Each day a family of mountain goats follows us to work. They usually meet us at sunrise by Twin Lakes, though sometimes they are waiting at the tool cache, lying half under a tarp. The largest, a male named Gregory, sees himself as something of a foreman. He walks up and down our staircases, checking for stability. He looks closely at the joints in the rock, sometimes nodding approval when things are done particularly well. Other times he can be very lazy, lying at the foot of the steps snoring.
There are no predators here large enough to threaten Gregory. It’s likely there once were wolves, but not anymore. There have not been any signs of mountain lion either. So he doesn’t fear much of anything, least of all humans.
There is a very large population of goats in Chicago Basin. Some of the goats appear to be quite old, and have leather radio collars that look to be at least 10 years old. At a minimum these collared goats predate CFI’s work here in 2007, though they looked rather old even then. There are also many young goats. Sometimes we’ll see 10 or more at time bounding around on steep rock slopes, learning to climb.
It often seems as though we are building this trail more for the goats than anyone else. They far outnumber the hikers and show a rather more pronounced impact on the land. They don’t care much about summiting though, preferring to amble around the marmots and nibble at their favorite flowers.
I have very mixed feeling about sharing my workspace with a 400-pound goat with razor-sharp horns, but there isn’t much I can do to scare him away. If anything, this particular goat seems drawn to us. Not to steal our food, or chew on our stuff, or even to seek out the salt found in our urine, which the other goats fight for with gleeful abandon. Greg seems interested only in the careful observation of such strange guests frequenting his territory.