First, my apologies for the long delay in posts. After leaving Lander, Wyoming I headed west for a few days in various parts of southern Idaho which is where the “heat dome” of excessive temperatures found me. It decided to latch on and follow me around as I start venturing further south, and the near daily 100+ degree temperatures really drains my energy.
As I post this I am in Las Vegas, where it was 119 yesterday after I arrived and completed my two (thankfully, indoor) afternoon activities, 99 at 730 this morning local (Pacific) time, and 117 as I write this at 550pm Saturday. Garth Brooks is performing in town and the big McGregor-Poirier boxing rematch is tonight so the town is hot in more ways than one.
But enough whining – before leaving Cedar City, Utah Friday morning I made an early morning trip back up to Cedar Breaks National Monument and FINALLY saw an American Pika! When I stopped at the Monument Wednesday afternoon after visiting Bryce Canyon I learned from the signage that the American Pika can be found there. I tried spotting the elusive pika a few years ago in Colorado while at Rocky Mountain National Park but was consistently denied access to their “hangout” near the Alpine Visitor Center. I still plan to go back there later in this trip and try again.
The pika is a small, rabbit-like animal about the size of a chipmunk. They are VERY sensitive to temperature and can die when temps get in the upper 70’s! For this reason they are found only at high altitude, and their numbers are dwindling as the worldwide temperature trend continues to rise. They are all but extinct in California now, where heat from wildfires further complicates things.
I left the house at 6am Friday (which I do about every day) and headed up into the mountains east of Cedar City. Cedar Breaks National Monument is amazing, and it features four overlooks, all of which are 10,000 feet or higher in elevation, a perfect environment for the pika. I had asked several park rangers where I might have the best luck and I arrived at the most frequently mentioned spot, a rock wall near a walking path. I found a good vantage point, stood silently and waited. Like prairie dogs, pikas live in colonies and warn others around them of predators, then hide until the danger passes. So I had to be very, very quiet and not make any sudden moves.
Sure enough, at about 715 one came out and started moving quickly around the rocks. It would stop briefly to look around, then dart to another spot. Their fur allows them to blend in with the rocks so the key is to look for movement. They are very small so I had to raise the camera and zoom in to wherever it was sitting at the moment. It took about 45 minutes but I finally got a few good photos.
I hope see more pikas when I get back to northeast Colorado in early August.
I will be booking more Airbnb’s for late July and in to August later this evening but since the temperature here in Las Vegas isn’t going to improve any, tomorrow I may stay in and get some more posts made before moving on to Arizona on Monday. Their appears to be some much-needed rain in the forecast for the area around the Grand Canyon next week so we’ll see what affect that has on my travels and activities. It also sounds like the temperatures may moderate a little bit, back to normal for this area (which I expected to be hot, but not THIS hot!)
Thanks for your patience and please stay tuned. I have lots more pictures to post.