The Buffalo Life

Things have slowed down a decent amount in the last month. With colder weather creeping in and office work taking over, time blurs together, yet to my amazement we are now near the end of October. Time in the office has been spent mostly mapping fencing across our field office, primarily for grazing allotments monitored from this year. Some of the allotments done this year will be part of a broader range-land health report on a watershed scale. And in order to accurately state the extent of the report we need to know the real size of the allotments based off of where the fences actually lie. While mapping fencing may not sound thrilling, there is something calming and rewarding about finding those many lines that cross the landscape.


Atop Mosier Gulch trail, looking ahead to the Bighorn Mountains. A great day for some mountain biking.

But mapping fencing is not the only thing to be done. Weeding of course is still on the to do list. The same weeding found on the vegetation plots mentioned last blog. Yet incredibly the end of that is on the horizon! Only 5 out of the 24 plots remain. We have also recently opened the door to range-land improvements. These improvements include fences, wells, spring developments, reservoirs, roads, etc. that are located on BLM land. These need to be located through mapping or in the field, they ideally need to be regularly inspected, they need to contain a physical file, and also need to be included in an online database. Since so many factors involve each improvement there is of course work to be done resolving discrepancies and conducting inspections in the field.

Beyond the excitement of work has been the last of the warmer activities in the mountains. One weekend I had the chance to meet up with the many Lander, WY interns for a trip in the Western Bighorn Mountains. To my luck I received a call about the trip minutes before heading out on a backpacking trip of my own. I met up with them at the trailhead later on in the day and we had set up camp not far from West Tensleep Lake. This had been the first night I’ve ever slept atop a tarp with nothing overhead. And what a night it was to do so. That night we had dew collect upon everything exposed, and the temperature had dropped below freezing.


Waking up to a frost covered sleeping bag was certainly a first for me, although miraculously it was a toasty night in the bag. After a hearty breakfast we ventured off to the next location down-trail. At Helen Lake we set up the next camp and I had time to do some fly fishing for the day. It was a beautiful day and I even got to nap in in the hammock after fishing. Beyond the nice weather hid looming overnight storms. And to my shock (which shouldn’t have been unexpected in early October) was some late night and early morning snow. Frost on the sleeping the first night, and a snowy tent the second. Both firsts for me. But even though it was as cold as it looks, the valley was gorgeous with all the snow.


Lake Helen up West Tensleep Trail


A gorgeous view just waiting to be snowed on


First time waking up to a snowy campsite!

After all the fun of camping in a large group, the next weekend I planned to continue the initial backpacking trip I had sought after. The destination was the Firehole Lakes up near Bighorn Peak on the Eastern side of the mountains. This 5-6 mile hike including an off trail section crossing boulder fields. Finding a site to camp up near the bottoms of the high peaks is difficult due to the rockiness of the Bighorns. But after finding an adequate sight I had noticed the plethora of moose activity in the area. Stripped bark, chomped young trees, and no shortage of moose poo. All this activity led to the unsurprising, yet still unnerving calls of an animal near the tent before bed. While exciting to hear the moose nearby, I was also reconsidering placing my tent on this moose’s favorite tree chomping spot. But nevertheless the moose had moved on and/or found a resting spot for the night, and wasn’t heard again.


After a night of waking up nearly every hour (the wind was obscene that night) I was awoken to an absolutely incredible sunrise. I may have missed the reddest moments of the sunrise but I got quite the show when I walked down to the lake. This trip also initially had the goal of catching some of the larger fish found in these lakes. But with no luck the day before or the morning after, I eventually started working my way out, only to finally catch a small fish in a tiny stream a mile back.



A stream on the way out of the Firehole Lakes. And of course the only place where I catch a fish that weekend.

The last month has primarily been spent in the near and dear Buffalo area, but it’s hard to complain with the Bighorns just minutes away. With the cold weather setting in I’ll hopefully take advantage of the nicer days left before the near sedentary life sets in. Til next time!

Nick Melone

Buffalo, WY

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