Monday, October 02, 2006

Cross-Country Camping Trip, Part 1

Well, better late than never, I guess. We just today got the DSL set up, after an impossibly long session on the phone with Verizon Tech Support. So here we go (only a month after the fact) with the camping and cross-country adventure. I wrote all these posts on the road, and I'm going to leave the verb tenses as I wrote them, even though they are obviously all in the past now. I'll put my after the fact comments either before or after the dotted lines. These will be fairly picture-heavy posts, though I tried to restrain myself somewhat. It was just all so beautiful!!


The great camping trip has begun. We left Friday Harbor on Friday morning (8/25/06), and headed up to Penticton, British Columbia, Canada. I’d never been that far into BC before, and it’s beautiful. Penticton is on the other side of the Cascades, so it’s dry and deserty, with the same sort of sagebrush ecosystem that eastern Washington has. It also has amazing hills of sheer rock that are unlike anything I’ve seen before.

Along the way, we saw lots of birds for my “Seen In Canada” bird list, as well as two new mammals: yellow pine chipmunks and mountain goats!

The Ironman Canada race was on Sunday, so most of Saturday (8/26/06) was spent at the campground where Shaun’s friends were staying. We stayed there the first night as well since we got there so late in the evening, but it was a pit of a crowded RV park so we went looking for something better for the second and third nights. We ended up at the Vaseaux Lake Provincial Park, where the view from our campground was this:

Not only was the view immensely better and the neighbors quieter (no generators), but the cost was less than half per night. I love publicly owned campgrounds. Plus I saw a black bear up in the hills across the road the first night we were there, another new mammal for the Life List.

Sunday (8/27/06) was race day, and while I applaud Ron for finishing an Ironman race and am quite impressed that he even wanted to do it, I really had very little interest in following the racers around all day. Emma and I went birding instead.

The land east of Vaseaux Lake is the Vaseaux-Bighorn Wildlife Refuge, and there is a road that goes quite a ways up into the mountains. Conveniently, this was just across the road from our campground. So after dropping Shaun off with all his triathlon-watching buddies, we went up the road, stopping periodically to get out and see what we could see/hear. I would have preferred to just hike instead of driving, but since I had toddler duty all day it made more sense to take the car.

The view of Vaseaux Lake from about halfway up the mountain was impressive,

as were the rocky canyons on the road up the mountain.

We saw some pretty wildflowers

Common blazing-star (Mentzelia laevicaulis)

and more than thirty species of birds, including two, Canyon Wren and Mountain Chickadee, that were new on my Life List. I also saw three new butterflies (Great Basin Wood-nymph, Melissa Blue, and Common Roadside Skipper) and another new mammal….

California bighorn sheep! I have always wanted to see bighorn sheep. All in all, it was a very fun excursion up into a type of ecosystem that I’ve never explored before. Plus, since we were in the car instead of hiking, Emma was able to nap in the afternoon while I kept birding.

Later that afternoon, to round out the day’s wildlife total, I found some suspiciously exciting shell fragments while we were cooling off in the lake. I went searching and found

A freshwater mussel! Not sure what this is, but maybe Anodonta or Pyganodon or the like, since the fragments I found that had intact hinges didn’t have any hinge teeth. However, there was another fragment that was much heavier than the others (though it wasn't the part of the shell that included the teeth) and the live mussel seems to be too thick-shelled and sturdy to be Anodonta. I need to search around a bit and see if I can figure out just what this is. I studied North Carolina freshwater mussels and snails for my Master’s thesis and later when I worked for the State of North Carolina doing species surveys in creeks around the state, so freshwater mollusks hold a special place in my heart.

So that was our trip to British Columbia. Next, on to Glacier National Park in Montana! Stay tuned.....


I did go searching around on the web, and found this nice field guide to western freshwater mussels. (It's a PDF file) It appears that the mussel I found was the Western Pearlshell, Margaritifera falcata. There was also definitely an Anodonta species in the lake as well, since some of the fragments I found had no hinge teeth and much thinner shells. I love mussels.

1 comment:

Kris said...

Your photos are so beautiful. I've never been to BC so I'm enjoying your travel essay.