Earlier this month, Don and I went on a scouting trip, and found another wonderful campsite near the high mountain meadows of the Mt. Baldy wilderness. This one was so much better than the place we camped at earlier in the spring. We were well above 9000 feet when we found a lovely secluded area perched atop of some small cliffs. The campsite is located on a ridge just above a small meandering stream with extraordinary views of mountain meadows. I have never found a more perfect place for wildlife viewing and we were not disappointed by the parade of wildlife (Elk, Pronghorns, Turkey) we spotted during our short stay.
Our scouting trip was primarily to allow us to find a suitable base camp from which to locate Elk which we will be studying in a 6 week population survey near the Mt. Baldy Wilderness. Check out the videos of the elk frolicking in the meadows at the end of this post!
Our elevated campsite which afforded great views of the meadows,
A little horned toad (Phrynosoma platyrhinos) that was hiding under some grass not 2 feet from where I was sitting to take the pictures of the columbine. Ain't he a beauty! I have never seen a more beautifully colored specimen.
During our stay, I made one short hike up the mountain above our campsite to get a better view of the surrounding meadows, looking for game trails, scat and other elk sign. I followed several elk trails on the high mountain ridge above camp, and found places where the tall grass was squashed flat by Elk who prefer to bed down on steep heavily forested mountain ridges. A colleague of mine had suggested this area to conduct our survey, and it turned out to be a great location. Thanks so much Ray!
I wish I had waited just 24 hours before making this hike because I would have been sitting right above the herd of elk that came down to play in the marshes. At least now I’ve got a good site picked out to do some wildlife watching. There are several nice hiking trails in the area so I can’t wait to go back to explore the mountains and meadows of this pristine region of the White Mountains. The following are just a few pictures I took during my hike up the mountain.
When I first spotted this narrow little pass, it looked like the perfect route by which the Elk in our study would take to get to the marshes below my blind. As it turned out, the Elk used 2 primary trail routes to access this meadow, and I had found the perfect vantage point from which to watch both trails.
The following picture is of the marsh which I was sure would be an excellent water source for Elk in the area. I could have sat here all day just waiting for a glimpse of Elk or the beavers that built the dams blocking the stream. Unfortunately Don called me on the walkie-talkie to warn me that a fast moving storm was coming in. I made it back to camp just as the rain began to fall………
The three days we were there, we spotted a large heard of elk frolicking in the meadows below us. It was wonderful to watch these majestic animals play in the marshes - especially the calves. We saw at least 2 bulls with rather small racks, and I suspect that somewhere nearby too smart to expose himself and well hidden among the trees, stood the big bull surveying his harem – King of the Mountain. There were over 21 elk in the herd we saw, which is by far the largest group I have ever seen in the White Mountains. Because of the size of this herd, we figured we had picked the perfect location for studying elk, and would revisit this area in the following weeks. This first herd, Group (F301), we referred to as the Aspen Ridge group.