Ravenous Ravens in Chesler Park

Discussion in 'Backpacking' started by Jackson, May 4, 2016.

  1. Jackson

    Jackson I like to go outside. .

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    February 13, 2016

    I wasn't sure whether this should be listed as "backpacking" or "hiking and camping" because we went through all the motions of backpacking, but we didn't end up staying overnight. I figured it was closer to backpacking, so here you go.

    Friday, after work and school were over for the weekend, my wife and I headed down to Moab, and we stayed at the Hampton Inn. The plan was to drive down to the Needles the next morning and backpack in to Chesler Park.

    We got to the Needles pretty early. No one was at the entrance booth, and a sign was posted that said there was no fee. Score. We drove to the visitors center, got a self-serve backcountry permit (I love backpacking in national parks in Winter), and headed over toward Elephant Hill. The road there was pretty good other than a flooded low spot we had to splash through. Looking back, it was probably a bit sketchy for us to have attempted it in a 2WD sedan, but we made it in and out just fine.

    Warnings had been posted at the visitors center and the trailhead about a mountain lion that had been sighted a few times in the area. We weren't lucky enough to see it. We were surprised to see 5-10 other cars at the trailhead, but it made sense since it was Presidents' Day weekend. All were on day hikes except us.

    We had left our Microspikes at home, and we regretted it as soon as we got on the trail. There was ice in nearly every shady spot. It sure made the going slow. Much of the slickrock wall near the trail had ice hanging on it. As the sun got higher in the sky, the ice began to melt, and we often heard ice crashing from the walls to the ground.
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    As we got closer to our destination, the snow became more prevalent and got deeper. I love the look of the sandstone with snow.
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    After a very slippery, snowy, icy ascent, we made it to the entrance to Chesler Park. We descended into the park quickly and headed toward CP1, our destination. We got there and saw that the sandy spot where people generally pitch their tents was covered in snow since it was in the shade. We found an ok but slightly cramped spot over next to a big rock and set up there. It was a beautiful afternoon.

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    I really wish I had taken more than one picture of our campsite because this one sucks.

    We snacked a bit and headed out to check out the trail beyond the campsite. It was nice at first, but after we dropped in elevation just slightly, the trail and even the big fields became flooded and marshy.
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    So we turned around.

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    I liked this little overlook just South of where we set up.

    As we were nearing camp, we saw a low-flying raven. Interesting, because I hadn't seen any flying that low the entire time. Even more interesting was that, when it got nearer to us, I could see something large and ring-shaped held in its beak. It was a bagel. For an instant, I thought, "well, that's funny. I wonder where it found that." But I quickly grasped reality. We had packed two bagels from the hotel this morning, and we were the only people around.
    I took off, cursing and running back to camp. A few more ravens were seen flying off with stuff. When I got back, all I could find was our Ziploc bag with holes in it and a few packages of fruit snacks. They had flown off with nearly all the food we packed. It was certainly our fault since we had forgotten to put the food inside the tent (or maybe they would have found their way in there, too). I had never read anything or even considered the notion that ravens are such efficient camp robbers (not confusing them with species of birds actually known as "camp robbers"). The word "ravenous" now means a lot more to me. I had family members tell me later that they have had ravens unzip compartments on their snowmobiles to get into food. Smart birds! One was sitting on a ledge up above us, watching us and croaking.
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    So we sat there for a few minutes, considering our options. It was a little after 4 in the afternoon, and we had less than 2 hours until sunset. We could just stay the night and eat what little we had, or we could head out and have warm food and get another hotel room for the night. Since the hike out isn't long, we decided to leave. Winter backpacking is hard enough given the reduced hours of sunlight and cold temperatures. So we chickened out and packed up and scurried on out of there.

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    We made a stop at Newspaper Rock on the way out.
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    All the hotels in Moab were booked, so we ended up driving all the way to Price.

    Any disappointment I felt at the time was abated because I got a voicemail from the University of Utah College of Law after we got there saying that I had been admitted.

    I debated whether or not I'd write a report for this trip because I was embarrassed, but I think it's a pretty funny story. And maybe someone naive like me will learn from it.


    Hopefully our food helped those ravens to survive the winter.
     
  2. IntrepidXJ

    IntrepidXJ ADVENTR .

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    Ravens can and will get into your tent in search of food.
     
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  3. slc_dan

    slc_dan Desert Rat-Weekend Warrior

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    In Yellowstone one year I saw a Raven un-clip a compartment on the back of snowmobile. The bird then pulled out a backpack, unzipped the backpack, and pulled out an unopened bag of chips. Mr. bird then jumped on the bag of chips until it popped open, and the bounty was all there.

    Another time I was walking through a parking lot at Weber State U. I saw something dropping from the sky. It was a Raven dropping walnuts from the sky onto the blacktop so it could dig out the nuts once it was open.

    Smart animal that Corvus Corax.
     
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  4. Vegan.Hiker

    Vegan.Hiker Member .

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    Great pics. Looks great there in the winter. I stayed in CP1 two weeks ago and when I dropped my pack there in the afternoon, I layed down in the shade for a while and before dozing off into a nap I recall seeing a big raven circling me and landing about 20 ft away in several spots around me. I thought he was harmless enough and thought it was kind of cool. I even named him Ray. Same thing happened to me the night before in EC3.
     
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  5. Jackson

    Jackson I like to go outside. .

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    So awesome. I used to think they were just big, dumb birds.

    @IntrepidXJ and @slc_dan, what do you do/use to keep them away from your food? Or do you just never leave it unattended?

    Thanks!
    Ravens really are cool animals. And I don't know the first thing about how big of an area a raven sticks to, but I can't help but wonder if that was one of the same birds. And if so, you have my apologies for helping teach it that humans carry lots of food. Haha.
     
  6. Vegan.Hiker

    Vegan.Hiker Member .

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    Btw Jackson, I just noticed that your pic of the lookout right before the zip lock bag is the exact location that I just posted pics of in the Sunrise thread. That was a really cool spot. I hung out there for a while before bed and came back first thing in the morning with my camera for the sunrise. I hope to sit on that rock again one day.
     
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  7. slc_dan

    slc_dan Desert Rat-Weekend Warrior

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    I keep my food in a separate dry bag, or Ursack. Both keep Ravens out.
     
  8. IntrepidXJ

    IntrepidXJ ADVENTR .

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    x2. My food is always in a dry bag.
     
  9. Jackson

    Jackson I like to go outside. .

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    Dang! I always carry mine in a dry bag when I'm moving, but I left it out since we had stopped. Mine is one of those lightweight, PU-coated polyester ones that OR makes. They won't just tear through that?
     
  10. cmgz

    cmgz Member

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    Ravens are so smart! We were on a river trip in the Grand Canyon first time we found out. The guide was just explaining how they can unzip bags when one flew overhead with my husband's bandana. Another one was when I was at a habitat meeting for our local desert tortoise reserve and they explained that they found golf balls in their nests and in strange places when they drop them thinking they are eggs. Well maybe not so smart after all! Ursack for the Needles, every time.
     
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  11. Outdoor_Fool

    Outdoor_Fool Member .

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    Research from up here shows that in winter, some ravens travel hundreds of miles to winter in Fairbanks. They do quite well raiding dumpsters and ripping into bags of garbage left in the back of pickups. Some of the pickup drivers around here do not seem to learn as their trucks are pretty whitewashed by the end of winter. Not much else like having a squawking raven hurriedly fly up from the vehicle next to you while you unload groceries.

    They are one of the smartest members of the animal kingdom and once they learn a food source, they do not seem to forget it. We named our son Corbin (middle name), the anglicized version of Corvus (Latin for raven) as my wife and I love ravens and deeply respect their intelligence.

    Anyway, I hope we do not start reading stories of those vicious ravens attacking people for their food in the Chesler Park area. :)

    Congrats on law school!
     
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  12. Cool Danish

    Cool Danish Member

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    One of the times I camped at the Devils Kitchen CS in the Needles, I had left out a paper bag of charcoal on the picnic table. I walked over to the toilets and when I came back I saw a Raven in the process of completely tearing the paper bag apart. Later that Raven followed us on a hike almost halfway to Druid Arch.
    @IntrepidXJ just curious, have you had a Raven get into your tent (with or without rainfly on?).
     
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  13. IntrepidXJ

    IntrepidXJ ADVENTR .

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    No, I have not.
     
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  14. Artemus

    Artemus I walk .

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    Don't feel bad about the raven's embarrassing you :) They are brilliant. My favorite animal. They are crafty and some of the most beautiful fliers in the animal kingdom. Your story just reinforces that. These creatures are normally shy of humans but I have noticed an increase in their boldness in our national parks in my lifetime.

    Your lesson instructs - and look Nick wrote up hitting the whale rock and I wrote up total-ing my truck in a flood for the same reason. :facepalm:
     
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  15. Artemus

    Artemus I walk .

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    A raven pair mates for life. They raise multiple broods over many years in the same area, their home territory, and that typically is about a one square mile. They vigorously exclude other ravens from their territory and that also includes other large predators. I have seen ravens chase off eagles from their home area multiple times.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2016
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  16. slc_dan

    slc_dan Desert Rat-Weekend Warrior

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    As we are blabbing about this wonderful creature, it would be a mistake not to mention what they are referred to in a large group: An Unkindness.
     
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  17. Artemus

    Artemus I walk .

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    Also a bazaar, a constable, a rant and my favorite, a Storytelling.
     
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  18. Wyatt Carson

    Wyatt Carson Desert Vagabond

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    "out here in the fields, gotta fight for your meals" ... I think they take that to heart and are quite the raiders on the natural world too...

    I once saw two ravens perched on top of a saguaro, facing each other, sort of rubbing beaks and talking to each other, kind of mystical. They always seem to be around and tend to find us wherever we are in the wilderness, honking, cawing and carrying on, gliding around.
     
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  19. Ben

    Ben Member .

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    ursacks. thanks for posting.

    in the Grand Canyon we had a raven unzip my pack, and an other steal my brother's pop tart in the time that he was turned around from setting it on a table.
     
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  20. Artemus

    Artemus I walk .

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    We're bogarting Jackson's thread. Maybe we should have Raven thread!