We’re making the most of these last few days of summer and a trip to see our ‘marmot friends’ on Obstruction Point seem a perfect outing. But due to a late start we decided to hike the closer Hurricane Hill trail. We’ve seen marmots there before but normally opt for the lesser traveled Obstruction Point road. However with the end of summer so near most of the tourists have headed for home leaving Hurricane Hill virtually deserted. It’s a beautiful hike with breathtaking views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, North Cascades, Victoria and the weather was perfect.
While scanning the slopes for marmot burrows I noticed some movement in a tufted mound of grass near a burrow. Assuming it was a marmot I approached slowly and kneeled down about six feet away. Imagine my surprise when a female White-tailed Ptarmigan’s head poked through the grass and quickly summoned her babies to stay below. She was amazing camouflaged in the late summer, golden-brown grass. The White-tailed Ptarmigan is the only bird to permanently reside in the alpine zone year long. During the summer they appear grayish brown and speckled turning to white in winter, similar to a snowshoe hare. Their feet are fully feathered and act as ‘snowshoes’ in the winter as well as helping maintain body heat.
Several months ago our friend, Tom Stewart, asked Larry if he’d like to paint one of his drums. Tom is a drum maker who shows his work in Gallery 9 along with us. Larry chose a ‘Ptarmigan Theme’ as these birds tend to make drumming sounds similar to one of Tom’s drums. The painted drum portrays Ptarmigans in their various colors of plumage. This beautiful drum is currently for sale if you’re interested in owning not only an amazing drum but also an ‘Eifert original painting.’
Seeing the ptarmigan made my day, if I didn’t see a marmot that day it was okay. But on our decent down the trail, off over in the distance, we spied a golden marmot standing up on it’s burrow. Leaving my backpack with Larry and grabbing my camera I walked towards the mounds and watched as a pup munched on grass. Ah, another marmot moment.
Thanks for reading.
Nancy Cherry Eifert