Nature Notes

Vol. VIII March, 1930 No. 3

Winter Patrols

Mt. Rainier in winter, as one can readily imagine, differs radically from the same region in the summer. Several trips during the past month served to bring this point forcibly to the attention of the writer.

bird in flight

From Paradise Valley to the Ohanopecosh Ranger Sta. is about 16 miles. It is not a very hard hike during the summer but twelve hours of hard hiking on snowshoes was necessary before Ranger John Davis and the Naturalist negotiated the distance early in February. A snowstorm was in progress in Paradise Valley when we left there but as we dropped down Steven's Canyon the lower elevations were emersed in a heavy fall of rain and soggy snow. The steep sides of the canyon made "side hill gouging" the rule -- much of this being without benefit of snowshoes for the grade was too steep to enable us to stay with the slope. The lower end of Steven's Canyon possesses an interesting feature -- the Box Canyon of the Cowlitz. Here, through a narrow cleft in the granite, a gorge scarcely more than 25 feet wide, roars the angry waters of the Cowlitz River. The snout of this glacier from which come the waters is found but two miles upstream. Across this canyon is a bridge, heavily covered with snow at this season and as we crossed it the perpendicular sides of the canyon seemed almost to overhang, so narrow was the canyon and so far down it seemed to the river. The trails about "The Mountain" are a series of ups and downs and so immediately after crossing the canyon we began to climb.


A Ruffed Grouse roused himself noisily from a tree and went zooming away over the tops of the trees below and fresh goat tracks were seen in the newly fallen snow. But nary a glimpse did we get of Mazama. Climbing through the soft, wet snow to the top of the Cowlitz Divide we again found ourselves enveloped in a heavy snowstorm that seemed as if it would obliterate the telephone line (placed 15 feet above ground) which we were following from view. We were tired at the crest of the Divide as well as wet but several bands of Chickadees were cavorting about in the foliage of the scanty timber there -- apparently unmindful of the storm. The down grade was a welcome sight and soon, though not without traveling the last mile or so in darkness, we reached the Ohanopecosh Ranger Station where a warm fire and a good meal, prepared by Ranger Rickard, awaited us. And as we ate the strains of some distant orchestra filled the room of that backwoods cabin via radio. Later "Rick" told us about the Skunk which was a regular visitor each night at the cabin and of the numerous Bobcat and Cougar sign that he had observed in the vicinity and of the Elk that, morooned on the west side of the Cascades by heavy snow and unable to join his fellows, bawled out his woes to the unsympathetic mountainsides.

forests primeval

Later Rangers John Davis and Carl Tice and the Naturalist made a second winter journey up the west side of the Park to the Carbon River Ranger Station. The distance of about 40 miles was made under ideal conditions and but four days were required for the trip. A large Bobcat track was seen near St. Andrews Patrol Cabin and a lone Goat was observed high up on a rocky cliff near that first night's shelter. The following morning we saw a Martin bounding about over the snow in the half light of the new day and later, from vantage points on the high passes, from time to time we were able to away out over to hills to the Sound to where rising smoke gave evidence of the presence of towns and cities. Coyote and Deer tracks were numerous but most beautiful and interesting of all -- to the writer at least -- was the deep forest of giant firs and hemlocks whose silence was unbroken except for our own footfalls. At an old cabin on the banks of the Mowich River a forest skulker -- the Sharp Shinned Hawk -- was seen but he suprisedly took wing at sight of us wondering, I suppose, at our presence there at that season. Mowich Lake was entirely snowed under and on the last day as we snowshoed over the deep snows the morning sun roused everything from the sombre shadows of night to gleam in dazzeling brilliance with such lessor peaks as Tolmie and Fay eclipsed in beauty only by "The Mountain" itself.

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