Sunday, February 13, 2011

Chelan and Douglas Counties - Post #1

We come here every year.  Don't know exactly how it started, but nearly every year before track season starts, we make our annual off-season pilgrimage to Lake Chelan.  Not a great time of year for frolicking in the lake, but it's beautiful, and we have some regular stops that have made for some nice traditions over the years.  We actually timed it to hit the wine and chocolate weekend that wineries in the area put together.

Blew out of town directly from work (well, kind of directly... fixed some tires first and got the corresponding free beef).  Fairly uneventful drive over in the dark, praying that we'd get through the cell phone dead zone of Blewett Pass in the dark.  I got up early to poke around for owls.  The only Spotted Owl I've heard in my life was in this area.  None of those this morning, but at Lake Chelan State Park, my Northern Saw-whet whistling brought in a Great Horned Owl (not the last of the day! )  Had the picture at left when I got back for breakfast with the family at the hotel.                                                  

The Orondo Cider Works
We then made our way across the Columbia River into Douglas County for what has become an annual pilgramage to the Orondo Cider Works  The cider is great, and we really love the apple cider donuts.  Almost always pick up a lot of apples for the road while we're there too.  The apple smell just about knocked me over this time.  Having worked in apple warehouses in Yakima for more than one summer, I love any time when the smell of apples is that strong.  From there, we made our way along the Columbia down to Highway two, and then up, up, up to the Waterville Plateau.  It's really got some elevation!  It's over 4000 feet, and it's amazing looking back at the mountains behind Chelan from that perspective.  Here's a few pics:
To the top of the Waterville Plateau - looking back down Highway 2

Highway 2 - looking west across the Waterville Plateau with the tops of
hills showing from the far side of the Columbia
When Bre and I got to the Farmer Community hall on Hwy 2, we were familiar with the building.  We've actually been there once or twice before.  This time though, instead of continuing on to Grand Coulee Dam, we turned north towards Mansfield.  This constituted a 'new line' on our map, which is a pretty big deal these days.  I've got the Washington Gazetteer totally crisscrossed with the lines showing where Bre and I have gone together, and it's a bit rare that we actually get to add to it - having hit a good bit of the state together.  The purpose of this little run was to look for a Snowy Owl.  Now, I need to explain - there are 2-3 Snowy Owls that have been seen around Mansfield in the last month or so.  They're so pretty, and my daughter has actually drawn them at school after seeing pictures of them. I was sure that, of the birds out there, that this would be one that the whole family would enjoy. 

Rough-legged Hawk
Didn't factor in that we might not see it!  The highlight of the trip bird-wise ended up being a beautiful Rough-legged Hawk.  Bre got the pictures of it, and they came out great.  Very Cookies-and-cream Ice Cream Bird.  The plateau was covered with Horned Larks.  Their tinkling song is not something that I get to hear often at all - very sweet.   Might have been some Snow Buntings mixed in too, but it's so hard to find a place to pull over and to actually not scare the flocks away.  Will be looking for those on a future trip!   The views were awesome throughout the day.  Bad weather that we were supposed to see simply didn't materialize, and we had huge views all morning. 

Roughie in flight
 Below are some of the pictoral highlights from the trip before we gave up on the owl, which Bre did with great reluctance.  "We've driven here!...I'm not liking this owl..."  Would have been very nice to see it - maybe another time!  Will pick up in the next post with the rest of the Chelan trip, but finished the morning with 28 species in Douglas - a good start, and it should be easy to finish up on a swing through in late spring.

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