Sunday, January 6, 2013

Elk Fork Campground - Part 3

More pictures taken during the last mile of our hike..............
On the first trail that we had walked, the mountains and hills surrounding us on that side of the river were mostly covered with deep snow and pine trees.
On this wide-open trail that contained multiple rolling hills (but which was also easier to walk) we continually saw rugged and jagged bare rock formations...............
A cage laid out by the Forestry Service to protect fragile fauna............
I loved this walk.
And I loved this place.
Much more than I ever imagined that I would.
Although we saw animal tracks everywhere in the snow we only ran into one animal - one lone mule deer that we saw by the river as we were walking the ridge line.
She saw us and was gone into the woods before I had a chance to even think about snapping a picture...........
As you drive the highway between Cody and the park you see more and more rock formations.
These formations transition for occasional to frequent, and from interesting to imposing.
Many of these rocks are so misshapen that they look as though they were heated through volcanic activity and then quickly cooled into contorted shapes, eons ago and when they were so much younger.
Some from a distance almost look like they have animal shapes.  Some have the appearance of Indian lookouts - forever watching for danger approaching in the distance.  Some look like ritualistic figures from Mayan temples.
Hugely interesting.
As we approached this rock formation LC and I studied it for a moment and he pointed.  "That one looks like a rams' head".  I followed his hand, studied the rocks for a moment and then agreed. 
Maybe seeing figures in the tortured shapes of Wyoming rocks is similar to seeing figures in the clouds.
What someone sees tells you a lot about the person.............
Buffalo footprint.............
Walking across the frozen river, with only a few hundred yards to go to reach the truck..............
I snapped this picture as I was crossing the river with James
It was only 2pm but the sun was already beginning to descend on the horizon.
By 3pm the temperature in Wyoming in the winter, is quickly beginning to drop.
Whatever heat there was in the day is a done deal.................
The same two beautiful horses we saw in the stalls a few hours earlier...........
A brief stop for a picture of the partially frozen Shoshone River.
Winding highway and steep cliffs, and only a few miles from Wapiti...............
We had seen this big boy on the way to the campground earlier in the day, and as we passed him we both wondered why he was alone.
Three hours later this beautiful big horn sheep was still standing in almost the same place.
It was all very strange - why he was alone, why he wasn't totally focused on eating, why he was still in the same place.
As we passed by him for the second time in one day I asked LC to pull into a gravel parking area close by, so that I could take a picture of this beautiful animal............
Eventually he wandered through the sage bushes and disappeared over a low rise, and I lost sight of him.
Disappointed, I climbed back into the truck and we continued with our journey home.
Within only a few minutes though, LC told me that he saw a herd of sheep grazing in the yard of a closed-for-the-winter rustic motel.
Turning off the highway, we circled down to the abandoned business and I saw them.
A small herd of females and one male.  Together.  Intent of eating.  Watchful of me but not overly concerned.
I kept my distance and zoomed my camera in, trying to get decent shots in the rapidly fading daylight.
LC yelled to me that the lone ram was heading this way.
Good I thought.................
I stood snapping pictures and watching the quietly grazing sheep for as long as I could, but I had wet feet and the temperature was dropping like a rock.
Reluctantly I climbed back into the warm truck, and turned to see if I could catch sight of the ram.
When I saw him moving, up close to the road, I thought that there was something wrong.  Now that I could see him better I knew for certain that something was wrong.
I watched as he limped through the snow, and then watched as he limped his way across a wide foot bridge that spanned the Shoshone River.
He was obviously injured.  And he was heading away from the herd.  I watched him until his lone figure disappeared into the brush of the Shoshone National Forest...................

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