Twofer Tuesday: mule deer edition

I’d just gotten on the gravel road leading away from Cataract Lake Campground when a pair of enormous ears poked up from behind a shrub. I stopped Moby (our great white campervan) and handed the camera to Zippy in the passenger seat. By the time he had it up, another set of ears had joined the first and then the two mule deer kindly stepped out into the open.

Photo by Zippy. September 29, 2021

They very calmly watched us and seemed prepared to do so for as long as we wanted to sit there. We bade them a good day and continued our drive back home, smiles on our faces.

Sunday Confessional: we were lucky

Last week we drove two hours from home for a two-night camping trip in the White River National Forest. We hoped to get a first-come-first-served site at Cataract Creek Campground, in large part because of the multiple hiking trails there. Minutes before we arrived at our destination Zippy exclaimed, “Oh, that’s not good!”

He’d just realized he hadn’t brought any shoes. All he had were the Tevas on his feet. He didn’t want to drive back to Silverthorne and shop for shoes because he didn’t want us to miss out on getting one of the five camping sites. So, we went ahead and were fortunate to claim a great site. This was our view:

Misty morning on September 29, 2021

After getting settled at our site, we hiked around Lower Cataract Lake where we saw the moose. It was about a three-mile hike, mostly level, and comfort-wise, Zippy had no problem wearing Tevas (with socks). The biggest issue was the worn-out velcro on the straps that required frequent readjustment.

September 27, 2021

The next day’s hike, however, would present more of a challenge. We’d planned on hiking to Eaglesmere Lake which was about an eight-mile round trip from the campground with an elevation gain of 1,850 feet. Zippy insisted he could do the hike so we got ready by late morning and headed out . . .at the same time it began to sprinkle. The rain wasn’t a problem because the early part of the hike was in the forest. So on we went, me lagging behind Zippy and Emma because I couldn’t refrain from taking photos. Everywhere I looked there was yet another beautiful sight.

September 28, 2021

We encountered a couple from the campground as they headed back. They hadn’t hiked to the lake but turned around partway there. We chatted and continued on. And on and on and on as it sprinkled rain, off and on.

“How much farther?” I asked.

That’s when Zippy remembered that he’d printed out trail info before leaving home but had forgotten it in the van. Cool. We’d also neglected to use his phone to take a photo of the trail map at the trailhead. I’d photographed one the day before with the camera and that image was now buried below many, many photos I’d taken since. Who had time to look for that? Zippy did remember the info saying that there was a downhill before the lakes.

Eventually, Zippy had had enough and sat on a log. (He didn’t tell me until later, but the pad of his foot was blistered below the skin.) I, however, was determined to make it to that damned lake. We’d come so far and I wasn’t going to miss out.  So we divvied up the trail mix, I replenished his water bottle from my camel back, and we synchronized watches, noting the time I left. Zippy said he and Emma would wait there 20 minutes. What wasn’t discussed was whether he’d head back to the campground or follow me.

On I went, hiking fast and hoping each curve in the trail would reveal the downhill taking me to the lake. As I cruised along, I came upon a sign post. I checked it out (but didn’t photograph it then ) and continued to bear left where there was a visible decline on the trail.

Soon, I heard water and figured the lake must be fed by a waterfall. Down, down, down I went until . . . a creek. No lake and no sign of the trail. It’d just ended. I stood there on the rocky outcropping above the water, exclaiming WTF over and over, as I thought about how I’d just given myself a whole lot more of uphill. There was nothing to do but turn around and head back up the trail. Several minutes later, there were Zippy and Emma coming to find me! I was very happy to see them. Zippy wasn’t sure which way I’d gone at that sign post but decided it was correct to bear left. He started to worry I’d gone to the right but then saw my wide toe-box footprints and knew he was on the right track.

I told him I’d since realized I should’ve turned at the sign post, but we both agreed there was nothing on the sign to indicate Eaglesmere Lake. Wrong! When we got back to the sign, Zippy noticed the faded white arrow pointing to the right. Aargh! I still wasn’t willing to give up on seeing that damned lake so we went up the trail a ways until it was obvious there was still a long way to go. They sky was darker and thunder had been rumbling off and on throughout the afternoon so it seemed extremely foolish to push on. We agreed we’d come back next fall and do the correct hike.

We hiked miles back to the campground, rain pelting us. The one and only smart thing we’d done was bring rain coats and gloves. Emma, however, got water in her ears and had to shake now and again. By the time we made it back, Zippy and Emma had gone about nine miles and I’d hiked ten. We were wet, muddy, and cold. But in light of all the stupid things we’d done, we were very lucky that was the extent of our discomfort.

We’ll see Eaglesmere Lake in 2022!

Thankful Thursday: moose

As we hiked around Lower Cataract Lake, we were gifted with a moose sighting.

September 27, 2021

This young male had stood perfectly still, watching us watching him, before starting his slow slog across the lake. The mud and water created a loud squelching that brought smiles to our faces. And we were happy to again encounter (from a distance) this moose on the other side of the lake as it headed into the aspen.

One of the hardest parts of leaving Alaska for me was saying goodbye to almost daily moose sightings. There was a large bull that used to run out of the forest and abruptly stop in the clearing next to the road I drove home. The dewlap below his chin would swing wildly as he stood motionless. I loved that moose and am grateful I got to see this youngster. They are magnificent beings.

A sparrow in four acts

Last month we camped at Cow Creek South Campground along the shores of Green Mountain Reservoir. Apparently, it’s wonderful habitat for White-crowned Sparrows but not so much other species (I don’t remember seeing anything else). We heard and saw these dapper sparrows an awful lot and I was positive their lovely songs/calls would be forever bonded in my memory. Alas, I couldn’t tell you now what they sound like. But I loved listening to them and had a wonderful time photographing them.

My first attempt didn’t yield a great photo:

July 9, 2021

 

My next attempt yielded better lighting, but this one seemed determined to hide its identity.

A moment later, I was rewarded with a lovely shot.

This may or may not be the same bird, but it clearly had had enough of the paparazzi and fled my camera range.

 

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From All About Birds (text below + recordings from New Mexico):
SONGS
The song of the White-crowned Sparrow Is one of the most-studied sounds in all of animal behavior. Different subspecies across the country sing clearly different songs, but they’re all recognizable by the sweet, whistling introduction, a succession of jumbled whistles, and a buzz or trill near the end. Songs last 2-3 seconds. Females sing only rarely.

CALLS
White-crowned Sparrows have about 10 different calls. The most frequently heard include a sharp pink, lower-pitched than the White-throated Sparrow’s call. It’s usually made by males or as an alarm call near the nest. They also make a harsh, rasping call used by sparrows during altercations.
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Ah yes, now I remember: pink, pink.
I might not recognize the songs and calls next time, but I’m pretty confident I can identify this sparrow when I see it again. 🙂