Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Okanogan 2013

We're just a bunch of feral animals over here [Mommy excepted]. To decompress after a couple of extremely busy and stressful months we decided to uncage the beasts and go kick around the open country for a while. So we planned to take 5 nights open-endedly exploring around the Okanogan area of north-central Washington. We had to cut the trip two nights short due to rain, but we had an absolutely phenomenal time. It's hard to describe just how good this trip was for us.

The Okanogan area is a biological and geological crossroads with lots of varied habitat and open country. It also has extremely few people and an abundance of public land to throw tents down on for free. We visited for a few days in February but really wanted to come back with the early summer cohort of green and feathered things. Our plan: (1) see lots of birds, (2) be outside, (3) find wild and empty places to camp, (4) drive minimally and (5) rehabilitate, psychologically, from the grind. Here are a few pictures, mostly of the kids doing what they do.

The first night we camped in a meadow near a stream in the northern Methow valley.

We awoke to an impossible cacophony of birds and saw a few lifers right there around our tent site.

We went on a hike [and from here on out, a hike is defined as a very very slow meander with no particular destination in a beautiful place].

The girls just ran around and played with green stuff. There were dozens of stunning lazuli buntings, Bullock's orioles and western tanagers sporting late-spring vibrant plumage.

"Ornament Target Lewis" getting packed in by Little.

Bud is obsessed with birds. Everything is a "great great owl" or a snowy owl. [His other two obsessions: orcas and ninjas. Tonight he asked for Daddy to sing "[Little] and [Littler] and [Bud] and ninjas and orca song!"]

That night we stopped at a little lake in the Simlahekin valley, a steep crease west of the Okanogan valley. There were catbirds racketing right next to our tents. Little found some cattails and fell in love, using them first to create clouds of cotton, next as a great sand-writing tool with a built-in eraser and next as a torch. We saw a short-eared owl, the second that the wildlife area manager had seen in 15.5 years.

This is a castle for Blaine for his birthday.

In the morning we explored behind the lake for hours. The kids just did whatever--we have no idea.

They did their whatever for hours.

No explanation necessary:

We can't show the picture of Littler peeing but she does it exactly like this. Her jet is straighter, cleaner and more powerful than the two dudes above and reaches twice as far. Thought you should know.

We slept at the same place that night and in the morning drove to McLaughlin canyon to hike. Littler did what she has always done, which is to orient herself to the highest gradient and just walk straight up without a word. Eventually some drama unfolded involving some stuffed animals and a "cliff." Bud bravely saved the bear but the horse required some inspired ingenuity by Little [and a very long stick]. But that's only after her original plan, below, failed.

Bud throws stuff.

McLaughlin canyon was lovely, with a well-charred forest and a stunning pair of Lewis' woodpeckers.

On the drive out of the canyon we had 4 snakes on less than 1 mile of dirt road, of 4 different species. One dead, one dying, one playing dead and the other deadly.

We found a few older pictures on our card:

We saw 92 bird species in three days of birding a fairly small area, and had hour upon hour of low-stress outdoor fun. Can't wait to go back!