I was amused to read of the dead cows found at Conundrum Hot Springs (Aspen Daily News, March 31). Back in 1960, a fellow hiker and I found a dead mountain goat in a shed attached to the abandoned Heaven’s Peak Lookout Tower in Glacier National Park. Like the Conundrum cows, it had bumped the door shut behind it and had been trapped. I still have a picture of myself holding it like a trophy. It was only beginning to smell.
In 1962, I was with a crew that pulled a 1,000-pound moose half buried in avalanche debris from the Indian Paintbrush Canyon Trail in Grand Teton National Park. Just as at Conundrum, excavating a deep hole in shallow alpine soil was impossible. So, we dragged it about 100 feet away into thick timber and left it to be scavenged.
Also, in 1962, on a hot day, I helped my foreman remove a dead beaver from a beaver dam near Rockefeller Rock on Jackson Lake. I think a tourist had shot it for fun. Water was running over the part of the corpse that wasn’t covered with blue bottle flies. It was basically jellied meat held together by the skin. The smell was very repellent. The beaver dam was only 50 yards from a wheelchair-accessible trail, so removing it was urgent. We buried the remains only 30 feet from the beaver pond. Nowadays, the episode would probably have provoked a hazmat response and an inquest.
I think it is rare for hikers to risk avalanche danger to get to the hot springs as early as March. The trail probably won’t be officially opened until mid-June. I’m surprised that the Forest Service will not just have the carcasses dragged out of sight from the campsites and creek. If the carcasses are slit open, scavengers will consume the contents very quickly. I think that’s a “greener” solution than blowing them up.