Monday, August 22, 2011

Buttin' Heads and Locking Horns

Every parent has had multiple occasions where they have "butted heads" with their kids and "locked horns" trying to be consistent about rules and other parental decisions in the midst of arguing with hot tempers or pleading by their kids to let them do something "just this once". Butting heads and locking horns took on a whole new meaning for us yesterday when we ventured once again out on Going to the Sun Road up to Logan Center and then down the other side to the east side of Many Glacier.

As we came through Logan Pass, once again we saw the bighorn sheep.  A small herd was on the hillside,  but three males were also in the parking lot and what a display these guys put on! It seems they come back to the parking lot regularly in the evening after most of the day traffic is gone, and they lap up the antifreeze/oil spills in the lot! Ugh! These were all males that we saw today. They seem to be "batching" it for now until the rut season starts later this fall. We saw several of them on the hillside, and the most mature one seemed to know that everybody wanted to take his photo. So he stands on the hillside, turns one way to show one side of him, then turns the other way to show his "best" side. He must have stood there for over ten minutes while everybody took his photo! Then he hops down off the hill and goes into the parking lot to look for antifreeze/oil spills.

A little drama played out in the parking lot. The same big male who posed earlier, an older one who seemed to be in charge, was being followed around by two younger ones. (The extent of the curve of the horn tells you which ones are older--the more curve to the horn, the older they are.) We'll call the oldest one, the Big Guy. We'll call the other major player, Junior. These sheep come into the parking lot after the traffic dies down late in the day and start lapping up the antifreeze spills in the lot.

Big Guy and Junior started lapping up a small spill, when a third ram came along. The three of them tried to share the same oil spill and some minor pushing and shoving started.

Big Guy decided to let the younger ones have their fill so he waited patiently off to one side.

Then he decided it was HIS turn, and time for the younger ones to defer to the old folks. He pushes Junior off to the side. Junior wasn't having any of it and pushed back. Big Guy pushes back harder as if to say, "Junior, you've had enough." When Junior didn't get the message, Big Guy gave him a louder message--"I SAID YOU'VE HAD ENOUGH! by giving him a BIG butt in his rear end with his horns, knocking Junior off his feet and  out of the way. I missed that shot. Here he is just getting into it. Junior got mad!

Then we saw the two of them get into a little fight. Junior locked horns with Big Guy, they tussled, they wrestled with their horns, and we heard the THUNK of the horns as they butted heads. It was a classic bighorn sheep battle, but a mini one, just like you see in the movies or TV, taking a step backward and then jumping into the head butt. It really wasn't very serious. Big Guy was just letting Junior know who was boss! The battle was over just about as quickly as it started.  As we left, we saw them go back to sharing the little spill on the pavement.

As we left the parking lot, another big male decided to trot off down the road. Once he knew there were cars following him down the road, he got a little nervous as there wasn't any way out of the way except over the edge of the road and down the mountain. No big deal for a bighorn sheep! Here he is contemplating whether to jump down or remain on the side of the road. Sorry the photos are dark today, it was about 8:00 at night with all this going on, and you can only lighten so much when you look at these later! (I don't like to use my flash if I can help it....)

We were reluctant to leave these sheep, but needed to get going down the road to Many Glacier, a town on the OTHER far end east side of Glacier National Park. We traveled about 40 miles from Logan's Pass to Many Glacier and it was a beautiful drive. It's not as populated, but just as pretty, in our opinion. There are some great lodgings on the other side, motor inns....(quaint name from the past). There are terrific hiking trails, too. We stopped at Swiftcurrent Lake to hike a trail for a little bit and realized this is the one that is closed 2.5 miles into the hike, so back around we came. We saw signs that said, "WATCH FOR CATTLE" and darned if there weren't cattle standing right beside the road, with no fences to keep them away from traffic! At least we saw some sort of "wildlife" on this side of the park today, although we were hoping for bear!

By this time, the sun was setting and it was time to make the trip back across Going to the Sun Road to head for home. Unfortunately, anyone traveling back into Many Glacier had to deal with the sun being directly in front of them as it set. We were traveling along Many Glacier Road coming out of the park when we came across an accident. A lady and her husband in a compact had just hit a white cow moments before we arrived. The people were ok, the cow wasn't---its back legs were broken. The cow was struggling to get off the road and into the ditch. Debris was all over the roadway, their airbags had deployed, the front end was completely smashed. It was awful! We stopped and help get some of the debris off the road quickly, and then went as quickly as we could to notify someone to get help for them and the cow.  No cell signal so we had to wait to get out of the park to stop at a nearby restaurant. That was a sobering moment.....and made us more cautious the rest of the way home....It was late in the evening when we got back, but other than the accident, it was a wonderful display of nature in the park today.....

Tomorrow, a hike!  See you on the trail......


  1. Although the pictures were a bit dark, they were great shots. I guess the sheep are very used to the people and cars.

  2. Boy were those great pictures. Loved the story of the mini-battle.

    So sorry to hear about the poor cow.

    Not surprised you had no cell service. We found that in most of Yellowstone too.

  3. We must have been following behind you as we came upon this accident as we were leaving Many Glacier. I have loved reading about your trip.