Yesterday my brother and I hiked up the Middle Sister and back on the ridge to the North Sister. We did not go up the North Sister, though we did contemplate doing so. In the end, it was probably better that we didn’t. (More about the hike)
Weather: It was sunny and warm yesterday and today. Temperatures yesterday topped out at about 75 degrees and it was not quite as warm today. Fortunately for us yesterday, there was enough breeze on the mountain ridge, that it actually felt kind of cool. While hiking up the trail a couple of times, we experienced very warm pockets of air. I suspect this is where the air above the trees which had been warmed by the sun was mixing with the cooler air trapped beneath the canopy. Both days winds were calm in the morning, then picked up during the day, before settling down in the evening.
Birds: We did not see much in the way of birds on the way up the valley, though there were some tracks in a muskeg puddle that appeared to be from a duck.
On the way up the Middle Sister I heard a bird that sounded like an odd wimpy eagle whistle. At first I thought it might be Jonathan whistling at me (we had gotten a little bit separated), but after it flew off and landed in a different tree, I was able to see that it was a Harlan’s Red-tail Hawk. It continued to call, and then a little later I heard the more well known ‘creee’ call from a second hawk. I think this one may not have been a Harlan’s Hawk.
When we made it above the trees, and stopped to rest for a bit, I noticed a smallish bird that I think might have been a raptor. If so, it was probably a Merlin or Kestrel, but then again, it may have just been a thrush.
Other birds we saw in the alpine were Orange-crowned Warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Dark-eyed Juncos, and four American Pipits. We also found some interesting tracks in the mud at the edge of an alpine ridge puddle. I think they were from a shore bird, but I do not know which species.
Flora: There was not too much in the way of flowers until we were headed down the backside of the ridge into the headwaters of Indian River. The northeasterly aspect of the slopes here probably resulted in a later spring. Of particular note were Bog Swertia, Fringed Grass-of-Parnassus, Butterwort, and White Rein Orchids.
Down by the falls it appeared that some flowers were just coming into bloom. The one I noticed mostly was an arnica. It appears that there are 4 arnica species in the Sitka area, and I am as yet uncertain how to identify them, so I may try to get back up there in the next week or two when these will (hopefully) be in full bloom.
I noticed Self-heal growing a couple of different places along the trail. I had not noticed it on Indian River Trail before.
Other Notes: There was lots of evidence of bear activity on the back side of the ridge. Many piles of scat, and places where vegetation had evidently been walked over and/or eaten.
While hiking back on the trail, we heard some loud roaring coming from some distance away. Our best guess is that a couple of bears were really getting after each other over in the lower muskeg, but we didn’t take the time to investigate.
Near the bridge over the stream that comes from the fen, I was walking about 20 feet in front of Jonathan, and stopped when I heard something going away from me in the bushes. I could not see it, but Jonathan had a better vantage point and I asked him if it was a deer (which is typically what I’ve seen running away). It was not a deer, but rather a small bear. He thought it might have been about 3 feet tall at the shoulder.
There were recently emerged dragonflies in the muskeg below the Middle Sister. I was wishing I had time to stop and get some photos, but had to settle for a couple of quick pictures of one teneral I found that was sticking to a sundew (I helped it off the sundew after getting its picture).
One of the falls we could see coming down from the ridge between the Right Sister and Arrowhead was illuminated like a rainbow for a while. I guess we had good timing to see it, as I suspect it only shows up that way for a short period of time (when viewed from a given location, anyway).
There is large boulder well up beyond the falls. It’s orangish-red in color and I remember seeing it many years ago while hiking on the ridges behind the Middle Sister. At the time, I wanted to go back to investigate closer, but still haven’t made it. Maybe seeing it again will help me feel a little more motivated.