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These images are from an August camping trip to the Okanogan Highlands.

My birthday is the first day of Spring – the Equinox – and I like to celebrate it out in nature. This year the snow lingers most everywhere in our region making hikes or even long walks pretty challenging. So we went down to the big river – the Columbia – where the temperature is more moderate and the snow melts more quickly. Still, there was snow on the ground. Not everywhere so we all were happy to walk or in the dogs’ case, run on ground for a change. And Sky got to jump in the river so all of her wishes came true.

Ken and I watched birds and enjoyed the diversity of species we got to see. Sometimes in winter there are just not many birds around. Spring and migration change all that. We saw over fifty species in a few hours of birding. That includes the birds at home. One of those was a Great Horned Owl that woke me up before dawn, hooting from a snag in our yard. I had hoped to maybe see Sandhill Cranes but it seems that they are put off by all the remaining snow. I imagine when they do head north, they won’t stop here very long since they need to get to their nesting grounds. We did see lots of ducks and geese and swans too.

Molly’s dad was hoping to get Molly some experience in his new canoe and I just wanted to enjoy some lake time before winter really gets started. Molly got very little experience and after jumping out of the canoe twice, she got to spend the rest of the afternoon in the truck. Next time I won’t be along to distract her. There were quite a few ducks, some grebes, a couple of herons and an otter to provide entertainment as we enjoyed one of the last nice afternoons.

Ken and I and the dogs were camping last week. It was good to get away from computers and electronic communication and enjoy time spent in nature. We kayaked, Ken fished, the dogs swam and jumped in lakes and we hiked and looked at wildflowers and birds. We enjoyed food cooked in the campfire, drank good wine and had a fine time!

Chopaka Lake is nearly to Canada in Okanogan County and sits at about 3000′ elevation. The landscape around it varies from riparian to shrub-steppe to forest and 7000′ Chopaka Mountain rises steeply behind it. The road to Chopaka is relatively steep and it seems daunting to some folks but we had no trouble pulling our little camping trailer up the grade. There are two small adjacent campgrounds – one run by the state DNR and the other by the federal BLM; both free. We were surprised and dismayed on Sunday afternoon to find every site full and we lucked out when two fellows left a site right on the lake! We laid claim to it immediately.

Chopaka is fly fishing only with a limit of one fish per day and it could easily have been a setting for a Cabela’s catalog photo shoot! Anglers had all the cool gear and clothes for the occasion. We probably stood out in the crowd (such as it was) with our own renditions of outdoor stuff. There was a great selection of boats also – some handmade. The dogs were delighted to have a lake in our front yard. Despite the campgrounds being full, it was a very quiet place. Folks were resptful of others and friendly too.

And that’s just the first two days of our camping trip!

A friend joined me for a full moon paddle on Pearrygin Lake last night. It was a perfect evening for it with glassy water, no power boats and warm weather. At 8:01, we could see the creeping light of the moon over the hills to east. As it came up and we watched with binoculars, we could see the fir trees silhouetted against the bright disk. It was truly an awesome sight. My photo does not do it justice.


Too high ISO, boat movement, lens not long enough but still, you get the idea!

We were also treated to a chorus of Poorwill’s from the back side of Studhorse Mountain; bats, some owls that were very light colored and lots of crickets. When we first got on the water we saw Mallards, mergansers, at least two kinds of grebes and probably a Wood Duck too. This time of year, the ducks are such a challenge. Lots of Red-winged Blackbirds. One Great Blue Heron was fairly cranky about being disturbed by our presence in the dark and made its opinion known as it flew across the lake.

One the way home I saw a Great-horned Owl, a raccoon and in Winthrop at the four way stop, a mule deer doe carefully walked across the street using the crosswalk as I patiently waited for her. She was the only one walking around town at 10:00. I guess that’s a sign that the summer tourist season is over.

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