I am a retired science teacher and taught in Pinedale for 25 years. I’d like to share with you an incredible experience my students and I witnessed on an early May morning, several years ago. We hiked up to the Fremont Lake outlet and dam structure where we were actively engaged in the CCC Ponds restoration project. Excited and chattering, the seventh-graders were eager to start their assigned jobs as they hiked along. But as we approached the bridge we were suddenly stunned into silence. We quickly sat on the ground, completely mesmerized by the most intimate and wild encounter we had ever seen. Just above the bridge, in the narrow outlet, were about 30 mule deer quietly slipping into the frigid water. Their heads just above the surface; they swam. Nostrils flaring, mouths opened, gulping the crisp morning air. We could hear their little grunting sounds as they swam. This was their time. They knew the way, taught to them by their mothers and grandmothers before them. It was embedded into their collective memory. Once they reached the other side they poured out onto the bank, shaking themselves off and a million sparkling droplets were flung outward into the numbing cold. There was a chill in the sunlight. It was as though the sun had lost its strength over the harsh winter and had not yet gathered its vigor. They cautiously scanned the sagebrush hillside in front of them, then began their ascent. They had to catch up with the rest of their herd before it was too late. Safety in numbers to avoid death by a thousand cuts lay ahead. They placed their delicate hooves in the well-worn trail and followed the scent-marked path until they came to a sheltered hanging meadow. Here they would spend precious time savoring the newly sprouted grasses and forbs. They needed this rest stop, as the fawns they were carrying inside them were demanding so much of their energy.
My students and I were awestruck as we watched them clear the top of the hill, to the lush green protection they needed after their water crossing. This incredible display of strength and survival left my students almost breathless. Something they will never forget had happened, right in front of them. It was such an honor to have witnessed a special glimpse into these wild animals’ instinctual journey.
Elaine Crumpley, Pinedale