Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Birds, butterflies, and buds at Mount Rainier

 I am what I like to call an "Accidental Birder." I never set out to be any sort of avian afficionado, but every time I see a bird, I feel compelled to stop and observe its behavior and physiology. During my time at Mount Rainier National Park, I was gifted with many opportunities to see birds that I've never before witnessed, either in the wild or in captivity. Naturally, I was thrilled.

 Grey Jay - I had heard that these birds are essentially fearless, and would land on your hand to feed out of it. The rumors are true! I spotted this one perched on a tree top, so I pulled over to take a photo from inside my van. I rolled down the window, stuck out my camera, and snapped a few shots. The jay spotted me and took flight -- directly towards me. It swooped down in front of me and touched down near my windshield to get a better view. It flew off again before I could get a close-up shot, but I was absolutely tickled by the bird's curiosity just the same.

Sooty grouse - This tough customer was loitering around the parking lot near the Nisqually Glacier trail head. He was in full display, making his deep "popping" calls every so often. I followed him around for a bit, and even got a video of him strutting across the pavement. I spotted him again later near the trail head. Aren't his eyebrows fabulous?

Western tanager - I had to do a little research to figure out what this pretty bird was. Look at those colors! There were a few of these birds hanging out near the Box Canyon loop trail. I didn't see them anywhere else in the park.

Aside from the birds, I got some nice, up-close looks at many other species of fauna and flora. I couldn't get enough of all of the wildlife in this park.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Mount Rainier snow day

On one of the days I spent at Mount Rainier National Park, I ended up near what I think was Tipsoo Lake - it was difficult to tell because it was under a layer of snow and ice. I decided to get out of the van and play in the snow. 

The temperatures were actually quite pleasant despite the heavy blanket of snow, and before long, I was actually sweating in my T-shirt from the exertion of moving through all of that hard-packed snow. It was ridiculously fun.

The melting ice at this elevation had a ghostly blue tint to it that was pleasing to behold. The sky above was a darker mirror of the water below - a rich, deep blue, accented here and there by wispy clouds and the omnipresence of Mount Rainier. I swear, every time I turned a corner, it was there, and it was surprisingly massive.

This park is so great. Get yourself a National Parks Pass and visit it was much as you can. Explore the trails, marvel at the sights, and be still and observe. The experience is priceless.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Grove of The Patriarchs

I spent a lot of time wandering Mount Rainier National Park in June. I would be hard-pressed to name a favorite place or moment during the trip, but my stroll through the Grove of The Patriarchs was certainly a highlight. If you visit, take this walk as early as you can in the morning: 5-8 A.M. during the summer is a nice time. Everything looks magical in the morning light.

The Ohanapecosh River (pictured above) was a clear, crystalline green; the water was so inviting that I ended up relaxing on its shore for almost an hour before continuing through the grove. It was so peaceful.

Remember what I told you about visiting in the early morning? I don't know if you can tell from the photo above, but the redwoods in the grove gave off this steam that the morning light refracted off of, making everything look ethereal. It made me think of the morning mists that blanket the mountains around there. 

There was a fun swinging bridge over the Ohanapecosh River - from the center of the bridge, you can look straight down to the bottom of the river and observe all of the smooth river rocks below.

I loved walking through this grove. It's quietude and beauty rekindled a sense of peace within me and reminded me to take the time to be still and to observe the world around me.