© 2019 Copyright by P. K. H. Groth, Denver, Colorado, USA All rights reserved - See contact page
Spirit and Romance of Elk Hunting
Sheepherder Loneliness Disclosed
in Aspen Arborglyps. Loneliness is expressed in these relatively recent (1970's) herder carvings on aspen trees of the Flat Tops. Are the carvings of his wife or an imaginary girlfriend, longing for a lost favorite horse, and the seemingly always present voluptuous fantasies. These are relatively innocuous carvings. The older carvings from the 1930’s to ‘60s would make even a seaman blush. We recall one aspen grove in which every tree amply illustrated a sexual fantasy. That herder really took a beating from a long summer without human contact. Look for all nature and human culture when hunting. It greatly adds to the hunting experience. In time the aspens will die, fall, and rot back into the landscape. Their glimpses into past lonely souls will vanish. Technology had alleviated remoteness and the need to fantasize. (Photos from Ripple Creek Pass) Thirty years ago I met the Peruvian sheep herder Juan, in the Flat Tops. His employer hired herders in four-year blocks, during which time they would stay in the US. They would herd sheep summers in the high country and tend them winters in valley camps. It was a hard, lonely life, but they admirably worked hard and with expertise in all weather and situations. The herders' salaries were sent monthly back to their wives and families in Peru. One evening I witnessed Juan bring in his sheep. I watched Juan count over two thousand sheep as his sheep dogs herded the animals single file by him. What Concentration! Juan welcomed the Danish rolls, fresh white bread and Pepsi I'd remember to bring him just in case he was camped in my hiking or hunting areas. Now Raul tends sheep. He related a number of stories about his sheep herding family in Peru. When he was a young boy his mother did not return from the high mountain pastures in the evening. The next morning a search party found her killed by lightning. Although his mother was struck in the head, is baby sister was unharmed - kept warm during the harsh cold night by the mother’s slowly ebbing body warmth. Sister was just a bit lower in the mother's back sling. Lightning is peculiar. Raul is not as lonely as Juan was. Things have changed. Raul takes a nightly stroll up a hill behind his sheep wagon and calls his family in Peru on his cell phone. ​Modern technology of the cell phone has eliminated the need for lonely ment ot carve fantasies. The Power of Being Tiny, but Emotionally Mighty. Cold can warm the heart and soul. I was getting tired of wiggling my toes to stay warm while sitting in a stand. Finally, the rising sun peeked over the distant tree line. The light refracted from a micro ice crystal on a spruce needle tip in front of me. This temporary being was hardly the size of this hyphen (-). The crystal sparkled with a colored brilliance that insulted the very best diamond. It mesmerized me. I remained transfixed on this fairy- gifted delight. Then, as I watched, it happened! The transient life began its final passage as it warmed enough to begin expanding. The warming crystal lattice strained until it could swell no more. It gave an unbelievably high pitched "groan". Then the miniscule crystal shattered. Its end of life cry produced an unbelievably delicate vibration "ping" like a tuning fork. All the water molecules that were slowly aggregated over the night rejoiced instantaneously as they were liberated into a tiny vapor puff. Children believe in fairies and now I too had seen evidence of one – I think. What an ultra-pure sound filled my ears and entered forever into my memory! That happened over thirty years ago. I have yet to hear another sound so delicate, sweet, penetrating, acoustically tiny but yet emotionally powerful and inspiring. Moreover and most importantly, so joyful a sound - as if it had a passion to live and a lust to die with dignity. Call this story passionate poetry if you like. To me it was an exciting experience. The tiny ice crystal had but a moment of extraordinarily beautiful life. It helped to further create my wilderness soul in a millisecond. How we humans tend to overlook the obvious. We are too busy to accept the love and beauty of the life given us. Somehow, along the trail from infancy we have been indoctrinated to collect and worship things rather than experiences - like a bursting ephemeral crystal - a sound my old ears will never again be able to hear. My Father Still Lives Here Where the wind was blowing across a high place… where the air was thin and full of silver sounds and coyotes with bright yellow eyes…I smelled owls and sagebrush and small wild things. The whole universe was alive, vibrating all around that high windy place and there was no more fear, because my father lives forever here now- in eternal peace. Ground plaque (marking ashes) found in 1984 in the backcountry; author unknown. Some day we too will be just a memory on the winds. Flat Tops’ Big Foot, Ghosts and Bizarre Circumstances – Explained? During Christmas 2015, a hunting friend from the “old days” thirty day ago contacted me after he read my book. He related several stories from his many past Flat Tops wilderness hunts. This one I quote. “In 1989? Dean and I set up our small tent in the big meadow. That is the same meadow where your wife Linda is seen in the book dragging her toboggan in minus 25 degrees to get a downed cow elk. We were looking to set up the tent in about 6-8 inches of snow. Someone had shot an elk at this spot in an earlier season. We cleaned up the area, set up the tent and built a lean-to so we could eat out of the weather around a fire, dry our clothes at night, and have a place to leave our guns outside overnight.” He continued, “Believe it or not, this is a true story. This happened after we were there a couple of days. We went to Glenwood Springs the next morning to clean up and spend a night. When we returned to the tent, it was snowing hard. Dean fell asleep. I was listening to the wind blowing. To the south end of the meadow I could hear this odd noise, real faint; I can’t explain the sound. It was sort of like a odd groan. It kept getting closer to the tent, then it was right outside of the tent. Finally I woke Dean and said “Listen to that!!!! Go get a gun!” Dean said, “Ya, you want me to go out and get a gun”? ! I offered him my knife for defense, but he still lay quietly. The thing stayed 10-20 seconds outside of the tent and then went back the way it had come. In the morning the snow depth was halfway up the tent side. There was no way to see any tracks.” “Coming back from a later trip to Glenwood Springs we were listening to a radio reporter reveal that two Flat Tops elk hunters reported seeing a Big Foot the day before. Those two guys were not Dean and I. Our mouths dropped at the news. When we finally hiked back to camp we found the tent had been collapsed by someone with snow shoes.” So what went on there outside the tent??? Elsewhere I describe that hallucinations are common at high altitude. They usually occur when waking, or falling asleep (as Al was doing). However, the lack of sufficient oxygen in a person not acclimated to the rarefied air induces numerous semi-arousals during the night. People with sleep apnea are particularly prone to semi-wakening. Therefore, Al could have been hallucinating a “being” because of mountain hypoxia, and the suggestion to sleeping Al might have propagated the delusion into a two-man affair. (Side note: There was a marked increase in ghost and demon sightings in the late 1800’s that remained unexplained. Recent research of “sighting” accounts and home living environments disclosed that this was the period when gas lighting was installed in homes. When the homes were later updated to electricity, the ghosts, demons and "bumps in the night” disappeared. Conclusion: the gas lamps dropped the oxygen content of the house air, especially late at night after the lamps had burned a long time.) [[ Do you understand the stress I place on getting acclimated to high altitudes so you will be a more alert successful hunter?]] On the other hand, the wind was blowing during a healthy snowstorm . There is an island of trees windward of the tent site Al describes. This tree island could have created multiple, bouncing- together wind eddies known as Karman Vortex Street effects (see web pages on Animal Behavior). The dancing vortex’s swirling snow (think many snow devils) may have been the faint, odd approaching sound; as the steady wind lost velocity, the sound retreated toward its original source. On the right foot, maybe there was a natural “being” (thing) outside the tent! Remember that Al wrote that an elk had been killed at the tent site during an earlier season? If the elk was a cow elk, its calf may have come to visit the distinctive bonding-scent laden site during the stress of the storm. A late season calf elk’s still sea-gull-like mewing is an eerie sound. Then again, maybe it was a wayward mountain lion savaging dead carcasses (its kill?). Lastly, perhaps the being was some practical joker, maybe the one that telephoned the radio station after he flattened the tent during Al and Dean’s trip to town. (Note: My friend later realized that some well intentioned hunters wearing snowshoes had tried to scoop snow off the tent and stumbled into and crushed it. But then again, perhaps there was an actual monster prowling the Flat Tops. In 2016, Cougar hunters in eastern Utah checked this very unbelievable lion in at the Division of Wildlife. It is real. The best explanation is that the jaw part of a dead twin embryo became attached to the lion’s skull. And there it grew and must have be a considerable annoyance to the nursing mother and to its head-butting siblings. (Photo by Utah Department of Natural Resources) A Night at Owl Lake Linda and I were hiking and scouting the Flat Tops, and wanted a solitude, romantic site for camp. We looked down to see Owl Lake and knew we were on target. This was going to be a memorial stay! We went for a full moonlight walk after setting up camp and eating dinner. The forest always has night life that to a naturalist beats Broadway’s and Las Vegas gaudiness. We stood quietly. Soon an owl hooted, then another owl a couple hundred yards away hooted a reply, but in a more pleading manner. A silent glob glided past us to the first owl...... a hoot, and another dark object..... and then the third fledgling whisked toward mother and father. A few minutes later the parents were in our tree pleading and urging their weak winged young to fly back to them. Life was repeating itself in the moonlight. What a beautiful auditory and visual experience! We remarked that the young would be achy and sleep in the next day, similar to our soccer driven son. Owls are lovable, intelligent and specially equipped birds. They have the ability to hear sounds down to three frequency cycles per second so they can hear rodent movement in the distance. More unusual is the evolutionary gift of silent flight. What good would it be if the prey could hear the approaching owl's rustling feathers. The trailing edges of owl wing primary feathers are serrated so that air flowing over them does not make a fluttering noise. Micro-tufts of down intermittently along feathers interlock the feathers and further reduce air flow noise. The prey never knows what hits them. The owl's noiseless assets reminds us hunters to be careful when buying clothing - noises we cannot hear are heard by game, AND the animals and birds that alert game.
© 2016 -2017 Copyright by P. K. H. Groth, Denver, Colorado, USA All rights reserved - See contact page.
Spirit and Romance of Elk Hunting
Sheepherder
Loneliness Disclosed
in Aspen Arborglyps. Loneliness is expressed in these relatively recent (1970's) herder carvings on aspen trees of the Flat Tops. Are the carvings of his wife or an imaginary girlfriend, longing for a lost favorite horse, and the seemingly always present voluptuous fantasies. These are relatively innocuous carvings. The older carvings from the 1930’s to ‘60s would make even a seaman blush. We recall one aspen grove in which every tree amply illustrated a sexual fantasy. That herder really took a beating from a long summer without human contact. Look for all nature and human culture when hunting. It greatly adds to the hunting experience. In time the aspens will die, fall, and rot back into the landscape. Their glimpses into past lonely souls will vanish. Technology had alleviated remoteness and the need to fantasize. (Photos from Ripple Creek Pass) Thirty years ago I met the Peruvian sheep herder Juan, in the Flat Tops. His employer hired herders in four-year blocks, during which time they would stay in the US. They would herd sheep summers in the high country and tend them winters in valley camps. It was a hard, lonely life, but they admirably worked hard and with expertise in all weather and situations. The herders' salaries were sent monthly back to their wives and families in Peru. One evening I witnessed Juan bring in his sheep. I watched Juan count over two thousand sheep as his sheep dogs herded the animals single file by him. What Concentration! Juan welcomed the Danish rolls, fresh white bread and Pepsi I'd remember to bring him just in case he was camped in my hiking or hunting areas. Now Raul tends sheep. He related a number of stories about his sheep herding family in Peru. When he was a young boy his mother did not return from the high mountain pastures in the evening. The next morning a search party found her killed by lightning. Although his mother was struck in the head, is baby sister was unharmed - kept warm during the harsh cold night by the mother’s slowly ebbing body warmth. Sister was just a bit lower in the mother's back sling. Lightning is peculiar. Raul is not as lonely as Juan was. Things have changed. Raul takes a nightly stroll up a hill behind his sheep wagon and calls his family in Peru on his cell phone. ​Modern technology of the cell phone has eliminated the need for lonely ment ot carve fantasies. The Power of Being Tiny, but Emotionally Mighty. Cold can warm the heart and soul. I was getting tired of wiggling my toes to stay warm while sitting in a stand. Finally, the rising sun peeked over the distant tree line. The light refracted from a micro ice crystal on a spruce needle tip in front of me. This temporary being was hardly the size of this hyphen (-). The crystal sparkled with a colored brilliance that insulted the very best diamond. It mesmerized me. I remained transfixed on this fairy-gifted delight. Then, as I watched, it happened! The transient life began its final passage as it warmed enough to begin expanding. The warming crystal lattice strained until it could swell no more. It gave an unbelievably high pitched "groan". Then the miniscule crystal shattered. Its end of life cry produced an unbelievably delicate vibration "ping" like a tuning fork. All the water molecules that were slowly aggregated over the night rejoiced instantaneously as they were liberated into a tiny vapor puff. Children believe in fairies and now I too had seen evidence of one – I think. What an ultra-pure sound filled my ears and entered forever into my memory! That happened over thirty years ago. I have yet to hear another sound so delicate, sweet, penetrating, acoustically tiny but yet emotionally powerful and inspiring. Moreover and most importantly, so joyful a sound - as if it had a passion to live and a lust to die with dignity. Call this story passionate poetry if you like. To me it was an exciting experience. The tiny ice crystal had but a moment of extraordinarily beautiful life. It helped to further create my wilderness soul in a millisecond. How we humans tend to overlook the obvious. We are too busy to accept the love and beauty of the life given us. Somehow, along the trail from infancy we have been indoctrinated to collect and worship things rather than experiences - like a bursting ephemeral crystal - a sound my old ears will never again be able to hear. My Father Still Lives Here Where the wind was blowing across a high place… where the air was thin and full of silver sounds and coyotes with bright yellow eyes…I smelled owls and sagebrush and small wild things. The whole universe was alive, vibrating all around that high windy place and there was no more fear, because my father lives forever here now- in eternal peace. Ground plaque (marking ashes) found in 1984 in the backcountry; author unknown. Some day we too will be just a memory on the winds. Flat Tops’ Big Foot, Ghosts and Bizarre Circumstances – Explained? During Christmas 2015, a hunting friend from the “old days” thirty day ago contacted me after he read my book. He related several stories from his many past Flat Tops wilderness hunts. This one I quote. “In 1989? Dean and I set up our small tent in the big meadow. That is the same meadow where your wife Linda is seen in the book dragging her toboggan in minus 25 degrees to get a downed cow elk. We were looking to set up the tent in about 6-8 inches of snow. Someone had shot an elk at this spot in an earlier season. We cleaned up the area, set up the tent and built a lean-to so we could eat out of the weather around a fire, dry our clothes at night, and have a place to leave our guns outside overnight.” He continued, “Believe it or not, this is a true story. This happened after we were there a couple of days. We went to Glenwood Springs the next morning to clean up and spend a night. When we returned to the tent, it was snowing hard. Dean fell asleep. I was listening to the wind blowing. To the south end of the meadow I could hear this odd noise, real faint; I can’t explain the sound. It was sort of like a odd groan. It kept getting closer to the tent, then it was right outside of the tent. Finally I woke Dean and said “Listen to that!!!! Go get a gun!” Dean said, “Ya, you want me to go out and get a gun”? ! I offered him my knife for defense, but he still lay quietly. The thing stayed 10-20 seconds outside of the tent and then went back the way it had come. In the morning the snow depth was halfway up the tent side. There was no way to see any tracks.” “Coming back from a later trip to Glenwood Springs we were listening to a radio reporter reveal that two Flat Tops elk hunters reported seeing a Big Foot the day before. Those two guys were not Dean and I. Our mouths dropped at the news. When we finally hiked back to camp we found the tent had been collapsed by someone with snow shoes.” So what went on there outside the tent??? Elsewhere I describe that hallucinations are common at high altitude. They usually occur when waking, or falling asleep (as Al was doing). However, the lack of sufficient oxygen in a person not acclimated to the rarefied air induces numerous semi-arousals during the night. People with sleep apnea are particularly prone to semi-wakening. Therefore, Al could have been hallucinating a “being” because of mountain hypoxia, and the suggestion to sleeping Al might have propagated the delusion into a two-man affair. (Side note: There was a marked increase in ghost and demon sightings in the late 1800’s that remained unexplained. Recent research of “sighting” accounts and home living environments disclosed that this was the period when gas lighting was installed in homes. When the homes were later updated to electricity, the ghosts, demons and "bumps in the night” disappeared. Conclusion: the gas lamps dropped the oxygen content of the house air, especially late at night after the lamps had burned a long time.) [[ Do you understand the stress I place on getting acclimated to high altitudes so you will be a more alert successful hunter?]] On the other hand, the wind was blowing during a healthy snowstorm . There is an island of trees windward of the tent site Al describes. This tree island could have created multiple, bouncing- together wind eddies known as Karman Vortex Street effects (see web pages on Animal Behavior). The dancing vortex’s swirling snow (think many snow devils) may have been the faint, odd approaching sound; as the steady wind lost velocity, the sound retreated toward its original source. On the right foot, maybe there was a natural “being” (thing) outside the tent! Remember that Al wrote that an elk had been killed at the tent site during an earlier season? If the elk was a cow elk, its calf may have come to visit the distinctive bonding-scent laden site during the stress of the storm. A late season calf elk’s still sea-gull-like mewing is an eerie sound. Then again, maybe it was a wayward mountain lion savaging dead carcasses (its kill?). Lastly, perhaps the being was some practical joker, maybe the one that telephoned the radio station after he flattened the tent during Al and Dean’s trip to town. (Note: My friend later realized that some well intentioned hunters wearing snowshoes had tried to scoop snow off the tent and stumbled into and crushed it. But then again, perhaps there was an actual monster prowling the Flat Tops. In 2016, Cougar hunters in eastern Utah checked this very unbelievable lion in at the Division of Wildlife. It is real. The best explanation is that the jaw part of a dead twin embryo became attached to the lion’s skull. And there it grew and must have be a considerable annoyance to the nursing mother and to its head-butting siblings. (Photo by Utah Department of Natural Resources) A Night at Owl Lake Linda and I were hiking and scouting the Flat Tops, and wanted a solitude, romantic site for camp. We looked down to see Owl Lake and knew we were on target. This was going to be a memorial stay! We went for a full moonlight walk after setting up camp and eating dinner. The forest always has night life that to a naturalist beats Broadway’s and Las Vegas gaudiness. We stood quietly. Soon an owl hooted, then another owl a couple hundred yards away hooted a reply, but in a more pleading manner. A silent glob glided past us to the first owl...... a hoot, and another dark object..... and then the third fledgling whisked toward mother and father. A few minutes later the parents were in our tree pleading and urging their weak winged young to fly back to them. Life was repeating itself in the moonlight. What a beautiful auditory and visual experience! We remarked that the young would be achy and sleep in the next day, similar to our soccer driven son. Owls are lovable, intelligent and specially equipped birds. They have the ability to hear sounds down to three frequency cycles per second so they can hear rodent movement in the distance. More unusual is the evolutionary gift of silent flight. What good would it be if the prey could hear the approaching owl's rustling feathers. The trailing edges of owl wing primary feathers are serrated so that air flowing over them does not make a fluttering noise. Micro- tufts of down intermittently along feathers interlock the feathers and further reduce air flow noise. The prey never knows what hits them. The owl's noiseless assets reminds us hunters to be careful when buying clothing - noises we cannot hear are heard by game, AND the animals and birds that alert game.
Index Index