought, the moose stops, turns around and lumbers off the trail to the right.  Whew!, disaster adverted. Trying to regain my composure, I yell back at the young couple, “He ran off, you can keep hiking now”.

I started thinking, why did the moose stop and run off to the right the same time I bolted to the left? I came to the conclusion that the flash from my camera startled it (flash of lightning maybe – trying to think like a moose here). It probably thought the flash scared me too, because that’s when I started running.

So, in the future, I think I’ll stick with the couple and go around the moose. . .

 

 

My Outdoor Experience – My Perspective

June 26th, 2010

As I hike the trails, I meet all types of people (maybe you’re one of them).  Everyone is out there hiking for different reasons.  We all approach the outdoors from a unique perspective, developed from past experiences and current interests.  Maybe you love getting out because it reminds you of fishing with Grandpa when you were a kid.  Or maybe you love taking pictures of wildflowers.  Or you’re a diehard peak bagger (see glossary) who wants to check another one off the list.  It doesn’t matter why you’re out there.  The point is . . we’re probably all reaping similar benefits – you hike to recharge your batteries; to relieve the pressures of life.

When you’re out hiking, EVERYONE is a friend, who’s willing to stop and tell you what they’ve seen (from their perspective).  I’ve outlined my outdoor experience below, to help you understand my perspective.  Sorry about the length, but it had to be said.

Growing up, my family was really into camping.  It seemed we camped a lot every summer, in different parts of eastern Idaho.  Sometimes, just the immediate family would go to Island Park, and sometimes grandparents, cousins and other strangers would all meet at Mike Harris Campground near Victor.  It was all a blast – the fishing, the hiking, the sitting around the campfire watching Granddad make whistles out of willow while he told stories of the old days.

As I grew older, I really got into scouting.  I camped and hiked as much as they would let me; and got my Eagle and 36 merit badges along the way.  When it was time to retire from being a boy scout (age 14), I started working at scout camps during the summers.  I worked at Treasure Mountain near Driggs, Idaho my first year.  They had a great hiking program.  Here’s the view from the scout camp:

That’s Table Rock, with THE Grand Teton peering over its shoulder!  As a staff member, I got to take troops on a hike around the Tetons every Wednesday – and they paid me to do it!  Wow!!  I worked at Thunder Ridge near Cedar City, Utah for the next 2 seasons.  Thunder Ridge was a fairly new camp when I worked there.  They asked me to be the trail master, and to find trails to take the scouts on.  So I got to spend a few days during staff week just traipsing around Cedar Mountain – and they paid me for that!!  Secretly, I thought I was pulling off the biggest scam of all time.  I knew I had to find a way to make a career of this.  🙂  I taught Forestry, Nature and Environmental Science type classes all 3 seasons.

I then grew up.  As a young adult, I thought I had to get a career that involved sitting at a desk and doing complicated calculations all day, so I started studying Electronic Engineering Technology.  A year and a half into it, I met and married my soul mate.  From the start, she has always encouraged me to do what I enjoy.  I had a hard time enjoying EET, so I went to the university career center and took a skills and interests assessment.  One of the top suggested careers for me was Forester.  Huh!  They pay people to do that?  Sign me up!  So we packed our bag, hopped on the bike and moved to Logan, Utah, where I enrolled in USU’s Forestry program.  I was in heaven, and it wasn’t just because I was a newlywed.  EVERY class was my favorite.  I learned about growing trees, managing wildlife, identifying soils and rock types, fighting wildland fires, surveying and silviculture.  Suddenly, even calculus and statistics were fun again.  Just a note; when I tell people I have a B.S. in Forestry (minor in wildlife management), they think I trained to be a park ranger.  Not true – I trained to use scientific knowledge and experience to manage forested lands for multiple uses.  I had to learn first aid and chasing Yogi Bear on my own.

During the summers I interned with the Forest Service – 3 summers on the Targhee near Ashton, Idaho, 1 summer on the Caribou near Soda Springs, Idaho and 1 season on the Wasatch-Cache in Heber City, Utah.  When I arrived on the Targhee, they told me I would be on a timber crew – I got to walk around the woods, surveying potential units, measuring trees and doing wildlife surveys.  “And you’re paying me to do that?  You got to be kidding me!”  I couldn’t figure out why everyone wasn’t doing this.  I did the same job all 5 summers.  Occasionally, they would pull me off the forest to work on ad hoc (type II) wildland fire crews.  There’s a rush.  If I ever meet up with you on the trail, I have a few good stories – firefighters always do.  At fire camps, there’s usually a fierce competition on who has the best story.  I loved hanging around the veterans.

In the mid 90’s, it turns out lots of people wanted to get into outdoor careers.  With the government layoffs, there weren’t many fulltime jobs for new college graduates like me.  I could always find a seasonal job, but couldn’t find anything fulltime.  Our first child was on his way, and we decided maybe it was time to quit playing around and go out and get a real job.  That’s where my computer background picks up.  I learned enough about computers in college to get hired on at a high tech company.  I’ve been through thick and thin with them for nearly 14 years now.

So, as I tell everyone, my hobby became my career and my career became my hobby.  I have maps and packs all over my den wall, and I get out for a hike every chance I get.  I hike solo, and also with friends and family.  I talk to everyone I meet on the trails.  I go places where I won’t see another human all day, and other places where the trail is a regular highway – it’s all good.  My bonus outdoor hobbies are GPS, maps, photography, map & photography software, weather, spending time with the family (of course!) and now blogging.

There you have it – my outdoor experience, my perspective.

Eric

eric@wasatchhiker.com

P.S. writing this was kind of fun.  I really enjoyed it.  I would like to hear about your perspective.  If you’re willing to share, write and tell us about your outdoor experience and perspective.  We’ll make this a regular blog topic.