Travel Magazine

Experiencing Wildlife in the Snowy Mountains

By Eyeandpen @eyeandpen
Picture Driving through the wind-shaped hills of southern Wyoming, I make my way toward my favorite place on earth in anticipation. The smooth, rippling hills jut and swoop down the slope of the mountains in soft greens and browns, beneath an expansive sky of blue and gray flat-bottomed clouds. I stop for gas and a quick bite in Centennial before heading up into the mountains.
Picture I descend along the meandering road until the white mountains of the Snowy Mountains come into view, with its water mirroring the snowy cliff face, and green grass and pine littered around the base. Cars and tourists are out and about, hiking, and taking photos. After a quick snapshot, I turn back the way I came and wind back up the road until a gravel road ascends to my left. I take the turn slow at an incline and ease up the mountain, passing by campers and RVs. Several miles passes until the tree line on my left falls away and the truth of how far up I am hits me. I continue on until a campsite catches my eye to my right. I drive up the embankment and park.
I take a deep breath of the cool forest air and begin cleaning up the area of bullet shells, trash and animal skulls. I always leave a place better than I found it. I start camp by setting up my tent, organizing my bedding and gear, and then ready myself to wander the woods. Boots on, jacket zipped, compass in one hand and my Brazos walking stick in the other, I begin by taking a game trail back behind my dispersed site. I move through the forest with deliberate ease, planting my stick carefully as I wander silently, my eyes scanning for wildlife. The trail moves through thick pine until I reach a rushing current. I spot movement and hesitate. I move gently around a gnarly pine and see eyes trained on me.
A large elk stands mere feet from me. He must have been having a drink. His hide shines in the midday light, his muscles gleaming. He frantically sniffs the air and I hold my breath. His giant antlers rise high above my head. My heart is pumping, pounding through my chest. I decide to retreat and go another way. I back away, watching him as he watches me.
Picture I decide to keep along the river, which eventually opens to a clearing. I find a high place and sit with my binoculars and meditate for a time. After awhile when nothing but a few eagles flying like specks overhead, I start to head back with the plan being that I return early the next morning in hopes of seeing more signs of life. As the sun disappears, with the dying daylight came a chill breeze. I start a fire and cook a meager dinner, and simply fade into the stillness, staring into the bright light of the dancing fire while my ears took in the whispering winds moving through the forest.
I extinguish the fire before locking away my food and rubbish in the car. I grab my portable camp heater from the car and install the gas canisters. I cuddle up inside my sleeping bag, teeth chattering and before long my mind fades and sleep overcomes me.
I wake up sweating in the middle of the night and turn off the heater. Coyotes yip and howl somewhere in the valley below, and I ease back to sleep with thoughts of never leaving. By morning, the chill had crept back into the tent. I wound myself in my extra blanket, wanting to stay there and never move again, but as nature calls, my bladder fought that decision. I start to ease out of my sleeping bag, my skin prickling, and then I halt, hearing a crack of a stick and the rustling of leaves. I fight through my tired senses and fumble at the tent zipper with frozen fingers. I pull the zipper open a few inches and peer out. An adult moose stood no more than ten feet away, a quizzical look on her face as she took a step toward the tent.
She’s beautiful and so powerful looking. The soft golden light of morning lit the world behind her in a foggy, chilly haze, outlining her huge form like an angelic glowing spirit. A long, mesmerizing moment washes over me as my thoughts flirt between the a myriad of emotions. Tears rush up, welling like a wall of water in my eyes as a deep appreciation for life fills my chest and soul. This is where I belong.
In this story, I feature my use with Brazos walking stickers, particularly their beautiful 
Exotic Laminated Walnut & Maple. Click here to find out more about Brazos >
Story written & Photos by Brandon Scott / Eye & Pen

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