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07/09/06 - Mountain Goat Update

There were mountain goats in the news this morning. The local paper, the Peninsula Daily News, had an article about the upcoming aerial goat survey. We Kalebergs decided to check out the situation ourselves, but lacking the requisite light aircraft and helicopters, we took one of our favorite hikes, the Switchback Trail to Klahane Ridge. We had spotted one fine specimen back in June, so we had our hopes for this fact finding expedition.

We started the arduous ascent from the parking lot. The bog orchids were in bloom, and their rich scent permeated the waterfall climb near the start of the trail. Hikers descending reported goats on the trail, raising our hopes. Indeed, as we neared the 1000' apl (above parking lot) mark on our altimeter, there they were, two goats, a nanny and a kid, skulking in one of the shady corners of a switchback.

Mountain Kid
An Olympic mountain goat exploring the crags above us

After a suitable pause to take some pictures and share in the mother-child intimacy, we resumed our ascent. Two goats! We had already broken our old record of one mountain goat sighted. The day was auspicious, and our hopes were high.

We did not hope in vain. As we neared the rocky outcrops near the ridge itself, there we saw him, well above us on the bare rock cliffs, the billy goat. Well, that made our day. Three goats! This was quite a successful survey, and we had more to climb and explore.

We pressed onward to the ridge and looked north, at the great fields of rock and snow, now covered with fog and rising cloud, in contrast to the sun and calm to the south through which we had ascended. The snow had been melting rapidly, so we tried for the high alpine gardens, but in this we failed. We were too tired to deal with the big patch of snow at 1600' apl (above parking lot).

As we returned to the trail junction at the ridge, we reaped a new reward for our muscle cracking efforts. (Our muscles crack more easily than most). There they were, an entire nuclear goat family, billy, nanny and kid, taking it easy and enjoying a snack on one of the rocky outcrops. We had to smile.

We must report that the alpine flowers were spectacular, and judging from our goat friends, quite delicious. The avalanche lilies have passed, but the lupines are just coming in, as are the turk's cap lilies and the pink paintbrush. Whether you go for the goat spotting, or just for the alpine flowers or the spectacular scenery, this is a great time for a survey of Klahane Ridge.

Mountain Goat
Mountain Goat Grazing
Mountain Goat

Keywords: animals, high country, klahane ridge, flowers, kale, waterfall, mountain goats