May 31, 2012

French Hollow

We began at the French Hollow trailhead (8400 ft) south of Strawberry Reservoir.  The path travels through budding aspen, past an old trough,
and ends up at Willow Creek.  Instead of following the creek, as we have before, we found a new trail that heads up to Willow Creek Ridge (about 10,000 ft) 
We saw some interesting insects:
western swallowtails
Western tailed Blue

Is it a fly or a bee?
Primrose, wild strawberry, violets, and larkspur were blooming along the way.
evening primrose
wild strawberry

Daisy liked taking a dip below a series of cascades. 
A few hundred feet higher, she found patches of snow to cool her belly.
Someone has done a lot of clearing on the forest path, which made the route easy.  When we reached open terrain near the ridge, we spotted a coyote scampering away.
Up top, the views were magnificent in every direction.  
View toward the Wasatch Range, 40 miles away
View of Strawberry Reservoir and the snow-covered Uintas, 60 miles away
A lot of trails connect to this one, so we will certainly return to explore other possibilities.

May 29, 2012

Spring in the High Country

Spring has arrived, even in the mountains.  The aspens are just beginning to leaf out at 9000 feet. 
The north facing slopes still have some snow, but it's fading fast. 
We ride to the top of Coyote Ridge, at nearly 10,000 ft. 
A dirt road travels along the crest. We follow it for a while to take in the Uinta views. 
A pair of kestrels perch in a tree.  When we approach for a closer photo, they fly away.
A white-crowned sparrow stays put for the camera. 
We also see a coyote bound through the sage.  A photo attempt is unsuccessful.
Daisy tries to keep up with a half dozen elk that run ahead of us, but elk are notoriously uncooperative.  A couple of sandhill cranes are hanging out near some old beaver dams.  They lift off as we approach.

May 22, 2012

Toward Leidy Peak

We drove into Ashley National Forest along Ashley Creek, and toward Leidy Peak.  We were checking out the road to make sure the snow is gone before we try to get up there with a horse trailer. 
The last 10 miles of the road to Leidy Peak trailhead is still blocked off with an avalanche gate.  We parked and took a 6 mile walk along the creek. 
Daisy was there, on the lookout for elk.  We didn't see any,
but we saw and heard bluebirds.found a few early wildflowers,
such as violets
and Marsh marigolds. 
We made a litter survey along the road and found that beer cans outnumber soda cans 12:1.  Usually we travel on hiker or game trails, avoiding the leavings of careless litterbugs. 
Part of our walk was along the old Carter Military Road, traveled from 1881-1884.  The road was used to bring supplies between Fort Bridger in Wyoming, and Fort Thornburg near Vernal, Utah.  This was just after the Utes were moved to a reservation in the Vernal-Roosevelt area.  Settlers were concerned there might be an uprising such as the 1879 Meeker Massacre (11 men killed by Ute Indians) in Colorado.  Of course, the Meeker Massacre probably happened because the Utes feared their grasslands were going to be taken away from them by a huge influx of miners to the region, and they feared that U.S. soldiers moving into the area planned something similar to the Sand Creek Massacre, where 70-163 Indians, 2/3 of whom were women and children, were killed. 
On the old military road, you can still see the boulders that were moved out of the road bed and piled along the sides to make way for wagons.

May 17, 2012

TwoRoose Pass

In this sign, Tworoose is mispelled, or else the map spelling is wrong.  Hard to know.
On the way up, Steve stops to take photos while Boss grabs a snack.
We see a blue butterfly and a fly both attracted to moist dirt,
and a white butterfly on a flower.
A woodpecker looks down from an aspen branch.
Sometimes Mischief is slow on the hills.  Steve and Boss wait impatiently...
As we approach the snowline, a herd of elk come into view.  We see them in this meadow every spring at about this time.
The elk don't hang around to get acquainted.
After the herd scatters, Boss and Steve continue across the meadow.  Snow stops us from reaching TwoRoose Pass.  We'll come back in a month when the snow is melted.

May 16, 2012

Coal Mine Hollow

The trail begins near Currant Creek Reservoir and heads northeast into the hills. 
We followed a two-track for a mile or two.  After that, the only paths were faint game trails. 
Our destination was White Ledge (10,400 ft), which is covered in snow in the photo above. You can see Steve as a tiny speck exploring the ridge at the right hand side of the panorama. 
Below the steep cliffs, we found bits and pieces of what was once an ATV scattered all the way down the slope.  I hope a rider didn't go down with it.
The photo above was taken at about 9000 ft, where the aspen leaves are just coming out. 
This orange butterfly fed on the yellow flowers of what we think is slender cinquefoil, a plant of the rose family. 
Fungi growing on the rocks is the same color as the butterfly, providing good insect camouflage. 
On the way down, we passed a series of small lakes.
Can you see the ghost bird in the photo?  This elusive creature was hanging out with a robin.  From our short glimpses, we think it's an albino robin (1 in 30,000 robins are albino, according to an internet search).  Proving the bird's identity with this pitiful photo isn't possible.  We may go back to the area and hang out for awhile, hoping to get a better look.
We passed within sight of the steep, rocky terrain called Bear Hole Hollow.  It's an intriguing area, but probably not accessible on horseback.

May 11, 2012

Coyote Ridge

Another great ride through wide open country starts just north of Currant Creek Reservoir, at about 8000 feet, and heads up various 2 tracks and elk trails along Coyote Ridge toward Scotty's Basin. 
The terrain is mostly open, passing through meadows where old beaver dams have created terraces of rich soil.  A few pools still exist, perfect for Daisy swims.  Of course, Daisy isn't particular.  A mud puddle works just fine for her. 
We also rode near lakes surrounded by aspen.  We could hear the boreal frogs' high-pitched croaks as we passed by.
Glacier lilies (also known as Dogtooth Violets) were abundant at 9000 feet where the snow has recently melted.  Spring Beauty, Buttercups, and a few Bluebells were also in bloom. 
A bluebird flew out of this cavity (above my hand) in a dead aspen.  With a light, we were able to see a single pale blue egg in there.  We moved off to try to glimpse the bluebird again, but he/she didn't return while we waited.
A female blue grouse sat on an aspen branch.  We usually see them flying up from brush on the ground, but the bird book says they often feed on newly opened leaf buds in the spring. 
We saw several deer and a lot of elk as we climbed steadily uphill.  About the time we came to the edge of the melting snow, we spotted a herd of about 60 cow and yearling elk going over the ridge (about 10,000 ft) above us.  Most elk in these parts have been hunted, and don't much like humans.  They are intent on avoiding any interaction with our kind.   When we saw the entire herd, they were 1000 yards away, keeping their distance!  In national parks, a person can walk right up to elk, but not here.
Here's Steve's video that shows the elk moving over the snow to the top of the ridge.  He mentions that we "drove" the elk during our ride.  That was inadvertent on our part.  We just rode, and they ran ahead.  We had no idea the whole herd was moving ahead of us until we came out of the aspens and saw them on the ridge.
In keeping with Coyote Ridge's name, we saw 2 coyotes up on the snow, apparently trailing the elk herd as calving season approaches.


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