Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Fresh Grizzly Bear Track

I was out on the ranch early, and soon discovered that I had an access issue. I talked to an oil man headed in to work on another the ranch I didn't have access to and he showed me which fence lines separated the properties. I had to walk 3 kilometers to get to my bird points without being shot at. It would have been a short stroll across the other land down the private road, but even when no one could see me I was trying to follow the rules. I parked my car, and Ayla was mad at being left behind again, so she wouldn't scare the birds. I left all the windows down for her and put shade in the windows, and a water bowl on my seat. I started my long hike in over sage covered hills.

I hate it when ranchers don't label their fences, because I don't know whose land I am on. It was a struggle today. A large group of elk spotted me and several cows and babies ran from me for miles, they were so sure I was stalking them. One brave cow was the lookout. She would run back to were I was and would let me know she was there as she stared at me and made noise, then she would talk to her friends and report I was still following them, they were all sure I wanted to eat their babies like everything else in Wyoming. This went on until they crossed the fast rough Meeteeste Creek to the other side and I passed them. They stared at me from a hill above the creek, talking among themselves in elk mews and barks.

Exhausted, I arrived at my first bird point, which was easy, then realized the next point was across the creek. I walked along the creek forever to find a good crossing spot, but the fresh melted snow made it a wild bubbling river that was too fast and wide to cross. I finished the few points on my side of the creeks and then gave up when I found the fresh grizzly bear track. The rancher had warned me that he had seen a mama with two cubs and a single male down in his creek. Here was the proof, so fresh a chill went down my spine. I was being loud and noisy, but this track looked like it was following me, my track next to it, I didn't see the track on the way in. There were so many willows the bear could be hidden anywhere. I went the other way, and headed up into the open sage, as if being in an open place could protect me with just my bear spray.

I then cheated and walked a few meters to the main private oil road instead of over rough terrain for miles. I walked up the long winding dirt road for over an hour with the sun beating down on me, I didn't bring water, I wasn't use to it being so hot. I worried about my dog and told myself that was the last time I would keep her in the car like that. I kept picturing her dead from heat exhaustion which made me walk as quickly as possible. Several oil men passed me, leaving a cloud of dust for me to breath. They weren't so helpful and friendly like the man in charge I met in the morning. I really wanted one of them to give me a ride to my car, but they didn't even slow down. They weren't even curious why a woman was walking so far from anything in the heat! When I made it to my car, Ayla was cool and fine, the car had a nice breeze and she wasn't hot. She barked at a few cows on the way out. A bull stood in the middle of the road and challenged me, I stayed on the other side of the cattle guard and honked my horn, no luck. A cow walked by and smelled too good to him, he left the road to chase her. I sped by the love scene grateful that she came by.

My next point was in Saratoga, WY, which was across the state! I stopped in Thermolopolis determined to go swimming in the warm pools on such a hot day. Ayla was acting weird, and very anxious to get out. I told her to wait, I was looking for my camera. When we finally walked out of the car I got an email on my blackberry which captured my full concentration. I started to reply as we stood there, she was dancing with impatience then she got really sick, so sick that it scared me, blood was involved. I was crying as I took her into the vet office, and they assured me it was because she had a change in diet. The vet gave her a shot of penicillin and gave me some mild dog food to feed her. I didn't know what she use to eat, who knew that new food would cause such serious problems for a dog.

I drove for hours, the prettiest spot being some kind of reservoir made up of the Shoshoni River. I drove through Rawlings around sunset. It was ugly, and there were signs for a jail and a state prison. I stopped at a Pamida, some kind of state wide store filling the need of a Walmart with cheap stuff in it, for a can opener to open the dog food. We then continued on to Saratoga. It was dark, and since I had been talking to my boyfriend on the phone for hours, I almost ended up in a flooded river, stopping just short of the water that covered the road that led to the campground.

I went to town and asked where to camp at a Kum and Go gas station. It was now so late and so dark, I could barely see as I drove around the lake he recommended. I set up camp, and we both collapsed in a deep sleep from the tiring day.

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