On the Trail: Mosquitoes, elk, wildflowers all in abundance | AspenTimes.com

On the Trail: Mosquitoes, elk, wildflowers all in abundance

I went backpacking last weekend for a glimpse of the high-country wildflowers that everybody is raving about this year, but I saw a whole lot more.First of all, the mosquitoes at high altitude are also as bad as advertised. For whatever reason, they seem especially thick this summer. Maybe it’s because conditions have been so dry recently and this year they are comparatively wet.I tried to outsmart the pests on a trip to a lake (which will remain unnamed) by not camping near water. Instead, I picked a bench off the trail overlooking the lake and surrounding woods. Guess what. The mosquitoes were bad everywhere, and bug juice only made them laugh.But they didn’t come close to ruining the trip. After finding a suitable place to stay, I ventured over to a lip looking down on another bench. Lounging in various forms of repose were a herd of Elvis impersonators. Just kidding. There were actually 40 to 50 elk. Big elk, small elk, hungry elk and thirsty elk.Some were grazing. Others were wading in the shallow tarns. Others were just lying around contemplating whatever elk contemplate. (Do they have bellybuttons?)I was a good distance away, so I didn’t disturb them. I’m not sure they ever saw me. The wind was coming toward me from the north so they didn’t smell me. They hung out for hours in a breeze that apparently made the heat bearable.By late afternoon, thunderstorms rolled through the area. No storms passed directly overhead, but thunder reverberated off the surrounding mountains, making it sound like somebody was bowling in a cave. As it turns out, that lightning sparked at least one small fire farther north in the White River National Forest, in the Fryingpan Valley.When the light and sound show was over, the elk were gone. But, ah, the wildflowers – they went on and on and on …