Nature Notes

Vol. VIII October, 1930 No. 11

Autumn Ramblings

The man who wrote that ditty concerning troubles and kit bags probably never carried one over steep mountain trails. But then he simply mentioned to pack them up--not carry them. At any rate mid-September brought bright clear days following a week of rain. The air was clear and fresh. Deep woods were fragrant with their pungent odor. The maples had taken on their rich reds and browns and the alpine hillsides where grew the huckleberries had also decked themselves in autumn's colors. From the high crags one could again look down at the endless timbered hills that had for many weeks been obscurred from view by an opaque blanket of smoke. It was that invigorating interim between summer and the first of winter's snows. It was real hiking weather--crisp and cool, fresh and clear.

From Yakima Park we watched the mist of early morning rise slowly from among the jagged lesser peaks clustered about the base of the great mountain. Sunrise is an inspiring sight from that point. The frigid slopes of Rainier glistened in the first blush of a new day. Fog banks rose slowly, gradually disseminating, but alternately veiling and unveiling forested hills and jagged peaks all about us. Gradually we climbed toward Burroughs Mt., skirting the base of this barren pile on a high plateau above timberline. To our right, nestled at the foot of Skyscraper Mt., was the alpine glade known as Berkeley Park. Beyond lay the flat area--as flat as a table top and conspicuous in this mountainous region because of that fact--which was Grand Park. Twice ascending; twice descending through groves of twisted, contorted timberline trees and over loose volcanic ash and other fragments which were the product of some eruption of The Mountain in years gone by and we wore skirting the snout of the Winthrop Glacier. mushroom In contrast to the orderly timbered slope this jumbled mass of ice and rock debris presented a startling and weird contrast. From numerous points beneath the ice, boiled the murky waters of numerous streams which had their origin there, later to merge to form the west fork of the White River. Their waters, as stated, were murky for they were heavily laden with the countless particles of ground up rock of glacial flour -- the product of the grinding action of this glacier which is still attempting to shove its way into the valley below.

Before leaving the sound of these tempestuous waters behind, however, we passed through a welcome stretch of cool timber where the dew still lay heavy on the vegetation, though it was noon. Here in the moist humus of the forest floor we found numerous fungus growths. Mushrooms were common. There were the large, conspicuous Boletus which are edible and also that Judas among mushrooms, the Amanita. Deadly poison, it is, nevertheless, attractive in appearance as if to lure some unsuspecting one to sample its wares and thus claim another victim. But we, being aware of its deadly reputation passed it by. On many of these mushrooms of the genus Russula we noticed evidence that mice or some other small mammal had been feeding. Then all at once we surprised one of these little fellows at his meal. So engrossed was he in his dinner, that he failed to notice our approach. Then he quickly dodged out of sight--beneath his mushroom. It was a Red Backed Mouse but so small was he that the mushroom hid him easily from our view.

squirrel cutting cones

Climbing again we soon found ourselves at Mystic Lake in an alpine meadow hemmed in by two bleak and rocky mountains--Mineral Mountain and Old Desolate. The ridge above Mystic Lake afforded a magnificent view of Willis Wall, that great precipice over which from near the summit of "The Mountain" thunder avalanches to come violently to rest again many thousand feet below upon the Carbon Glacier. But though we waited for such a spectacle none occurred for our benefit at that time and we hastened on with the sun dropping lower toward the western horizon.

Along the northern wall of the Carbon Galacier, through Moraine Park we found the down grade inviting. From the rocks on every hand came the shrill whistle of the Marmot and the challenging squeak of the Cony or Rock Rabbit. Several Marmots were seen--one of which must have been the grandaddy of them all judging from his size--all sleek and fat in anticipation of their winter's hibernation. Everywhere, too, wore the piles of leaves that bespoke the Cony's industry. He spends his summer days storing up food for winter--first drying the vegetation upon the rocks in the sun, then dragging it into his abode in the rock slides. A Winter Wren chided us with his curt "tsip! tsip!" as we hurried along but numerous Chestnut Backed Chickadees and Kinglets seemed unaware of our presence as they busied themselves in the dense foliage of the timber. And so around the snout of the Carbon Glacier to Olsen's Cabin for the night.

The next morning brought another climb through dense timber. The humus of the forest floor, the deposits of many years, was soft and springy. Over all prevaded a hushed silence of early morning. Great trunks of cedars, firs, hemlocks and spruce were as pillars in some giant chathedral, their interlacing branches forming a fitting pattern for the early rays of the sun which sought to penetrate into thus sanctuary of shade and silence. Only the murmur of Ipsut Creek or the scolding of some Squirrel broke the silence. The sun's rays were lost in the maze of foliage overhead, rarely penetrating to the forest fiber. Then ahead loomed Ipsut Pass, a narrow cleft in the ragged cliffs that flanked it on either side. Slowly and laboriously the trail switchbacked up the steep slope to gain its objective--that narrow cleft-- and again we could look out upon the region from whence we had come.

amanita - beware!

It was two o'clock when first we sighted the glistening waters of beautiful Mowich Lake through the fringe of timber that clothes the hills about it. And that night from the shelter cabin on its shore we watched its glistening waters slowly fade in brilliance until the reflections of its timbered slopes were merely dark pools on its surface. Of all the places on "The Mountain", Mowich Lake approaches most nearly the romantic woods settings of Curwood's novels. There is the beautiful lake, the timber crowding its shores, the ragged outline of the Mother Mountains and a bit of Rainier's summit which alone remains alive with the fires of the setting sun until long after all else is engulfed in the shadowy depths of evening. If you should ever visit Mowich Lake, and do not care to write poetry--well, be sure and leave your fountain pen at home!

One incident on the retunr from Mowich was amusing. We had read about monkeys pelting tropical travelers with cocoanuts, but this was the nearest approach to such in this clime. The trail, at a certain place, was littered with the cones of the Lovely or Amabalis Fir. We stopped to gather a few when "PLOP!" one landed a few inches from us. Then suddenly we found ourselves in the center of a bombardment. It literally "rained" cones and we ran the gauntlet for sure. Don't think that it would be a joke to be hit by one of these cones. We weighed a few and they tipped the beam at better than a half pound. Dropping from a height of about 200 feet the force would be--oh, figure it out yourself!


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