The next day dawned without any frost glazing my tent, which surprised me considering how high up I was. I climbed up on a rocky overlook searching for any signs of the fabled golden trout - not so much as a dimple. Ah well. Since the trout didn't want to play, I put away my fly rod and broke camp, chowing on some trail mix for breakfast.
I had slept well in my Kelty Dualist 22 sleeping bag, although as the temperatures dropped during the night I was glad that I had both a warm sleeping bag liner and a knit cap. I'll take time and detail my whole gear list in a later article, to let you know what worked and what didn't.
Backpack cinched in place, rod tube firmly strapped and game face grim, I headed up the talus slope on course to break over the top of the promontory and get a view of my destination from on high. I think it was here that I first heard the signature calls of the high altitude rodents known as pica. Their warning calls often preceded ahead of me, and then popped up again behind me as I wound my way through the treeless areas of my hike. It was the first time I had ever actually seen them in real life, which I considered quite the treat. I tried to take pictures, but not only are those critters wary and fast, they're perfectly colored to blend in with their rocky surroundings. So, thanks to Google, I give you a pica. Cute, huh.
So anyway, there I was, scrambling up the slope, occasionally trying to fall, and generally loving life. Making it to the top of the outcrop, I was treated to a unobstructed view of my goal.
I sat for a while, ate some more trail mix, and considered life. I decided if I didn't catch a trout that day, I would try to make it to another one of the nearby lakes and see if fortune favored me more there.
As I moved around the edge of the lake, I walked through an area that seemed to have remained aloof from the human disturbances down by the water's edge. It was pine trees and trickling rivulets, thick moss and the smell of growing things. The sound of running water followed me everywhere, a soft counterpoint to the wind shushing through the pines. As I rounded a blind turn at the base of a huge boulder, it occurred to me that I probably wasn't being loud enough. This was griz country after all. Ah, what the heck. I wanted to see if I could sneak up on some of the elk that left the tracks I was following, and besides, the wind was blowing from my back. Any bear worth his salt would smell me long before I got anywhere near them... right? Maybe.
As I moved through the trees, boggy patches of soil sprouted beautiful flowers of different shapes and sizes. This one was my favorite - the Colorado Columbine.
I also stumbled across this - I was thrilled, in a totally unashamed, nerd-out kind of way. Because I had stumped across...
A slime mold! They're so cool. Seriously. Check them out - they're essentially aliens. Wikipedia link for slime molds. I had never found one in the wild.
And since this is apparently 'geek out about all the cool stuff I found' time, I also happened to come around the corner and see this beautiful scene.
So, the water coming down at this spot was roaring, and I was walking slowly towards the log but still a few yards off to the side. Poof! Out of nowhere, a Boone and Crocket sized pine marten springs up on the log and lopes across with that funny-looking run that all cousins of the weasel seem to have. I had never expected to get to see one in the wild - it was a great moment. He never saw me, or ever figured out that I was there.
I wanted to finish this series today, but 5:30 comes early. Tomorrow, I finish this.