Sunday, March 25, 2007

bunker hill

Yesterday Kyhl, Marian, and I hiked to the summit of Bunker Hill, at 11,473 feet the high point of Lander County. Our day got off to an inauspicious start in Kingston Canyon, where I tried to cross an iced-over creek in the Pathfinder and got stuck. Fortunately, before we even had time to begin digging it out, a mountain lion hunter in a custom rig pulled up, lent us a shovel, and helped push us out. We were on the trail within a few minutes.

I was grateful for the help, of course, so I had brains enough not to openly question the ethics of his hunting mountain lions. But I do have problems with it. It's exclusively a sport hunting activity -- the meat is unappealing even to the least discriminating of eaters. Unlike other game animals such as deer and elk, the mountain lion population, even in Nevada, isn't high enough to justify legal hunting. I suspect that the main reason why people hunt mountain lions is because they perceive them as worthless varmints, and they cite the occasional mountain lion attack on humans or livestock to support these claims (go to any hunting outfitter's website, and you'll see what I mean). The other problem I had with this fellow is that he used radio-collared dogs. The dogs seemed to be in good health, which contrasts with some of my experiences with bear hunters in North Carolina and Tennessee, but I think that hunting with dogs is something less than sporting.

Our route took us up Basin Canyon along an old road, which eventually deteriorated into a faint stock trail that switched back up to the ridge. We had to posthole through some thigh-deep snow, but we made good time and reached the summit with plenty of daylight for getting back down. The last few hundred feet to the summit were along a knife-edge ridge rimmed by dangerous cornices, so we had to watch our footing. I never felt unsafe, but looking over the edge gave me some intense vertigo. It was the highest I'd ever been in Nevada. Looking forward to going higher.

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