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My husband wrote a song called Climb to the Top of the World and I thought of that when we reached this mountaintop on Tuesday.

It was a chilly day and the wind was blowing pretty hard at home and I almost didn’t go. Then I remembered that Luna does much better on hikes when the weather is not the best in my mind. She just doesn’t tolerate the heat well anymore. So off we went with a rain jacket for me and carrying extra water for the dogs. It was 48 at the 6560′ trailhead and I was glad to have a warmer jacket too. The dogs thought it was perfect.

The trail goes steeply through a burned forest and then into high meadows before going straight up through the rocky mountainside. Just before the last big ascent, there is a rock that holds any water from recent precipitation and I don’t know if Luna remembers it or if she can smell it but long before I got there, she was slurping up the remnants of the dirty puddle. I gave her clean water too and used some of that to replenish the puddle.

The views at the 8245′ summit just can’t be beat. Mountains everywhere. The flowers are just beginning. In a week or two, they will be glorious.

Yesterday, the girls and I enjoyed our first outing over the pass this year. It’s hard to believe we are staying so close to home all the time. And we barely got over the pass so maybe it doesn’t even count, even if we did leave our county. There were a fair number of cars in the parking lot when we arrived and many of them had out of state plates – it seemed like more than usual.

The trail is muddy in places but more of it is snow-covered and icy. Normally I would not take my hiking poles for this hike. This time I did and I was glad to have them. They made the downhill part of the day much easier. Lots of little streams crossed the trail. Luna appreciates having water to drink regularly. Her old body seems thirstier all the time. She did lead the way and did more exploring than Sky so at 13 1/2 she is still going strong. The lake is mostly ice-covered and Sky was disappointed I did not throw the stick in it for her. Next time. There was a little bit of rain but no wind like at home where we’ve been buffeted by high winds for days.

Sky did get to swim in the pond near the trailhead so her day was complete. It was a good outing.

First we stopped to enjoy glacier lilies, anemones and a fast moving stream and then we looked for a place to walk. The trailheads are still covered in snow so the girls and I started at Meadows campground and walked up. Up and up til we got to a high spot named South Slate at 6828′. It is a south facing slope so the snow was mostly melted, leaving patches where the dogs could roll around. There was no trail; I just picked my way around the rocky slopes. I think this area burned in 2003 leaving behind a silver forest of standing dead trees that have sloughed their blackened bark. Why do some dead trees stand for years and years while others (like on our place) fall within a few years of dying?

The views were terrific. The flowers were lovely. Birds were singing and calling. I heard a Sooty Grouse doing his display hoots but could never track him down. Olive-sided Flycatchers sang their ‘quick three beers!’ song over and over! Mountain Bluebirds made soft chirps. Ground squirrels whistled. And I found a geo cache. Not on purpose. The cylinder was not well covered and the bright color caught my eye underneath two oddly stacked rocks.

It was a good outing.

Of course, we saw lots of other birds while camped in the Okanogan Highlands. Here are a few of them plus a chipmunk that lived in our campsite. Its main job was to drive Luna nuts.

Common Loon. One of my favorite birds. Growing up, I had no idea they could be found in Washington. I thought they lived in places like Minnesota or New England or Canada. I was well past middle age when I saw, and heard, my first loons in the Okanogan Highlands. It’s one of the reasons we keep going back there, year after year. Where else can we listen to loons as we sit around the campfire or hear them at first light or watch them socialize with each and raise their youngsters on the clear cool water? Loons are remarkable birds. You can learn more about ‘the spirit of the north’ here.

It is worthwhile to click through all of these images and see some interesting loon behaviour. They clearly are very social, flying from one lake to another to ‘visit’ with the resident loons. They struggle to raise their young with the ever-present threat from hungry eagles also raising youngsters. The family we watched each day had two young the week before we arrived but only one when we were there. And that splashing! I don’t know what that’s all about. Loons often just tip over gently into the water, hardly leaving more than a ripple. Those four loons appeared to be fishing together and did this repeatedly while we watched for an hour or more. Others reported seeing the same activity.

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