Look for the Stones That Breathe

An American pika looks out for the talus field that it calls home

Whenever I pass a talus field as I’m hiking in the mountains of Oregon or Washington or Wyoming, I always look for the rocks that live and breathe, although sometimes it’s my ears that find them first. The amazing pika spends its whole life here, in the rock fields of the high places, and doesn’t hibernate in the long winters the way so many other mammals do. The warming climate is going to be hard on these remarkable creatures as they rely on snow to insulate their homes during the coldest weather. At a younger age I couldn’t comprehend why the same people who insist in the truth of Noah’s ark would so eagerly condemn such a creature to extinction. The answer would break my heart.

[mr.burns] Excellent! [/mr.burns]

An American pika sits with its fingers held together in Grand Teton National Park

I came across this beautiful pika just below Inspiration Point on the trail into Cascade Canyon in Grand Teton National Park. I was delighted to see one again on this trip in 2006 as I fell in love with them the first time I saw one in 2005 (on the trail to Death Canyon). I had to turn around not much further up, as the trail narrowed to a small ledge on a tall cliff, and with my fear of heights even on my hands and knees there was no way I was willing to go on.

Resting, Hiding

A black-tailed deer rests in the shadows, hidden by the tall grass, along the Rich Guadagno Memorial Loop Trail at Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon

A black-tailed deer rests in the shadows, hidden by the tall grass, along the Rich Guadagno Memorial Loop Trail at Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. I’d frame this a little differently today, I took this in the summer of 2001 during my first full year with a digital camera, although to be fair to my past self I was working around hot-spots created by the bright sun. I think the trail back then was known as the Baskett Butte Trail, as the trail leads up to Baskett Butte, but the trail is now named in Rich’s memory. He was a former manager of the refuge and would die two months after this photo was taken in the attacks on 9/11. There is a plaque dedicated to him atop the butte.

Doesn’t Mind the Rain

A common muskrat swims in the rain

When I bought the Canon 20D in March of 2005, after taking test shots of the cats I went up to Ridgefield to test the camera before going on a trip to Japan. A light drizzle turned into a heavier rain when I came across this muskrat swimming near North Quigley Lake. As I was in the car the camera wasn’t fully exposed to the rain, and I did my best to keep it dry, but I was still a little nervous as it was its first time outside and it didn’t have any weather sealing. Most of the pictures were blurry as the autofocus was still pretty limited, but I enjoyed the improved speed of the camera itself. I used the camera for years and the rain never did it in, even though eventually it would get partially smashed on rocks and have a gaping hole at the top.

Black and White

A black-and-white eastern fox squirrel perches in a tree in South Carolina

Eastern fox squirrels have several color variations in addition to the most common one, including this black-and-white variation in the southeast. My stepfather told me to be on the lookout for them when I visited after he and my mom moved to South Carolina. It was bittersweet when I got to spend some time with this one on a sunny winter day in 2006, as it was a week after my stepfather’s funeral after we lost him too young to cancer.