|The clouds had cleared as we hiked in to camp.|
Rain clouds littered the sky at the hotel, but we decided to go for it. We wanted to have camp set up as soon as we could because we wanted to start hunting. In an hour we were at the trailhead and took a few minutes to get things organized and loaded into the packs. The 'Bama boys, as Brett referred to them, showed up shortly after us. It appeared that we were not the only ones waiting out the storm. They took off right away while we readied our packs.
As we began to hike the trail, we knew we would have to take it slowly. With the 85 lbs. of gear on each of our backs and the muddy snot on the trail, we needed to pay particular attention to our footing and gait. It may have only been 50 degrees, but soon enough we were sweating and cursing under our breath.
As we made it past the last marked spot from the day before, we encountered steep switchbacks with little footing. We took our time and made our way up. As we crossed a meadow, an outfitter was coming off the mountain with two bow hunters in tow. All on horseback, we gave a wave and a hello as they trotted past. There was a small 4x5 raghorn rack in the back, so we knew they had been successful. It also looked like they possibly has a cow, as the horses were weighed down heavily. It gave us hope to see the hunters come off with tags filled, but also that there would be fewer people to contend with during our hunt.
We made it to the Y in the trail, the section of trail we had wanted to find the day before. This was going to be our first major test of physical endurance. We had trained for months, but with the altitude, heavy packs, and slick trails, we needed our legs to be solid. Within minutes we knew the mountain was going to kick our ass. The ups and downs, the horseshoe tracks, the hidden holes, and the mud. That damn mud! We would hike 50 feet and then stop for a breather. It might be 20 feet or 30 the next time, but we took frequent breaks. As we neared a meadow, we spotted Adam at the point of a grove of pines. Their camp was nestled somewhere inside and was well-hidden. Chris emerged as we passed by and they both waved as if to say, 'Good luck men!'
Adam had informed us that there was a running stream where we could get fresh water. Unfortunately, it was right near their camp. Brett and I decided to push on for a short bit to find a possible campsite. When we got to one area it was waterlogged. The other was too rocky. Giving him a chance to rest for a second, I hiked through a clearing in the trees, over a small hill, only to find that there were other hunters camped out not a couple hundred yards from where we were. There was a Montana Elk decoy in front of the camp, almost like a flag. I was bummed, but this was public land. This spot was supposed to be a gold mine for elk, and Eddy thought there wouldn't be too many in there. The secret got out someplace because we had to share this area with at least four other hunters. We opted for a small, flat spot in some trees that would give us access to the mountain behind us and to the meadows.
|My tent set up with a great view.|
|The waterhole right next to camp was off limits to drinking. Think wallow.|
After camp was set up, we went in search of water. The stream was about 200+ yards downhill and we really wanted to find a closer spot if we could. We found water next to camp, but it was sitting in a pool. I heard a stream running so we set out to find it. It turns out that on the other side of the trees was a running stream with gloriously cold water! It was fantastic! We took turns pumping water and filling up three gallons of drinking water. I also filled a 3L bag with a clip in filter.
|We had to lighten the mood a little, plus I have a hard time being serious all the time.|
The temperature was nearing 80 degrees at 10,000 feet. Having a few hours left in the day and not wanting to exert too much energy, we grabbed our packs and set off behind camp to glass for elk. The setting was perfect, minus the heat. A large pond surrounded by tall pines at the top of an open meadow. It was straight out of a hunter's dreams. That night we heard nothing and saw nothing. Talk about dreams being dashed. No elk bugles. No signs of any movement. Nothing.
Right before sunset, and discussing what we wanted to do for the next day, we hiked back down to camp for dinner. There is something about eating dinner while overlooking a huge valley that makes you smile, but also give you the chills knowing you are far from civilization. We chatted for a bit and decided to call it a night. It had been a long day and we really needed some sleep. The coyotes decided to serenade us from all over the mountain for a few minutes prior. I turned in ready for the adventure awaiting us the next day.