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Colter - Desert Trail Journal - 2012

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City: Fairbanks
State: Alaska
Begins: Mar 1, 2012
Direction: Northbound

Daily Summary
Date: Tue, Jun 19th, 2012
Start: NW of Lehman Springs
End: Forest Rd 31 Wallowa-Whitman NF
Trip Distance: 1,765.0

Journal Stats
Entry Visits: 821
Journal Visits: 81,149
Guestbook Views: 6,829
Guestbook Entrys: 83

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Break in Wildflowers

I've Seen Flowers and I've Seen Rain

This entry covers June 18-19.

A cow elk was watching intently when I looked up from stuffing my sleeping bag in my pack. She looked like a giant version of one of those deer lawn ornaments, immobile. When I swung my pack on she barked, a strange sound, then ran. But when I turned back a few steps later she was following me. When I'd walk, she'd trot along behind me 100 yds or so back. When I'd stop she'd stop. Animals are often very curious or confused by a person wearing a pack.

It started out sunny but soon rain clouds rolled in and it started raining and sleeting. For the rest of the day it would rain enough to wet everything, including my legs (rain jacket only), and then stop for a while with brief sun. It was chilly and as usual when it's wet and chilly I put in some miles.

I was intrigued to spot a whitetail deer. They are rare enough in many parts of Oregon that a rancher a few days back was describing his first encounter this year. I also heard an elk bugle, fairly unusual for this time of year. Today was a day of road walking, but they were quiet roads that ranged from maintained forest roads to roads barely detectable. I only saw one car all day.

I flushed two wild turkeys, a bird that doesn't normally fly far, but these were at the head of the canyon and were still gliding a half mile away when they disappeared in the trees. Miles later gobbling echoed and on a distant hillside a flock of turkeys fed and squabbled. Interstate 84 and a 30 mile day was my goal but I camped a few miles short deciding I'd put in a good day.

This morning's "lawn ornament" was a whitetail deer. It wasn't long before I crossed the railroad track, a few minutes before a laboring train passed. I overshot a turn by a half mile but happily figured it out before I'd walked for miles.

I crossed I-84 and the Oregon Trail, then looked for my food cache which I could not spot. My GPS led me to the tree. I couldn't spot it because only the rope was left. It took awhile to confirm what had happened: a bear had walked the balance beam of the small leaning dead tree out to the end, and then either pulled the bag up by the rope, or managed to reach down far enough to grab it somehow. It took some doing either way. First time I've ever lost a cache to a bear. And yes, if I'd done a better job it wouldn't have happened. I searched around and found where he'd feasted. I sadly cleaned up the debris of all my good food. Like bears do, he made sure to destroy everything, even biting batteries. Only 1 battery and some TP survived. All I had left was granola.

When I'd put out this set of caches weeks ago, I'd run into deep snow up ahead, and I ended up hanging that cache many miles short of my planned spot. So the next and final cache was within today's walk if I hustled.

That's what I did today. After 84 it was mostly a gentle climb. The big bonus was wildflowers. That was one of the few small disappointments of this trip: not as many flowers as expected. There was no disappointment today. Right now I'm sitting on a sunny hillside an hour before sunset and it's a carpet of blue, yellow and white flowers on the bright green hill. Many times I wandered off the road to take photos.

I'm happy to report my last cache escaped clever bears. Tomorrow my buddy Boats is meeting me, promising to bring a mountain of food!

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