Evolution Valley, at Evolution Creek crossing, to Wanda Lake (about 2 miles shy of John Muir Pass). We are at 11,000’, and I am luckily not bothered by the altitude. Nor is Betty. The cold is another matter. Our beautiful sunny blue skies have turned overcast and the wind has come up a bit–just enough to make me very glad of gloves and glove liners, silks and woolies, and my cap with ear flaps. And my tent.
It was a long slow and peaceful slog. McClure Meadow was gorgeous, with grass turning gold and granite cliffs all around. Evolution Creek meandered along and we scared up many not-so-scared black-tailed deer. This morning, we forded Evolution Creek, which is the only wear crossing so far in this drought year that I HAD to get my feet wet. The creek lapped around our ankles. Cold in the early morning!
At Evolution Lake, I watched an Arctic Tern fishing, and imagined how many miles that guy must log per year. I have no idea, though I do recall reading one time that it’s lots (editor’s note: I just looked it up. The average Arctic tern flies 44,300 miles per year. That IS a lot).
Some hikers have ear buds in and I have started taking a survey to see what they are listening to So far:
“Everything. Jazz, rock, world music, fusion. Right now, Santana”
“Beatles. But sometimes empowering women, like Destiny’s Child”
“Kings of Leon.”
“This American Life.”
That one guy who just said “everything” I like to imagine was listening to a live recording of Bill Monroe in the old barn at Bean Blossom, with the creaking sound of the fan in the background. It’s possible…
It seems so odd to me to want to take myself away from where we are. Not one person was listening to a John Muir recorded book, or even a trail guide to flora, fauna, and geology. Huh. One person asked what I was listening to. I replied, “The wind in the trees, the birds, my breathing, songs in my head.” He had to agree that those were good things to listen to, too.
I watched a mule follow his keeper across a bridge and then just watch her go down to the river. So funny, like a companionable dog. I am amazed by horses, how these huge strong creatures entered into an agreement with humans to be fed and protected in exchange for going where humans want them to go and carrying loads. I guess they thought it was a good trade-off. Depends on the humans, I guess.
All other suspected pikas were ground squirrels. This guy is so cute! Big ears, and a little squeak. It is right at our campsite at Wanda Lake, hiding in the talus and peeking out at us. I started making up a song. Lots of verses, no melody yet. Feel free to use your own.
Way up under a Sierra peak
I thought I heard a pika squeak.
Way up yonder on John Muir Pass
I saw a pika harvest grass.
I said, “Hey pika, set a spell
I’d like to hear the tales you’d tell”
The pika said, “I’ve got no time
I gotta make hay while the ol’ sun shines.
For it’s true the sun shines on us all
But tomorrow the snow may start to fall”
The pika’s mighty for its size
with two big ears and jet-black eyes,
a nose to match and a powerful squeak
and no tail at all of which to speak.
Just like a farmer with his crops
the pika’s labor never stops
He’s got to get the harvest in
before the rain and snows begin.
Beneath the weight of mountain snow
the pika knows just where to go
to find the sweet dry summer hay
it cut and stacked and laid away.
And when the summer months descend
it starts a-haying once again.
The pika looked a little sad-eyed
So I asked “what’s wrong?” and it replied,
“As you can see there are so many of you,
but as for us, we’re a dwindling few.
The snows don’t fall like they used to, dude,
so I’m going to a higher altitude.”
The pika is a specialist–
it fills one tiny little niche
and when that niche is no longer there
the pika will vanish into the thin air
with few to notice or to weep
except, perhaps, the mountain sheep.