‘We’re looking for the best place to find Ochotona Princeps‘ my friend Theresa says inquiringly to the receptionist at the Wind River Ranger Station. Both the receptionist and I gape at her.
My friend got a degree in wildlife biology. She likes to use the fancy names occasionally, cause, well- why else do you spend all that time memorizing names of plants and animals.
‘Pikas.’ she clarifies.
‘I’ll go get our biologist for you.’
We spend a happy fifteen minutes pouring over a map of the trails around Leavenworth with the recreation manager and the biologist. Maps! Pikas! Cool places to hike! All four involved in this map perusal are pretty excited.
Theresa and I have a goal. We are on a hunt for pikas. But we promise we are only out to hunt them with cameras.
After discussing mushrooms (which we got about a hundred pictures of the day before. Only pictures we promise. We don’t know enough about them to eat any), how many people we saw out hiking, and where the best rockpiles are to go find pikas, we settle on going to Valhalla Lake.
Valhalla Lake is just off the PCT from Steven’s Pass. But, there’s a shortcut that makes the hike in only 3 miles. Awesome. I am once again in awe of all the trails that connect in to the PCT and where they relate to other things and the larger scale of maps! After months of looking at a map that followed a narrow corridor, it’s nice to get perspective on the rest of the wild places.
Away we go to find our furry lagamorph friends.
What I have learned about pikas: They are in the rabbit family. They spend all summer making a haystack and eat the haystack all winter. If you eep back to them you can have a conversation that probably translates to saying ‘danger’ several times. If you sit in a rockpile for 10 or more minutes, the pikas will start sneaking around the rocks and going about their business again. Spend an hour in the rockpile and you’ll have 20 plus new friends.