The last days have seen, subtle changes starting to occur around me. The towering peaks and craggy cliffs have given way gradually to a more gentle, if still wild, landscape of meadows, woods, lakes and hills. The Sierra’s don’t just end abruptly, but concede their heights over a hundred miles or so, to become the rolling hills and valleys of North California. The white tops have become green, but the run-off from all that melting snow is still very evident in the creeks and rivers. Beautiful, but it has led to some challenging river crossings.
It will be interesting to see how the wildlife I encounter changes going forward. It has been entertaining to watch the antics of the lively marmots that have accompanied me through the Sierra’s. They are a creature of the mountains and I don’t expect to see much more of them until I hit Washington state.
The chipmunks however I’m sure will continue to delight with their inquisitive nature. This fellow below was at Carson Pass trailhead and we played a long game of hide and seek: each time I looked away he would creep closer to my pack and each time I looked around he would freeze innocuously looking innocent. I knew however the damage he could do in just five minutes at my pack. I’d seen others with holes chewed through pockets or pack bases because they’d left a snickers bar lurking in the bottom of their pack.
Other creatures I’ve yet to clearly identify include:
This snake was easily two feet long and found next to a river in a swampy, low-lying section between mountain passes.
The antennae on this flying beetle were impressive, but despite tuning couldn’t pick up BBC1.
Easily missed, this colourful character was only about 1cm in length and was lurking in amongst the granite outcrops in the high mountains.
I don’t know how well this photo will view on a large screen but I hope it will reasonably show the small, tailless rodent on the centre rock. It took me some days to trace the source of the early morning chirping that echoed around the high passes. At first I had believed it to be a bird that had remained out of sight, until one morning a slight movement caught my eye and I spotted him sitting up on a prominent rock calling out to his fellow rodents. I subsequently became aware that they did this every morning, but I only ever saw them above about 10,000ft.
If anyone can shed light on the identity of any if these mountain residents, do please leave a comment and let me know what I’m seeing.
I should mention that a couple of days ago I reached a significant milestone; one thousand miles hiked! I had been anticipating it for some days yet when it came it was an anti-climax. I suspect that was partly down to the absence of my hiking partner and best friend who’d hiked most of those miles with me, but also the realisation that if the goal of Canada was to be realised then there was still a long way to go.
Any melancholy I may have felt however was shortlived. There’s always a surprise around the corner while hiking and the unknown is the beauty of the adventure. Carson Pass trailhead rewarded me with an unexpected small gathering of hikers and the gift of free sodas, cookies and apples. The unexpected company and kindness was welcome toward the end of one of my longest and more tiring days at 27 miles hiked in a single day. I broke that immediately the following day finishing a fantastic day at Showers Lake after 29 miles and arrived at dusk after 14 hours hiking to be rewarded with the most spectacular sunset. The clouds had been racing across the sky all day as I’d been battered with winds up on the high ridges of over 100 miles an hour. In gusts I’d been forced to cling on in the exposed sections just to remain on the mountain. That evening the, still racing, clouds were lit up by the setting sun with an intensity that looked almost as though the hillside was on fire. Reflected in the lake it was a beautiful encore to what had been a battle with the rawest of elements all day.