Goat on the Mt. Evans road

“Got no goats?”

I strained to hear what the visitor said.  He reminded me of a mountain man — salt and pepper beard, weathered face, crinkly eyes.  Still I wasn’t sure I had hear him quite right.

“Excuse me?”

“Ain’t you got no goats around here?”

“You mean mountain goats?”

“Yes, mountain goats.  I want to see goats.”

Ok, now I got it.  I have to sitor center information desk at Sequoia National Park.

“No, we don’t have any goats here in this park.”

He then grumbled, “Harrumpph.” and shuffled off.  I guess in search of places that actually have goats.

Now, 20 years later, I live in a place that has goats.  Numerous goats to be exact as I was reminded this past week, when my husband and I made the trip up the Mount Evans road.

Mount Evans is one of Colorado’s fifty-four Fourteeners, peaks that soar to 14,000 feet and above.  It is also one of only two that you can actually drive to the top of via the winding, circuitous and sometimes frightening Mount Evans road, completed in 1931.

It’s harsh climate is devoid of trees above 12,000 feet, but is not barren of wildlife, with marmots, pikas, bighorn sheep and yes, mountain goats.  Mountain goats who have now been acclimatized to the many visitors invading their home.

IMG_0745As we drive the road near the summit, we spot their white shaggy coats, small horns poking above their heads.  Many visitors frequently confuse the bighorn sheep and goats, but the telltale sign of goats is their white coats of shaggy fur in constrast to the more gray, cropped coat of the sheep.

The goats walk in the middle of the road, obstructing vehicle traffic, which is really no big deal, since everyone is stopped anyway, snapping photos of these mountain creatures.  It’s easy to understand why they’ve made their home in what otherwise seems a very unhospitable environment.  They climb nimbly across the rocks, and at one point even break out into a full run, sprinting up the hillside.  I’m impressed with their not just the agility, but their seeming cardiovascular fitness of being able to scramble up the mountainside at such fast speeds.  Speeds I know would quickly wind me in a matter of seconds at 14,000 feet.

We take a few more pictures and leave the goats to continue meandering up the road to the summit parking lot.  After living for so many years in places where we had no goats, it’s a treat to watch these alpine animals in the environs of the Rocky Mountains.