11 September 2009

Friday Funny

The Lizard shared some very interesting Uncompahrable trivia following our awesome climb. First, a bit of history.

George Montague Wheeler led early expeditions to this place now known as Colorado, and his team, the Wheeler Survey, made topographic maps of the southwest at a scale of 8 miles to the inch. (Wow!!!) Two mountains, one in Nevada and one in New Mexico, and a great rock formation in Colorado now bear Wheeler’s name.

Geologist and Civil War army surgeon Dr. Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden also surveyed the Rocky Mountains during the same time period and was instrumental in the formation of Yellowstone as the first National Park in the US. Hayden Valley in Yellowstone is named after him, as is the town of Hayden in northwest Colorado, a peak near Steamboat Springs and a host of other mountains throughout the west. A garter snake also bears his name.

I really get into history, so I could go on and on. But for now, I’ll focus on these two guys because their survey parties experienced a couple of interesting encounters on Uncompahgre.

Members of he Hayden Survey team climbed Uncompahgre on August 8, 1874, and “were terribly taken aback when, at an elevation of over 13,000 feet, a she grizzly, with her two cubs, came rushing past from the top of the peak.” (Franklin Rhoda, “Report on the Topography of the San Juan Country.”)

Can you imagine climbing a peak, being out of breath and pretty darned beat, and having a mama bear and her cubs rush you on the summit?!?

Wheeler’s group reported an even closer encounter the following year. They found “a large cinnamon bear and her cub sportively tumbling and rolling from the summit.” Mama bear apparently heard the party coming and was investigating when one of the climbers poked his head above a ledge, frightening them both. Both the bear and the man “tumbled off the cliff”, and the man escaped with “a good fright and a few bruises.” (Executive & Descriptive Report of Lt. William L. Marshall, Corps of Engineers, on the Operation of Party No. 1, Colorado Section; Field Season of 1875.) They don’t record what became of the bear…

Why not?!? That would be the most captivating part of the story!!! But I think I understand. If it had been me, I’d have been hustling down the mountain as fast as I could, before the bear came to! And then, while writing in my journal that night, I think I’d have been counting my lucky stars I didn’t wind up as bear chow that day. I wouldn’t write about what happened to the bear because I didn’t stick around to find out!

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