Timing

A black bear with brown fur dines on huckleberries along the Skyline Trail in the Paradise area of Mount Rainier National Park

I’ve been taking a hiking trip each fall, in Wyoming this meant that not only did I miss the summer crowds, but also got fall colors and the elk rut. But it also meant the weather can be hit and miss, such as last year when a snowstorm forced me to cut my trip short.

My fear when I started my Washington trip was that I had waited one week too long. After nice sunny weather the previous week, the rain arrived heavily on the first day, then was off and on for much of the trip. Fortunately although the higher elevations got an occasional dusting of snow, it stayed off the roads so I didn’t have any travel problems.

The occasional rain did mean I often had overcast skies, which is what I want during the day for wildlife photography. The sun did shine inconveniently at times, such as when I was watching the large marmot colony at the end of the Summerland Trail in Mount Rainier NP or when I came across a bear on the Beaver Valley Trail in Olympic NP.

I had overcast skies and rain when I came across this young bear on the Skyline Trail in Mount Rainier National Park, the most beautiful bear I’ve ever seen. Many of the pictures didn’t come out very well, the light was low and the rain sometimes heavy and my tripod was in my hotel room (intentionally, it was a long hike with a lot of elevation change). The bear was nose down in the huckleberry bushes and rarely raised its head, but it stopped to look at me once and you can see the seeds that have latched on to its head.

And that was the best part of the timing of the trip, getting to watch a variety of animals preparing for the long winter. I doubt I would have seen so many bears if they weren’t fattening themselves on the huckleberries, and also I spent a lot of time watching marmots and pikas gathering food. The marmots were putting on weight before hibernating for the winter, while the pikas (which don’t hibernate) were creating large stores of food above or under the rocks that they will feed on during the winter.

So despite my early fears, my timing turned out to be perfect.

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