Thursday, 4 October 2012

Who Wants to See a Dead Tree?

After our fabulous encounter with the black, brown and cinnamon bears, we continued along the Tower-Roosevelt road, enjoying some truly spectacular scenery. We were travelling along the edge of the Blacktail Deer Plateau and actually caught sight of a deer among the young firs and dead wood. We managed to get a picture of it but whether it was, in fact, a Blacktail deer, I couldn’t tell.
Possible Blacktail deer

According to the map we had there was a petrified tree somewhere close by and we thought it would be well worth a look. We found the turn out and parking space for the tree and drew up close to the other cars already there. The tree, it seemed, was not right by the road we had turned off but was a short walk along another road leading into the hills. It was stiflingly hot by now but we really wanted to see this tree, so we decided we could cope with the heat and began walking along the new road.
Soon we saw people coming toward us, returning from having seen the tree. Some smiled at us and some ignored us, but they all seemed pretty happy. I thought, this tree must be a really incredible sight to make all these people so smiley. And that was good because I was beginning to regret deciding to walk in such oppressive heat. The next people we met, however, soon told us what it was that had made the first ones look so excited. It wasn’t the tree at all, it was more bears! Apparently there was a mother black bear and two cubs somewhere up ahead, and this made me forget all about the heat, and even the tree. Bear cubs were far more exciting!

After another few minutes we came across groups of people standing by the road looking off into the brush. The terrain was sloping and grassy, and the grass was dotted with both standing and fallen trees. Following the direction of people’s cameras we soon spotted the bears. The mother was black, but her two little cubs were quite light brown, I thought maybe they would end up cinnamon like the older female bear we’d seen earlier. Again, all three bears were oblivious to the crowds of people gawping at them and taking photographs, and were simply going about their daily business. The mother seemed to be grazing, and she was moving slowly about the area. Her two cubs were playing, scrambling over the fallen tree trunks or walking along them, doing whatever bear cubs do. I had been surprised by the unconcern of the first bears we’d seen but I was even more surprised by this mother’s relaxed attitude to the crowds, seeing as she had two quite young cubs with her. But maybe bears in the Park get used to seeing humans, and as long as they are left alone, are happy to tolerate such intrusions.
Mother bear and her cubs

Soon the mother bear began moving out, and her two pudgy cubs scurried to keep up with her. The show was over and we suddenly remembered why we’d walked all this way in the heat. It was then that I turned round and discovered that the petrified tree had been right behind us all the time. No one was paying it any attention now, so we trudged up the sloping pathway that led to the railings surrounding it and stood to admire it. It was an ancient redwood and there was really only a stump of it left. The plaque beside it told us that before the area became a National Park, people would chip bits off it, and off the two other petrified trees that had once stood beside it, and taken them as souvenirs until there was hardly anything left. Such a shame! Now this lone specimen was protected behind iron railings and we had to imagine what it would have looked like before. It must have been very impressive.
Petrified redwood tree
We were glad to get back in the air-conditioned Jeep and leave the stifling heat outside as we continued our journey to the very beautiful Tower Falls. The spray from the Falls also made a welcome change to the dry heat of the air.
Tower Falls

The heat was getting to us so we made our way back to the hotel. But the local wildlife hadn’t finished with us because as we came around a bend in the road we saw the most magnificent bull elk grazing quietly beside the road, just on the other side of a small stream. Some people were already out of their cars with their cameras, of course, but there were only a few of them. We couldn’t resist this really close view of such a superb animal and braved the heat one last time. Then it was back to the hotel to shower and rest until we got up enough strength to search for a supper location!
Superb bull elk

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