A most excellent trip to WA and AK

In late February I went to Anchorage, Alaska for my good friend and college room mate, Kevin's wedding. On my way, I stopped in Seattle for a few days to visit some good friends that live there. I spent most of the time with my good friends Mark and Gaby, who Sarah and I knew from our time in Muncie, IN. Mark and I spent a few days birding, fishing, and camping on the Olympic peninsula.

This is my first Redtail Surfperch (Amphistichus rhodoterus), which Mark showed me how to catch on the beautiful west coast of the peninsula.

We tried for Steelhead (anadromous form of Rainbow) Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in a few of the beautiful streams and rivers throughout the peninsula. Mark caught this one in a neat river where we had to use ropes to get down the steep ravine to the water.

I just liked this picture of the sun getting ready to set over the Pacific.

These River Otters (Lontra canadensis) were not shy at all. In fact, I got the feeling that it would not have been wise for me to get any closer than I did. These are probably one of my favorite North American mammals.

Here's a video of the two otters. I had to use Youtube because the video was too large to put directly on the blog. Acording to a friend of mine, the odd tail-shaking they do to each other in the video between seconds 25 and 37 is called sprainting, and has to do with scent marking.

This is Crescent Lake. It was formed long ago by a natural landslide, and is 624 feet deep.

I like how the smooth cobble on the water's edge looks in the early morning light. This is the Hoh River, about a mile upstream from where it empties into the Pacific.

It was great to spend time with Mark and Gaby, and I also enjoyed spending an evening with our friends Troy and Lisa from our time in Astoria. Now, on to Alaska.

I began my first full day in Alaska by heading north into Arctic Valley to do some snowshoeing and birding. It was beautiful in every direction, and the weather was perfect; 20 degrees F, and not windy.

This is a video of a cow Moose (Alces alces) and her calf. I had to include this iconic Alaskan animal.

I put in about 1.5 mi on snowshoes in the arctic valley. Everywhere else had shallow enough, or packed enough, snow to just use boots. Here, I saw an adult Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) flush a flock of male Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus muta) off of a ridgetop.

I visited a couple other spots to hike, including the Eagle River Valley, which had a lot to offer in terms of scenery and wildlife. This is just a little side stream that flows into the Eagle River.

Sarah and I saw our first Black-backed and American Three-toed Woodpeckers (Picoides arcticus and dorsalis, respectively) in Northern MN over Christmas. Black-backed Woodpeckers are less common in the Western part of their range, so I felt fortunate to find this female.

It was neat to see this male American Three-toed Woodpecker drumming on this resonant piece of dead wood to warn other males not to mess with his territory. A neighboring male could be heard in the distance.

One great bonus of my trip to Anchorage was getting to spend some time with my cousin Sean and his wife Colleen, which was coincidentally the name of Kevin's bride to be. They took me to the Bear Tooth Theatre to eat and then attend the Alaska Ocean Film Festival, which was really a neat new experience for me. We also went for a really enjoyable night hike the next day, which is when this photo was taken.

I didn't get all the way down to the coast, but I did take the new Seward Highway South from Anchorage for a ways. One of the highlights of that trip, besides all the great scenery, was getting to see these Dall Sheep (Ovis dalli) foraging near the road. I could see their hoofprints leading back towards an almost vertical cliff from which they had descended. Being excellent climbers and having a thick coat of white fur, they are well adapted to an inhospitable and snowy alpine terrain.

After I had been in AK for a couple days, some of the guys started arriving. It's always great to see good friends. Here's Dave and me at Kaladi Brothers, looking sleep deprived and ready for some high quality Joe.

I enjoy going out hiking alone, but it's also nice to enjoy the outdoors with good friends. Here's Dave, Willy, and me on an outing before the rehearsal dinner. Not too shabby.

Kevin has made some excellent friends along the way. It was really a special time to get to know all these great guys from different stages of Kevin's life. Sometimes these times can be a bit awkward, but this felt almost like we already knew each other. Very cool.

A few of us shot out for a quick hike before the wedding. I already miss that place.

Not being the type to miss an opportunity at foosball, we all got in some quick play before the ceremony.

The actual wedding was beautiful but not drawn out. For all the planning that goes into these things, they sure come and go quickly.

I'll end with an icon of all places cold and rocky, the Common Raven (Corvus corax).


Crip said...

I like those first two pictures a lot.

Mother Mary said...

Hey Kelly! Thanks for the update on your travels! Wow! Beautiful pics! Please share why River Otters are one of your favorite mammals....

Anonymous said...

I love the part about the river otters being "probably" one of Kelly's favorite North American mammals. Love, Jess