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Backpacker Magazine – January 2012

Online Exclusive: Readers' Choice 2012: Travis Lesicka's Wildlife Sighting Tips

This region's top contestant in our Be a Mapper contest reveals his wildlife sighting tips.

Travis Lesicka
Sandpoint, ID

“On the Hannah Hot Spring route, I encountered 11 bears in five miles.”

Maybe it’s because he’s patient; maybe it’s because he mostly hikes solo; maybe it’s because he often ventures off-trail. Whatever the reason, Travis Lesicka has had more than his share of unusual wildlife encounters. Here are three that stand out, with his tips for replicating his luck.

>> Sighting: Spotted 11 black bears in a 5-mile section of the Blue River Canyon

>> Where: Blue River Trail to Hannah Hot Springs, Apache NF, AZ
>> How: “I’d done this trail before in spring, and had seen bear scat out there, but it really hadn’t dawned on me what great habitat this area is until my last trip, in October. In the five miles of the Blue River Canyon closest to the trailhead at XXX Ranch, I encountered 11 black bears.” 
>> Do It: Trip ID 1359165 (see “My Top 3” for more on this hike)

>> Sighting: Charged by a Northern goshawk near its nest with 3 eggs
>> Where: Off-trail near Brian Head, UT
>> How: “I parked my truck, chose a compass direction, and started walking. A hawk had been circling around me all day, but when I got to the top of a 50-foot precipice, it started dive-bombing me. I looked down the other side of the ridge I was on and 20 feet below me was an incredible nest with 3 eggs in it. I happened to be carrying a bull whip with me; it wasn’t until I cracked it a few times that the hawk left me alone.”
>> Do It: Explore Northern goshawk habitat in the Dark Canyon Wilderness in southern Utah. Trip ID 59696

>> Sighting: Disturbed 3 moose at rest, including a mother and calf
>> Where: Quartz Creek Trail, Kanisku NF, ID
>> How: “I was just getting to the top of trail, where all of a sudden I rounded a bend and about 20 feet in front of me, off the side of the trail, a mother moose and calf jumped up from where they had been laying down. I spotted a third moose nearby. I’d heard friends in Alaska say the animal they were most scared of in the backcountry was moose. As soon as I startled them, I jumped behind the nearest tree and unholstered my bear spray. Luckily, the calf went down trail and the mother followed. I was hiking for the BACKPACKER map competition, so I was determined to finish my route! I followed the moose for a bit, dodging from tree to tree. Eventually they turned away and I was able to finish up to good lookout area.”
>> Do It: Trip ID 892498

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