Thursday, August 31, 2017

An exceptional Siyeh Pass hike: Grizzlies, wolves holding elk at bay

The elk aren't just cooling off, see the wolf pack circled in this photo by Katie Kotynski

Good sized momma griz and cub above Boulder Creek lake

At Siyeh Pass where we watched the elk-wolf drama
We headed to Glacier last Saturday hoping to escape the many fires and smoke enveloping north central Montana.
We found pockets in the park of hazy, rather than smoky skies.  But, uniformly the smoke curtain came down in the afternoons.
What set our hiking apart on Saturday's Siyeh Pass hike was the wildlife.
When we got to the Pass for lunch we looked down Boulder Creek and the lake at its head and watched a large mother grizzly and cub descending through the brilliant red rocks.
It appeared as though there were numerous large rocks in the lake, which we viewed from about 2,500 feet above it.  Then, it seemed as though the rocks moved.
Katie scoped them with her telephoto lens and discovered a herd of a dozen cow elk in the water up to their bellies guarded by a large bull elk.  They would move around from time to time.
We watched for about 45 minutes and concluded that they were cooling off on this hot and smokey day.
The Fall colors show themselves in huckleberries at the trail-side
When we got home the following night Katie started to examine her photos and discovered five wolves in the grass in front of the lake!
The wolves had chased the elk into the lake and held them there, where the bull protected them.
That's a lot of wildlife, and wildlife in a real dramatic scene.
On other trips we've seen bighorns and mountain goats cavorting on the permanent snowfield above the drainage.
We did the hike from Siyeh Bend to Sunrift Gorge, some 10.4 miles with an elevation gain of 2,300 feet and drop of 3,500 feet. The skies were bright blue on the way up and a heavy smoke, probably from the Sprague Creek fire near Lake McDonald on the west side.
The St. Mary Valley was filled with smoke as well.
On the hike it was interesting to see the fire scars from the 2015 Reynolds fire that burned up the Sunrift Gorge.  The limber pine trees were scorched and their twisted remains are reminiscent of the trees on the Scenic Point hike at Two Med.
On Sunday we went back to Two Med and did a short moose scouting hike on the south shore trail, with a stop at Aster Falls.
We noticed there and in Sunrift the volume of water is quite high, probably from melting glaciers and snow.  The Sexton Glacier on the east side of Going to the Sun Mountain is disappearing fast.
The limber pine ghosts above Sunrift Gorge from the 2015 Reynolds Fire

Katie at Siyeh Pass.  We watched climbers ascend the Cracker Mountain ridge behind her

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