North Cascades Expedition: Long Overdue Summary!

Last month the Young Naturalists’ Society of the Pacific Northwest took an epic expedition through the North Cascades (4 stops, 5 vehicles, 18 people, and 114 species added to our life list)! This is the long overdue report of that expedition.

May 5, 2013: A group of 18 YNSers met in the parking lot of the Burke Museum at 8:00am. We distributed maps and directions, split up into carpools, and drove east on Highway 2 toward our first destination: Forks of the Sky State Park.

Stop #1. Forks of the Sky State Park receives much more rain than Seattle, which makes it home to a number of epiphytic mosses, lichens, and ferns! In addition to the rich botanical diversity, we also enjoyed beautiful views of the Index Town Wall (well known to climbers and home to a number of nesting cliff swallows).

Stop #2. Money Creek Campground contains a small tract of preserved old growth temperate forest with some huge Douglas fir that probably are over 1,000 years old. Among these giants, and under the guidance of John Chau and Carolyn Shores, we continued to find new and exciting plants. I really enjoyed having more time to practice IDing native plants, tasting wild ginger, and finding a young maidenhair fern.

Stop #3. Tumwater Campground was our first stop on the east side of the Cascades. This change was evident in the fact that the temperature had increased by about 20˚F from our last stop. (I may be slightly exaggerating…) More importantly we had lunch and learned some really interesting things about nature. For example: I now know that Ponderosa Pine smells intensely of butterscotch and that sea anemones are actually named after a group of terrestrial flowering plants!

Stop #4. Leavenworth was the last stop of our trip. Here, Jared Grummer (our resident herpetologist) led us up the rocky slopes and expertly demonstrated how to catch Western fence lizards.  This gave us the chance to see them up close and examine their brilliant blue-blotched sides. We also got another great group picture.

Altogether we identified a total of 2 reptiles, 4 mammals (*including sign), 10 insects, 21 birds, and 79 different plant species! The majority of these sightings were new to us (so look for some major expansions in the “life lists” page soon). This trip had so many highlights, but I think the best part of the trip was getting to know the newest YNS members!

Thanks to everyone that came out and made this trip a big success. Special thanks to the drivers and our trip leaders John Chau, Carolyn Shores, and Jared Grummer!

-Peter

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