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39: overlook

Updated: Feb 27




Dear Friend,


Summer has ended and Autumn is here, and though high-ish temperatures may still be lingering, sunshine is taking a bit longer to appear in the morning and is heading to the other side of the world noticeably earlier and earlier each evening. Leaves are starting to turn and before we know it, creatures will be in full-swing, migrating and hibernating, and you will be rockin’ that itchy sweater again.


I’ve mentioned this to you before, about how we haven’t seen many large animals since we started this trip in January. Once, when we were in Canada and I was wielding our binoculars with determination, waaaaay off in the distance, I saw what appeared to be seven big horn sheep, and on one other occasion, I saw two elk. Frank met one bear and together, we saw two more. We’ve spent a considerable amount of time in habitats of Moose, Elk, Bear, Mountain Lion, Bob Cat, Wolverine, Big Horn Sheep and Mountain Goats, etc… so, where are they? Their absence wouldn’t seem that strange if we only camped a couple of weekends a year, or even a couple of weeks here or there, but we are outside in wild-animal-country most of the time ‘round the clock, and we have spent hours with binoculars, scanning and searching from high above valleys and down on open flatlands, up into craggy mountain ridges and patiently waiting in areas where these creatures live. Where is everyone?


We asked a Forestry person who told us that avalanches can explain some drop in numbers. Sadly, that makes sense with all the snow this year. And, according to a couple of hunters that we met, the temperatures are too warm for animals (specifically deer) to choose to be in lower elevations (where they usually congregate near water) because with all of the snow, they don’t have to be in any one place. There are newly formed streams running in a variety of locations making it more difficult to predict the herd’s next move.


Deer season started last Saturday. Though we’ve been camping at elevations between 6,000’ and 10,000’, and the only kind of shooting we do is with a camera, we have not seen a deer out in the wild to shoot for a couple of months. We haven’t even seen any deer poop.


Kind of like the turkeys in turkey-country that seem to vanish right before Thanksgiving, the deer, here in deer-country, are elsewhere.


This earth is a big place. And though, as you know, we would love to have the opportunity to see these creatures (happy and alive) in their homelands, it’s obviously better if they are where they choose to be. I think I should add, there are creatures (like squirrels) that dart out in front of your moving car, birds that chase bugs into your windshield, and mother does that walk their fawns across the road at the worst possible times … all to test your brakes and your reflexes. There is not just one solution to protecting wildlife from human-ity.


Canada has provided lots of overpasses just for animals – Wildlife Crossings. I took these through the windshield as we drove through British Columbia and Alberta.

 



And we’ve seen plans for similarly constructed crossings on American highways. I’m sure that there are many solutions in the works… For now, as we travel safely and share the roadways, it helps to slow down. Canada has mandated much slower highway speeds in their National Parks specifically to reduce the loss of wildlife. And in California, for example, the speed limit within Yosemite National Park is 25mph.


Signs to ‘Slow Down’ are everywhere to save lives, as if there was ever any question… why?


Because I’m always watching for animals / wildlife, I do sometimes wonder what we could do IF we came upon wildlife in traffic.


I asked a California Highway Patrol person what he would recommend, specifically if we encounter an injured animal. He said, “In every state of the USA, in the case of a vehicle vs ‘wildlife / livestock,’ 9-1-1 is the number to call (after you are safely and legally out of traffic).”


The whole United States? Does every state have resources to help animals?


I double checked that information before posting this letter to you. Simply put, website information from State agencies and Wildlife organizations across the United States cover the gamut of opinions and suggestions re: what we could do to help an injured animal. There are some agencies and organizations that suggest ways to help which include everything from using multi-step phone-trees to calling 9-1-1, (emergency services). Some agencies and organizations advise that drivers don’t get involved, siting everything from limited resources to safety issues.


I’ve decided that if I’m in a situation where an animal is injured, I will call 9-1-1. Hopefully the dispatcher will be a good person to determine that Next Step. As always, whether or not to call 9-1-1 is up to you.


Vehicles and wildlife should never cross paths. This topic is unpleasant (a lot of reality can be), but we know that it’s good to be as prepared as possible and, so far, we haven’t had to make any such calls; we’ve been very fortunate. (Knock – Knock on the bark of this currant bush).


At 9300’ and across the valley from fancy places like Ski Lodges and resort towns, we’re camped on an isolated overlook that affords us all day sunshine for our solar panel, spectacular views, stunning sunsets, an open canopy full of stars and moonlight, and quiet!


We had followed a 4-wheel-drive road that wound around through meadows and aspen groves, and, not sure of where we’d end up, we took one of the many side-roads in the general direction of the valley to the west. The road narrowed several times and we talked about how a trailer would never make it. Then, just one mile in, we had arrived at a nice, flat, campsite and the dead-end of the road overlooking a valley where a silvery ribbon of river finds its way into the blue-blue lake far, far below.


We can’t believe our luck. Here we are on the edge of a cliff between sky and high mountain meadow, not another human being around, surrounded by wildflowers, blooming sage, and countless California currant plants, nearly all of which are covered with little red berries.








With spring-like conditions, wildflowers, berries, fresh spring-water nearby, we thought, maybe we’ll see a bear? … But no, we haven’t. We have seen fresh coyote poop and have been visited by very skittish chipmunks and ground squirrels, two red tail hawks, several vultures, an eagle, bats - all very fun to see doing what they do. But even from this high and wide vantage point, not one big horn sheep, not one mountain goat, not one deer to be seen, and not one bear, either.

 






 

Pollinators at 9300’ can be fair-weather friends, it can get windy and cold! When it is cold (below 50• Fahrenheit), honey bees will not venture to work. And the elevation makes a difference. Though bees and moths are present, flies are more likely to be found pollinating at this altitude, and though they prefer to be where there is tree cover, it is obvious to us that they outnumber honey bees as pollinators in this meadow (it is also obvious that honey bees and moths enjoy a photoshoot).




Grasshoppers are also cute and plentiful.



And there are also birds, lizards… and, maybe, up higher beyond the lime-green leaves of the early autumn aspen grove, big horn sheep, mountain goats, elk, deer, mountain lions, and bear, are watching us in the meadow below from an overlook of their own.



We are grateful for your thoughts and care and we appreciate that you are here, checking in to Tracks by the Post.


Contact Me and fill me in on how things are going with you; and please know, I keep your news to myself (unless you ask me to share).


We wish you a very lovely week ahead!


Gently Be,

Leslie and Frank

 

 

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