I saw a couple of robins the other day. This, by itself, probably isn’t worthy of a blog but, along with the robins come other creatures. Some great, some small and some with very long claws.
The Flathead Valley is an area of contrasts. The rocky peaks of the Swan Mountains will be covered with snow into August, just in time for it to start flying again at the higher elevations. Some nooks and crannies remain snow covered all year. But here on the west side of the valley, in the more rounded and wooded Salish Mountains, the snow is mostly melted. Its safe to say spring is about to get sprung on Patrick Creek Road.
There were still patches of snow on the ground as my Montana Mountain dog, Hercules, and I climbed the hill and into the mountains behind the house. He’s really a mutt from the shelter, but he’s also the perfect dog. Surrounding us as we walked up the trail are miles of forest service and lumber company land before you get to anything that resembles a road. There is very little public access here, so unlike many of the trails around the Flathead Valley, there’s very little chance of meeting another human as you hike along the lumber company road. In fact, you’re much more likely to meet something with fur than with fleece.
Herc and I trudged uphill enjoying the blue of Montana’s big sky and avoiding the mud on the road. I thought: ‘Ahh, serene and peaceful. A man and his dog.’
I looked down at the road to see the usual deer tracks. I searched around and something a little different caught my eye. Immediately I ran through my limited knowledge of animal sign. Deer don’t have claws. Elk don’t have claws. Robins don’t have claws… but… grizzly bears have claws. The track was bigger than my hand.
I rose slowly and looked around. Maybe I am not king of the forest, I thought. I decided that I had walked far enough for one day. It was time to head home. I talked out loud to the dog most of the way. “Beautiful day isn’t Herc. Great weather we’re having.” Herc just continued to trot along smelling things.
When I got home, I sent the picture to my neighbor, a born and raised Montana man. He said it was either a young Grizz or, perhaps, Sasquatch. I could see his tongue in cheek smile over the phone when he asked me if I had been to town yet to get my Sasquatch hunting tag. Even this tenderfoot wasn’t going to fall for that one. I told him I would go get a Sasquatch tag as soon as he came back with a bucket of steam.