Monday, August 15, 2011

Family day in the Big Horns

"Did you hear it?" I ask as I look down the hill.

My wife is standing close by, confused by what I am talking about. "Hear what?"

"Listen closely," I say, "And you can hear it."

It happens again, a throaty, trumpeting sound coming from further down the hill deep in the woods of the Big Horn National Forest.

"What is that," she asks, her eyes getting wider.

"It's elk, they are trumpeting."


Our day started like any other day, I woke up early, played around on my computer game, drank a pot of coffee, talked on the phone and waited for my family to get out of bed.

Finally, around 9 a.m., the first stirrings of life come from downstairs. It's my wife, Sheree and she is being followed by our pack of dogs - beagle, a brittany and her little chihuahua.

Soon after she comes up she is followed by Aydin, and then finally Vincent. They went about their morning eating breakfast, drinking orange juice and trying to wipe the sleep from their eyes.

"What do we have planned for today?" I ask.

Sheree says there is nothing in particular so I suggest we take a trip down the Red Grade Road and into the Big Horn mountains.

Yeah," she says with a hint of excitement, "that sounds like fun."

So we rush around getting dressed and encouraging the boys to get dressed as well. We head out the door, make a stop at the Home Depot, pull in to McDonalds - I promised the boys a milkshake, hit up Starbucks, and head out for the Red Grade Rd.

The Red Grade Rd. is more trail than it is rd. After climbing less than 100 feet I decide to put my 2006 GMC Envoy in 4-wheel-drive as the hills are steeper and rockier. The trail is scary enough as is but is punctuated with oncoming traffic. Not a lot of fun.

Knowing her fear of these types of roads, I look at my wife. Her breathing is slightly elevated, her eyes are wide behind her sunglasses and she is gripping the handle above the door tightly.

Finally the trail becomes a maintained road as we cross over into the National Forrest. We travel for a bit when we come to this heavily wooded area and decide we want to get out and look around.

Sheree takes a moment to snap some photos of Vincent and Aydin, while I move off down the hill. I see a rocky outcropping and want a closer look.

As I am walking I see signs of life other than human. Growing up in Alaska has taught me to be wary of animal leavings, especially when they are large like this. It means only one thing, bear.

I get closer to the rocks and realize that there is likely a cave. I want to try and edge around to get a better look but the trail is extremely steep and my knee is still not at the top of its game.

Vincent and Aydin come barreling down the hill at me but I stop them.

"I think there is a cave down here boys and I am not sure if there is anything in it. Go back up the hill and play up there," I say.

Disappointed the climb back up. I turn to look at the suspected cave area when I hear the trumpeting. I can't believe. That's when I call my wife.

Fast forward

"It's elk?" she asks turning her head so as to point an ear down hill.

"Yeah, they can't be too far off." I say.

We listen for a bit to the different pitches of the animals, our heads weave back in forth as we look through the trees trying to see the elk. No luck. With a chuckle I say we should move on. She agrees.

We get back in our vehicle and continue on. In total our trip takes us more than four hours to complete. We stop at streams, dams, ponds, and any other place that looks enchanting enough to stop.

We hit Highway 14, turn right on to the pavement and begin our 57 mile trip back down the mountains and to Sheridan.

"So boys, how was family day?" I ask from the driver seat.

"It was awesome!" they say.