Outdoors

Peak experience for mountain goats

Mountain goats walk around Hillary Landers near the top of Scotchman Peak northeast of Lake Pend Oreille. (Rich Landers)
Mountain goats walk around Hillary Landers near the top of Scotchman Peak northeast of Lake Pend Oreille. (Rich Landers)

HIKING — The greeting party was there, as usual on top of Scotchman Peak on Thursday, rewarding my daughter and me for our steep 7-mile-round-trip hike from the northeast corner of Lake Pend Oreille.

Mountain goats that live on the Idaho peak towering above Clark Fork, Idaho, have become an attraction in themselves.  They can almost make you overlook the killer view of Lake Pend Oreille, the Selkirk Mountains to the west, the Cabinet Mountains to the east and the expanse of backcountry to the north proposed for wilderness.

If you go:

— Expect a hike that's vigorous going up and punishing on the way down.

—Prepare for bugs on the summit if winds are calm.

—Urinate off the trail well before reaching the rocky summit area to avoid conditioning the goats to following people. Mountain goats crave the salt in urine and it's thought to make them aggressive, as in the case of the hiker who was gored to death in Olympic National Park.

Heed the warning signs and please don't feed the goats — for their own good and yours.  They've been fed before and they'll come looking for food and salt to lick.  Guard your packs. They may try to nibble at your pack straps.

I fear for the mountain goats' future if they continue to be spoiled and set up to hurt somebody one day.

UPDATE

After posting the blog info above on Facebook, I received this reply to consider from FB friend Nick Delavan:

My friend Cody Evans and I made our yearly pilgrimage to the summit (of Scotchman Peak) a month ago. We were greeted by 7 goats one of which was extremely aggressive and at one point he charged, stopping only ten feet from us. We almost turned his white coat orange! Thankfully a well placed rock via fast pitch sent him on his way. I believe that particular goat was sick, injured or both. It was a good reminder that these animals are wild and have the potential to be dangerous. At no point should people forget that. Leave no trace applies even on a day hike!




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Rich Landers

Rich Landers’ Outdoors blog


Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.


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