Thursday, July 11, 2013

Stone Mountain Blues

Sleeping in a hotel has its drawbacks, namely its too comfortable to get up extremely early, especially when you've been sleeping in your car for days. Excuses aside I was out the door at 9am, on my way further up the Alaska Highway towards Stone Mountain. Not far outside of Ft. Nelson I had my first Palm Warbler of the trip, it was cool to see one in its regular habitat of mosquito filled bogs. I had seen one in February at the Nanaimo Estuary, of course that was as a rare winter stray.

Following my trusty birders guide to BC, I had  hoped to go to Kledo Creek, the road I was directed to was gated with a no entry sign, this seemed to be a running phenomenon up here. There was however another road further down the highway, which probably was the same habitat anyways. The birding was decent, I had singing White-winged Crossbills, a bird that I hadn't heard sing in a very long time. Their weird cascading trills carried from the tops of the spruce trees, also here was a heard only Blackpoll Warbler that had me in circles trying to spot it before it seemingly disappeared for good.

Carrying onward the habitat began to switch from the trademark peace parkland alder and spruce bog to more northerly boreal forest, I was soon at Summit lake.

Microwave Road-Stone Mountain
Now the whole reason for coming out this far was because of the easy access to the alpine. From what the guides and my research had told me, there is a road that goes 11km up to the top of a mountain where there is a big microwave tower. For whatever reason I didn't even think about the chance the road might not be open, and to my shock the road was in fact behind a locked gate.

I might have swore a bit, and wore a dismayed look on my face, I wasn't really prepared for an 11km hike, and to make matters worse the Summit lake lodge looked like it had been closed for 15 years... I had been expecting to get gas there..and coffee. Yeesh. I was hoping for chances at Ptarmigan but because of some poor planning I was S.O.L. After wandering a bit up the road I realized I should probably just turn around and try pink mountain on the way back to Fort St. John.

i will add I am glad that there is a new BC bird guide out by the Canning's. Not that Keith Taylor's hasn't served me well over my birding years, but a lot changes over 20 years and its good to have something a little more current to rely on, so mishaps like these don't happen. Though I don't blame anyone but myself. I was lucky that an RV park 30 km's back had gas. Although they charged 1.79 a liter, they made up for it in the fact they had the best coffee I had up north.

I spent the rest of my drive back to Ft Nelson feverishly formulating a plan. I had 6 days left, only 4 in the peace because I still needed to drive home to Vancouver. I was still missing a bunch of birds, it didn't help I had just wasted a day on driving to Stone Mountain for nothing, and I still had to do Pink Mountain which was another big chunk of time.

It was about this time I asked myself what the hell was I even doing? And I began to get depressed about this whole thing, I started to forget what the point of it was, but it was too late now, I was too far in to just give up, there was no stopping the madness.

I stopped at Beaver Lake recreation site, its a little up the Liard river hwy. The habitat looked so good, and there were a moment I heard something resembling a bay-breasted warbler, but after 15 minutes of looking i realized it was the wind creaking a tree and my imagination. Aside from that it seemed dead almost everywhere, it was pretty hot out and the wind had become a hindrance.

By the time I reached Fort Nelson the wind had gotten so bad that birding was impossible, i sat in my car outside the demonstration forest, and decided to call it a day. I camped in Andy Bailey park and had a great surprise when I managed to see a Lynx on the road in. I saw a weird shape up ahead and when I passed by where I had seen it run into the forest, a pair of eyes stared back at me. It was one of those insanely rare moments in nature, my eyes and the lynx;s were locked on each other, I tried for pictures but the light was too dim and my camera refused to focus. Somewhere in between me cursing my camera the lynx vanished into the evening.

It was a rough night of restless sleep, the next 5 days hungover me with a sense of dread and tiredness, I felt as if I needed a miracle.

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