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HOME OF THE 'TALL MAN'... (And you can see the blog pictures below in much greater detail simply by clicking on them)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Long and uncertain

Several unusual things occurred on today's longer exploratory run back in the spot I first visited Wednesday. This was on the way back to town along Sucker Creek Road: Six turkey vultures sitting on a fence. A seventh had just flown. Big, but not particularly attractive, birds! Maybe they had heard that a silly old man was running aimlessly in the hills to the north. The word, "uncertain," in the heading for today's trot describes my route.

I had studied the area on Google Earth before going today, driving to a spot near the snowmobile clubhouse and thus giving myself a head start onto the mountainside (compared with Wednesday, when I'd run a mile or more before reaching the same spot). I chose the uphill route at every crossroad, and with one dead end (the same spot where I turned around Wednesday, but I didn't recognize it when I turned onto it).

Another big bird was probably the mysterious highlight of the run. I was near the summit of the ridge, just shuffling along, when motion caught my eye down to the west. I'd been seeing white-tail deer, and a couple of muleys, all along the way so was surprised to see an enormous bird lifting off and soaring, disappearing, into the trees below. It was light colored, white and tan, and seemed to have a slightly long neck and round-topped head. It was flying down and away from me so I only got a glimpse, but I swear two of these big vultures side by side wouldn't have matched its wingspan. The only thing I can think is some kind of crane, but it was at a fairly high altitude, several hundred feet above even any potholes or creeks.

It happened too fast to shoot, and the way this camera works it would have been a white speck anyway.

This isn't the spot where I saw it, but it's similar terrain — the mountainside falling away below me.

After the dead end, I followed a crude logging road (built some years ago — the ridge top was new growth pine where logging and a fire had done their work maybe 10 years ago).

This is what that logged, new-growth area looked like, and it was where I spent a fair amount of the run today. The logging road degenerated into a game trail, which I continued to follow upward to the ridge top. There, a more traveled track headed down the other side of the ridge. Other exploratory options presented themselves along the way, but I didn't want to get too far out. I felt fine, but I was getting cold. The temp was in the mid-40s, but it was, as can be seen in the pictures, a misty, occasionally rainy, day so I was getting wetter and wetter. I did have the sense to bring water and a stocking cap with me.

The new track from the top switched back on the north side of the ridge (the second photo above was taken on that stretch), then wound its way back down to familiar territory below, eventually leading me back to the clubhouse.

I can see how people get lost in this kind of country. Numerous ridges, all similar but not necessarily going in the directions you think. I was able to stay oriented thanks to the looming Stonewall Mountain to the west-northwest and Sucker Creek's valley below to the north. The sun was no help.

I did check my altimeter (app on the phone) and it showed my high point as 5,460. My starting point was more than 900 feet below that, so I did a lot of climbing today, and covered quite a distance as well.

8.5; 24; 68; 381
Posted by Mose, 10:09 AM


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