Sunday, September 22, 2019

MM #46: Things that go Harumph in the Night

Western Pasqueflower in seed
It was 9.30 p.m., and I was sound asleep.  "Did you hear that?" whispered Spousal Unit.  I didn't respond, until a moment later.

"Harumph?"  Splash.  Splash.

"What is THAT?" I asked, turning to look in his direction.  My inflatable mattress crinkled under the shift in my weight, and my sleeping bag rustled, both of which made me cringe.

"I can't see anything," he said, leaning on his left elbow and peering intently into the darkness through the fine mesh of the tent.

Munch. Munch.  Splash.  "Harumph?" Splash.

Bear grass - a late bloomer!
Yes, folks, the scene is in the midst of the Jewel Basin, the location of our last backcountry camping trip.  For 15 minutes, we listened to a random series of grunts, munching and splashes, with only theories about the source.

"Can you tell how far away it is?" By now I had goosebumps all over and I could feel myself trembling slightly, even in the warmth of my bag.

"Maybe 30 yards," he said, shaking the bear spray canister.  (Bear spray has to be well-mixed to be effective.)

"Harumph?"  Splash. Splash.

"What do you think it is?" 

Cow parsnip in seed
"Maybe a moose," he speculated.  Of course, the temptation was strong, to turn on our headlamps and identify the creature.  Especially knowing that I love moose.  But would this simply serve to antagonize it, whatever "it" might be?

Munch.  Munch.  "Harumph?" Splash. Splash.

"What's the plan?"  I am sure that if I had been able to see anything, it would have been an eye roll from Spousal Unit.  Yes, in retrospect, a silly question.  But it was practically killing me to lie there with no idea what was lurking just 30 yards from our tent.  I almost would have preferred to know it was a grizzly bear, if that was the case.

Crash, crash, crash (the sounds of brush breaking under foot, but growing fainter).

And with that, the critter was gone.  You can rest assured that I continued to question the wisdom of backcountry camping for the next few hours, as I tried to calm myself enough to return to the land of Nod.  Eventually I succeeded, and in the clear light of day, it was as if this mysterious visit never happened!

The next morning, fortified by a cup of coffee, we ventured down the shore line.  Given its rocky nature, it was almost impossible to see any tracks, much less anything identifiable.  We could discern divots in the mud of the lake bed, but whether they were made by a moose, elk or bear was anyone's guess.  We examined the brushy area, and it was obvious that it is frequented as a route to and from the lake - the bushes have bent branches, and the smaller plants are crushed.  But again, no clear tracks.  Sigh.  No clues to the mystery here.

So we got on with our morning business - I tended the fire and started to pack up small items while Man with Hat plied the lake for fish.  It might have been too early for them, and soon enough he was back on shore for breakfast and another cup of coffee.

A second round of fishing resulted in a few nibbles and one catch, but nothing compared to the day before at Wildcat Lake.  Yes, you're right, I am telling this story completely out of sequence, but isn't grabbing the attention of your readers one of the keys to great writing?  I led with the thrilling part!
Wildcat Lake sits in a cirque surrounded by lush alpine meadow
and dark subalpine fir forest, as well as the crags of the Swan Crest
The day before, we hiked from Camp Misery (no joke - that's its name) to Wildcat Lake.  Man with Hat wasted no time in launching his pack raft, and for the next 2.5 hours, made a full circuit of the lake, hooking at least 20 fish.  He let them all go; we didn't have a good way to keep them cool for the remainder of our hike.  I pottered around the shore, taking pictures (no big shock), making noise and playing Solitaire (I won twice!)

Bottom Center: Huckleberry - leaves turning red!
Upper left - can you see the caterpillar?  Bottom left: Mountain Ash
Upper right: Wildcat Lake                Middle left: Baneberry fruit                     Bottom left: Angelica  
Bottom middle: Yellow mushroom the size of a grapefruit                        Bottom right: Jacob's Ladder in seed stage
We climbed out of the basin that contains Wildcat, and the trail led us down one draw (a narrow valley) and up another to stand above Strawberry Lake.  Along the way, we spotted a solitary mountain goat high on the cliffs above us.

Upon our descent to Strawberry, we found a few day-hikers, who soon departed to beat the sunset.  With the lake to ourselves, we chose a site at the head of the lake, on a spot of grass just the right size for our tent.  This "campground" differed from our previous sites (Logging LakeOle CreekRed Eagle/Atlantic Creek) because it did not have pre-defined campsites, cooking area, food hanging pole or pit toilet.  In Jewel Basin, you have the freedom to camp where you like, but you have to work a little harder to hang your backpacks, make your own bathroom - well, you get the idea.  We followed all the guidelines for separating cooking from the tent, etc., but I wonder if it's just a coincidence that we had a close-to-a-critter encounter here and not at our other locations?

Ramen with re-hydrated vegies
The remaining daylight was quickly consumed setting up camp and making dinner.  We retired to the tent, played some Gin, (Spousal Unit won 3 out of 5), and you know the rest of that night's story!!

After we packed up camp, the 3 miles down to Strawberry Lake trailhead was almost an afterthought.  I was anxious to get home and start investigating Mr. Harumph.  Maybe I could find a similar sound on YouTube, and solve this mystery.  But it was not to be.  Despite several hours of searching, I have been unable to hear a similar grunt.  Maybe Spousal Unit is right - forget the moose, elk or bear - he's going with Sasquatch!

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  1. I'm going with Sasquatch as well. One night camping on or barge at the head of Goat Lake we heard something (someone?) lobbing stones into the lake near us. It didn't have the same sound as fish jumping, much heavier sounding. It was a place where no other humans were around so our imaginations ran wild. That pack boat is amazing. How large is it deflated and how much does it weight? - Margy

  2. OMG! My hubby and I are thinking it was more than likely a bear eating at nite. We had an encounter in Yosemite. We were in a meadow with a bunch of other tent campers when we were woken by a snorting sound at the edge of our tent. My husband thought I would freak and start hollering but I just rolled over and went back to I was soooo tired, I just didnt In the morn, we found a bear had gone thru the campground sniffing everyone (all were smart and had no food on them) on his quest for the lake. My closest Glad you were fine! Great photos. 😊🐻💕 Kit

  3. A funny Story to read... but I know it could be uncanny noises to fear. A Mouse is a small animal, but what if was a bear?

    Nice to see you on the way in one capture.

    Happy MosaicMonday

  4. ...gorgeous country and don't those ramen with re-hydrated vegies look yummy!

  5. You are braver than me and yet I am more stupid. I don't know if I could have kept still and not gone out to investigate and possible get hurt. Glad you're ok. Beautiful photos as always.

  6. What a great post, you had me on tenterhooks wondering what the critter was at the lake!! Such beautiful photos, that looks like wonderful countryside to be exploring.

  7. Oh my, no way would I go back to sleep after that. Great photos! You are a very adventurous woman!

  8. What an amazing time! And Oh I’m sure it was definitely Sasquatch! You have no proof it was anything else right, so therefore ....)).... our oldest grandson and GDIL had us in alternating stitches/shivers not too long ago when they described each other’s reactions when they woke up to a bear wandering through their campsite. They were rafting the Rogue River. ....

  9. Oh I think it was a bear too but the sasquatch is possible too!

  10. The water looks so clean and clear like a jewel, which is wonderful to see nowadays when so many bodies of water are not. I suspect this trip will be a forever mystery and you will always be haunted not knowing what creature was approaching your tent but decided to leave.

  11. You have some very lovely photos@@ The photos of Strawberry Lake are beautiful! Have awonderful week!

  12. Hi! It looks nice and funny camping. If you would take a photo,It would be a big news. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Well you can sleep easy if you settle on Sasquatch. Grizzly might be a little more disturbing,

  14. you have such wonderful adventures. My MOTH has gone walking today...I wish I could go to but a) someone has to be home to care for the elderly and b) he is scaling the unscalable for my abilities. great photo's

  15. Oh my, Angie. My heart was beating fast as I read. We've been in a similar situation and it's kind of scary. Things sound much bigger in the night, I think. I'd go with Sasquatch, too! What lovely country to hike in.

  16. There is an actual Sasquatch Outpost Museum in Bailey, Colorado! I've heard it is a fascinating place to visit. I think you heard a bear--they make a lot of huffing noise when they are scarfing up food and perhaps he was catching something along the lake? My husband dislikes tent camping for just this reason--he is not comfortable sleeping this vulnerable among wildlife. All your photos were beautiful!

  17. Goodness - adventure along with tenting in beautiful and remote areas. Lovely pictures along with your record of your trip Angie.

    I do have a collage in my post today but it is so yucky that I shared my yellow roses have a final fling.

    Thanks for your 46th Mosaic Monday along with the maybe it was a bear rather exciting/scary post.


  18. Hello, it could have been a bear or a moose. I am glad it moved away.
    The views are fabulous. Beautiful mountains and lakes. I love seeing all the berries and flowers. What an exciting camping trip! Great photos. Enjoy your day, wishing you a happy new week!

  19. In your wilderness you can encounter anything :) You are so brave, both of you. Amazing places, and you look so happy in the photo!

  20. Looks like an amazing adventure. Years ago we were bush camping in tents in the Kimberley and I heard something moving about our camp at night on 4 legs. I nudged my husband. There is something out there! to which his reply was - what do you want me to do? We think it might have been a wild pig. But no harm done, a good reason not to leave food laying about the camp. Happy camping and thank you again for the link up

  21. We've 'seen' Bigfoot a few times in our hikes! Not sure what sounds he made though! But it could be....!!! You sure imagine the biggest animals when you are lying awake at night. I love seeing the campfire, it's beautiful! And how neat that your hubby packs a boat. He's superman!!! Happy Monday!

  22. Yes, Angie, I too expected a Bigfoot story to emerge from your vivid description in the first few paragraphs... ;-) However, glad to hear that the beastie did not bother you with a visit. Lovely photos!

  23. Strawberry lake is just beautiful! We have a pink lake here in Australia, which perhaps could have been named Strawberry Lake!

  24. Your story reminded me of camping near Old Rag in Virginia and hearing similar loud noises in the night. Pretty scary, I thought, but my sleepy husband assured me it was just deer. Still, big deer could run right into our tent, couldn't they? But nothing did, so all was well.

  25. Definitely a skunk ape or yeti. For sure.

  26. Woah, I had to look up a Sasquatch as one is new to me! You are an adventurous soul! Love it. I've prided myself on my adventure camping this summer but it's got nothing on your wilderness hikes! Beautiful photos. Have a great week.
    Wren x

  27. Haha...Sasquatch. Glad you could get back to sleep. Yikes! Beautiful scenery in the wild.

  28. What a thrilling mystery visit and such gorgeous shots!

  29. That is hilarious. Now. Then... not so much!

  30. I would imagine it was a bear.

    The lakes are particularly photogenic!

  31. Beautiful images Angie, especially the mushroom, yummy.

  32. Great camping photos ~ nature is so beautiful ~ ^_^

    Happy Day to You,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  33. I definitely would not have been able to go back to sleep after hearing all that and wondering what was out there. In fact, I'm all for hiking, but when the sun goes down, I'd rather be home in bed. :) My Colorado boy loves backpacking and camping with his friends which is interesting since it is not something he ever did growing up here in the desert.

  34. Hi Angie great post I enjoyed reading it and I am left wondering what the noise was,lol I hope it wasn't a bear.
    What a wonderful time you both had camping hope your day is a good one my friend xx

  35. Wonderful post, Angie. If it was a bear, it would have smelled your scent and investigated more, I would think. It's a mystery that maybe someday you will solve. Awesome photos and have a great week.

  36. Hmm, a mystery. Years ago, when I was just a kid the family camped at a national forest just to the east of Yellowstone Park. Brother and I slept in a tent and the rest of the family slept in the trailer. In the middle of the night we were woken by a commotion. A bear was roaming through the camp and everybody was all excited especially my brother and i when we saw the silhouette of the bear on the tent as it passed between somebody with a flashlight and our tent.
    I’ll pass on the back country camping but it looks like you had fun. I love the pack raft.

  37. Well whoever your visitor was it sure made for a good post.
    I enjoyed both reading it and seeing your photographs from start to finish.
    Thank you.

    All the best Jan

  38. Lovely photos - and such a grand story - you are such a great writer - had my attention the whole time. Have a great week, and say hi to Sasquatch for me.

  39. i do not camp, why you might ask??, you mentioned the main reason!! you tell a GREAT story!! i too am going with's just the best option!!!

    beautiful pictures of the grand adventure!!!

  40. Gulp. Gulp. Gulp. I probably would've rolled over and pretended I didn't hear anything and hoped that whatever was outside of our tent would freak out when the Husband started snoring. I miss backpacking.


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