Three hikes, three orchids, three grouse, one coyote, one bear
The first hike was to the Hogback Cliff, or what we call the "Crago" cliff in honor of Ellen and Mary N whose cabin is nearby. Ellen was the one who showed us this special place that overlooks the Sun Canyon. We did the bushwhack from the back and made a loop coming down the trail by the forest service cabin, stopping by the memorial to the Mercy Flight that crashed in 1987. Read more here.
When we started along the river, we ran into a coyote on the trail, which slinked away from us as we approached. The wind was pleasant as we made our way to the top, with a bit of bushwhacking and views of Gibson Dam. But the views were outstanding. Then it was down the regular trail, a forested walk to the road.
Then since we had so much planned for the day, we drove our vehicles to Wagner Basin trailhead, with the goal to find the giant helleborine orchids, which we did. We also found fields of owl's clover, water hemlock rimming the swampy area, and two hides of bighorn sheep that met their end, probably to wolves, but no live sheep. We also stopped by the skull tree as Josy had never seen it. Here, we had our lunch at the picnic table and enjoyed the views of Castle Reef and Sawtooth mountains. On this part, Nora recognized several bird calls, including a yellow throat.
Then it was on to show Josy the pictographs as she hadn't seen them. From there, we got on the Beaver-Willow road to continue on our last hike to McCarty Hill but we took a quick stop at the fen to see the round-leaved orchis, a small dotted pink beauty among the boggy areas.
Once on the road, a grouse crossed the road slowly and went under Katie's car. She abruptly stopped and got out. Sure enough, mama was under the car in the shade, not wanting to move. Katie was able to clap and make noise to flush her out.
Then, Katie, in the lead, bypassed the parking area for our next hike and almost reached Scoutana before she found a turnaround. This stretch of road was unbelievably bad, with sharp rocks poking out, but, luckily, no one got a flat tire. Her mess up, caused us to go back over the rough area and then go it again on the way home. Sigh.
So we backtracked to the trailhead and had a nice time climbing McCarty Hill, something none of us had done yet. The flowers were amazing: buckwheat, blanket flowers (Indian blanket) and lupine in particular. But the trail wasn't too easy to follow, so we were on this game trail and that, walking through grasses to get to the top.
On top were several limber pines with male and female cones. The female were bright green, very pretty, but buzzing with wasps. We wondered if they were a special wasp to pollinate these trees.
On the way down, we heard some clucking. Katie wondered if it were grouse. But then the call faded. But then right in front of Josy, a dusky grouse flew out and into a tree limb, frightening us. Her babies ran for cover too. Following this event, we looked downhill and Katie said, "A mountain lion" as she saw an animal run from some willows below us, across the meadow into some brush and trees. But we looked again as it ran and realized it was a bear, a light cinnamon color. What we took from this: bears hide in the willow areas and you can't see them--make noise when going into such areas. The human voice scares the bears--since social distancing, we have to raise our voices, which is a good thing, apparently, in bear country.
In this section, we got off trail a bit but Josy led us down to the road a short distance from our cars.
Thus ended our three-hike day, a total of 7 miles on the day. We made a loop back home, having to travel through Fairfield since the highway to Augusta is closed due to construction.
Who went: Nora, Josy, Katie