Bucket biology

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So the Boy and I went into Lake Ellen Wilson in Gee ‘N Pee over the weekend. Alert readers may recall we went in there last year when the Howe Ridge Fire was cooking and it looked like Armageddon back there, with a sickly yellow sky and ash floating in the air like gray gritty rain.

This trip was far more pleasant with a cool breeze and big beautiful clouds coursing over the peaks.

Last year we had problems with mountain goats digging in our campsite where someone had peed right in the site. The goats managed to paw down my tent and mouth the hell out of my sleeping bag when we were off eating supper.

This time around I figured things would be better with the goats because the nice lady who gave me my backcountry permit said the Park Service had a ranger back there most of the summer using a cattle prod to shoo the goats away.

So we set up our tents and took a little siesta, which is our usual M.O. after a longish hike.

There were no goats to be seen.

Then I heard hoof steps. Three goats, right in our camp. Once again, someone had peed right in the site. The goats, which are always after salt, wanted that pee, which is loaded with salt. At least this time the pee stain wasn’t under the tent.

Even so, I made multiple attempts to shoo the goats away, namely throwing small stones and gravel. It worked, sort of. Now when they saw me, they split, but as soon as I was out of sight, they were back.

It may seem odd that a photographer would shoo a subject away, but I don’t want wildlife that close to me. The 25-yard rule in Glacier for critters with hoofs is a good one. Twenty five yards, actually, is too close for moose. But I digress.

At any rate, it was pretty obvious that shooing away the goats wasn’t going to work in the long term and there was a pretty good chance those goats were going to cause me problems come nightfall.

So I decided dilution was the solution and did a little house cleaning. I got the bucket from the pit toilet and dumped four or five buckets full of water on the pee spot.

It worked like a charm. From a distance, I watched the goats come into camp and leave once they couldn’t smell the pee.

The Park Service will probably give me a ticket for unauthorized use of their bucket. It’s a fine I will be happy to pay.

Chris Peterson is the editor of the Hungry Horse News.

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