Tag Archives: Weston Pass

Hunting in Colorado: Day 3

10/19/15

Once again we chose to ignore my hunting tip #8 and arrived at our pull-off below Weston Pass even earlier than on Day 2. As it was pitch black and I was uncertain of my footing, Mike carried my rifle in his pack for the steepest section of our approach until dawn broke and it was time to chamber a round. He’s the awesomest husband I know.

Dawn breaks over the snow-tipped clearing above tree line on Weston Pass.
Dawn breaks over the snow-tipped clearing above tree line on Weston Pass.

KIND bars have been our snack of choice for a few years now, and although Mike has never been an early morning breakfast eater (I must eat in the morning or I become an ogre), he snarfed a couple down before our ascent. The resultant gastric consequences provided hilarity soon thereafter.

“Did you hear something?” he whispered to me with a big smile halfway up the hill. “It sounded like bugling!”

I rolled my eyes as I did numerous times over the next hour while the nutritious bars wreaked havoc with his digestion. So much bugling. But I don’t blame him for scaring away our potential dinner.

I blamed the monkey crow. I wish I’d thought to tap “record” on my iPhone when we heard him. Snow flurries were soft in the tree line, and because my ankle was feeling pretty good, I decided to stay with Mike as he traversed the higher grounds rather than loll about in the meadow where our elk really should have been.

We know the elk are hiding behind the trees, chuckling at our persistence, sneaking away when I pull out my camera-phone.
We know the elk are hiding behind the trees, chuckling at our persistence, sneaking away when I pull out my camera-phone.

The crow’s laughter was an even closer imitation of monkey chatter than Mike can make, and we stopped to enjoy the merriment for a moment before continuing our stealthy trudge through and over thick and downed pines. Soft little Christmas trees with snow-sprinkled new growth sprouted where the old had fallen long ago, and well into our ascent, Mike stopped for a break. He’s always thinking of me, but I could tell he was also beginning to get discouraged.

Within moments of hitting the trail again, I paused for a familiar routine. I knew he’d spotted a sign. Sure enough, there it was. Fudge-brownie-fresh poop.

Fudge-brownie-fresh elk poop! A sure sign that elk are no longer in the area ;)
Fudge-brownie-fresh elk poop! A sure sign that elk are no longer in the area ;)

We had already traversed too far for my comfort. My ankle was beginning to ache (I’ve been telling myself that hunting is good physical therapy after surgery, but at that point I was questioning myself) and I started praying to Diana, Artemis, Orion, all of the hunting deities, to hide the poopers.

Because “they” listened to me, we hiked and hiked, and hiked and hiked, until we came to another huge clearing far beyond and above the meadow I suddenly wished I had stayed in.

“Look. Classic elk terrain,” Mike whispered. “This is where it says they should be.” We’ve repeated this same message to one another in several locations already. It’s become a joke.

“I know, but elk don’t read,” I whispered back.

“Racist,” he replied. Muffled giggling ensued.

Rambo Mike, in a place where our elk "should have been"!
Rambo Mike, in a place where our elk “should have been”!

We crept around the enormous open space and I realized that not only were there no signs of elk anymore, but my ankle was seriously unhappy. And we were seriously far and high above where we’d parked. And we’d been out for hours and hours and I was ready to become a pescatarian. I like to fish. I like to eat fish. Fishing is easy. I can sit down while I fish. Fishing rods aren’t that heavy. I can drive really close to where I want to fish.

“You stay here and rest. I’m going back into the trees over there and if I don’t see anything, we’ll head back.”

Last smile during elk hunting day 3 before our wicked descent from Weston Pass.
Last smile during elk hunting day 3 before our wicked descent from Weston Pass.

I was all about the heading back, but also truly concerned about the terrain. From where I stood, I couldn’t see over the edge of the field. I had no idea how steep our descent would be. So after having him take the last photo in which I could smile that day, I leaned against a downed tree with my feet uphill and did my best to remain optimistic. And that’s when I had a most unexpected visitor.

An elk? Not a chance. But at the spot where I landed in the acres and acres of terrain we’d covered that day was one little ladybug. For the next half hour as Mike searched for our elusive prey, she and I visited. I marveled at her resolve to stay with me, figuring it was because my body was far warmer than anything in that wind-whipped field. She made me smile, and by the time I had to set her free, I had steeled my mind for the final trudge.

Ladybug ladybug, fly away home . . . and take me with you!
Ladybug ladybug, fly away home . . . and take me with you!

Without going into great detail, suffice it to say that my husband once again was my hero. He took my weapon from me and found a hiking stick to assist with the worst downhill journey of my life so far. I had to do several sections on my butt, so instead of crying (which I almost did several times), I gave thanks for the up-and-downstairs-butt-technique I had mastered in our house while on crutches just weeks before. (see crutches)

Mike found a stick to assist with my mile-long 60ish-degree downward slope back to the 4-Runner.
Mike found a stick to assist with my mile-long 60ish-degree downward slope back to the 4-Runner.

The descent was grueling, but the day was filled with beauty. And I had spent it with my man. We had no elk for all our efforts, but we were still together, still able to smile at the beauty of our surroundings, and still confident that . . . Day 4 would be “the day.”

Hunting in Colorado: Day 2

10/18/15

We heard that Weston Pass was the place to go to find our wily elk for sure. So instead of heeding my tip #8 for Day 1 prep (See tip 8), we drove up to a spot on the road below Weston Pass way before the sun rose.

The hike up to where we knew the elk would be was arduous (for someone like me with a gimpy ankle), but we made good time and got to enjoy the sight of dawn breaking over the cold Rocky Mountains. After a while, we hunkered down in some pine trees. We’d wait a while and watch the herds pass by. We’d have our pick of tasty future meals.

Dawn in the Rocky Mountains, hunting day 2 up Weston Pass.
Dawn in the Rocky Mountains, hunting day 2 up Weston Pass.

After about ½ hour, Mike decided to move farther up the hill. I stayed below. We’d have different vantage points of the same open area through which the elk would meander…at any minute. I drilled myself on the gutless method of removing the tenderloins. Dinner.

Suddenly I saw wild gesticulations from above, and when I followed Mike’s pointed finger, THERE THEY WERE! Although difficult to see from my position, a cow, two calves and a spike were walking through a small clearing between thick pines on the far, far side of the meadow. Mike gestured for me to come up to where he was already in a firing position, but I think we both knew that the tiny window of opportunity and the distance were too challenging to overcome in the split second between seeing them and watching them disappear.

“I should’ve taken the shot,” he said, “but by the time I had the elevation adjusted, it was too late.”

“You did the right thing. You want a clean shot.” I told him what he already knew.

“You stay here. I’m going over to see if I can pick up the trail.”

Meadow grass up Weston Pass, hunting day 2.
Meadow grass up Weston Pass, hunting day 2.

For the next 90 minutes, Mike hiked and I lay prone in the meadow grass by a large, dead tree trunk. Maybe he’d scare them out and I’d get my shot. Instead, I waited and lounged and peered through the grass, remembering my 5th grade teacher at Archie T. Morrison Elementary School in Braintree who had us do something quite similar during our poetry unit, but without rifles. I think she might have been the one who sparked my interest in writing.

Hunting glamour shot. Weston Pass. Waiting and waiting for Mike.
Hunting glamour shot. Weston Pass. Waiting and waiting for Mike.

While Mike hiked, I shot photos, something my friends tell me I should be doing rather than shooting “poor innocent animals.” I took my hunting glamour shot and visited for a while with a nosy lark bunting. I really do like shooting photos, but I’d like to know I could feed myself during the zombie apocalypse too.

By the time Mike returned, he was beat and I was ready to head home.

“There are tons of signs over there. It’s like an elk highway. We’ll come back tomorrow, okay?”

I would have agreed to anything at that point. We were silent as we drove home, tired and hungry, and our reward for our efforts on Day 2 was a glorious rainbow embracing our little Leadville.

Rainbow over Leadville. End of hunting day 2.
Rainbow over Leadville. End of hunting day 2.

Clearly, Day 3 would be “the day.”