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  • Writer's pictureKarl Koerber

Today's Hike - Grassy Mountain (Again): Bugs, Blooms, Birds, Etc.

To celebrate my seventy-fifth (!) birthday I hiked to the south ridge of Grassy Mountain, one of my favorite local haunts. For its elevation of just under 2000 metres, this open, south-facing ridge in the Bonnington Range is snow-free relatively early, and I’ve been coming here every spring for the past few years to get my first  fix of the subalpine.

It’s about 440 metres in elevation from where I parked to the peak, so there was quite an array of wildflowers in bloom, starting with trillium, round-leaved violet, red twinberry, sticky current, blue-eyed Mary and others.

Bees and bugs of various ilks were foraging busily among the blossoms.

This photo is from May 31, 2021, when I was graced with a few moments observing a mother grizzly with her two cubs foraging and playing in a lush meadow not far below me. I always hope for another (non-confrontational, at a safe distance) viewing of these or other bears when I hike here but, so far, no such luck.

The largest mammals I saw this time were ground squirrels—golden-mantled and Columbian—that had recently emerged from their long winter sleeps. Columbian ground squirrels hibernate for an astonishing seven to eight months of the year, while the golden mantled squirrels have a somewhat shorter hibernation period.

Fun fact: of the three most common activities of Columbian ground squirrels (feeding, grooming and standing at attention) the most time is spent standing at attention (although...can standing at attention be called an activity?)

As I climbed higher up the slope, there were different plants in bloom: many of the regular suspects like glacier lily, shooting star, spring beauty, mertensia and desert parsley, but also a few species I see less often, including ballhead waterleaf and old man’s whiskers.

A raven came by and entertained me for a while with some aerobatic swoops and rolls.

The slopes approaching the crest of the ridge become increasingly gentle, and they were carpeted with meadows of glacier lily and western spring beauty.

There are views to the southwest of the Columbia River valley, with a glimpse of the river near Genelle and Old Glory Mountain and Mount Plewman in the distance. To the north is a view of Airy Mountain and the southern end of the Valhalla Range. The little dots in the sky are mosquitos that I haven't edited out.

As I write this, I’m feeling somewhat reflective, thinking of the many years I’ve spent wandering the mountains and valleys of this amazing area where I’ve had the privilege of living for all but the first three of my seventy-five years. I grew up on an acreage abutting the southern edge of the Bonnington Range and, over the years, I found my habitat expanding to include the streams, lakes, forests and ridgetops of that relatively small sub-range of the Selkirk Mountains. Whether it was swimming and camping in Champion Lakes Park, hunting with my father in the Erie Creek basin, fishing in Marble Lake or, in my later years, hiking with my camera among the numerous peaks and ridges, the Bonningtons always felt like my backyard, familiar and comforting.

And so, as I forge onward into my seventy-sixth year here on the Mother Ship, I’m filled with immense gratitude, and perhaps even a bit of guilt, for the gifts life has bestowed: relative good health, a community of family and good friends, and a home in this corner of paradise where fate plunked me down and allowed me to remain all these decades.


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3 commentaires

Gwen Norman
Gwen Norman
17 juin

Columbian Ground Squirrels are very active while standing at attention, smelling, observing, feeling, thinking, meditating, wondering about the meaning of life....

Karl Koerber
Karl Koerber
17 juin
En réponse à

Wow, you are very well-versed in the inner life of ground squirrels, Gwen! I stand (no pun intended) corrected.


16 juin

Thanks Karl, and happy birthday. We're lucky you are so generous with your talents. Makes our human gardens seem so puny in relation to Nature's own offerings. I think that perspective, even more than the glorious vistas, gives me a sense of our smallness, and need for humility, in this universe.

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