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Trail Updates (1)

- July -

It was probably more fate than the snow, still six feet deep over Fawn Pass, that turned Ed Struzik, a writer from Canada's Equinox Magazine, back to the trailhead after the first night camped out on the Y2Y Hike. After watching Maxine and I disappear into the fog on our snow shoes, Struzik descended back down to the headwaters of the Gardiner River in the NW corner of Yellowstone National Park and watched with disbelief as he came across two wolves working an elk back and forth in the open shrub meadows.

It was a magical hour. Safely over the pass and with snowshoes strapped back onto our packs, we were having a non-threatening standoff with a grizzly bear 100 feet away in an open burned forest. Curious but not aggressive, it eventually lumbered away from us through the deadfall and over the ridge that deflected the wind into the wings of a golden eagle spiraling above.

Over the next seven days we worked our way north of the pulsating life in Yellowstone toward the town of Bozeman via the crest of the Gallatin Mountains. The route followed the 9,000-10,000 foot divide between the Yellowstone and Gallatin rivers. Much of the winter snowpack still persisted at this elevation and we found ourselves switching back and forth between snowshoeing and walking as we picked our way across drifts and snowpatches from one windswept ridge to another.

It was a line of least resistance and one that was being followed by a host of animals early in the summer season. We noted fresh cougar, wolverine, coyote, elk, deer, moose, and (most frequently) grizzly bear tracks along our path. Nothing could have been more inspiring; the area having been identified by Lance Craighead and Rich Walker as the southern end of one of the best wildlife linkages between Yellowstone north and the Bob Marshall/Glacier National Park Ecosystem. (See American Wildlands website (www.mcn.net/~amwild) for more information.)

Unseasonable amounts of rain, hail and snow continue to fall in the Gallatins, Bridgers and points farther north as I write this from the comfort of a country kitchen. We have spent the past few days taking advantage of the hospitality of local grassroots activists Eva and Duncan Patten who have opened their house for us to dry and clean gear, sort slides, rehearse presentations, prepare for media interviews, chase a few more grants, sort finances, practice the bagpipes (Justin) and inhale the views of green rolling hills and misty mountains on the outskirts of Bozeman.


PRESENTATIONS

To date we have given public presentations about the hike and Y2Y in six communities – Jackson, Cody and Mammoth in Wyoming, and Gardiner, Bozeman and Livingston in Montana. Just before our departure on the trek, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition presented us with a Y2Y flag at their annual general meeting in West Yellowstone. We will fly it high on the ridges and mountaintops of the region over the next 18 months.

Attendance at presentations thus far has been modest but those present have been genuinely inspired by the Y2Y concept and the implications it has for their communities and conservation struggles. Outdoor enthusiasts are being attracted to the presentations by the hike and often comment to us that they had no idea wildlife require such vast open spaces. They are also surprised to learn how the region is so imperiled by the ever-growing forces of human development.

Highlights from the presentations include: words of encouragement for the Y2Y Initiative from David Quammen (author of Song of the Dodo); the unexpected presence of the biologist (Graham Neale) at the Bozeman presentation, who originally captured and collared Pluie the wolf in Kananaskis Country in Alberta—the wolf and biologist who taught us so much about the scale of wildlife movement; and, co-presentations by representatives from Wild Forever, American Wildlands and Predator Project.

What is quickly becoming apparent during this hike and presentation tour is the power that the Y2Y vision has to bring together the hardworking and dedicated activists working on conservation issues in every community. As Mark Johnson, the wildlife veterinarian that relocated all the introduced wolves to Yellowstone said in Gardiner,"Y2Y and this hike are as much about linking human resources as they are about linking protected areas for wildlife."


MEDIA

One focus of the Hike has been to attract media exposure for the Y2Y Initiative. To date the project and Y2Y have been profiled in the Globe and Mail (Canada), the Billings Gazette (front page), and the Livingston Enterprise in Montana as well as on KMMS AM and FM radio in Bozeman and NBC and FOX local television news in Bozeman. A front page write-up on the project is to appear in the Sunday June 20 edition of the Bozeman Chronicle newspaper. In Canada, watch for an article in Equinox Magazine's 100th anniversary edition at the end of July. A writer from New York's Sports Afield magazine will be joining the hike for a day, in two weeks.


Karsten Heuer
Maxine Achurch
Webster the dog (hikers)
Justin Thompson (publicist)


 
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