Saturday, July 21, 2012

Running with the Goats

I'm sure we have all been asked the question "if you could be an animal, what animal would you be?"
For me the answer to that question would probably be a Mountain Goat. They are extremely rugged and muscular, like me :),  have beautiful white coats, can climb ridiculesly steep mountains with ease, and they live in the most spectacles high alpine areas. Just think of waking up and going to bed every day with the most amazing views in the world surrounding you. So why do I start this post off talking about what animal I would want to be? Because for one morning I got to run with the Mt. Goats.

This weeks adventure started in the midst of us moving to a new house so thing were a little crazy and I hadn't had a decent run in a week. That and for the last few weeks every day I seemed to find myself looking to the southeast of Sandpoint towards the Clark Fork delta, there looming in the distance stands Scotchman's peak. That peak has been calling to me, teasing me, as it towers as the highest peak in Bonner county at 7009'. With the need for an adventure I woke up early and drove to the trail that climbs the backside of the peak. The Trail is only 3.5-4 mile long (one way) but it climbs 3800' in that distance with the steepest section being the first mile or so. I hiked 75% of that first mile but after that I found myself being able to run over 70% of the remaining trail. About half way up I came to a stop as I heard a snort, hoping that I might get a chance to see the animal that made it. I was expecting a mule deer but my eyes soon rested on the white fur of a mountain goat. In fact I had literally ran into a herd of five or so goats and was surrounded by them the closest being only 15 yards away. This encounter surprised me some because I was still well below tree line and you always picture mountain goats above that line. Well I made some noise as I tried to get my camera out which spooked an older male goat that had no idea I was there until that point and the goats were gone before I could snap a picture. I felt shorted by the quick glimpse of the goats but felt excited of the possibility that there could be more goats as I climbed higher. 

From there the Trail crossed over grassy mountain sides and through alpine timber and finally it spit you out at the rocky peak. It was when I came to the first snow patch on the summit that I saw two more mountain goats taking a nap on the snow. This time I was much more careful with my movements and sounds and was able to snap a couple of photos before they even knew I was there. Once they realized my presence they stood up but did not run. After a while you could tell that they become curious of me and headed in my direction. within minutes the two goats were less then five yards of me and I started taking a video of them. About that time I heard something coming up behind me and as I looked over my shoulder a third goat came up the trail that I was on to within two or three feet of my position. I continued to video the encounter as four more goats made their way to my location including this years kid and its mother. There was also the 250-300lb alpha male of the group who had rubbed the hair off this shoulders to where his black skin was exposed as all the goats were losing there winter coats. He was a little more standoffish then all the others had been but he to seemed to accept me after a few minutes. It was an incredible encounter as the goats seemed to accept my presence like I belonged at the tops of the mountains with them. After spending a half an hour with the goats I made the short final push to the very top of the peak. There I ran into two more goats, a big nanny and what was probably her kid from two years ago. These two had a keen interest in me and flowed me just about everywhere I went as I explored the summit. The views from up top were spectacular and humbling and beyond my capacity to describe and the picture I took don't or could not capture the majesty of my surroundings. I eventually had to come down which I did in a brisk 35-40 minutes (it took about 1:20-30 up). I miss being up there and long to go back but haven't really had another opportunity to since, which is ok for now because I can sill remember the day I ran with the goats.   

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