| Yale -- Cry of the Marmot
There is nothing quite so wonderfully restorative as a day spent above the treeline amongst the alpine blooms and the shrill cry of the marmot.
I hadn't even planned on climbing Mt. Yale that day. In fact I had been operating under the assumption that Saturday would be spent reconnoitering the surrounding area by truck, with brief forays by foot into areas that seemed to promise the presence of the elusive bighorn sheep. My employer has pulled his sheep tag (i.e. the official "go-ahead" to hunt a sheep) this year, and on this trip our goal was to scout the area (S11) which lies roughly between Aspen and Buena Vista, noting where the greatest concentrations of sheep tend to be. As I say, Saturday was planned to be a good-ol'-boy vacation in the air-conditioned truck, but as we drove into the mountains that morning the truck began to overheat. Rather than bemoan mechanical issues with the rest of our party, I opted to strike out on foot and see what I could find. Luckily, we were only minutes from the Denny Creek Trailhead, which I began hiking at 0909 hrs.
Having drove eleven hours the preceding day and gotten only four or five hours of sleep in a tent the night before, I was a bit tired when I started. My pack weighed around thirty pounds, much too much gear for a non-technical ascent, but I figured I could use the workout. And work me out it did; I had sweated through my t-shirt by the time I made the fork in the trail leading to Hartenstein Lake. The day was beautiful, however, not too hot and with just enough cloud cover to shade me from direct sun. I took my shirt off, applied some moleskin to a hotspot on my heel (time for new boots), and continued.
After panting, shirtless and dripping sweat, past several parties with much more reasonably-sized packs, I made the summit at 1226 hrs. The view from up there is spectacular, a sweeping panorama of peaks. It was time, then, to do what I had come to do, and I went walkabout with my binoculars and glassed the surrounding area for a good three hours. There was nary a sheep to be found, but marmots are in abundance, and I was moved to compose a verse:
And on top of each and all the peaks,
the leery marmot's shrieking call repeats.
The huff-ed puff from cheek to cheek
alarms the weak and warily warns
those fattish gents with stubby arms.
For though the hikers' needs for meat are met,
for meals a marmot's squeals
are as safe a bet as dinner bells.