Sunday, April 4, 2010

Wildlife on today's mountain run!

I went out for something like 12 miles today with a pretty huge amount of climb (the total climb was around 3000', while the biggest climb went from 5000' to 5400' in the first mile and then abruptly steepened, climbing another 1100' to 6500' or so in the 2nd mile of the roughly 2 mile ascent).

A section of today's climb (not taken by me):

I expected the run to be very slow despite a pretty high effort level, but what I did not expect was to lose a fair amount of time in a stare-down with a handful of elk. 3/4 of the way up the biggest climb, I happened to glance over a ravine up to a peak about a hundred feet higher than where I was and see a massive elk staring down at me. Elk are generally not very aggressive, especially this time of year, but they can be, and it didn't really seem scared of me. It really couldn't have gotten to where I was very easily, but having a huge muscular animal easily capable of mauling me watching over me while running made things feel a little eerie. 3 mountain lions had been seen within a few miles of where I was just a couple weeks back, so my nerves were up already, and I paused until it eventually walked out of view. A few minutes later, 20-25 elk suddenly bound across the trail about 100-200 feet in front of me. A few more sauntered past and a few of them stopped and just started staring at me, apparently trying to figure out what I was doing on a fairly unused trail way back in the middle of nowhere. I just stood there for a minute or 2 waiting for them to move, but they didn't. After a couple minutes, a few of them started walking down the trail towards me, which definitely made me feel fairly uncomfortable. I shouted at them, but it didn't make them run off; it more just made them pause to reassess the situation. They continued back down towards me, so I eventually just grabbed a couple rocks off the trail, threw them in their general direction, and they finally turned and ran off with the other ones. I'm honestly a little unsure why they would just walk down the trail towards me at a leisurely pace. If they were being aggressive, I would've expected them to do more of a charge then a walk, but if they were particularly scared of me, they wouldn't have approached me.

Nice friendly looking elk (these things weigh up to half a ton...):

Another 15 or 20 of them ran past after the more aggressive seeming ones passed by, but none of the rest seemed to want to stop to look at me. Either way, I was a little spooked for the rest of the run and once I reached the turnaround point, I hauled it back down the trail as fast as I could (though, admittedly, that part of the trail was particularly rocky and tough and there were large sections of the descent where I couldn't break 10 minutes a mile since the footing was so treacherous). I'm really used to running a number of areas of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, its offshoots, and various trails in Mill Creek at this point, and it's easy to think you know everything about it really well, but after hearing about the mountain lions on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail and having a bit of a frightening situation (even if it was me just being a little sissy), I've realized that I really have to be careful and pay attention to what's going on as much as possible when I'm out on these trails.