For our latest weekly adventure, Chad took me up to a place called Pole Creek Canyon. We started our hike off-trail through some lovely Aspen forest, Chad pointing out bear claw marks on trees, and rocks overturned by bears looking for ants. Being pretty new to this type of hiking, that is, hiking in territory occupied by large carnivores, the bear info didn’t exactly make me feel relaxed.
Chad let me pick our direction so I took us toward a clearing, where we found a dirt road. We decided to follow the road (recently used by ATV’s, much to Chad’s dismay) through more Aspen forest. We kept waiting for the road to end, but it didn’t so we decided to leave the path and clamber up a hill, following a rocky path blazed by cattle (cow pie, anyone?).
As I emerged onto the top of the hill a beautiful vista opened up. I stood and looked around me, realizing that the mountains in every direction were all wild country. I noticed a recurrent theme to these hikes – my concern about being off trail in wild animal land would be washed away again and again by the beauty of the landscapes. I thought about the bear signs we’d seen and realized that even if there were, most certainly, bear in this area, there weren’t many and our chances of running into any were small. However, this didn’t stop me from considering my emergency bear encounter plan: sing opera, really loud.
After hanging out to do some yoga poses and take some photos on our little summit, we started walking back in the direction of our car. Chad noticed some interesting rocks, and then something even more interesting: seashell fossils in some limestone. Whoa Nelly! This was exciting stuff for me, my first wild fossil, out here in the middle of nowhere. There were actually 3 little shells in the rock. It’s mind-blowing to think of the passage of time, that this area was an ocean or inland sea millions of years ago, and that these little signs of that past epoch were still up here on this hill, revealed by ancient erosion, but untouched. And putting it into context like that, my bear fears became very, very small.