slide-lake-in-the-flat-tops-wilderness-area

Slide Lake

Flat Tops Trip – Day 2

I got up at 6:00 this morning, made sausage and eggs for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, then headed to the Marvine Trail Head.  It was a beautiful drive, and I saw a lot of deer in the alfalfa fields on the way.

I parked the truck, put on my pack, and as I always do, I went by the Sable Mountain Outfitters corral to look at the bronze plaque I had made for Gene Scritchfield.  Gene ran Sable Mountain Outfitters with Ann Marie before he died in a tractor accident in 2008.  I got to know Gene over the years of using Sable Mountain Outfitters for my fishing and hunting trips, and his death was tragic.  I decided to have a plaque made for him and I drilled it into a big slab of sandstone.  The summer after he died, when Kyle and I met Ann Marie at the corral to go on our fishing trip, I gave her the plaque, and she cried while she hugged me.  Gene’s brother Mark, who does iron work, mounted the rock slab on a piece of wood and made an iron stand for it, and it sits at the corral from the first trip of the year until the last.

At 7:50 I headed up the trail, a little over 6 miles to go.  It was cool out, 55 degrees according to my truck at the time I got out.  I was wearing a t-shirt and shorts, but I was fine, I warmed up quickly.  I was also wearing a new pair of Merrel hiking boots.  I have had Merrels for 14 years and I love them, but I have never tried them for hiking, and I would later regret that.  This was the first time that I had ever hiked up to Marvine Lake, I had always taken horses over the past 14 years, but it wasn’t too difficult.  The main difference from riding a horse is that I couldn’t look around at the scenery as much because I had to watch where I was walking, but it was still a gorgeous hike.

view-from-marvine-trail

View from Marvine Trail

About a quarter mile from the Marvine Camp area and where I spread my mom’s ashes the trail veered away from the rushing creek for a while, and I heard some rustling noise coming from the mountain side to my right.  I stopped to take a closer look and there was a bear about 20 yards away rummaging through something on the ground.  He didn’t see me, so he kept on digging at whatever he was working on.  He was beautiful; a dark black body with reddish brown legs and arms (I guess bears have arms don’t they?  If they can stand up on two legs, then I consider the other two to be arms).  It was almost the colors of a Doberman pinscher, only the tan was a little more reddish than tan.  I reached for my camera which was in its case around my neck, and I wasn’t quiet enough with the Velcro case, and he took off running up the mountain when he heard that.  While I didn’t get a picture, it was very cool to see him.  Click here to see a video of that area of the hike.

After cresting the final hill to the valley where Marvine Camp is, I headed to the west and climbed a little higher on the mountain side where I spread my mom’s ashes last year and buried her Medicine Bag.  While my mom was not a Native American, she took on a lot of their spiritual beliefs later in her life, and while I don’t understand all of the meaning behind it, I was supposed to bury her medicine bag after she died.  No one knows the specific contents of the small leather pouch that she made, but generally a medicine bag contains small trinkets that elicit memories or are of some other importance to the person.  Last summer Kyle and I found this spot on the mountainside, buried her medicine bag, hung a dream catcher in a nearby tree, and then spread her ashes.  I took some video of the place today, but the video really doesn’t do justice to the magnificence of the view from that place.  Click here to see a video.

I spent some time there today, sitting on a rock next to her medicine bag.  I picked some wild flowers to place on it, and I talked to her for a while like she was actually there.  God I miss her, she was a wonderful woman.  It actually felt like I was with her again for a little while today.

It was time to head back down the mountain, storm clouds were blowing in.  I was feeling fine physically, although my feet were a little sore, and my back was killing me, but I knew the trip down would be much easier.  After about 30 minutes it started to rain lightly and it got really windy, then it started pouring big, cold drops of rain.  I put on my rain coat, and my new Filson tin cloth fedora did a great job keeping my head dry and protecting my face from the driving rain.  It wasn’t a sustained storm though; it stopped, then started again several times on my way down.  Click here to see a video of part of the hike down.

Hiking so deep into a wilderness one would expect that bears, lions, or even moose might be a concern.  The bear I saw earlier in the day wasn’t a problem at all, but as I came into the lower meadows of the trip, they were filled with cows, as in cattle.  Ranchers turn their cows loose in the wilderness in late spring, and then round them up in the fall, so they are kind of like wild cows for a while.  The first group I came across was right in my path, and there were several mothers with calves, and a few bulls that were getting feisty after some cows in estrus.  There was even a Texas long horn in the group with massive horns.  They were all acting very aggressive towards me, which surprised me; I have never had that

texas-long-horn-bull-on-the-trail

Texas long horn bull on the trail

happen before in all the years I have come across semi-wild cattle in the wilderness.I took some video of getting through that herd of cows, but the video doesn’t really depict how dicey the situation actually was.  Click here to see the first cow video.  I had these cows all around me, some protecting their calves, some wanting to fight (in the video you can see two bulls butting heads a little bit), and instead of running away like they usually do, they didn’t want to budge.  A little while after that I came across a cow on the trail, and it was in a steep area with nowhere to go, up or down.  She didn’t want to yield, but finally did after giving some pretty ferocious calls.  Click here to see this video.  After I got past her, she came running after me, screaming violently, and she chased me for a quarter of a mile before she stopped.  I have never seen that before in 30 years of traipsing around in the mountains of Colorado.

After almost running for 30 minutes, I was only about a mile away from the end of the trail, and I was ready for the hike to be over.  I mentioned the Merrel hiking boots earlier, and I would not recommend them for hiking in the mountains.  My feet were killing me, and I was sure that when I took the boots off my feet would be full of raw, bloody blisters.  They are just too soft-sided for hiking in the mountains, I prefer stiffer boots that don’t allow my feet to shift so much with the terrain, which was very rugged.  It was actually very difficult to even walk by this point, and in addition to that I pulled something in my right calf, probably when I was running from the cows, how ironic.

So I was pretty miserable for that last stretch of the trail, but I knew I was close to the truck.  About a quarter mile from the trailhead I overcame a woman with five young girls; it looked like ages 8 – 16.  The woman was very talkative, and right away said “You’re up here hiking by yourself?  What are you doing by yourself?  What about the bears?”  I chuckled a bit and asked “Where are you from?” “Kansas” she said, “Sabatha Kansas.”  I said “I grew up in Kansas, in Leawood.”  So we talked for the rest of the way down the trail.  Apparently they were all very afraid of bears and were extremely nervous being up there, even though they only hiked a half mile up the trail.

I told her that bears are just afraid of us as we are of them.  “What about all of the attacks?” she asked.  I told her that rarely happens, and most times you just have to yell at them or throw things at them and they will leave you alone.  She asked if I have ever had any encounters with bears, and I told her that I just saw one this morning, and that of the other eight times I have come across them in the wild, only two times was there a confrontation, and in both of those times the bears only charged to about five yards of me.  Her eyes opened wide and she said “Oh my God!  And you walk around here by yourself?!”  I just had to laugh a little.  I talked to them for a while at the trail head before I left, they were nice people.

I drove into Meeker so I could call Kyle, then I came back to my cabin, anxious to get those boots off of my feet.  I only had one bad blister on the left side of my heel on my left foot, but it felt so good to get them off.  I cleaned up, made dinner, then sat here in the evening light and wrote about the day.

At times I wish I had someone here with me to share the experience, at other times I am glad I am alone.  I wish Kyle were here, but since he is not, I’m having a great time alone.  It was nice to talk to Kyle today though, I miss him, and I miss his unexpected “I love you Dad” texts.  He’s a good young man, and maybe someday he will bring his family to this area and create memories of his own.