Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mount Rainier 10/25

Mount Rainier and Little Tahoma Peak
The Mountain has been the elephant in the room for a while now!  I've planned trips to so many different places in the state, but hadn't gone to visit that Big Giant Rock right over there.  I finished up my evaluations on Tuesday, and decided to make a trip down.  "Just a short trip - back in the afternoon." I told Bre on the phone. 

I was kind of curious about what I might find around Sunrise, on the east side of Mt. Rainier.  People have been finding Pine Grosbeak, and White-tailed Ptarmigan on hikes from there, and that's the only place I've found Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches.  Not too surprisingly (in light of this year), I got to the road to Sunrise, and found that it was closed!  I wasn't sure if it was a seasonal closure, or if it was because it was midweek, but I simply took the road over to the White River Campground instead.
This is not a bird
I haven't been to this campground before, so it was nice to get to another entrance to the park.  I've done several hikes around the park with Declan, and think it would be fun to cumulatively hit the entire Wonderland Trail with him eventually. 

I wanted some elevation gain, so I started hiking along the White River, which would eventually take me to the Burroughs Mountain Trail.  I wasn't sure exactly how far it was to Burroughs from here, and I hadn't really 'planned' out this hike (my equipment list? binoculars, camera, apple), so I decided to keep going up until the time got too late, or the trail got inconvenient, or the view stopped improving.

Varied Thrush
Unfortunately, I made really good time on my way up towards Burroughs, the trail was perfectly passable, and the view got better and better.  I found nearly nothing in the way of birds on the way, although I got some great close views of Mountain Chickadees, and a Varied Thrush flew two feet in front of me (and sang!). 

Burroughs Mountain
 I got about a half-mile short of Second Burroughs when I knew I'd be short on time if I continued.  So I stopped in the crisp sunny afternoon on top of the world, and looked and listened and ate an apple.  It was mostly quiet, and I only spied one hiker on the crest above me briefly.  A few Pine Siskins had passed me earlier, but I was really listening for rosy-finches or grosbeaks. 

I resisted  the temptation to run to that rocky thing - want to know what it's called!
And a little closer
All of a sudden, along the ridge, just a little too far away, a flock of 2-300 finches rose up above the ridge - barely visible with the sun hitting them as it was - they made some finch-y noises and dropped back out of sight.  I pulled out my phone and listened again to Gray-crowned Rosy Finch... nope.  Pine Grosbeak.. nope.  ??? 

I realized the mathematics of it and laughed a little.  90+ % of the birds that I had seen that day would have to go unidentified, since they were all in that single flock, and I had been listening so hard for a certain call, that I didn't pay enough attention to the call I was actuallly hearing.  A Varied Thrush called from somewhere on the rocks, and I made my way down.  The temperature was right, and sections of the trail were wide and soft, so some of the trip down was at a nice jog, letting the mountain carry me down.

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