No One Bothers You When Your Best Friend is an Alligator

Our cat Sam sleeping on a plush alligator

We’ve had this stuffed alligator for years but Sam suddenly started sleeping on it this summer. Perhaps he was trying to escape the constant affections of Boo. Hopefully he remembers that when he was a kitten the situation was reversed and it was an orange kitten that was annoying a black-and-white cat. And that nevertheless Scout took him under her wing and they became fast friends until the day she died.

Kingdom of the Pika

A pika looks out over the landscape where it lives

I spent over four hours watching a couple of pikas on the Palisades Lake Trail in Mount Rainier National Park, keeping an eye on the clock as I had a set time when I needed to depart for Olympic National Park. This pika was below the trail, the other above it, and I watched and photographed them through my biggest telephoto lens.

This pika spent most of its time with its back to me, sitting on a rock and looking down the hill, so I grabbed my widest lens to better show the world of these amazing little creatures (the pika is sitting dead center on a rock near the bottom of the frame). Winters are long and harsh here and it’s hard for me to wrap my head around how, without hibernating, pikas can survive a winter that would kill me within hours.

This is the same pika as in my I spent over four hours watching a couple of pikas on the Palisades Lake Trail in Mount Rainier National Park, keeping an eye on the clock as I had a set time when I needed to depart for Olympic National Park. This pika was below the trail, the other above it, and I watched and photographed them through my biggest telephoto lens.

This pika spent most of its time with its back to me, sitting on a rock and looking down the hill, so I grabbed my widest lens to better show the world of these amazing little creatures (the pika is sitting dead center on a rock near the bottom of the frame). Winters are long and harsh here and it’s hard for me to wrap my head around how, without hibernating, pikas can survive a winter that would kill me within hours.

This is the same pika as in my earlier picture, which was taken further up the trail to the right.

Leaving Paradise

My white 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Limited in Mount Rainier National Park

My little Subaru on the road between Paradise and Sunrise in Mount Rainier National Park. I’ve taken it on a trip before but this was its first big hiking trip with all of my camera gear. I used to take our old Outback on trips like this but bought the Crosstrek with the hopes of using it both as my daily driver and for hiking trips short and long. The storage in the hatch is much smaller than the Outback so I was worried all of my stuff wouldn’t fit but most of it did, I only had to put some drinks and snacks behind the front seats. With some different luggage in the future it should all stay hidden in the hatch.

On this day with rain and low clouds I practically had Mount Rainier to myself as I drove up to Sunrise and then on to Olympic National Park. I was thankful for the car’s visibility, both the view out of the car and the visibility of the white paint to other drivers, as it poured rain for much of the drive. As I drove off the bridge and onto the Olympic Peninsula in the rainy darkness, police were directing traffic around an accident that had occurred not much before, so I was thankful for the improved safety of this car compared to my old one even though I didn’t have to put it to the test.

Really love this little car.

Patience, Grasshopper

A Townsend's chipmunk eats a grasshopper in Mount Rainier National Park

I spent my first full day on this visit to Mount Rainier hiking the Skyline Trail and its various offshoots. While I had seen grouse and marmots, based on previous visits I was a bit surprised to not see more wildlife than I did. What I saw most were grasshoppers which were constantly hopping about the trails, many crushed underfoot from the mass of hikers on the previous day.

At the end of a hard day’s hiking I went back up to see if any marmots were out in the biggest colony near the trail, as they had been quite active the previous evening, but was sorry to see that they had all called it a day. I hiked a little further and was delighted to find this Townsend’s chipmunk eating what I assumed were some seeds on a boulder near the trail.

I was a little confused when, after watching it eat for some time, it started coming straight toward me. But it just grabbed some flattened grasshoppers near my shoes and hopped back up onto its boulder and ate them. It was then that I realized that most of this little section of the trail had been cleared of grasshoppers, and when I reviewed my pictures I understood why.

After a while it came back towards me, but this time hopped right between my legs and continued on down the trail. It had its dinner, and as the light faded, it was time for mine.