PEAX Equipment

Deadfall and Deadlegs

thomas89

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Apr 9, 2015
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Made it out for a little solo weekend backpacking trip to try and learn an elk spot a little better. I've hunted this area before, and seen/killed an elk in this area, but sometimes it felt a bit more like luck than actually knowing what I was doing. Waited for the wife to get home to take over the kid responsibilities and I was out the door.

Picked this particular spot out on the map because it does look like a spot that is hard to get to. I didn't figure too many people would want to go to this particular ridge line. Planned my route by figuring shortest distance to where I wanted to camp. This route would have me losing 1,000 feet over the course of something like half a mile. It seemed not as bad on the computer as when I actually stepped off to start.

This was the maiden voyage for my new Metcalf pack and I was really eager to try it out. Even at home packing for the couple nights I could tell based off the gear I have it was going to be a bit too small. I think in the future I'd leave the big spotting scope and tripod at home, but that still doesn't leave me a ton of room for big colder weather gear. I don't think I want to upgrade to a different bag for the amount of this hunting that I do, but we'll see. So strange to use a pack that fits properly and is properly adjusted vs the old Alps Outdoors pack that I just got rid of this spring. The weight seemed very manageable. I was also packing almost a gallon of water because I was unsure of the water situation up there. In past years I'd been up there and creeks that were supposed to be flowing were bone dry.

Anyways, lost that 1,000 feet of elevation right off the bat, made it to the bottom, only to be met with waist high grass, widow makers, and deadfall. Hardly a place to try to set up camp. Mind you, I'm also having to pack in in the dark (a decision I was chastising myself for the entire time, totally unsafe for the bushwhacking I was doing and I imagine a person will only get away with that a couple times before something bad happens) so none of these spots are looking good. The only choice I had was to make it to the ridge I'd planned on camping where according to OnX it opened up a bit. By 9:30 the moons out, the temps are cooled, and I'm setting up camp ... right on top of a bunch of old elk crap. Definitely lifted my spirits to have sign, albeit old sign, right where I was wanting to get. Made a quick mountain house dinner, sat and enjoyed the moonlight, and called it an evening. Ultimately my goal was to scout about a mile and a half further down this ridge the next morning.

IMG_3283.jpeg

Woke up the next morning around 530, got up, got packed and started working the length of the ridge. Still packing the big spotter and a couple quarts of water my pack was definitely too heavy for a day pack. Probably lose easily 7+ pounds to get rid of the big spotter and tripod but it sure is fun to use. Few hundred yards from my camp I find a really old chunk of a rag horn shed, so at least in the springtime the elk are in there. Didn't spot any elk, but based off the sign I was finding they are in there for a considerable amount of time at some point in the year. Heavily used trails and old scat make me think this is some sort of transitional area for them. When I reached the end of the ridge before it dropped off into oblivion, I threw up the binoculars and was greeted with a two year old rag horn shed shining in the sun. Definitely a nice reward to get to where I wanted to get, and have some sort of confirmation of elk presence. In a couple of the saddles I'd come across were old scattered bones, so someone had been shooting elk up there. When I went to drop down to check out the creek, there was an elk head with the skull cap cut off hung in a little aspen.

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The water spot was picked as it was the best, worst option to get down to the creek. Something like losing 300 feet of elevation over the course of 250 yards. Maybe I'm reading the OnX wrong, it doesn't sound that bad, but boy it was miserable. Right on the sandbar in the midst of all the beetle kill deadfall was a good sized track, I was thinking lion, but I've been wrong before. Had I been eaten by whatever critter, he only would have been doing me a favor to not have to climb that stupid ridge again. Had to boil a bunch of water as I didn't get a chance to do the sterilization procedure recommended for my water filter before I left, so that took some time. Loaded up with hot water (mind you it's gotta be pushing 80/85 degrees) I head back to camp.

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Make it back to camp around 1230, and with the sun up and air warmer, the ant mound I put my tent next to is frustratingly active. Decide a little nap sounds like a good idea so I crawl into the oven of a tent to get away from all the flies. Out on the exposed ridge, under the baking sun, sleep is hard to find. After something like an hour and a half laying in my own sweat puddle, slipping off the sleeping mat from the incline, swatting ants that have found some sort of hole in my tent, a nice breeze picks up and I'm just starting to doze...only to be awakened by an enormous thunderclap. Yep, turns out the gentle breeze is the front of a nasty looking thunderstorm on the backside of the opposite ridge. I look at my location and realize I'm the next highest ridge this weather is going to hit. Not great. Weather forecast was only a very limited chance of thunderstorms so I was a little bummed. I'm not going to duck into the timber to wait for this storm to pass because of all the beetle kill and widow makers so I decided to break camp as quick as possible and get out of there. As quick as a person can navigate deadfall and a 1,000 foot climb back out anyways. Somehow I am within minutes of the same time I put in the night before getting out to the spot when I get back to the truck.



Overall, bummer that the trip got cut short, but at some point I realized I got out and saw what I wanted to see, made a loose plan for elk season, and didn't get struck by lightning...win-win-win.
 
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