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Three Moose and a Dozen Deer

We woke up early at our campsite from the morning sunlight and the cold mountain air. After building a fire (which took forever), we warmed up and ate breakfast which consisted of bacon, eggs, and toast. We relaxed around the campfire before starting our hike to Montgomery Pass.

For the past two years, we've done this hike on the 4th of July. This has become an annual tradition because we both have this day off and the wildflowers are perfect this time of year at that elevation. However, we ended up hiking this one day early this year because we wanted to do this hike first since it was the main hike of the trip. The main concern was if Katie's ankle would hold up to two days of hiking which is why we didn't just plan on doing this on the 4th instead. Since the days we were camping were fixed by Katie's work schedule, that's how it worked out this year.

This is the 4th time we've done this hike (Summer 2023, Winter 2022, & Summer 2022), so we knew what we were getting ourselves into and knew the area quite well. The hike up had lots of great wildflowers, and the summit had even more with different varieties. I remember years past the density of the wildflowers at the summit being a little more than it was, so I expected better, but it was still a decent show of wildflowers.

About a half-mile from the parking lot on the way back down I spotted a bull moose about 30 feet off the trail. I must have spooked it when it spotted me because it was cautiously walking away from me when I noticed it. Moose are usually good at hiding from danger by staying still and blending into the background. But since this one was walking I easily spotted it. While maintaining distance, I followed it to take a few photos before I left it alone. After being a little disappointed in the flowers at the summit, this moose spotting more than made up for it making this a great hike.

We drove back to our campsite by taking a different route. This route was much quicker, but we didn't take this road the day prior because it was a more technical road that we weren't sure that we could make. Feeling ambitious, we took the shorter route and made it only scraping the bottom of the front bumper twice. We ate some dinner and then decided that we didn't want to deal with the cold temperatures again so we packed up and left. We left the campsite around 7:30 and started on the two-and-a-half-hour drive back to civilization.

As we were passing the Zimmerman Lake Trailhead parking area (which is where the Montgomery Pass hike starts), I spotted two moose on the side of the road, bringing the moose count for the trip (and for the year) up to three. I scrambled to find my camera since the car was packed full. Using the door frame as a tripod, I got several shots in before they crossed the road into the parking lot where we reparked (since that was safer than on the side of the road). The sun was already behind the mountains making the lighting troublesome for photographing them. After spending maybe 20 minutes watching the two moose we continued on.

The drive back was long. I don't like driving in the canyon at night, mostly because of the wildlife. We counted at least a dozen mule deer on the side of the road on the way back. Each one looked like it was contemplating jumping in front of the car. Luckily for us, none of them did.

Trailhead Location
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4.54 mi 3.3 hrs 11,026 ft 1,240 ft
View Graph
Filed of Lupine
Lupine and Paintbrush
Black Backdrop
Dense Globeflowers
Alpine Clover
Sticky Polemonium
Pair of Bumblebees
Spearleaf Stonecrop
Wandering Fleabane
American Bistort
Red Paintbrush
At the Campsite
Two Moose
Eating Dinner
In the Mountains