Sunday, June 21, 2015

Day 11: Nicholia Creek to Morrison Lake

Rounding a corner, I startled tiny antelope who had been sleeping in the grass next to the trail. He bounded away quickly, no doubt in search of his parents. 

Reaching the swampy Harkness Lakes, a crazed mama duck ran at us, squawking and flapping her wings. Behind her, two small ducklings peacefully swam on the lake, while a bemused red winged blackbird looked on. 

I heard the steady beating of wings and looked up to see a bald eagle directly overhead, cruising just above the treetops. At such close range, I could appreciate the bird's enormous wingspan, likely wider than I am tall. 

Our trail disappeared as we climbed onto as high ridge.  We followed the ridge, walking in a sky carpeted with short cropped alpine grass and wildflowers of every imaginable hue. Even the rocks wore colorful orange, green, and gray lichens. 

A piercing cry alerted me to a large herd of elk grazing on the nearby hillside and lapping up the moisture from a lingering snowbank. Mothers continued to cry out as they gently nudged their babies down the hill, slowly moving them to safer territory and better grazing. 

Farther down the hill we met a weekend backpacker (our fourth in 11 days) hiking with his aging yellow lab, a sweet dog with silky ears. Lower still, a group of four antelope sprint out of our path, little one in tow. Just before we reached Morrison Lake Sierra discovered a huge frog in a swampy creek that crossed our trail, and I spotted the largest rabbit I had ever seen....perhaps the origin of the jackalope stories?!

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