Friday, December 27, 2013

August 2013 Remembered – Pelican Valley

In the waning days of 2013 we have come to post number eight in my series “Twelve months in thirteen days.” I have always wanted to do this – post a remembrance once each day at the end of the year, for each month of this year, remembering people, places, and rocks I have gotten to know better in 2013. 

Among the many trails in Yellowstone, Pelican Valley has a reputation as major grizzly bear territory. 

Pelican Valley trail head and its many postings

So after learning how and when to use it you loop your bear spray canister onto your belt, grab a buddy or two, and head out down the trail, always aware of what’s going on around you.

High, wide, and lonesome of Pelican Valley

I came out to Pelican Valley with hiking buddy Brian one late August morning towards the end of our respective 2013 summer rangering season. I knew that several of his ranger talks focus on the history of Yellowstone, and this valley played a major role in that history. Brian needed to channel his hero Felix Burgess and the bison of an earlier Yellowstone one more time before leaving. I was along for the scenery. 

Monkshood (Aconitum columbianum)

Except for a smallish wooded area at the beginning of the trail, this part of Yellowstone is high, wide and lonesome and open to the big blue sky. 


The trail crossed a grassy stream that drained into a small pool. Mudstone cobbles hung like knickknack shelves in its gritty walls. 

Brian ponders the mud and rocks in an unnamed pool

Even this late in the high country summer, wildflowers thrived in the damper ground. 

Fringed Gentian (Gentianopsis crinita)

My favorite part of the Pelican Valley is this abandoned meander of Pelican Creek. There were hundreds of ducks bobbing about and I wanted to run down the hill and jump in the water and join them. 

Abandoned meander of Pelican Creek

Our goal was Astringent Creek where the epic of Felix Burgess unfolded in the early days of the Park. We would first have to cross Pelican Creek without benefit of a bridge which was washed out in a flood and not replaced.

The water of Pelican Creek was actually refreshing!

We continued on across the wide expanse, skirting any behemoth bison we found grazing along the trail… 

The 50-million year old Absaroka Range is a constant reference in Pelican Valley

…and found our way to Astringent Creek, about a mile further on from the remnant bridge. 

Taking in the view at Astringent Creek
 On our return we forded the cold water of Pelican Creek once more…

Fording Pelican Creek without falling in was pretty easy!

…and soon said our farewell to the spirit of Felix Burgess, the bison of Yellowstone, and the high lonesome sky of Pelican Valley. 

We never did see any grizzly bears. 

Brian and Pelican Valley

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