I posted last week that I was going to go play with the wild things along the North Asotin Creek Trail - I hadn't planned on getting quite so close to the bigger critters out there. The conditions were nearly perfect - weather about 68 degrees at the trailhead and high clouds. The recent rain had softened the ground without turning it into a mud hole. The only footprints out there were mine and the deer - the trail isn't open to motorized traffic for a bit yet.
I only cover 8 or 9 miles, an out and back along North Asotin Creek, starting at the open fields that abut the creek and following the trail into the canyon and up into the woodlands.
During my various runs here I've seen bighorn sheep, deer, elk and bears - and the occasional rattlesnake.
Cougars have been reported in the area but I've never seen one and not sure that I'd like to - they're awfully bashful creatures that are most comfortable introducing themselves with a firm grip and shake - on your throat. Admire from a distance, that's my motto...
North Asotin Creek Trail follows alongside the creek for several miles before swinging out into forest land. The first miles before you swing wide is on Washington Fish and Wildlife land and a part of their Wildlife Areas. This is the narrowest part of the trail with the creek defining one side and the basalt cliffs the other.
The trail is very runnable for even an average trailrunner - there are no truly technical sections, no bomber climbs or descents. It's a wonderful place to just enjoy the afternoon, covering some ground and sightseeing. With so little traffic this early in the season, the trail is a bit overgrown - that will change later when the four wheelers hit the trail.
The Wildlife Area transitions in the Umatilla National Forest trail as you start climbing up to the Pinkham Butte Area - I didn't go nearly that far. Once you cross the boundary into the National Forest, four wheelers are prohibited.
That was my turnaround point and the run back was literally all downhill - there is a steady climb from the trailhead as you head into the mountains. It isn't steep but it is noticeable.
Momma bear must have crossed the creek after I ran by the first time because I didn't see her or her very cute little cub on the outbound leg. The crashing in the brush to my right was my first indication that another large animal was out with me and, silly me, my first thought was deer, especially since it was running away.
The scratching sound on bark was when I noticed Cutey, the cub, climbing the tree about 15 feet away. Always part of the quick thinking club, I was in the midst of an "Aw, how cute!" moment when it dawned on me the crashing was Momma bear. Probably.
Might have been Brother bear. It so, where was Momma bear? Paranoia is such a useful survival skill....
I scanned the trail, the open side to the left, the dense brush bordering the creek to my right. No Momma bear. Unsure as to whether that was good or bad.
Looked again and made started to make tracks towards the trailhead, walking first - ho-hum, just me, non-threatening, probably not very tasty human, leaving now - then getting some distance between me and Cutey bear. Cutey watched me go.
Very bummed that I didn't have a camera out to take a picture of Cutey but lingering was not on the agenda. Still, it's hard to have a better run or day plus I get to add it to my collection to trail memories.