Sunday, April 24, 2011

Annual Big Hole Tour Provides Few Surprises

Saddle Mountain (right foreground)/West Pintlar Peak behind show off typical Easter weekend snow bonnets... 
Yesterday we decided it was high time to do our annual Big Hole tour. Expecting lots of snow in the high country topping the Big Hole Divide, gazing across the drifted-in valley to the winter-white peaks of Beaverheads beyond erased any doubts. While the sagebrush foothills of the Pioneers to the east are as usual mostly bare looking west is a winter wonderland. Why this drastic change, actually just about follows the road all the way to Jackson remains a mystery to us.

We spotted dozens antelope and a small band of elk on the Grasshopper side of the Divide below the snowline. Just over the pass countless mule deer, some looking really poor, grazed the open sagebrush. Above Jackson to Wisdom the river is open and the snow in the valley is really spotty. Ground squirrels were everywhere as were the raptors hunting them--northern harriers, red-tails, rough-leggeds, ferruginous swainson's, golden and bald eagles to name several. Numerous sandhill cranes, several ospreys and a large elk herd just outside Wisdom highlighted that portion of the tour. From Jackson all the way to Glen waterfowl loafed in just about every puddle; especially numerous in the river above Squaw Creek bridge off the North Fork road...plenty muddy by the way around the edges, be sure to keep 'er on the straight and narrow. Mallard, wigeon, blue and green wing teal, white pelican, common and hooded merganser, pintail and of course scads of geese to name just a few off the top the ol' bald noggin'.

We stopped for lunch at Fetty's, now the Big Hole Crossing. The change of course came about when the original BHC across the street burned last summer. Extensively damaged, apparently beyond rebuilding, the owners decided not to rebuild. Instead bought out Fetty's. Lunch by the way was excellent and quite filling. Since the BHC owned a considerable reputation for serving up good and plentiful eats on the other side the street we were not surprised.

Thought I might make a few casts at Fish Trap but a marauding skunk nixed that idea...the good news is Annie baby failed to see it...No snow in the valley below Squaw Creek and once you get down around Wise River even the foothills are bare. The river is clear and open all the way. While there still might be some ice on the shadiest banks we did not see any. No fisher folk to speak of until Stanchfields but quite a few rigs from there down to the Glen Bar...the Salmon Fly access was just about standing room only largely due to a horde of ATV rigs.

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