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Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Camping in the Forest

It's not often that Katie has 3 days off in a row. But with the 4th of July holiday, she had the 2 days preceding it off. Even though that was an awkward time for me to take off work since it was in the middle of the week - Tuesday through Thursday - we decided to go camping. Since our annual 4th of July hike is Montgomery Pass we chose to camp in State Forest State Park. We reserved a dispersed campsite which was nice because they have permanent fire pit areas which means that we're almost guaranteed to be allowed to build a fire, which is an important thing for camping.

We got to our campsite mid-afternoon and started setting up our stuff. Our campsite was in the middle of nowhere in the park off Bockman Road. The last 2 miles of the road to the campsite was an off-roading trail. It wasn't too technical and was something we were able to do in Katie's Crosstrek with little trouble. But because it was on an off-roading trail, it was relatively quiet. We didn't see anyone on the first day. On the second day, we just saw a couple of people driving around in Jeeps and ATVs. Being away from the people was a nice feature of this campsite.

Another bonus of the campsite being out in the middle of nowhere was that it had a large space allowing us to spread out. The campsite we picked, campsite 415, was off what looked like an old forest road, so we were able to drive into the campsite further than typical campsites that are right off the road.

The first day was just set up. We didn't hike other than going to collect firewood and wandering around for wildflowers. We got set up, built a fire, ate dinner, and then went to sleep. The campsite was at a low point in the surrounding area with a small stream running through it. Because of this, it got a little colder than we were anticipating which made for an uncomfortable night. But we made it through the night.

Fungus on the WoodBudding Virginia BluebellsCampsiteFirepitCampingBurningDancing FlamesFlying EmbersRoasted Marshmallow

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

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.

Lupine and PaintbrushFiled of LupineBlack BackdropDense GlobeflowersJacobAlpine CloverSticky PolemoniumPair of Bumblebees Spearleaf StonecropWandering FleabaneAmerican BistortRed PaintbrushSoftMoose!At the CampsiteDinnerTwo MooseEating DinnerIn the Mountains

July 2024

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