Birding by RV, ch 13, Into the Cascades

Into the Cascades

15 August 2015

Technically, the Ides of August passed a couple of days ago. As in the infamous Ides of March, which is 15 March, the thirteenth of August is the ides of August, and a day to beware. Thanks to the forest service, our night last night at Bonaparte Lake Campground is quiet and the morning absent of yesterday’s prediction of wind and rain. Smoke filling the air yesterday is gone and by 9 am, we mark our campsite with the plastic pan marked by the words “occupied.” A rock anchors it in place just in case that predicted wind comes to fruition.

Mountain lake


The usual suspects in a pine forest nearly at 3600 feet elevation are along the road out of the campground. With juncos and Steller’s Jay behind us, we enjoy two Barrow’s Goldeneyes and a vocalizing Common Loon on Bonaparte Lake. We continue into the forest, driving northwest to the junction of Bonaparte Lake and Chesaw roads. Nearby Beaver Lake Campground, less developed than Bonaparte Lake Campground, is eerily deserted. Because of its remoteness, we instantly like it better than our site to the south. On the other hand, because of impending forest fires, we have a better escape route from Bonaparte Lake.

The forest at Beaver Lake includes fir and pine at the campground and along the steep shore. The lake is 1,000 plus yards long and about 90 yards wide. Paved Chesaw Road passes Beaver Lake and Beth Lake on its northeast track into the green hinterlands. Beth Lake, at 2800 feet elevation drains 630 yards to Beaver Lake. Neither picturesque lakes host waterfowl with the exception of two Mallards, but our imaginations offer possibilities. In fact, our Washington ABA finding guide reports nesting Red-necked Grebe and Barrow’s Goldeneyes and Black Terns, with the promise of more. Perhaps mid-August is not the best time here. Perhaps, but on our return to the junction with Bonaparte Lake, Linda finds a Black-backed Woodpecker. Thankfully, she relocates our new trip bird for my grateful gaze. Further searching reveals Gray and Steller’s jays and a male Hairy Woodpecker.

Stops along 5-6 mile forested route to home at Bonaparte Lake Campground do not grow our list of birds, but the atmosphere of remoteness is healing. We take comfort that no matter where we are, the RV is home. Soon we are alongside Bonaparte Lake where two Common Loons float, and at our campground, we scoop up our “occupied” pan well before dark. We find some so-called powdered nectar stowed in the back, dissolve it in water and pour the solution into the red base of a hummingbird feeder sitting on the picnic table. As the sun sets, our feeder turns into a potential bat feeder. However, we are ready for sleep.

16 August 2015

Geologically, we are in the Okanogan Highlands, neither in the Rocky Mountains or the Cascades. Somewhere west, across the Okanogan River we will begin our climb into the mountains of volcanos, past and present. In the meantime, a scolding Cassin’s Vireo at the campsite that we must now depart for a drier and less forested habitat than what we delighted in becoming so accustomed. We turn south where we meet the Okanogan River and where route 20 doubles with US 97, the highway we crossed in Klamath Falls, Oregon, on our first day of RV travel on 22 October 2014. Jolting our senses further from the remembrances of beautiful days and nights, we spend the night on the parking lot of the local Walmart in Omak.

There is nothing particularly wrong with Omak. It is one of those planned settlements, those mapped out before anyone started living there. The streets do not hint of even a smidgen of chaos found in many towns. Omak’s 3.5 square mile boundary is residence for a little over 4800 people. The elevation is about 850 feet above sea level, so when we hear the temperature tomorrow would hit 99, we are not in shock. The town is in the Okanogan Valley and west of the reservation of the Colville Confederated Tribes formed by twelve different once nomadic tribes. The reservation of 2100 square miles is bounded by the Columbia River on its eastern and southern sides, including Grand Coulee Dam, and the Okanogan River on the west side. The northern boundary is a straight line essentially running east from the village of Riverside on the Okanogan River to the Columbia River less than 10 miles south of Washington state highway 20 near Kettle Falls. Our route skirts the northern and western boundary of the reservation. Although the reservation might seem large, it is naturally tiny when comparing it to what was once their land. Summers are hot and dry on the reservation and winter temperatures can plunge far below zero. The location of the reservation, once on land suitable for considerable multiple uses such as hunting and fishing, good soil and large trees, was moved to its present site. Many of the 5,000 residents live below poverty level and many of their communities lack running water and electricity in their homes and live without the benefit of modern medicine. Therefore, the tribes may have a large chunk of land, but it is far less than they originally had and far less than first promised to them. What is left is a poor standard of living that truly needs to change.

Compounding problems on the reservation is a wildfire that began on 15 August. It is growing, burning forests, brush, and grass, whatever is in its hungry path. We also learn that the fires in the Kettle River Mountains are continuing to spur evacuations and cause widespread destruction. Linda and I are lucky; we can easily move our home from harm’s way.

17 August 2015

Morning sun warms the tarmac at the Walmart. We do a grocery shop; fill the gasoline tank and top off the propane before heading five miles south of Omak to the town of Okanogan and where our Washington state highway 20 will take us west and over the Cascade Mountains.

Our plan is to be in Oregon no later than the second week of September. According to our itinerary, we will cross the Cascades in a few days, drop into the Puget Sound region, go west via Whidbey Island to Port Townsend, visit Olympic National Park, travel down Washington’s Pacific coast and then into Oregon. So, today we do not need to travel far and turn into Loup Loup Campground, probably about 25 miles or less from Omak. Why count?

We wonder about the name loup loup. There is the nearby 4,020 ft. Loup Loup Pass, Loup Loup Canyon Road and, of course, Loup Loup Campground. There seems to be a loup loup everywhere, but what does loup mean? With just a little investigation, the answer is wolf. I suppose loup loup could mean wolf wolf to immolate a vocalization such as wuf wuf, bark bark and so on. It seems that the word loup may have originated long ago, not quite before there was a was, but before Columbus did not discover North America. Blame it on the Old Norse and the Latin guys back in Italy because lupus is a wolf so maybe someone later dropped “us” to form eventually the word loup. That is the way it apparently came to pass in France.

The meaning of loup is still confusing. For example, “loup de mer” refers to fish and “loup cervier” is a Canadian Lynx. What does fish and a lynx have in common? The answer is they must have reminded someone of, what else, a wolf. “Loup-loup” is a Pomeranian, a small fretful dog, an animal fashioned from the wolf. We are getting closer to the truth, assuming of course that it is possible to handle the truth. However, it is easy to take a wrong turn before looping back to the canine angle. That is because there are other definitions of loup. A loup is also a cloth mask, usually of velvet for some inexplicable reason that covers half of the face. My source did not divulge which half of the face is covered, but I am going out on a limb to suggest it is the lower part of the face, something akin to what someone wears for a disguise. Okay, going back to the Pomeranian, a wolf in disguise, maybe Loup Loup Campground is telling us that some French speaking person christened a few localities with the name loup loup because they observed wolves in the region or was it Canadian lynx or was it that a blacksmith was hammering a hot blob of pasty metal (=loup) or that people were seen jumping over a stream (loup as a verb).

Just as the term loup loup causes consternation, so does what French person bestowed the name loup loup. A cursory glance at the early history of Washington does not reveal the presence of French explorers. We do know that the Hudson Bay Company, which was actually founded by two Frenchmen, cut a wide path during the hairy days of their occupation in the Pacific Northwest. The huge company probably associated with a Frenchman or two, but I cannot be certain. Related to this matter, or perhaps not, who can be sure, is a nearby ghost town of the late 1800’s. It bore the name Loop Loop. Perhaps some local historian has settled the matter. It the meantime, so not to be dogged by the conundrum, we believe Loup Loup has something to do with wolves. One other kernel about Loup Loup Campground is that in August 1986, campers report hearing a big foot. Linda and I wonder if it or someone else was crying wolf.

18 August 2015

Not wishing to offend anyone about Loup Loup land, we head west into the Methow Valley to Twisp, a village of about 950 people. With etymologies on the mind, we learn the name Twisp is from Okanogan meaning yellow jacket. I double-check the location of my epi-pen in the event of a sting. Cell service is available, which allows us to catch up with a few people. Triple digit temperatures are not unknown here and as the day wears on, the afternoon is becoming a little more than uncomfortable.

Not far away, forests burn.      Near Early Winters Campground

It is time to move on. Our next stop is Winthrop, another small village, but celebrating its history with western storefronts to attract tourist dollars. Our ABA finding guide states Harlequin Ducks are possible to find along the Methow River that runs through town. Lumbering down side streets to attempt a view of the river and maybe a Harlequin Duck requires many tight corners and U-turns. The river appears low. Finally, we locate a place to park and find a trail to the river. However, sparse amounts of water flowing down the wide and rocky river bed is inviting only to screeching kids trying to keep wet and avoid the sweltering day.

Fifteen miles up Methow River is Okanogan National Forest’s Early Winters Campground. We pick a site on the south side of route 20 on the bank of Early Winters Creek that bubbles with a healthy flow. Although our elevation, about 2200 feet, is barely above Winthrop, it feels cool. We are reasonably certain it is the result of more vegetation and air draining from the nearby mountains. Our view to the northwest is of a huge rocky massif rising 1200 feet above our campsite. The colossal structure, barely over a half-mile away, is aptly called the Great Wall. That we are definitely entering the Northern Cascades excites us.

Our camp is deserted and quiet except from the occasional vehicle on route 20. The Wanatchee-Okanogan National Forest administers Early Winters Campground and the interpretative signs placed in the campground and near the creek are impressive by their scope and ease in understanding. Early Winters Campground normally receives heavy use and we believe the signs hit their mark for naturalist and not so naturalist. We especially like informing the public that fallen trees in the creek provide habitat for salmon and that habitat requires protection from dogs and children wading in spawning beds.

Our cost for the night is only $4.00, which, with water and a dump for gray water, is a bargain. The needles of the tall trees, mostly pine, sing in the gentle breeze coming down the creek. Before bed, I conclude that the only birds in the vicinity are Red Crossbills, which are in abundance. As we turn in, we do not realize why the campground is so uninhabited. What we do not realize, but should know, is that multiple fires are burning in North Cascades National Park. Without cell service or any outside information from people or signs of smoke, we sleep with confidence of crossing the mountains to Puget Sound.

19 August 2015

A couple of campers are setting up tents at the other end of the campground. The sky is clear as we follow Winter Snows Creek deeper into the mountains. Our destination, Lone Fir Campground, is close to nine miles from last night’s stand, but it is higher in elevation and more hemmed in by surrounding peaks and ridges. Again, the campground at Lone Fir is not crowded. This is a larger forest service facility, with a campground host and perhaps 15 occupied campsites. We find what we decide is the perfect site, which by our definition translates to reasonably level and most importantly, isolated from other campsites as possible.

One view from Lone Fir Campground.     Bridge connecting trail above the campground.

At 3,642 feet elevation, Lone Fir Campground residents are dwarfed by 7,069 tall Vasiliki Ridge slightly a mile to the east and rock spires called The Needles that stand at 7,139 feet to the northwest. That is just a few of the highlands, some of which are in view depending on angle and trees. This is perfect. I write a check for four nights at campsite number 4, which for $6.00 per night, is a terrific bargain.

Black-throated Gray Warbler can now receive a check on our year list. A pair of Red-breasted Nuthatch scratch along a fir trunk and a Warbling Vireo flies in to check what I am doing, that being using a recording of the warbler as a lure. A hawk flies over our site leisurely enough to verify it is a Northern Goshawk, another new bird for the year.

A trail invites us to travel its twists and turns for gentle stroll. In a short distance, a wooden bridge crosses a clear trickle through the tall forest. A pool on the downstream side of the bridge allows us to look into the shallow water. Linda spies a fish. It is about 4 inches in length and reminds us of a kind of trout. Further up the trail is a fork where we a map informed is the loop of the trail. At the junction is a grouse, appearing confused by our arrival, certain we mean no harm as I snap a few pictures. Its size and plumage suggests an immature male Spruce Grouse, but it should have some rufous on its tail. We remain possibly as puzzled by it as it is puzzled by us. Our grouse ambles up the right fork. Linda and I take the lower fork and eventually come to a bridge over Early Winters. Flooding of years ago had washed part of the trail. We decide not to complete the loop and retrace our steps back to the junction.

The campground host stops at our site at 5:30 and announces she will return later. Maybe she thought we are too busy inside our RV, but hearing what she has to say is worth stopping any, well most, activities. The camp host is agitated as she tells us our route west to Northern Cascades National Park is closed. Wildfires not only require closure of route 20 to the west, but also to the east. Winthrop is under evacuation, but she tells us we are safe staying in the campground. Linda and I decide, along with half a dozen other campers at Lone Fir, to stay the night.

The news of wildfires to our west are sad to hear and disappointing for many reasons. Habitat destruction is not a pleasurable sight, whether it is an insidious loss caused by pollutions or insects sweeping through a forest, it is hard to accept. Death by fire may be one of the more dramatic causes for loss of habitat. Fire is also immediately dangerous to humans and now any plan for a hike in the highlands has to be extinguished. Gone are chances for White-tailed Ptarmigan, Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch and other alpine species. West on highway 20 is also our route to the Pacific Ocean. It is beginning to look as if our year list is going to miss many species. There are weeks ahead that will make a difference, or at least so we hope. Who knows, perhaps tomorrow will change everything.

20 August 2015

A bear or we hope it was a bear, pads around the RV between midnight and 1 in the morning. It is too dark for us to see and the fine gravel at our site does not confirm our trust that our visitor was a bruin.

After breakfast, we walk through the campground. People are unsure about the fires and road closures. At noon, we meet a man, who had been east of here. He tells us Winthrop and Twisp are under evacuation and that there is a closure for highway 20 due to fire and a subsequent avalanche. While conversing, I hear an Evening Grosbeak. That may be the only new bird today.

Our campground host is gone. She left her locked trailer behind. I search for a note that might relay information from officials about the fire, whether campers are safe or should evacuate or good-bye, nice knowing you, anything. There is nothing. Present occupants of Lone Fir Campground are on their own.

Later in the day, a forest service ranger patrols through the narrow campground roads. She relates that three young men recently died while fighting fires near Twisp. She personally knew them, and although visibly shaken, she is true to her profession by helping keep the public safe. We learn that 29,000 are fighting fires in Washington. Out kind ranger tells us we are okay staying at Lone Fir, but that we might later be unable to leave.

Although we have plenty of food and water for staying, Linda and I decide to forfeit the campground nights we paid ahead. Tonight will be our last night before following the evacuation route away from so many wildfires.

21 August 2015

A lone female camper from the region of Tacoma, Washington, that we met yesterday knocked briefly on our door last night. By the time we could become presentable, our visitor had left. She had told us yesterday that she was not planning to leave just yet. She must have changed her mind. Her campsite this morning is vacant.

There is a threat of thunderstorms this morning and little chance the sun can penetrate the thickly clouded sky. A strong odor of burning wood permeates the otherwise clean mountain air. The smell of charred mammals unable to escape the flames, the odor of their hair and flesh, is not so easily detectable as the death of trees, lush mosses especially on their north sides, bushes and late blooming flowers. Large mammals might outrun a blaze and birds can fly to safety. Was the Evening Grosbeak I heard yesterday flying away from doom?

A haze later fills the air, filtering an otherwise crisp view of the rocky ridge towering over the campground. Birds are quiet. Two seemingly unaware chipmunks scatter into the thickness of lofty trees. A few more days here would have been wonderful, but we cannot risk staying longer. We slowly drive the RV through the campground and realize we are alone in this beauty. At least we made it this far on what is now our second attempt to cross the Cascade Mountains via route 20. Our first was in 2006, and reaching the highway we feel gratitude we got this far and regret that we must now turn east, away from crest of the Cascades. Fires are reported even to our east and we must rely on what we hope will be a safe evacuation route.

A female deer steps onto the highway and stopping causes a few items to shift forward in the living quarters and prevents us from having to identify a Jane Doe dead on the road. Further east, we discover Winthrop is not completely evacuated and we are able to top off our gasoline. That might not sound the best tactic. More gasoline could produce a bigger fire should we be so unfortunate. On the other hand, a full tank gives us the opportunity for a longer escape. A small, but very busy, grocery store sells us a couple of items for our RV pantry. Just outside the store is an information station consisting of a large map detailing the location of the fires. Information located adjacent to the map tells the rest of the story. It is bad and becoming worse. The informational stand reminds us of a similar stand we scanned a dozen years ago when a wildfire came close to burning a former home at Morgan Springs in Oregon. That is another story, but for today, we feel the concern, the hurt and fear of local residents who stand at our side, hurrying to learn the worst and hoping for the best.

Nine miles southeast, we are again in Twisp. Recalling possible cell service there, we make a couple of calls before following the evacuation signs that direct us to the junction of our familiar highway 20 and Washington state highway 153. A forbidding sign blocks eastbound 20 with the bold letters spelling “Road Closed.” A huge region along route 20 including the Okanogan River, Omak and the reservation, Republic, Sherman Pass and probably to at least Kettle Falls at the Columbia River, localities we traveled just days ago or under siege. Now, we follow directions for our own safety, the evacuation route southward on state route 153 along the Methow River.

Remnants of fire, smoke and fire itself were visible from Twisp and are ever visible as we travel down the river. The highway is almost deserted. Nearby slopes are blackened from fire about 24 hours ago. At a few places, the black scar crosses the highway. Maybe it is good that we spent that extra night at Lone Fir. We pass through three small towns, Carlton, Methow and Pateros where the highway ends at US 97 and the Columbia River. US 97 is a major north and south route east of the Cascades from Washington to northern California. Yes, US 97 doubled with route 20 along the Okanogan River north of here, and today, we are on it again, not by choice, but by necessity. We travel alongside the Reach Fire, the one that destroyed the town of Chelan. Our destination is Wenatchee, where, only a few miles north of town, US 97 doubles with US 2, our road of choice for crossing most of the country from Maine to eastern Washington.

Knowing there may be a need to stay in Wenatchee for more than a night, I was relieved to obtain permission from Walmart to stay multiple nights. We were not the only RVers parked here. All are waiting and wondering what direction might be safe to travel.

22-25 August 2015

Four nights on the Walmart tarmac are horrible. The air is choking from smoke, the traffic loud and the temperature, jutting into the 90’s, is uncomfortable to put it mildly. The low elevation of 780 feet accounts for several degrees of warmth. Wenatchee is located at the juncture of the Wenatchee and Columbia rivers. As one might guess, as suggested by the “ee” ending, Wenatchee means river and named for the Wenatchi Indians. Although Wenatchi Indians did not war against white immigrants and were friendly to settlers, they were not afforded a reservation of their own and were eventually forced to move to the Colville and Yakima reservations. The city, established in 1811 by the Northwest Fur Company, has an estimated 2015 population of 33,636. Despite the fact that Wenatchee is billed as the apple capital of the world, apples in local stores are no lower in cost than hundreds of miles in any direction.

Being way laid in Wenatchee is comparable to an earlier time while marooned in Tallahassee. The time did provide opportunity for hair grooming and getting up to date on any prescribed medicines. My hair is something I sometimes ignore except when it gets between my eyes and binocs. Therefore, the time was good for tending to business, but once business is finished, the time in Wenatchee stretches interminably long. Time seemed endless, agonizingly dreary and mostly fruitless. Yes fruitless, even in happy appleland, Wenatchee, at least for us, is not a place I pick for birding. Of course, it is August and over 300 species have been reported from the region, but we are just not seeing them. We are more than anxious to move on.

26 August 2015

At long last, we leave Wenatchee, drive north to the Wenatchee Confluence State Park, a small parcel of land of nearly 200 acres at the confluence of the Wenatchee and Columbia rivers. RV campsite appear crowded, but there might have been something available when we arrived five days ago, but our fee free stay at the Walmart saves us about $150. Considering the unpleasant stay in town, I am still not certain the busy park would have improved our disposition.

We hurry to complete our reason for visiting the park, which is a definite need to dump our black and gray tanks and fill our fresh water before heading back into the Cascades. After topping off the gasoline and propane tanks, we head south for about 45 miles where we travel on interstates toward Ellensburg and to Yakima. It has been some time since racing on an interstate and the opportunity is not particularly welcoming.

Highway 12 shunts us west to Washington State 410, up the Naches River and deep into the Cascades to 5,530-foot Chinook Pass and to the broad shoulders of massive Mt. Rainier.

Smoke pollutes the air along the river, but not so much as to obscure the surrounding forest. It feels good to be away from the agricultural part of eastern Washington. Apple trees do not count as forests. As the road gently climbs, a Mountain Quail, possibly absent mindedly, steps out of its botanical shelter and onto exposed edge of the road just long enough for us to glimpse. Finally, a new year bird. We cross the long Pacific Crest Trail at Chinook Pass. Getting to the pass had been a challenge, at least for me driving the heavy and longer than accustomed vehicle. Descending is likewise challenging, not just for me, but the steep incline requires frequent braking. With white knuckles, we negotiate the not so wonderfully smooth road for about 3.5 miles while descending nearly 730 vertical feet.

We reach the intersection of highways 410 and 123, the latter running north and south inside the eastern part of Mt. Rainier National Park. Although the road is relatively straight, it is narrow and the descent brings us down almost 1,000 feet. After the turn onto the road up the White River, we begin a steady but gentle six-mile climb to White River Campground. We pick a site in the uppermost part of the campground, which is 4,330 in elevation. It is not our first choice. A couple of nearby sites overlook the grayish milky water of the White River rushing 50 feet below. The rocky river bed is relatively straight here and wide enough to accommodate heavy rain and rapid snow melt. Today, the river is confined lower in the stream bed as in meanders from side to side of the main channel. I try to imagine the banks shunting water lapping from bank to bank. The glaciers do not stop melting, but I hope the river remains a low flowing stream and that glaciers will continue to cover Mt. Rainier. The trailhead of Glacier Basin Trail is a stone’s throw from our campsite. With luck and fortitude, maybe I will hike up the three plus mile trail to the foot of the glaciers.

RVs a few feet longer than ours will not fit the campsites here. Once we maneuver the RV to a mostly level terrain, there is enough of light remaining to walk the campground. One of us usually walks around campground loops to have a feeling of our environment. If dogs are present at any of the sites, we especially like to ascertain what kind of dog is lurking and if the animal is on a leash or some other restraint. We do not feel comfortable thinking a large dog, especially those with bad reputations, are roaming our neighborhood. If there is, no one should hesitate contacting whoever is in charge to correct the matter. Making direct contact to pet owners probably should be avoided owing to the fact many pet owners regard their animals as at extension of their family. That is understandable, but so is the safety of everyone, including wildlife of the campground.

Results of the inspection reveal a nice campground and plenty of people respecting national park rules. This is a great place. The only negative aspect is that Mt. Rainier is under a shroud in clouds, a situation we have experienced on other visits to the park. On the positive side is spotting two Sooty Grouse. Had there been dogs or wild children charging around the campground, I doubt those grouse would have been so nonchalant and allowing easy viewing. In fact, the grouse might not even be in the campground.

Mountain Hemlock, cedar, fir and more shade the campground. Although the sites are small, the crowding, at least with today’s residents, does not present a feeling of too many people, although the helter skelter of so many campers approaches saturation. However, it is quiet tonight and the beauty and campground provides a plethora of chances to enjoy the park.

27-31 August 2015

An early morning stroll around the campground is rewarding. The clouds of yesterday lift for a grand view up the canyon of White River. There it stood in all its glory, Mt. Rainier standing immediately 10,000 feet above us. Inspired by the pleasant weather, I hike Glacier Basin Trail. Beyond the Basin and the trail at Paradise Valley on the south side of the mountain are two routes climbers use to summit 14,411 foot Mt. Rainier. Presently, I am alone on the trail as it gently passes through the lush trees and ferns within the sound of the White River. The trail ascends to 6,000 feet. However, my exploratory sampling is less than a mile of trail and not nearly far enough for the privilege to see Emmons Glacier.

Alluvial fan across the White River.    Mt. Rainier from north side of White River.

Returning in less than an hour, I pass our RV and walk to the Wonderland Trail near the main campground road. Wonderland Trail, completed in 1915, encircles giant Mt. Rainier. The trail, as originally constructed, was about 135 miles long and at elevations to help rangers to patrol and safeguard the 324 square mile park. The present and more tourist oriented Wonderland Trail is 93 miles long, often at higher elevations and described to be more scenic than the older trail. A gray, weathered cabin stands just off the campground road and next to Wonderland Trail. The sturdy structure is one of several ranger cabins built not long after completion of Wonderland Trail. Strolling inside, I imagine it cozily protecting early rangers from the harsh elements. Then, I recall reading “A Year in Paradise” by Floyd Schmoe. The book, originally published in 1959, chronicles the author and his wife while caretaking at the inn at Paradise Valley in 1920. Floyd Schmoe, who lived to 105, became the first naturalist working in Mt. Rainier National Park and one of the earlier hikers of Wonderland Trail. I know now that I must reread Schmoe’s account that so vividly described so much of Mt. Rainier. I imagine his early hike of the trail. I even entertain Linda and me hiking the trail. Is it too late for such a 10-day enterprise? For now, I contend with time gone by and hike a few yards on the historic trail before turning around.

Lush forests of the Pacific Northwest in Mt. Rainier National Park.

I consider a more realistic trip, hiking a small section of Wonderland Trail to Sunrise and then take one of the trails from there to higher elevations where White-tailed Ptarmigan might frequent. I recall my last time looking for ptarmigan above Sunrise. It was a failed attempt, partly because of time and partly, perhaps mostly, due to acrophobia. Maybe, with more time, I could overcome my fear and find the alpine chicken. On the other hand, we could camp to the south of Mt. Rainier and hike above Paradise Valley where I saw my first and only White-tailed Ptarmigan a few years ago.

Life is full of dreams, large and small. I feel I am living several dreams, bathing in the process of achieving goals such as living with Linda, my childhood sweetheart and pal, birding almost daily, this RV journey and hiking inviting trails, some easy strolls and others difficult and even hazardous. Not being a spring chicken, watching one’s step is important. However, staying in good shape, being able to maintain balance over rough terrain and having the heart, with lung power is also important. A hike to Sunrise from White River Campground requires about a 2,000-foot gain in elevation and six hours of time for the round trip. That would be good for me, but any hard hiking was so far behind, all the way to Arizona last fall that I wonder if I am in condition to try. Of course. I should try. This may be my last chance for a good workout. Maybe tomorrow or perhaps we could drive to Sunrise and then hike the higher slopes for ptarmigan. No, driving there requires 10 miles of steep and narrow roads and then a steep descent back to the campground. No, the hike is the better option. Tomorrow.

However, during the night of 27 August rain began pattering on our roof. Rain kept falling, sometimes in a deluge. Many campers, most who were using tents, began vacating the campground, taking their soggy belongings and limping out of the park. We nestle inside the cozy RV and happily and quietly celebrate Linda’s birthday. Luckily, our propane allows us to drive out the cold and damp air. Although we are weary from too many days way laid in Wenatchee, a chance to appreciate the park and to hike and look for birds is not possible.

1 September 2015

The house batteries fail to start the generator. I jump-start it from the engine battery. This is close to the last straw. The bad turn in the weather confines us once again. With about two hours of sunlight, our time in Mt. Rainier approaches a disaster. Tomorrow, we will leave the park. We will leave the Cascade Mountains.

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