Heads Up

Close-up view of a sooty grouse's head on the Sourdough Ridge Trail in Mount Rainier National Park

After driving in the rain all day to get to Mount Rainier, I had a couple of hours before sunset. I started up the Sourdough Ridge Trail to Frozen Lake, hiking in a cold wind and rain and sometimes snow, fearing that the weather had turned and I had waited one week too long to start my trip.

But then I saw a hoary marmot near the trail and my mood brightened considerably. After reaching Frozen Lake I headed back down the trail and saw my second surprise of the short hike, four sooty grouse that were near the trail. They were remarkably tolerant of my presence so I knelt or sat on the ground to get at their eye level and slowly moved with them as they fed along the trail. At times they literally walked beside and around me, I’d be photographing one of them and would turn around and see another just inches away from me.

My gloves were the one part of my outfit that weren’t waterproof, so by this time my hands were wet and cold enough that I fumbled a bit with my camera. Knowing that it was about to get dark and needing to warm my hands, I reluctantly said goodbye to the four and headed back to the car.