Wednesday, September 14, 2011
After a long day at work, finishing inspection reports late and then an excellent meal that Vicki prepared, I spent the rest of the evening packing for Colorado.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Left the house about 4:00 am. Drove all day to Durango, CO where I bought my elk tag at wall mart, along with a few supplies from a list I made on the road. As I drove and was thinking about hunting and camping, it would occur to me that I needed this or that and I would jot it down.
I arrived in camp about 5:45 Colorado time and began immediately setting up camp. I camped in Ironton Park, in the Saratoga site, the same site Jeff and I camped in last year. I was almost done when I heard a bull elk bugle. It sounded like he was less than 100 yards to the north of me, just across the creek. A few minutes later he bugles a short scream again. I picked up my bugle call and let loose a soft, high pitched scream and he immediately screamed back a long, aggressive bugle, followed by several growling chuckles. My heart started racing, and I made a cow call and he came right back with a short, scream, like saying, "get over here babe".
I was dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, but I pulled on a camo hoody and picked up my bow, strapped on my release and headed for the creek. By the time I got to where the bugling was coming from, he was gone. I made a couple of cow calls, but never heard back from the bull. But I had a renewed excitement for this trip. The next afternoon I was talking to a guy from Ohio and I told him my story and he said that about that time, a bull and his cows crossed the highway just north of the campground, stopping traffic on 550 for several minutes.
I got into my sleeping bag about 9:00 pm and even though I was sleeping on the ground, I slept pretty good after a super long day.
Friday, September 16, 2011
I had set my alarm for 5:30 and woke to a pretty nice morning, about 44 degrees and calm. I at some yogurt and a GoLean granola bar and dressed for hiking. The sky was clear, but I packed my rain gear anyway, which turned out to be an excellent idea. I drove up to the first abandoned mine and parked the truck, grabbed my backpack, strapped on my release, picked up my bow and started walking uphill. The road is very steep, and it was just starting to get light. I hiked up to the south upper meadow with full intent of going to the north end of the north upper meadow, but it was 10:30, I'd heard only one faint, far away bugle earlier, but not seen any elk. I stopped to rest, ate some elk sticks and a Cliff bar while the rain subsided for a few minutes. I sat there, watching the meadow for about an hour, and it continued to rain off and on the whole time. I was very fatigued from the steep ascent, and it was now 11:30, so I decided to walk back down.
Once back in camp, I ate my tuna and spinach wrap Vicki made for me and took a nap in the truck. When I awoke, it was still raining and very cold. I tried to call home with OnStar, but they said I didn't have enough minutes. Couldn't connect with OnStar to get more minutes, so I drove out to the highway to glass the meadows up top. That is where I met the guy from Ohio, who also told me that the elk I'd heard that morning came from the west side of the highway with tree branches stuck in his antlers and ran across the highway south of tailings pond and into the forest, screaming ever so often.
I got back into camp about 4:00 pm and gathered my stuff for an evening hunt. It had stopped raining and the sun popped out for a bit to warm me up. I walked from camp, across the creek to the north and up the bank where the bull and his cows had come through the evening before. I sat on a rock in good cover and waited till dark, but they did not use the same route that night.
Back in camp, I boiled some water for a meal of chicken curie and rice, drove down toward Ouray, and called my wife. After dinner, I crawled into my sleeping bag for a rough night on the ground. It rained all night long. I got up at least six times to step outside and it was getting colder.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
When my alarm went off at 5:30, it was still raining so I decided to stay in the sack, rather than dress in the rain and go mountain climbing. I finally got out of the sleeping bag about 7:30 and it was still raining. I ate cold chicken and risotto for breakfast and then climbed into the truck to get warm. It was 38 degrees. I watched X-MEN First Class. By noon it had warmed up to 39 degrees and the rain had turned to a mix of snow and rain. As I am writing this, the snowflakes are big and fall hard onto the truck. Kind of like snow, rain, hail. I think I'll climb into the back seat and take a little nap. Crazy, but I'm truly thinking of packing it all up and heading back home!
Well, the sun came out and the mountain tops were white with snow. In camp, everything was wet and white with a "dusting" of heavy wet snow. I drove up to the pond (Jeff will know where that is) to look around. The ground at that elevation (just under 12,000 feet) was covered with 4 to 6 inches of snow and it was about 34 degrees up there. There were a couple of deer grazing above the pond and I sat and watched the does. 2 fawns appeared and then their mother and another doe. They meandered up and over a little ridge. In the mean time, I walked a bit, sat a bit, took a few pictures and blew on my elk bugle call a couple of times. After a bit, all of the deer came running back into the valley of the pond and stood alert with ears and eyes turned from whence they'd come. My thinking was that my elk calling had interested a bull and he was on his way to our sanctuary. I hustled to a stand of brush, bow in hand and ready to cow call him over for a shot. One hour later, nothing. The deer had returned to grazing and only occasionally glancing back over the ridge. Eventually, they even returned to the high point and lost their urgency to flight. The sun began to creep toward the western horizon, so I climbed back into the truck and made my way back down the mountain.
That evening I feasted on freeze-dried lasagna. It was amazingly good and I ate the whole bag, while I watched a Dirty Harry movie in the truck. I decided that the back seat of the truck was much more comfortable, so I grabbed my pillow from the tent and pulled a blanket over me in the back seat for the night, rather than sleep on the ground in the tent. It was warmer in the truck, and I turned the truck on with the heater on low for short periods of time during the night. But my knees began to ache because you cannot stretch out and I tossed and turned most of the night. The sky cleared though and the stars and the moon lit up the woods as the temperature dropped into the 20's that night.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Finally, it was morning, and I was so sleepy from the rough night that I didn't really want to get up and go hunting ... but I did. I went back to the road I started on Friday morning and started walking. The only problem was that my stomach was torn up, rolling and aching. I didn't get far before I had to stop for relief. In fact, my walking was interrupted 4 times that morning. Freeze dried meals may be convenient, because of the light weight, and they may be delicious, but they run through you like ... well ... after a couple of hours I decided to head back to camp. I'd planned on hunting all day Sunday, sleeping in the woods that night and heading back home on Monday morning, but after thinking on that a bit, I decided that I'd rather sleep in a bed that night. By noon I had everything loaded in the truck and was on the highway, headed north.
The drive home was pretty un-eventful. Apart from having to stop quite often during the first leg of the trip. I made it to Raton, NM where I got a pizza from Pizza Hut and an excellent night's sleep at the Holiday Inn. In bed by 10:00, I slept nearly 10 hours! Got a cup of coffee and headed home. The only elk I saw on this trip was on the way home, 500 yards off the highway in southeastern Colorado. They had buffalo too. Still, that was kind of cool, but it would have been so much nicer if the elk had walked into my hunting area while I was sitting, waiting and watching. Oh, well, I'll never tier of seeing the mountains, breathing the thin mountain air and seeing those star-lit skies. The rock formations, waterfalls, snow on the peaks ... it is all so amazing.
I thank the Lord for allowing me to enjoy that part of His creation one more time.