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Grizzly and mud

Well, the first bear was spotted the other day.  I talked with the fellow who saw it.  He was driving down to the old bridge, no longer in use, to go fishing.  From the road above he saw the grizzly walking across the bridge.  It’s now a forest service campsite, rarely used except by a few fisherman.  I asked if he went fishing.  “Nope, just turned right around.”

The odd thing is that I was down there twice that week and didn’t notice any bear sign, and there was plenty of snow and mud for tracks.  Grizzly track

And even though we’re still getting snow, the nights aren’t too cold and some of days are actually warm.  The bears will be coming out and be hungry, so I’m keeping watch and starting to carry bear spray.  Grizzly tracks near fishing bridge


The good news is that its still so snowy and muddy that tracks will be obvious.  The bad news is that it’s so muddy.  Hiking in snow isn’t bad, but the mud here is unlike any I’ve ever seen.  In Northern California where I gardened, I spent lots of time working with tight clay.  I dug in it, I hiked in it, and I tracked lots of it indoors.  But that clay soil doesn’t hold a candle to the Bentonite clay soil around here.  Its because of all the volcanic ash that was once here.  That’s how it forms.

Just a few steps and your boots weigh twice as much.  If you’re walking on a hill, you’re likely to be sliding towards the creek or cliff.  Your horses will slip in it.  If you’re in your car on a muddy dirt road,  soon you’ll be spinning out.  That sticky mud won’t come off your soles easily and it dries into a cake.

Another interesting annoyance I’ve learned about this mud is that after its caked on my car from driving along the dirt roads here, and then freezes at night, my back doors won’t open.  The mud kicks up onto the wheel well forming a large muddy frozen mass that cements my doors tightly shut.  I’ve driven into Cody where it warms up during the day, parked my car, only to come back and find mud oozing off the wells into large pools on the parking lot.

Humans looked at this mud and said “we’ve gotta figure out a way to make money with it” and they did.  Big Horn Basin is a major producer of bentonite, used as drilling mud for the oil and gas industry, but also, and maybe more important, as a main ingredient in kitty litter.

Knowing that it’s helping indoor cats certainly doesn’t make it more appealing to me.  But I’ve decided that it can be personally useful.  My Jeep is so muddy there’s no reason to clean it yet.  Until things dry out around here, the car will just get dirty again in less than a day.  But I don’t want to wash it anyways right now. With that cakey mud you can’t read my license plates.  Now there’s a way it could actually come in handy.Muddy unreadable plates!