Colorado Trail Day 10: Why Fear Bears When there are Porcupines Around?

Daily Neet Beat
What? We have to worry about porcupines I thought to myself…We had just been winding our way up Guller Creek towards Searle Pass. We are climbing up to treeline and will stay above 12,000 feet for 3.5 miles going over Searle Pass, Elk Ridge and Kokomo Pass. Guller Creek is a wide U-shaped meadow with a fir forest on both sides and rounded mountains with snow patches off in the distance. 
Ray in Guller Creek drainage

We had just stopped on the trail mid-morning to talk with Dave and  Bob who are volunteers for the Colorado Trail Foundation helping to maintain the trail. They are both retired men carrying pick axes and were planning on doing some trail maintenance.

Most people you meet on the trail have a fear of bears and they always come up in conversation with people you meet. Have you seen a bear? What are you doing to keep bears out of your food? Did you hear about the bear that tore into a ursack bag on Segment 5?
Colorado is bear country
Porcupines, though, no one ever talks about them. Dave explains to us that they have a porcupine problem in one of the campsites in Guller Creek. Apparently a porcupine has been going into tent vestibules and chewing on people’s backpacks for salt. Who would think that could happen? A chewed off backpack strap could be a serious problem out here!
Later we run into a guy Matt, a Colorado Trail thru hiker, and his dog, Lucy who also had problems with porcupines in Guller Creek. Lucy, an Australian Shepherd, was barking for several hours outside of Matt’s tent. In the morning Matt found Lucy with 2 quills stuck in her nose. He still has an intact backpack so Lucy apparently did her dog job fending off the porcupine. She is doing OK now and they look like they are having a good time on Elk Ridge.
Matt and his dog Lucy on Searle Pass

We enjoy the rest of the day and make it over Elk Ridge and Kokomo Pass before any rain comes in. The wildflower season seems like it is just starting to peak and Ray is busy with his camera taking pictures.

Ray and I on Elk Ridge, in Arapaho National Forest
A beautiful owl clover
A shooting star columbine (Aguilegia eleganta)
We stop at around 3pm after dropping down from Kokomo Pass into Cataract Creek basin. The smoke from fires in the west is intense with ashes drifting down like small snowflakes and smoke starting to sting our eyes.
Smoke haze as the sun sets

Ray checks with friends on our DeLorme InReach. It is likely from the Gutzer fire which is 39 miles away. We must be downwind. The fire does give us a beautiful sunset and we go to bed knowing we are safe as the fire calms down for the night.

Just the Facts

Total Miles: 16.2
Cumulative Miles: 132.4
Trail Segment: 8
Camp Elevation: 10,742 feet
Elevation Gain:  2462 feet
Elevation Loss: 1540 feet
Weather: Sunny in the morning, clouding up in the afternoon

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