My Top 10 Wildlife Encounters: #6

Well, I think it’s that time again. Time for a new National Park-related list.  I previously made lists of my Top 10 Favorite National Parks and Top 10 Short and Long National Park hikes.  I’ve also shared my Bucket List and a list of places I’ve visited that I think should be on everyone’s Bucket List.  This time, I decided to go with a list of my Top 10 Wildlife Encounters.  They all occurred in National Parks; unsurprisingly most of them were in Glacier and Yellowstone.  Almost all of these were up close and personal interactions, while a couple could be better classified as “wildlife sightings” from afar.  I decided I would simply use a photo of the park of the incident as my Featured Image, so that I don’t give away the type of wildlife.  Hope you enjoy my list.

10. The massive bull elk in Mather Campground

9. The rattlesnake on the way up Half Dome

8. The one-horned mountain goat

7. Bighorn sheep on Mount Washburn

6. The many mountain goats along the Hidden Lake Trail

Location: The Hidden Lake Trail in the Logan Pass area of Glacier National Park.

Animal: Several mountain goats.

Rarity (the first of a few totally subjective 1-10 scales I am using): 2 – Mountain goats are very common in Glacier, especially near Logan Pass.

Wow Factor: 6 – One or two mountain goats in Glacier may not be too impressive, but seeing several spread out over the trail was very cool.

Danger: 4 – Mountain goats are generally safe to be around, but they can and have harmed humans before.

Fear Factor: 3 – I was only afraid when one snuck up behind me on the trail, but otherwise I felt completely safe.

Description: I was hiking on the Hidden Lake Trail in Glacier National Park, the trail that I have probably seen more wildlife on than any other I’ve hiked. I’ve actually hiked at least part of this trail on all three of my visits to Glacier. This time in particular I saw a cluster of rams relaxing in a meadow not far from the trailhead and then encountered in mountain goats in three different areas along the trail.

This was my second time in Glacier and after hiking to the very popular Hidden Lake Overlook on my first visit, I decided to hike all the way to the lakeshore this time. It was a great choice. There are amazing views along the entire trail because it is right at the Continental Divide. That means you’re at or above treeline nearly the entire time.

After seeing the rams near the start of the trail I didn’t see any other animals until I made it down near the lake. I suddenly had that “I think somebody’s following me” feeling. That’s not a feeling you want to have when you’re in bear country. I was walking through a coniferous forest at the lake’s edge and while I didn’t hear any footsteps I just felt like someone was watching me or following me. I quickly spun around and was shocked to find a mountain goat just a few feet behind me on the trail. I nearly jumped in surprise and I think I might have spooked the goat, too. It was less than ten feet away and moved very quietly. Once I saw what it was I didn’t feel the slightest bit threatened. It calmly followed in my footsteps until I stepped to the side of the trail and let it pass. I then turned the tables on the mountain goat and followed it with my camera while it weaved in and out of the trees at the lakeshore.

A little later I climbed back up the steep trail to Hidden Lake Overlook again. I was back with the crowd so I moved swifter along the path until I met some congestion on the boardwalk section of the trail. There was a large group of people looking toward the south side of trail. Once I got closer I saw they were viewing a group of four mountain goats grazing in the meadow just off the trail. There were three adults with horns and one child. The biggest one was digging like crazy; grass and dirt were flying everywhere. After just a couple of minutes the goat had made itself a cool bed of dirt. The youngest mountain goat was chewing on a metal “Restoration Area” sign and succeeded at tearing it partially off its post. I was amused by the fact that people were staying off the area that park officials were trying to restore and improve, but the wildlife was ripping it apart.

A few minutes later I had my final brush with mountain goats on the trail. I saw a professional photographer with a large camera atop a massive tripod. His gear was set up just off the boardwalk facing a neighboring peak. A mountain goat was high up on the snowy mountain. The photographer left his camera focused on the goat and then stepped away to talk to his assistant who was approaching with more camera gear. In the short time the two were away from the tripod the mountain goat foiled their plans. It quickly slid all the way down the steep snow-covered wall, which was at least a couple hundred feet high, and then walked right up to the camera for a close-up. The curious mountain goat sniffed and licked the camera before walking away. The photographer didn’t look especially pleased, but I found it amusing.

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