Port Orchard Marina

Although I still eat lunch in Port Orchard after birding Theler Wetlands because I love Chiles Rellenos, I haven’t birded there the last two months because birds are few and far between.

When I glanced out at the marina after lunch this time, I decided it might be worth walking out to the end of the marina. There still weren't many birds, but there were some hopeful signs.

There were several Pelagic Cormorants


out fishing.

There were even some Surf Scoters


eating shellfish off the marina poles, but they moved way out as we came closer.

This Horned Grebe was much more


accommodating, though, as it seemed totally indifferent to my existence.


I'll delete all these shots, but it was nice to see that the birds that overwinter on the Puget Sound are starting to return.

And One More Thing

Birding seems to be picking up at Theler Wetlands; before long the hunters will be out firing away the whole time I’m there. Still, I was pleased to see almost as many Green-Winged Teals as I did in the Spring.


I was a little surprised to see a large flock of American Goldfinch


since I didn’t see any there the last time we were there.

We also spotted a large flock of Cedar Waxwings


that seemed determined not to have their picture taken by staying in the top of the tallest trees.

This Bald Eagle,


however, flew by several times at eye level, though it seemed more interested in a dead salmon than it did in us.

The high point of the morning, though, came relatively early when I finally managed to get a shot of this mink


that I’ve glanced on several occasions but never managed to get a shot of before. It was so close I had a hard time getting my telephoto lens to focus on it. I still get thrilled when I get this close to a wild animal.

The Mountain Goat

The resplendent huckleberry colors seemed destined to be the highlight of our Indian Heaven trip until Leslie spotted this Mountain Goat near the top of Sawtooth Mountain.


If I hadn’t seen (and photographed) it myself, I wouldn’t have believed that she had actually seen a Mountain Goat here. After all, we climbed to the top of the mountains several times in the past and never seen any sign of Mountain Goats. As far as I know, the nearest goats are nearly 100 miles north of Indian Heaven in the Goat Rock Wilderness.

The Mountain Goat seemed almost as curious about us as we were about it. Though it would have been easy for it to scramble to the other side of the ridge, it seemed content to climb a little higher


to get a better look at us.


I have seen Mountain Goats on distant ridges in the Goat Rock Wilderness, but I never imagined I would ever see one this close in the wild.

I have to admit, it was definitely the highlight of our trip for me.


Hiking Sawtooth Mountain

Wednesday’s hike to Sawtooth Mountain in Indian Heaven was quite different from Monday’s hike to Junction Lake. Not only was it 6 miles shorter, it was much more heavily forested than we remembered it when we hiked it 10 or 12 years ago. Although there were some huckleberries, there weren’t nearly as colorful as Monday’s.

Part of that was probably the result of a heavier cloud cover than on Monday. The clouds also affected distant scenics like this one of Mt Rainier to the north,


though I actually liked the softening effect.

The clouds weren’t nearly as heavy in the east. I liked this shot of Mt. Adams framed by the fir trees.


Mt. St. Helens is actually much closer than the other two to Indian Heaven, but it was so hazy on the West side that my Canon SX60HS had trouble focusing on it.


It seemed badly in need of a new coat of snow.

Without the overwhelming huckleberries, I ended up focusing on the occasional lupine


and plentiful mushrooms that seemed to thrive in the Old Growth forest.


Impressions of Indian Heaven

Though it seems impossible to truly convey how beautiful the huckleberry-filled meadows in Indian Heaven are, I thought I could at least give you my impression of them.


It seemed almost sacrilegious to wear a path through such beauty,


but you had no choice but to do so if you wanted to go anywhere.

Leslie and I debated what color the huckleberry leaves were


because they looked quite different depending on the angle of the sun.


The meadows were so brilliant that even the water in Junction Lake reflected their glory.

At times the forest seems to dominate the landscape, but in early Fall it seems like mere background for the huckleberries.


Fall Hiking in Indian Heaven

We just got back from a long-anticipated Fall trip to Indian Heaven in Southwest Washington. Ever since we moved to Tacoma I’ve tried to arrange a Fall trip to Indian Heaven but haven’t been able to put it together until Leslie finally retired. It was well worth the wait as the weather proved perfect for hiking.

Although it seems like a long ways away, it was only a 3 1/2 drive to Indian Heaven, where we were greeted by this view of Mt. Adams,


looking as if it was looking forward to a new winter coat of snow.

We had to climb nearly 800 feet higher to glimpse the top of Mt Rainier nearly a hundred miles to the north.


It’s really much higher than Sawtooth Mt, though it didn’t necessarily feel that way when we hiked up to Sawtooth two days later.

I wondered if I had overestimated my conditioning as we looked up the ridge


where the trail led.

No matter, despite some pain, I knew the beauty awaited us at the top.


It’s called Indian Heaven for a good reason, at least in the Fall when the huckleberries started to change color and the frosts have finally killed off most of the mosquitoes.

As it turned out, we ended up hiking nearly 12 miles on Monday. Not unexpectedly, the hardest part — though my heart rate suggested otherwise — was the downhill. I had to stop half way down the mountain to take a pain pill my knees were protesting so loudly.

I suspect I must have been in a little better shape 12 years ago when I hiked this quite regularly. At the end of the hike we decided to drive down to Hood River and tour the fruit stands and Wineries the next day and save our 2nd hike for Wednesday, not Tuesday.