Last Sunday in a rare day off for my husband we decided that we were going cross something off our list. We visited Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. The big attraction for me was a chance to see Trumpeter Swans, a beautiful bird, I had only see once before.
We packed up our car with the essentials, camera equipment, field glasses and more and drove down to the Idaho border. There we took a road for 28 miles that was much better than it was advertised to be to make our first visit to a National Wildlife Refuge.
I was expecting a fairly undeveloped place with a few places marked for bird watching based on the website. What I got was a lot different. First I will preface this with the statement I did not get or understand from the website it is a designated wilderness. Even with that said, the wildernesses I am familiar with have some trails in them. This place has two! Neither one of those was going to put you any where near good bird watching, the main feature touted at this place.
The brochure we picked up once we arrived encouraged us to cross country and use game trails. Not having a topo map, my bad, we surely were not going to travel cross country in wetlands on trails that moose use. I wasn’t going to hike not knowing if I was going hit a bog, or marsh area in the hopes that I might get some good birding in. I had no idea if the shoreline would support sitting for hours to watch for birds that only appear if you are willing to sit and wait for them.
I think the killer most of all for me was that this was bear country. Signs were posted at the entrance and throughout reminding you of that along with signs telling you bear were particularly active in a couple areas. Once I go there it made sense, this was the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and bears are very active there. Silly me I did not make that connection earlier and I did not bring bear spray. Now I have been around bear country long enough to know that there was no way I was going cross country hiking down game trails without bear spray.
I am not complaining about the beauty of the Centennial Valley and the Wildlife refuge. There were a part of Montana I had never seen and the vistas were great. What I am disappointed in that I really didn’t know what I was getting into, from how it was managed to the fact that it was bear country. I am not sure how soon I will going back, but I am sure that I will do lots more research before I go back and be more prepared.