Montana Outdoors

January 11, 2008

A new playground

Today was spent snooping around a brand new playground called Forest Service trail #223, most of which is within the South Siegel roadless area. Well, I had a pretty good idea it was there, but had never visited. It runs for 8 or 9 miles on the south side of the Clark Fork (to the left in this photo)

Clark Fork on the cutoff

where the river flows eastward for about 20 miles through the Coeur d’Alene mountains between the South Siegel roadless area and the Patrick’s Knob roadless area, a section called “the cutoff”.

On the trail, about a mile from where this photo was taken,

Clark Fork on the cutoff

beyond the river and over the hill, I missed a very, very big cougar by only a few seconds. As I stepped over the sharp crest of a steep slope there were skid marks on the trail ahead, much like those one would leave when stopping quickly on short skis, where he sensed my presence, slid to a halt and then sprang off the trail and down into a deep canyon. If only I had been a little more alert! Here’s what his track looked like beside my boot.

Cat track!

The prints of his pads can clearly be seen, but consider also the smooth shadow around the pads where the rest of his foot pressed into the snow. His foot was wider than mine! As I followed his track as far as I could, I was filled with a strong feeling that there are still some very wonderful things left in this world!


  1. That cougar would have made some playmate.


    Comment by barbara — January 11, 2008 @ 10:25 pm

  2. I don’t know about playmate, but I would have loved to see him that close! I saw one a year ago that was at least 8 feet from nose to the end of his tail and this one would have been at least that big. They are magnificent!


    Comment by montucky — January 11, 2008 @ 10:53 pm

  3. That is sooo beautiful! Every time I see your beautiful pictures, I curse the city I am stuck into. I so much want to live in the country!


    Comment by Sumedh — January 12, 2008 @ 4:12 am

  4. If I had been that close, the snow wouldn’t have been the only thing with skid marks!

    Great shots, during an almost intense and fascinating encounter.


    Comment by Pinhole — January 12, 2008 @ 8:46 am

  5. Yes, Sumedh, there is certainly a lot to be said for living in the country, especially here in the West. There is good access to this river, but the high country on both sides is still in a very wild and natural state. The wild country with complete biodiversity is essential to sustain life and at the same time provides immense beauty for everyone to enjoy.


    Comment by montucky — January 12, 2008 @ 10:54 am

  6. Pinhole,

    Yes, those close encounters always provide a thrill and adrenaline check. About a half mile after the spot where I took the photo of the paw print the trail topped another high point and when I got there I saw the blur of a large animal about 50 feet off the trail to my left. It was a huge white-tail. He must have just frozen in place when the cat went down the trail but wouldn’t hold his position when I came along. Anyway, my adrenaline system works just fine, and the cat is probably thinking the same thing! He was a gracious host though.


    Comment by montucky — January 12, 2008 @ 11:04 am

  7. Beautiful – just beautiful. And that’s a very clear cougar track. Most often the tracks I come across (or even notice, for that matter) are all “blurry” and hard to recognize.

    “Could be a bear… could be a raven with a limp.”


    Comment by wolf — January 12, 2008 @ 3:32 pm

  8. Yes, it’s unusual to see really clear tracks, but these were fresh and I had a mile of them to pick from. While hunting last fall I crossed a couple of cat trails too, but couldn’t get a clear print to photograph.


    Comment by montucky — January 12, 2008 @ 4:09 pm

  9. WOW!!!


    Comment by silken — January 12, 2008 @ 11:58 pm

  10. Yeah… what Silken said…


    Comment by winterwoman — January 13, 2008 @ 6:39 am

  11. siljen, winterwoman,

    Lots of beauty and wonder around here, isn’t there? I’m often astounded though, to find that the only human tracks anywhere near places like this are my own.


    Comment by montucky — January 13, 2008 @ 10:20 am

  12. That is crazy Terry, you are so blessed to be living in such a wonderful place, I want to go west so bad !!


    Comment by Bernie Kasper — January 13, 2008 @ 4:52 pm

  13. I wish you could be here, Bernie. We badly need folks who will really care about the wild country!


    Comment by montucky — January 13, 2008 @ 5:49 pm

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