Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Snowshoeing at Craters of the Moon

Within the last couple of months I have become involved with the local Boy Scout troop as a leader with the 14-15 year old boys.  Saturday, we combined with the 16-17 year olds for a day of snowshoeing at Craters of the Moon National Monument, about a three hour drive from Eagle, Idaho.  To make it on time we had to leave by 6am.  Only about half the boys that committed to go made it.  It makes me wonder if we are raising a generation of wimps or if they are so over-scheduled with other activities that an outdoor adventure isn't an immediate priority like it was when I was their age.  Oh well.  Those that made it had a great time!  How often have you eaten lunch on top of a volcano?!

The drive there took us through several Idaho counties and there was some great roadside birding.  Riding shotgun with me was Jason Talbot, the president of our young men's group, who is a great outdoorsman who loves hiking, fishing, mountain biking, and hunting - check out his "fish stories" here. (all the photos in this post where taken by Jason too) He confessed that as a child he was really into birds and planned on being a great ornithologist.  He was great a spotting everything from birds to antelope and it was fun having him along as I focused on keeping us safely on the road.  The Tundra Swans in a pond near the highway may have reawakened his passion for birds.  It was exciting to see three Bald Eagles and a gigantic Golden Eagle while all of our other passengers were zonkered-out in the backseats.  We saw lots of Common Ravens, Horned Larks and Black-billed Magpies.  Other bird highlights of the drive included the Northern Shrike and the Rough-legged Hawk.

As we pulled into the parking lot at the visitors center at Craters of the Moon National Monument, a flock of 12 Tundra Swans flew overhead.  Lennie, with the National Parks Service gave us a great presentation on the park's history and ecology, which discussion continued at convenient stops along the trail throughout the hike.  I was honored the Mike Munts, the NPS biologist and a fellow birder, would join us on the hike.  I really enjoyed talking with Mike and learning tons of stuff about limber pines to bluebirds nesting in volcanic rock cavities.

Though the only birds seen in the park were Ravens and Mountain Chickadees our spirits were not damped as we enjoyed the ruggedly scenic beauty of the landscape.  Here are more pictures of our adventure:

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