Posted by: highmountainmuse | September 2, 2009

Wildlife at camp

An ermine at play at camp

An ermine at play at camp

A backpacker joined us for dinner one night last week at Ditch Camp. What a wonderful treat to hear the stories of a life so different than my own, from a young man brave enough to choose a ten day solitary adventure in the Wilderness.  Sharing stories… are these not the pearls we find unexpectedly as we swim silently along the bottom of the sea?

I’d imagine he was rather curious about the three of us as well, so comfortable and at home in our humble little camp, surrounded with tools and horses.  And odd thing to stumble upon in the Wilderness, no doubt.

He asked us if we’ve had any problems with wildlife in camp. 

So we told him about the two ravens who had claimed our camp as their own, chasing off the camp robbers, hoarding the food scraps for themselves, even stealing sausages out of the pan over the embers if left unattended.  Such giant and regal birds; the King of the Forest, at least in the tops of the trees around our camp. 

We told him about the elk and moose that we see daily across the meadow below where our horses graze.

And we told him about the fat and furry marmot who’s been seen slowly scampering out of camp with a belly fuller than he came in with.  We know where the bagels went…

There was the doe that joined us at the campfire one morning, and the pack rat that snuck in one night, only to try his luck chomping on my hat.  Guess it didn’t taste too good.  Two bites and he was through. I now have a most distinctive hat with a couple rather large chunks removed from the back side rim.  Yes, time for a new hat…

And one of our favorite visitors, as you can see from the photo above, was the little Ermine who joined us for dinner one evening after work.  He had no interest in our Hamburger Helper (I confess, we tried to see if he’d eat it…) but was there to play.  Really!  Just to play.  And play he did, scampering in and out of the panniers, hiding under a shirt of Bob’s that was left on the ground, poking his head out and zipping back in, scurrying over Forrest’s boot still on his foot and through the obstacle course of our wood pile in his speedy little movements, and best of all, running up the wall of the tent, bouncing off the fly, and sliding back down.  I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see it myself.  He was there for no other purpose than to play.  He took nothing, chewed on nothing… just ran around like a little whirlwind, despite our sitting, watching, laughing while eating our dinner… even the flash of the camera didn’t disturb his play.  And when he was through, bored I suppose, he dashed off to another adventure somewhere else in the forest and was gone.

Of course, we imagine the backpacker was referring to bears when he asked about visitors.  But the only bear “problems” we’ve had in the three years of Ditch Camp on the Divide involved a Coors can of Bob’s that had been left chilling in the creek.  We found it punctured and drained.  Wonder what the poor bear thought of that. No wonder they stay away from our camp…



  1. Gin, this is one of my favorite posts. Of course there have been many favorites but this one definitely ranks right up there.

    Isn’t it great when wildlife is really wild. Not having had much if any contact with humans makes it a much different experience from meeting wildlife in areas where they have lots of human contact. Of course they are still “wildlife” just in a different way. Does that make any sense?

  2. I’ve never seen a little creature like that! he does have a little spark about him, doesn’t he??

  3. Gin,

    Wow love it.

    I am presently in South Fork. Fishing Wolf Creek area etc.

    Plan to move to Creede and Little Sqauw this weekend. Hope you guys will be around next Tues. Weds or Thurs.


  4. Al, I’ll be around all this week (it’s so nice and slow) and all weekend but have a special trip planned for next week mid-week… hope you might be able to make it up early??? I’d love to visit in person…

  5. Gin,

    Thanks for the note.

    How about Sunday mid day?

    Looking forward to saying howdy and meeting you all in person.


  6. Al,

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