Friday, May 18, 2012

Golden Eagle: Close Encounter

      At one time I taught some outdoor education to middle school students. Mike was the leader of the team. We were always on the look out for suitable locations for field trips. Of course, we always had to quality test the location and maybe we were looking for a good excuse for ourselves to get out into the Rocky Mountains in an area called Kootenay Plains.


      We had looked a a site that we called Whirlpool Point Ridge. It looked like there was a long ridge that went up to a peak. So on a Saturday morning we drove to the area prepared to scale the peak. A huge Golden Eagle gave us a close look as it was sitting in the top of a very large spruce tree.We were able to park along the highway. We didn't find a trail so just went off in the general direction of the peak. We found the beginning very steep and had to scramble to get to the ridge. After that the ridge walk was pleasant with only the odd steep part. For the last 300m (900ft) to the summit it was very steep and required scrambling. This means using hands to maintain balance. By this time we could see that someone had built a cairn on the peak. Each man picked his own route through the large boulders. Mike is much faster than I am  and summitted before me. I happened to be watching as he made the summit. I saw his arms go up and he appeared to dodge something. Then I saw a huge Golden Eagle rise over the summit and cairn just a meter over Mike's head.


     After this major surprise we pieced the scenario together. The eagle had been using the cairn as a perch which gave him an awesome view over the valley below. Mr Eagle had been flying up to his perch from the other side of the ridge and did not see Mike until he reached the peak. Mike could not see over the peak until he got to the top. So these two creatures surprised themselves far out in the wilderness when they met simultaneously at the top of the ridge. .


     We discovered that the peak was only the end of a ridge. From the road it looked like a summit. A ridge continued on for several km. Of course, we had to continue. In  places the ridge was only a meter wide and steep drop offs on either side. You don't want any wind in a situation like that.


     We led many field  trips up Whirl Pool Point Ridge after that. I made it to the top one more time. Only the most fit students made it to the top. Sometimes it was just too windy to go to the top.


    The story we talk about most is the time Mike had a close encounter  with a Golden Eagle. We never saw another Golden Eagle in that area after that.


    I was so moved by this experience that I wrote poem.


             The Summit


  Panting grunting exhausted man
  with relief and excitement reaches the
    hard won summit.


   The Eagle, cruising updrafts
   rises to light on a favorite possession,
    the pinnacle.


    Startled climber...Eagle surprised
    to find his high altitude perch occupied
     ...meet.


   Eagle veers wildly , dives down
   the opposite cliff 
   and screams his escape
   to the valley below.


    The unsettled intruder has again
    missed the photo opportunity of a 
    lifetime.



20 comments:

  1. what a thrill that must have been! and terrifying for mike!

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  2. We certainly talked about that one on the way home.

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  3. Wow! What a thrill that must have been, even to see it rather than be the one swooped by the eagle! Thanks for sharing the memory and the poem, Red. :-)

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    Replies
    1. I'm glad it was him and not me.

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  4. I understand why that was a favorite story. You poem is excellent.

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  5. What a wonderful story and definitely one for the LONG memory books! How sad to not have the camera for that shot - priceless! And your poem captures the moment so clearly, even without your story preceding it, I would have been able to picture it! Very interesting!

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    1. Mike had his camera out but it was so sudden and such a scare he had no chance to shoot.

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  6. That was quite the encounter. What amazing birds. And I love your poem!

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    1. They don't come much better than that.
      Thanks.

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  7. I had a similar encounter with a great blue heron in the grasses near my dock when I was quietly walking down that way one evening to see the setting sun in the darkening sky. We gave each other a heart attack although the heron's cry was much worse than mine.

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    Replies
    1. Close encounters certainly get the adrenalin going.

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  8. Sometimes it's more the moment that the photo and perhaps that's the case here for Mike. :)
    Lovely poem Red!

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  9. Wow what a moment. I would have loved a photo like that also but sometimes we have to settle for the mental snapshots. Those rarely fade.

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  10. Sounds like a great adventure..sorry there is no photo:(

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  11. Yes, I've had lots of great adventures in the Rockies.

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  12. Awesome! What an exciting experience!

    Beth

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    1. It's one of those things that we should have thought about but didn't.

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  13. A STUNNING WOW! And then a person wishes for their camera!! And of course, it is just a wish that doesn't happen!


    Linda
    http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com
    http://deltacountyhistoricalsociety.wordpress.com

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  14. I'm sure there are lots of these moments that get by us.

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