Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pacific Northwest Day 3 - Birds, Beers, And Rocks

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

0230 hours came pretty quickly. No axe murderers on that ridge.  No cops knocking on the door.  No, an owl woke me. Faster than a bad burrito through your bowels, I was out of that car….only to hear a Great Horned Owl.  Forget Flams now!  (For those of you that don’t know, big owls will eat little owls. They don’t bump fists and say “Rock on, brother!” and go their separate ways.)

I eventually figured out what had happened.  (At least this is what I think happened. If you disagree, go die.)  The original, distant unidentified bird was a/the Great Horned Owl. The single hoot at the ridge top was a Flam.  He did not respond with gusto to my recording as he knew the other owl was there.  I believe his single hoot was basically Flammulated Owl speak for “Bob! Shut up! There’s an owl down the ridge!  Are you trying to get yourself killed?”

(It is also worth mentioning that, for no good reason, my Mag-Lite failed to work in the Pass.  It was working fine before (I tested it) and it worked later in the day, oddly enough. Perhaps it is a good thing the Flam never showed up.  I can only imagine the horror of the situation – thousands of miles from home, sleeping in a car, and having a life bird arrive only to have a mechanical failure that would have prevented me from seeing it…..)

After securing breakfast munchies and fuel at a truckstop, I moved along to the Wenas Campground (west-southwest of Ellensburg).  Apparently, this spot, and the roads that surround it,  can be quite a happinin’ place earlier in the summer. The sign (left) made me feel right at home, but the birding was as light as the beer despised by the homeowner.   Pacific-slope Flycatcher was nice as was the MacGillivray’s Warbler.  Lark Sparrows are always worth a look, too, right?   This was my back-up spot for White-headed Woodpecker.  Not a one to be had. I’m lucky I scored it on Bethel Ridge.

I needed to start planning my route back to Becka’s for a potential dinner rendezvous.  Birding opportunities were plentiful, but the birding was light. Bumping Lake was nice, but functionally bird-less.   Keep in mind, it was mid-day. Hardly prime-time.  My short break along a rushing stream was enough to charge my batteries (my body’s batteries, not my camera).

I found the Fife Peaks particularly amazing.  Looking like something out of J.R.R. Tolkien’s imagination, geologists, smart people that they are, know exactly what happened.   Millions of years ago, a volcano erupted.  When the molten core cooled, it was more erosion-resistant than the volcano itself.  When the volcano eroded, the core was left behind.  You might think of it as pouring wet concrete into a wooden tub and just leaving it outside.  Eventually, the wood will rot, leaving a concrete cast of the tub.  Or you might think of it as pouring concrete into Michelle Bachman’s skull.  Long after the bones disappear, you can get a feel for the size and shape of her brain.  It would clearly be a tiny piece of concrete….

I honestly did not realize my route to Gig Harbor would take me through Mount Rainier National Park. I was not paying attention, I guess.  Chinook Pass, the east entrance to the park was worth a stop.  Gray Jayspandering for hand-outs are always a treat.  The MASSIVE snow drifts, some easily higher than 10’ feet, were all leftovers from the crazy Washington winter/spring.  Knowing the following day had “Rainier“ written all over it, I pressed on trying hard not to rear-end the cars in front as I was distracted by the mountain.  Such distractions are easy in such beautiful country.

The tentative dinner plans with Rebecca faltered.  Pulling my iPhone from my belt like a Batman gadget, it was only minutes later that I was pouring over the impressive beer menu at the Ale House Sports Pub and Grille in Tacoma.  Absolutely convinced the bartender was Danny Bonaduce’s twin, I took the evening to enjoy a super pizza and a nice selection of beers from Engine House #9 Brewery. The Belgian White, Rowdy’s Dick Amber Ale,  Fire Engine Red, Tacoma Brew,  IPA and Roasted Porter (#1,038-1,043) were all fair to good. The Amber Ale and Porter were the best of the bunch. Solid 4’s in my book.  The other 50+ plus beers would have to wait.  Having a Detroit sports channel on the tube was odd. Sam Bernstein?  In Tacoma?

Still completely on Michigan time and working on well less than half the sleep I would have normally had, I was basically unconscious by nightfall. Then I drove home.  Okay, seriously. I drove to Rebecca’s, then crashed.  In bed…not the car. Ah, nevermind.  You know what I mean…

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