Rim Country Trails Offer Many Opportunities To View Wildlife

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Almost everyone who lives in the Rim Country has a favorite hiking trail where wildlife is abundant and easily spotted.

Among those preferred by local ground-pounders are the myriad of trails at the top of the Rim in the Apache-Sitgreaves and Coconino national forests, the Colonel Devin Trail near Washington Park, See Canyon in Christopher Creek and the Highline.

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That very popular footpath was once a big-game trail, served as a link between pioneer homesteads and was frequented by Zane Grey.

One of the real attractions of hiking any of those trails in the early summer is that the outings provide plenty of opportunities for up-close and personal peeks at female elk and their young. Most of the calves were probably born in the late spring and still have spotted coats and long, spindly legs that give them a rather awkward appearance.

After the calves are born, the cows search for calm, remote, safe spots to nurture their young until they are mature enough to join other elk and form nursery herds.

Once those reunions occur, elk can be found in forested areas and edges with dispersed meadows.

In looking for elk, it's important to know they move almost daily in search of food, water and cover.

On Sunday morning, I hiked a short trail I've covered many times but always left disappointed I didn't spot the elusive big game I was searching for.

The Pineview Trail is located below the Rim, at the Pine Trailhead at about 5,700 feet elevation.

It's an easy two-mile round trip hike off the Highline Trail (#301) near the Pine Canyon Trail (#26). Of course, the hike can be longer and more vigorous by detouring on one of the many trails that hook off the Pineview, which are not shown on USGS maps.

Pineview is actually a connecting trail between Pine and Highline trails.

I've always attributed my inability see large game along the trail to the popularity of the path and that many of those who use it continually violate the keys to successful wildlife viewing -- silence, stillness and patience.

But on Sunday, with several other hikers on Pineview, I had numerous close-up opportunities to see female elk and the young in their natural habitat.

It was a fascinating sight watching the mothers, some of whom weighed as much as 700 pounds, look after their young. Most captivating is that when the cows sensed danger, they warned the calves with a distinct bleating sound.

Elk are interesting in that they are vocal animals, and that vociferousness is not limited to the bulls. The cows have their say, as well.

Elk authorities and biologists tell us the cow elk does not protect her calf from herd members and that the calf must learn to avoid harm on its own.

But after watching several cows carefully nurture their young, I would beg to differ with those authorities.

For those who enjoy watching the majestic wild animals roam and forage in their native habitat, the Pineview Trail, and those that join it, might be just the hike you're searching for.

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