Legends of Mount Rainier and the Pacific Northwest

So we’ve heard of the legendary Bigfoot, a creature of Pacific NW fiction.  Recently the fictional vampires of Twilight have become well known beyond the Northwest.  Some have tried to figure out the non-fictional “Grunge Rockers”, who originally roamed the great lands around our beloved Puget Sound.

Well, another creature of legend calls the Northwest home.  They can only be found in the coldest of the coldest places around.  One of their favorite hangouts is on the top of a little hill we like to call Mount Rainier.

Try telling someone to go up to the snowfields and glaciers on Mt. Rainier and look for worms, and they may ask you if they should then use them for snipe hunting.  If you describe the worms in more detail, they may ignore you all together.

But here’s the difference between Bigfoot and Ice Worms, between vampires and Ice Worms… the Ice Worms are as real as grunge rockers!  And besides the crazy thought of little one inch worms burrowing through rock hard ice, there’s another reason people think Ice Worms are fake… when they get warm… they melt!

Want to see what they look like?

You can see a good picture from the Seattle Times at http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/ABPub/zoom/html/2002818692.html, or check out one of the pictures below…

Ice WormsIce Worms

So how can you see on in real life?  Well, you’ll have to find a day when the sun isn’t so bright and when the air is cooler.  Then you get your gear together and head up to the snowfields and glaciers on the top of Mt. Rainier.  Wait for the sun to find the horizon, and then just look on the snow.  You may have to dig, but if it’s cold enough and you find some “Red Snow” then you’ll likely see millions of them wiggling about and searching food.

Make sure you pack the right gear!  It’s very cold up there even on a hot day.  And walking about on the snow and glaciers in good daylight can be dangerous enough… it’s worse when you have less light to see what’s going on.  Browse through Whittaker Mountaineering’s online store to see if you have everything you need.  You can also call them and tell them your plans, and they should be able to give you a good checklist of things to pack.

For more information on Ice Worms check out this site… http://www.nichols.edu/departments/glacier/iceworm.htm

The creativity of God is truly amazing!!!

Critters of Mt. Rainier’s Lowland Forest Zone

God has placed inside the Pacific Northwest a vibrant and beautiful region, known to us as Mount Rainier.  The variety of “life zones” on Mount Rainier creates an environment in which many types of wildlife can live.  The first life zone that one encounters when entering the park is the “Lowland Forest Zone.”  The dense forest shades most of Ohanapecosh, Longmire & Carbon River from sunlight.   A number of animals prefer this environment.

American Beaver.jpg

Beavers love the Lowland Forest Zone of Mt. Rainier.  The waters flow at a slower pace here, making for a gentler place to build their dams and lodges.  These constructs can be made of the softer spruce, fir, cedar or hemlock; though the beavers prefer the harder willows, alders and maples.  The like to eat the inner bark on the harder trees, as well as various roots, water plants and pond algae.

Tamiasciurus douglasii (Oregon coast)

Douglas Squirrels can also be found in the park’s Lowland Forest Zone.  You can tell they’re about when you hear their alarm call… chickareeeee!  These squirrels mostly eat seeds from coniferous trees, but they also like acorns, berries, mushrooms, fruit and even the occasional bird egg.  Unlike most tree squirrels, Douglas Squirrels do not have a cheek pouches to carry their food in.  Wandering through Mount Rainier’s Lowland Forest Zone, one might happen across a pile of pine cone scales.  Douglas Squirrels will use the same pile for years, sometimes over multiple generations.

 

Bald Eagles and Peregrine Falcons are attracted to the Lowland Forest Zone of Mount Rainier.  Critters like the ones listed above serve as tasty meals for these birds of prey.  Though these birds are often seen there, Mount Rainier’s website states that there are no reports of the birds nesting in the park.  Apparently they like to dine and dash.

The Northern Spotted Owl is another bird of prey that is attracted to Mount Rainier National Park.  They are the only bird species on the USFWS list of threatened & endangered species that call the park home.   These owls like to swallow their prey whole, and vomit up the indigestible parts in pellet form.  Don’t count on seeing much of these owls during the day, as they are mostly nocturnal.

Many other species of animals can be found in the Lowland Forest Zone of Mount Rainier.  For more information on these animals, check out ” A Pocket Field Guide to the Plants and Animals of Mount Rainier,” available at Whittaker Mountaineering‘s online store.