Hiking up Indian River Valley

Bog Laurel Flowers

Originally I had been thinking that I would like to hike up the Middle Sister, but clouds were still obscuring the mountain peaks, so I decided I would just head up the valley. I considered going up beyond Indian River falls, but became distracted by the calls of Townsend’s Warblers between the first and second bridges and wandered of trail to record the variation I was hearing. By the time I had finished that, I was well on my way to the muskeg below the Middle Sister and decided I would visit it.

Despite the clouds over the peaks, it was partly cloudy in the valley, and the muskeg was experiencing full sunshine for much of the time I was in it. It was the first warm sunny day in quite some time and it did not take too long before I saw my first dragonfly of the day. After awhile, I realized that it was a day of emergence for these insects that spend their early years in the water (see related entry). At least one bird was taking advantage of the emerging dragonflies, as I saw a robin with a beak full of teneral (recently emerged, but not yet flight able) dragonflies.

I heard more birds than I saw on this hike. In addition to the previously mentioned Towndsend’s Warblers, I heard many Pacific Slope Flycatchers, and Hermit, Varied, and Swainson’s Thrushes in the woods between the trailhead and the muskeg. There were also quite a few Red-breasted Sapsuckers flying between the trees.

On the way up, I heard a sapsucker nest just after I crossed the last small creek before the muskeg with a bench. I was able to determine that it was in the large spruce dead spruce tree just after that creek on the uphill side of the trail. The nest hole was at least 30 feet or so up in the tree and the calls were not as loud as I have heard in the past. Since I had not heard anything last time I was on the trail a few days ago, I suspect the birds had just hatched out in the past day or two. On my return, the nest was silent.

When I stopped at the bench in the muskeg, I heard swallows flying overhead. I looked up and saw a few of them, though I am not sure whether they were Tree Swallows or some other species. When I looked up, I also noticed that there were quite a few eagles soaring over the valley.

Along the edges of the muskeg below the Middle Sister there were many juncos keeping to the scrub trees and calling softly back and forth. I also heard some of their trilling songs. Chickadees and at least one woodpecker were also in the area. I heard a Wilson’s Warbler calling periodically from the thickets on the Gavan Hill side of the muskeg.

The muskeg was well on its way to summer green. Burnet and buckbean had leaves out and some of the buckbean was starting to flower. It will be awhile before the burnet flowers, it looks like. The Bog Rosemary and Bog Laurel were nearing their peak blooming, while the ground dogwood and swamp gentian were just getting started (I was actually a little surprised to see a few swamp gentian flowers, as I tend to associate them with later summer). Three-leaf Goldthread and Tall Mountain Shooting Star both appeared to be past their peak.

In the woods, both Rosy and Small Twistedstalk in bloom. Single delights were almost open and the start of flower buds could be seen on the One-sided Wintergreens near the first bridge.

One the return, I noticed some of the yellow slime mold that appeared to be the same kind that I had noticed previously in the park. It looks like it has some fairly solid form, but when I touched it, it was pure slime, with no significant structure to resist my touch.

Although I did not see any especially fresh bear sign, it was clear that they use the muskeg below the Middle Sister fairly often. Most of the activity seems to be at the upper end, but there were places where bear scat had been deposited last fall and seedling salmonberries were growing throughout the muskeg. In the upper end there are clear trails, and it looks like a good sized pond that the bears dip into. I’m not sure whether they roll around in it or what, but there was a clear trail going out of it and the mud was still in suspension in the water. I am not sure how long it takes for the mud to settle out of suspension, but the tracks did not look too fresh (not that I am any great expert at aging tracks).

I noticed a lot of spiders and ants throughout the muskeg. I think I may have seen a couple different species of spider, and at least one of them appeared to be a jumping spider. This is the first time I remember seeing a jumping spider around here, though they were fairly common down in Idaho when I was there (which is why I know what they are). Whatever the spiders were chasing, it did not seem to be ants. I saw one come into contact with an ant and if anything, the spider seemed to want to avoid the ant. As far as ants are concerned, it seemed like everywhere I stopped, there were ants crawling all over the place. One ant even managed to crawl up inside my pants and it felt like it might have bit my leg. At one point I noticed a dead moth and upon closer inspection, I saw an ant crawling on the wing. The ant was coated in the fine scales that cover the wings of moths.

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