'Al? Something just it me in the head!!!'
I started yelling, 'GO AWAY BEAR! GET AWAY!' I grabbed my bear spray, got my headlamp on, and escaped the confines of my tent. Brett was already outside of his tent, armed with his sidearm and ready for battle. We searched left, right, up, down, and could not see any eyes. There was no sound. There were no tracks. The only thing left behind was a dusty outline of a head imprint on the side of Brett's tent. It was too faded to really figure it out. Our adrenaline was pumping, our hearts racing, and there was no way we were going to fall asleep. We again searched the premises and were baffled.
'What the *#&$#% was that?' I asked Brett. He had no idea and both of us were visibly shaken. Needless to say, we were also a bit cold from jumping into the cool night air in our skivvy's. We deemed the area clear and went back to our tents. It only took a half hour and Brett is sawing logs as I stared at the seams in the upper part of my tent. My mind was racing from being on high alert. I listened for a while longer and finally drifted off to sleep.
After we ate a small bit of breakfast at 7:00 AM, we packed up camp and proceeded to head back down the mountain. We opted to camp at a lower level in hopes of getting closer to the elk in the canyons. We were also sick of the heat, not hearing anything, and needed a change. As we descended, we enjoyed the view, but also commented on how nice it was to be going down the trail instead of up it.
We found a great spot to set up camp, at the edge of a fast moving river. Pine trees, cold water, and a change of scenery. It was exactly what we needed. In twenty minutes we had camp set up. The setting was perfect. The aroma of pine needles and dirt. Shade. Ahhh, the shade was delightful! The sound of rushing water over rocks made us crave a cool drink. We pumped out 3.5 gallons of water and then the Pat's Backcountry Beverages kit made an appearance. There is nothing like filtering your own water on a hot day, making your own beer, and sitting next to a river in the backcountry. Then there is dunking your head in the water to cool off. It was invigorating!!
Over our tasty beverage, we contemplate the next two days of hunting. It is decided that we will hunt above the beaver ponds this evening and tomorrow morning above camp. If we don't see or hear anything, we will call it a hunt and pack up after the morning outing. It's just too hot and we are looking forward to being back a day early. Maybe our luck will change, but at this point we both have our doubts. Even I know that the likelihood of even hearing an elk is slim-to-none.
The evening hunt story doesn't change much. The heat drove the elk deeper into the canyons and they weren't talking at all. The most that happened was watching the trout surface in the pond as the beaver was busy foraging underwater. A half hour before sunset we called it a night. Hiking back to camp brought out the worst in us. The hills were uneven and hard to hike on. The irritation of working so hard to hear not a peep from anything was hard to swallow. We stayed silent almost all the way back to camp. I tried keeping up with Brett, but he hiked on ahead. I decided just to take it easy and hike at my normal pace. No need to rush back. It was already hot and I just wanted to try to enjoy the hike out as best I could.
Dinner and a beer next to the river was a great way to end the night. After 5 days in the wilderness I could not wait to take a shower. My clothing was starting to have second thoughts about the morning hunt, but I persuaded them to stick around. Well, not literally, but it was cutting it close.
After our bellies were filled, we set off to the meadow behind camp. We looked up at the starry sky and stood in silence for a few minutes. I have seen the stars in the wilderness before, but this night just seemed better than all combined. The Milky Way was apparent and there were shooting stars all over. Brett spotted some eyes about 150 yards away and moving closer. Remembering the night before, we anticipated the worst. To our surprise, it was a mule deer buck feeding his way toward camp. We had finally seen an animal! We watched him on and off for twenty minutes as we checked out the stars. He fed behind camp to about 80 yards. We decided we may as well nod off and try to get some shuteye.
The next morning we saw and heard no elk. Camp was packed and we headed back to the truck, which just happened to be only a quarter mile away. Yes, we planned the morning well. On our way out, we ran into a father and son on horseback. The boy had his bow and you could just feel the excitement he was experiencing. We chatted with them, told them of our trip and how many people were in there. They were going to take a different route and try to fill their tags. Not only were they super friendly, but it was great to talk with the locals. Honest to goodness people with a willingness to talk hunting.
As we dropped our packs, we let out a sigh of relief. We stowed our gear and dropped the tailgate. The only thing getting punched on this trip were cigars. While we hadn't filled our tags, we had hunted hard, covered more than 20 miles in five days, and we needed to celebrate that. It was a success in the fact that we had made the trip to Colorado and hunted elk on our own. We tried our best and that is all you can ask for. Hunting with friends makes the trip more memorable and this trip was every bit of that.