On Tuesday morning, we woke up to three inches of snow on the ground with more falling. It wasn’t long before the snow turned to rain and then it quit. But I could see it was still snowing in the mountains east of Rexburg. It was time to look for animals moving from the high country to the lower hills, so I headed for the Moody Creek area to try to get to the Big Hole Mountains.
On the Rexburg Bench, the snow depth had climbed to six inches, but it was still easy driving even as I went through Woods Crossing on the Mud Springs Road. As I climbed out of the canyon, I was hit by a stiff southwest wind and the snow had let up, allowing me to see the snow dogs being blown off some of the ridge tops.
“That wind should push the animals into the canyon,” I thought as I bucked through a few small drifts. “I should have thrown my tire chains in, just in case I need them, but I will see if I can get to the ‘roller-coaster’ hills.”
As I entered the aspen-lined Mud Springs Road canyon, I started to see faint tracks of moose, elk and deer as they had crossed the road during the night. My first sighting was four antler-less Mule deer, mostly hidden in the snow-laden branches of chokecherry bushes amongst the quaking aspen. I stopped to get a few pictures before they moved to thicker cover.
Just as they moved, a beautiful two-point buck moved into an opening and stood there for about five minutes before following his lady friends. After they had left, I stepped out of my truck into 12 inches of snow when I saw six other deer cross the road behind me. Turning around quickly to grab my camera, I slipped on fresh snow-covered packed snow-ice road made by vehicles that had traveled during an earlier snowstorm.
While picking myself up, I imagined what all the deer were thinking about why this human was out in this snow when he could be enjoying a cup of hot chocolate in front of a roaring fire. Little did they know that I was having a blast.
I saw nine more deer as they enjoyed the windless canyon while it whistled through the tops of the trees.
As I climbed out of the canyon toward the power line ridge, I spotted a lone cow moose feeding in the scrub aspen across the canyon. I watched her for about 10 minutes before continuing to the power line where I turned around because I was not prepared to challenge the roller-coaster hills.
I got out to measure the snow and found it was 14 inches deep, and as I glanced up to look at the cow moose, I saw a herd of 50 to 60 head of elk, watching me. They were on a windswept ridge in a harvested grain field where they had been digging out and eating the straw left behind.
After watching them for about a half an hour, the wind died down and just as I was climbing back into the truck, I heard snow geese flying high over me. Wave after wave of them were headed south and they were not the only ones, a flock of sandhill cranes and a flock of Tundra swans were mingling with them. The flyway was busy; created by the large snowstorm that covered the Mountain West.
The excitement of the wildlife was not over yet for me. Deer continued to cross the road and a small group of elk headed across the canyon to join the big herd. As a break in the clouds allowed the sun to come out, I came upon two bull moose, sparring just off the road. That caused another half an hour delay as I watched them tussle back and forth, not seriously fighting, but almost playfully wrestling. That is what boys do.
When I got home, I grabbed my tire chains and put them in my truck along with a tow rope and a bigger shovel – who knows when I may get a wild hair to go beyond where I should. It’s wintertime in the Upper Snake River Valley and many of us are waiting for some solid ice on the lakes.
Enjoy the world we live in but be safe and be prepared for your adventures.
Living the Wild Life is brought to you by The Healing Sanctuary.