Author: zach

Bloodroot 50 Miler

Bloodroot 50 Miler

The Bloodroot 50 mile race was one of the toughest ultra trail races I have competed in to date. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to participate due in large part to Strive who handled all the logistics and my wife who cared 

Rattlesnake Lake to Lake Washington Traverse

Rattlesnake Lake to Lake Washington Traverse

In the build for a hundred-miler that I had signed up for in late April, I decided to put in a 40+ mile long run, but I wanted it to be on an inspiring route. Therefore, I went to strava maps and put together an 

Moran Constitutional Relay

Moran Constitutional Relay

In the first days of October I journeyed over to Orcas Island to run the Moran Constitutional Relay with Team Run Determined. After a busy workday I was able to hitch a ride up to Anacortes with two teammates: Jayson Hefner and Bret Jorgesen. We arrived fairly late and settled into the house that Chris Gregory had rented for the team. We went for a short night run in the neighborhood talked over strategy that evening.

There were a total of eight legs on the first day and four on the second day. Our team consisted of six people and each person completed two legs. I was proud of our team’s performance and we handily took the overall win.

The race got underway at first light under cloudy skies from the Ecology Learning Center at Moran State Park on the west side of Orcas Island. We ran each leg with a small peg that we would insert into a corresponding receptor at each legs transition. It was awkward to switch from a full sprint to such a precision task, but we made it look – weird and harder than it actually was…

Leg 1 ELC to Mountain Lake Landing 5.9 miles 1207 feet gain and 717 feet loss

Bret Jorgensen took the win for us on this opening leg in a time of 43:22.

Leg 2 Mountain Lake Landing to Mountain Lake Landing 3.9 miles 528 feet gain and 528 feet loss

I took the win on this leg in a time of 24:09.

Leg 3 Mountain Lake Landing to Cascade Lake 4.4 miles, 535 feet gain and 996 feet loss

Chris Gregory took the win on this leg in a time of 29:40.

Leg 4 Cascade Lake to Little Summit 5.2 miles, 2260 feet gain and 680 feet loss

Sophie Blackburn took fifth in this leg in a time of 56:29.

Leg 5 Little Summit to Mountain Lake Landing 7.3 miles, 863 feet gain and 1959 feet loss

Troy Haeseler took the win on this leg in a time of 48:30.

Leg 6 Mountain Lake Landing to Mount Constitution 3.1 miles, 1724 ft gain and 192 ft loss

Jayson Hefner took the win on this leg with a time of 28:45.

Leg 7 Mount Constitution to Mountain Lake Landing 8.4 miles, 847 feet gain and 2385 feet loss

Chris Gregory took fourth in this leg with a time of 1:01:48

Leg 8 Mountain Lake Landing to ELC 5.3 miles, 579 feet gain and 1083 feet loss

Sophie Blackburn took second on this leg in a time of 39:32 to close out the day and keep us securely in first place after day one.

After a solid first day of competition, we headed back over to the team headquarters and we spotted a Northern Alligator Lizard, which was a real highlight of the day for me. This was the first time that I had spotted this very cool reptile of the Pacific Northwest. In addition to the wildlife sightings the evening consisted of making a homemade apple pie with apples that we picked from a tree near the start finish area. Bret and I went to the store and found all necessary ingredients for a gluten free and vegan pie. This was my first time baking something that was gluten free or vegan and I was impressed by how easy it was and how tasty it turned out. Unfortunately, I was overtaken with a migraine and turned in early to prepare for the penultimate day two of competition.

We began day two at the same place we started and ended day one – the Ecology Learning Center. The weather was almost identical to day one, which was perfect conditions – partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the low 50s. Our team was well prepared to defend our lead in the overall race.

Leg 9 ELC to Cascade Lake 7.7 miles, 2041 feet gain and 1998 feet loss

Troy Haeseler took the win on this leg in a time of 1:01:50.

Leg 10 Cascade Lake to Mount Constitution 4.3 miles, 2211 feet gain and 185 feet loss

Jayson Hefner took the win on this leg in a time of 38:13.

Leg 11 Mount Constitution to Mountain Lake Landing 8.6 miles, 1854 feet gain and 3336 feet loss

I took the win on this leg in a time of 1:04:21.

Leg 12 Mountain Lake Landing to ELC 7.7 miles, 1246 feet gain and 1836 feet loss

Bret Jorgensen brought home the win in the final leg to secure the victory for Run Determined in a time of 53:59.

Results

Day 1: 5:32:15 1st place with a slim 2:07 lead

Day 2: 3:38:23 1st place with a 25:58 lead

Overall: 9:10:38 1st place with a 38:05 margin of victory.

It was exciting to notch a big team win in my first relay since college track. I had an excellent time hanging out with the team and I appreciate Chris Gregory orchestrating the whole weekend. Thanks also to Troy Haeseler for helping me to get back home on Sunday.

Lake Washington Half Marathon

Lake Washington Half Marathon

This was the final remaining race from the 2020 season, except it was originally supposed to be the Lake Sammamish Half Marathon in March as a build up to Boston in April. It was the first in a long series of race cancellations. So finally 

Boston Marathon

Boston Marathon

Background I was originally signed up to run the Boston Marathon in April of 2020 but for obvious reasons the race date was modified to October of this year. I ran Boston purely for its historic significance in long distance running. I generally detest both 

Mammals of Washington State

Mammals of Washington State

In previous posts I have highlighted the deer family, reptiles, amphibians, and my favorite plants of the Issy Alps. In this post I will highlight the extensive list of mammals in the state of Washington. There are a total of 141 different species of mammals in the state. Out of these 141, 9 are introduced, 27 are marine, and 15 are flying.

There are 9 orders: Didelphimorphia, Primates, Rodentia, Lagomorpha, Soricomorpha, Chiroptera, Carnivora, Artiodactyla, and Cetacea.

Didelphimorphia

This order includes only one species in the state, the Common Opossum (Didelphis virginiana). This is a marsupial that is native to eastern North America, but was introduced west of the Cascades.

Primates

I belong to this order.

Rodentia

This order contains 50 of the 141 mammals in the state. Rodents are characterized by a single pair of continuously growing incisors.

There are 10 Families:

Aplodontiidae

  • Mountain Beaver (Aplodontia rufa) is a nocturnal herbivore that lives in forests and moist thickets of the Cascades and westward. It constructs burrows and will even divert streams into their tunnels.

Sciuridae

This is the squirrel family and contains 20 species in the state of Washington.

  • Sciurus or common busy-tailed squirrels
    • Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) is native to eastern North American and was introduced western Washington and is typically found in city parks.
    • Western Gray Squirrel (Sciurus griseus) is native to western Washington and prefers oak woodland with mixed conifer forests.
    • Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger) is native to eastern North America and is the largest tree squirrel. It was introduced to western Washington and is typically found in city parks.
  • Tamiasciurus or pine squirrels
    • Douglas Squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii) is found in the Cascades and areas west of the Cascades. It prefers coniferous forest and eats the seeds of conifers.
    • Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) is found north and east of Lake Chelan as well as the Blue Mountains. It resides in coniferous forests and eats the seeds of conifers.
  • Otospermophilus or ground squirrels
    • California Ground Squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi) is found in the open country of south-central Washington.
  • Callospermophilus or ground squirrels
    • Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi) are found in the northeast and southeast of the state and Cascade Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel (Callospermophilus lateralis) are found in the Cascade Mountains.
  • Urocitellus or ground squirrels
    • Columbian Ground Squirrel (Urocitellus columbianus) and Piute Ground Squirrel (Urocitellus mollis) are found north of Yakima and west of the Columbia River and love Sagebrush and grassland.
    • Townsend’s Ground Squirrel (Urocitellus townsendii) is endemic to Washington and inhabits southeastern Washington and also prefers Sagebrush and grassland.
    • Washington Ground Squirrel (Urocitellus washingtoni) is found in east of the Columbia River and is a species of concern in the state.
  • Tamias or chipmunks
    • Yellow Pine Chipmunk (Tamias amoenus) is found all across the state and prefers and forests and brush.
    • Least Chipmunk (Tamias minimus) is found in central eastern Washington and prefers Sagebrush.
    • Red-tailed Chipmunk (Tamias ruficaudus) is found in the mountains of the extreme northeast and prefers coniferous forests and talus slopes.
    • Townsend’s Chipmunk (Tamias townsendii) is found in coniferous forest and brush in the Cascades and areas west of the Cascades.
  • Glaucomys or New World flying squirrels
    • Northern Flying Squirrels (Glaucomys sabrinus) are found in all coniferous and mixed forests in the state. They are nocturnal and glide from tree to tree in search of fungus and lichen.
  • Marmota or large ground squirrels are the heaviest members of the squirrel family.
    • Hoary Marmot (marmota caligata) is found on talus slopes of the Cascades.
    • Yellow-bellied Marmot (Marmota flaviventris) is found in open treeless, rocky areas East of the Cascades.
    • Olympic Marmot (Marmota olympus) is endemic to the Olympic Peninsula and prefers talus slopes.

Castoridae

This family makes up the two extant species of beaver, which are medium-sized semiaquatic mammals.

  • North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) inhabit wet areas throughout the state and prefer ponds, lakes, and slow streams. They build dams and lodges and are perhaps the most charismatic rodent in the state.

Heteromyidae

This family includes several different rats and mice that have large, furlined cheek pouches and feed mostly on seeds and other plant parts.

  • Ord’s Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys ordii) is an impressive animal that is native to the sagebrush and sandy areas of the southern Columbia Basin and has bipedal locomotion. They can live without access to free water.
  • Great Basin Pocket Mouse (Perognathus parvus) is a granivore that lives in the Sagebrush steppe east of the Cascades.

Geomyidae

This family is fossorial and therefore, has bodies adapted for digging and living in burrows.

  • Mazama Pocket Gopher (Thomomys mazama) is an herbivore that digs burrows and creates soil mounds. It lives in the Olympics and areas south of Tacoma.
  • Northern Pocket Gopher (Thomomys talpoides) is an herbivore that digs burrows and creates soil mounds. However, it lives in the Cascades and areas east of the Cascades.

Dipodidae

This family includes: Birch Mice, Jerboas, and Jumping Mice.

  • Western Jumping Mouse (Zapus princeps) and Pacific Jumping Mouse (Zapus trinotatus) are granivores that inhabit meadows and coniferous forest across the state.

Cricetidae

This family is one of the largest and most diverse families of mammals. Most have a mouse or rat-like appearance with small, elongated bodies, long tails, large eyes and prominent ears and whiskers.

  • Subfamily Arvicolinae
  • Lemmiscus is a genus with only one species and they resemble lemmings with chunky bodies and short tails covered in fur.
    • Sagebrush Vole (Lemmiscus curtatus) lives in the sagebrush of Eastern Washington.
  • Microtus is a genus of voles also referred to as meadow voles.
    • This genus contains seven different species of voles spread across the state: Gray-tailed Vole (Microtus canicaudus), Long-tailed Vole (Microtus longicaudus), Montane Vole (Microtus montanus), Creeping Vole (Microtus oregoni), Meadow Vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus), Water Vole (Microtus richardsoni), and Townsend’s Vole (Microtus townsendii). Believe me, I could write forever about voles, but I will leave it at the list for purposes of this post.
  • Clethrionomys or Red-backed voles are small, slender voles that inhabit northern forest, tundra, and bogs.
    • Red-backed Vole (Clethrionomys gapperi) is herbivorous and lives in the mountains statewide.
  • Phenacomys is a small genus of North American Voles that live in alpine areas with heath family vegetation.
    • Western Heather Vole (Phenacomys intermedius) lives in the meadows of the high mountains.
  • Synaptomys is a small genus of North American Lemmings that live in wet forested or open areas. They are small, round rodents with large heads and short ears, legs, and tails. They feed on grasses and sedges.
    • Northern Bog Lemming (Synaptomys borealis) lives in alpine meadows along the northern border of the state.
  • Ondatra is a medium-sized semiaquatic rodent native to North America.
    • Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) is the only species in the genus Ondatra. It inhabits marshes and ponds statewide.
  • Subfamily: Neotominae
  • Neotoma is a genus sometimes called packrat or woodrat. They have long tails, large ears, and large, black eyes.
    • Bushy-tailed Woodrat (Neotoma cinerea) live statewide in rocky habitats.
  • Onychomys is a small genus of mice endemic to United States and Mexico. They are carnivorous and feed on insects.
    • Northern Grasshopper Mouse (Onychomys leucogaster) lives in sandy sagebrush east of the Cascades.
  • Peromyscus is a genus of New World Mice that have large eyes and two-toned coloring that are proficient runners and jumpers.
    • Deer Mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) is a generalist species that live throughout the state.
    • Keen’s Mouse (Peromyscus keeni) is a generalist species that live throughout the western part of the state.
  • Reithrodontomys is a genus of groove-toothed New World harvest Mice.
    • Western Harvest Mouse (Reithrodontomys megalotis) lives in the grasslands and marshes of eastern Washington.
  • Muridae is a familiar, yet large and diverse family of rodents.
    • House Mouse (Mus musculus) is an introduced species found throughout the world in close association with humans.
    • Norway Rat (Rattus norvegicus) is an introduced species found in urban areas and cultivated fields.
    • Black Rat (Rattus rattus) is an introduced species found in human habitats near seaports and buildings.
  • Erethizontidae is a family of rodents consisting of 12 species, known as the New World porcupines.
    • North American Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) are found in forested areas statewide. They have the northernmost range of the family. They are the second largest rodent in the continent, next to beavers. They are a slow moving, lumbering animal. They have an impressive spiny coat. The spines are referred to as quills and occupy the dorsum of the animal. They are arboreal and have adaptations for skilled tree climbing.
  • Myocastoridae is a family with a single species, which is native to central and southern South America.
    • Nutria (Myocastor coypus) is an introduced species, which inhabits areas along rivers within the state and the Puget Sound.

Lagomorpha

This order contains eight species in the state of Washington and is characterized by short tails, folds of skin on the lips, and a rodent-like pair of incisors.

There are two families:

Ochotonidae is the pika family, which includes one extant genus with 30 species. They are small in size, have small, rounded ears, concealed tails, and two molars.

  • Pika (Ochotona princeps) are found on talus slopes in the mountains of the Cascades and northeastern Washington.

Leporidae is a family that consists of rabbits and hares. Their elongated ears characterize them. They also have elongated hind limbs and feet.

  • Pygmy Rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis) is found in the sagebrush of the Central Columbian Plateau. It digs its own burrow system unlike other rabbits of the continent.
  • Snowshoe Hare (Lepus americanus) is found in the Cascade Mountains as well as western Washington. It is also found in the mountains of eastern Washington. It lives in forest and thickets and it changes color seasonally.
  • Black-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus) is a species of concern found in the sagebrush steppe of the Columbia Basin.
  • White-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus townsendii) is a species of concern found in the sagebrush steppe of eastern Washington.
  • European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) was introduced to the San Juan Islands and inhabits grassy areas.
  • Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) was introduced from eastern North America and inhabits the thickets around the state.
  • Nuttall’s Cottontail (Sylvilagus nuttallii) inhabits brushy and wooded areas east of the Cascades.

Soricomorpha

This order contains Shrews and Moles. They are fossorial and create intricate tunnel networks.

There are two families:

Soricidae is the shrew family, which have long, slim rostrum, small eyes, and short ear pinnae. They have a high metabolism and therefore, must eat almost constantly. They prey on both terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates.

  • Sorex is a genus known as long-tailed shrews.
    • Pacific Water Shrew (Sorex bendirii) is an aquatic shrew found near streams and bogs in the Cascades and western Washington.
    • Masked Shrew (Sorex cinereus) is found in open areas and woodlands of the Olympic Peninsula, Cascades, and northeastern Washington.
    • Pygmy Shrew (Sorex hoyi) is found in open areas and woodlands of northeast Washington.
    • Merriam’s Shrew (Sorex merriami) is found in sagebrush steppe east of the Cascades.
    • Dusky Shrew (Sorex monticolus) is found in open areas and woodlands of across the state.
    • Northern Water Shrew (Sorex palustris) is found in mountainous areas of the Olympic Peninsula, Cascades, and eastern Washington.
    • Preble’s Shrew (Sorex preblei) lives in the open areas and woodlands of the Blue Mountains.
    • Olympic Shrew (Sorex rohweri) lives in the open areas and woodlands of the Olympic Peninsula and the west coast.
    • Trowbridge’s Shrew (Sorex trowbridgii) inhabits the open areas and woodlands of the Cascades and western Washington.
    • Vagrant Shrew (Sorex vagrans) is found statewide in open areas and woodlands.

Talpidae family consists of moles and desmans. They have a flattened skull and narrow rostrum. They are adapted for a life underground and also have a voracious appetite.

  • Neurotrichus is a genus of shrew-like moles.
    • Shrew-mole (Neurotrichus gibbsii) is endemic to the Pacific Northwest and is the only species in the genus. It is active on the soil surface and found in the Cascades and western Washington.
  • Scapanus is a genus of moles that inhabit areas west of the Rocky Mountains in North America.
    • Pacific Mole (Scapanus orarius) digs burrows and forms mounds in western Washington, southern Cascades, and southeastern Washington.
    • Townsend’s Mole (Scapanus townsendii) digs burrows and forms mounds west of the Cascades and eastern Kittitas County.

Chiroptera

This order includes bats and it is the second most speciose group of mammals. This order of mammals has true wings and is the only mammal that can fly.

Vespertilionidae family consists of evening bats.

  • Pallid Bat (Antrozous pallidus) is the sole species of the genus Antrozous. It is found in densely forested areas of the Olympic Peninsula.
  • Corynorhinus is a small genus that consists of the big-eared bats.
    • Townsend’s Big-eared Bat (Corynorhinus townsendii) is found in caves statewide.
  • Eptesicus is a large genus that is referred to as house bats.
    • Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus) is found in wooded areas statewide.
  • Spotted Bat (Euderma maculatum) is the only species in genus Euderma and is found on cliffs and canyons of eastern Washington.
  • Silver-haired Bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans) is the sole species of genus Lasionycteris and prefers forested areas statewide.
  • Lasiurus is a genus referred to as hairy tailed bats.
    • Hoary Bat (Lasiurus cinereus) is found in wooded areas statewide.
  • Myotis is a genus known as mouse-eared bats.
    • California myotis (Myotis californicus) is found in wooded areas statewide.
    • Western Small-footed Myotis (Myotis ciliolabrum) is found in rocky areas of eastern Washington.
    • Long-eared Myotis (Myotis evotis) is found in wooded areas statewide.
    • Keen’s Myotis (Myotis keenii) a species of concern in Washington and is found in densely forested areas of the Olympic Peninsula.
    • Little Brown Myotis (Myotis lucifugus) is found statewide.
    • Fringed Myotis (Myotis thysanodes) is found in forested areas of Eastern Washington.
    • Long-legged Myotis (Myotis volans) is found statewide.
    • Yuma Myotis (Myotis yumanensis) is found near water statewide.
  • Canyon Bat (Parastrellus hesperus) is the only bat in this genus and it is found near water in the Columbia Basin.

Carnivora

This order contains mammals that are primarily carnivorous. However, some are omnivorous and some other orders contain carnivores. Typically members of this order have a carnassial pair or an enlarged fourth upper premolar and first lower molar.

Felidae is the cat family and they are typically skilled climbers and swimmers. They are often solitary, and are potentially the most specialized of all hunters. 

  • Lynx is a genus consisting of four species that are characterized by tufts of black hair on their ear tips, short tails, and padded paws.
    • Canada Lynx (Lynx canadensis) is found sporadically in forested areas statewide. It preys primarily on snowshoe hares. It is very rare in Washington and there is a current recovery plan.
    • Bobcat (Lynx rufus) is found in open forest and scrub areas statewide. It preys mainly on rabbits but also other small mammals and birds.
  • Cougar (Puma concolor) is the only member of the genus Puma and is a very reclusive and adaptable big cat. It is found statewide with the exception of the Columbia Basin. It is carnivorous and eats anything from deer to grasshoppers.

Canidae is the dog family and they are typically omnivorous. As a family they are built for endurance and catch prey over long distance hunts. They have a keen sense of smell and sharp sense of hearing.

  • Canis is a genus consisting of species distinguished by their large stature, sizable skulls and teeth, long legs, and comparatively short ears and tails.
    • Coyote (Canis latrans) is perhaps the most versatile carnivore in North America. It lives statewide in open areas, woodlands, forest, and urban landscapes. It eats small mammals, carrion, and fruits.
    • Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) is found throughout the northern hemisphere, but is quite rare. It is a federally endangered species. Wolves are found in forested areas and open tundra areas east of the Cascades. It prefers moose, elk, and deer but will also eat small mammals.
  • Vulpes is the genus containing true foxes. They have long bodies, bushy tails, and flat skulls.
    • Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) is found in the mountains and western lowlands of Washington. They are found in open areas, woodlands, and forest and they eat rodents and birds.

Ursidae is known as the bear family. They are mostly solitary omnivorous mammals. They are distinguished by their: large bodies, stocky legs, long snouts, rounded ears, short tails, shaggy hair, plantigrade paws and nonretractile claws.

  • Ursus is a genus containing polar, brown, and black bear.
    • Black Bear (Ursus americanus) is an omnivorous mammal that lives in wooded areas across the state. It hibernates and gives birth in a winter den.
    • Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos) is an omnivorous mammal that lives in montane forests and hibernates in the winter. It is rare in the North Cascades and it is state and federally endangered.

Otariidae is a family that contains fur seals and sea lions. They hunt in the water but also spend time on land for breeding and birthing.

  • Northern Fur Seal (Callorhinus ursinus)is the only member of the genus Callorhinus. It lives in the subarctic waters of the northern Pacific Ocean. It is usually at sea but breeds on the rocky shores.
  • Stellar Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus) is the only member of the genus Eumetopias and is the largest eared seal. It is found in the subarctic waters of the northern Pacific Ocean. It is found on rocky shores and the coastal waters surrounding them. It is threatened statewide and federally threatened.
  • California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus) is one of three members of the genus Zalophus. It is found along the Pacific coast and Salish Sea. It is found on both sandy and rocky beaches protected by high cliffs, preferably islands. They feed on fish, squid, and octopus.

Phocidae is the seal family. They are distributed along coastlines both north of 30 degrees north latitude and south of 50 degrees south latitude. They have streamlined bodies and lack an inner ear.

  • Northern Elephant Seal (Mirounga angustirostris) is found along the Pacifc coast and Salish Sea. It is the largest aquatic carnivore and feeds on fish, squid, and small sharks.
  • Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina) is found along the Pacific coast and Salish Sea. They feed on fish, squid, and small sharks.

Mustelidae is the largest family within the order Carnivora. It contains badgers, otters, weasels and relatives. They have elongate bodies with short legs and a short rostrum.

  • Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris) is the only species in the genus Enhydra. They inhabit the Pacific Coast from California to Alaska. They are endangered in the state of Washington and are found in Kelp beds where they feed on shellfish and urchins.
  • North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis) is one of four members of the river otter genus. It inhabits forested rivers, streams, lakes, and coastline across the state.
  • Wolverine (Gulo gulo) is the only member of the genus Gulo and is the largest land dwelling member of the Mustelid family. It inhabits Montane forests in the Cascades and Olympics. It prefers carrion but will eat anything else it can kill as well. It has a voracious appetite and marks its food caches with foul-smelling musk that repels other predators.
  • Martes is a genus of seven species containing forest-dwelling Martens, Fishers, and Sables.
    • Marten (Martes americana) is found in coniferous forest throughout most of the state. It typically hunts tree squirrels but will attack other small mammals and birds.
    • Fisher (Mares pennanti) is found in coniferous forests of the Cascades and Olympics. It is endangered in the state of Washington and a speices of concern federally. It hunts rodents, rabbits, and birds.
  • Mustela is a genus of small, active predators, with long and slender bodies and short legs.
    • Short-tailed Weasel (Ermine) (Mustela erminea) is found in wooded areas, brushy areas, and wetlands across the state. It captures rodents by entering their burrows.
    • Long-tailed Weasel (Mustela frenata) is found in all habitats statewide and hunts rodents and birds.
    • Mink (Mustela vison) is found near water statewide and hunts fish and other small mammals.
  • Badger (Taxidea taxus) is the only extant member of the genus and is found in Eastern Washington in grasslands and sagebrush steppe. It excavates rodents and hibernating ground squirrels.

Mephitidae family includes skunks and stink badgers. They are evident based on their coloration the noxious odor they produce to deter predators.

  • Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis) is one of two species in the genus of North American Skunks. It is found in brushy open country statewide. It is omnivorous and when threatened it sprays foul-smelling musk from anal glands.  
  • Western Spotted Skunk (Spilogale gracilis) is one of four extant species of the spotted skunk genus. It is found in mixed woodlands and farmland of western and southeastern Washington. It is omnivorous and ascends trees to escape predators. It also sprays noxious musk when threatened.

Procyonidae family includes medium sized mammals ranging from slender to stocky bodies. They have long tails, short broad faces and erect ears. They have short curved claws and are typically omnivorous.

  • Raccoon (Procyon lotor) is one of four species in the genus Procyon and is found in many habitats near water and urban areas. They are omnivorous, solitary, and nocturnal.

Artiodactyla

This is the largest and most diverse order of terrestrial mammals. All members are even-toed and paraxonic. They are generally herbivorous and possess horns, antlers, or tusks.

Cervidae is a family of even-toed ungulates or hoofed animals. Even-toed hoofed animals bear equal weight on an even number of toes. Additionally, even-toed ungulates use multiple stomach chambers (as opposed to intestines) to digest plant materials. Infraorder Pecora consists specifically of even-toed ungulates that utilize ruminant digestion. Rumination is the two-step process of food digestion that consists of chewing and swallowing plant material and then regurgitating the semidigested cud in order to rechew it and extract additional nutrients. Most of the species in this infraorder also have projecting appendages from their frontal bones.

  • Elk (Cervus elaphus) is one of four species large deer that inhabit the Olympic Peninsula, Cascade foothills, Cascades, and Blue Mountains. They are herbivorous and are typically found in forests and meadows.
  • Moose (Alces alces) are the largest (5-7 feet tall) and heaviest (up to 1800 lbs) extant member of family Cervidae and they inhabit forests near water in the northeastern corner of the state. They have broad palmate antlers and in my opinion they are the most intimidating cervid.
  • Mule Deer / Black-tailed Deer (Odocoileus hemionus) is one of three species in the genus Odocoileus. In Washington, there are two subspecies: The Rocky Mountain Mule Deer and the Columbian Black-tailed Deer. Rocky Mountain Mule Deer are found across most of the central and western United States and Canada. It is found in Washington east of the Cascades. The Columbian Black-tailed Deer however is found along the British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California coast.
  • White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is one of three species in the genus Odocoileus. They are found in wooded or brushy areas of the southwest and eastern parts of the state.
  • Caribou (Rangifer tarandus) is the only member of the genus Rangifer. They have circumpolar distribution and are native to the sub-Arctic, tundra, taiga, and mountains of North America, Europe, and Asia. Both male and female Caribou develop antlers. Some populations are relatively sedentary, whereas some are migratory. The largest herd contains almost 1000000 animals and roams Siberia, whereas the smallest number of animals calls the Selkirk Mountains of Washington home. There are 14 subspecies, half of which inhabit North America.  The subspecies of particular interest to me is the Boreal Woodland Caribou, which are the only Caribou that inhabit the lower 48 states of the US (specifically Washington and Idaho). They weigh between 350 to 500 lbs and stand 3.5 to 4.5 feet tall. They live in mature conifer forest and feed predominantly on lichen. This southern mountain population is classified as endangered in Washington and there is 47 square miles of protected land in both Washington and Idaho set aside for them. Because there are as few as 12 individual animals left in the Selkirk habitat they have been labeled functionally extinct. In the 2017 WDFW report, the organization recommended the species remain listed as endangered.

Antilocapridae is a family containing just one genus and one species endemic to North America. Their closest extant relatives are the giraffids with which they comprise the superfamily Giraffoidea. Only one species, the pronghorn, is living today; all other members of the family are extinct.

  • Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) is unique to North America and is the fastest animal in the Western Hemisphere. It can run at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour and it can run long distances at speeds of 30-40 miles per hour. It can make bounds of up to 20 feet when it is running. The pronghorn antelope is the rarest and least known hoofed mammal classified as a game species in the state of Washington. Washington represents the northwestern extent of historical pronghorn range. Pronghorns were extirpated from Washington in the late 19th century. While pronghorns were probably never numerous in the state, their populations ebbed and flowed with large-scale climate changes and migrations. Historical records are clear that pronghorns did at least occasionally occupy much of the central portion of the state between the Cascades and the forested northeast and Blue Mountains. The Washington State Game Department attempted to establish pronghorn populations by reintroduction on three separate occasions. Unfortunately none of the reintroductions were successful. They were first introduced from Nevada to Yakima in the 1930s. A second group was introduced to Adams County in 1950. Finally, a group was introduced in Kittitas and Grant counties in 1968.

Bovidae is a family of cloven-hoofed, ruminant mammals. Their common characteristic is their unbranched, non-deciduous horns.

  • Mountain Goat (Oreamnos americanus) is the only living species in the genus Oreamnos and it is found in the Cascades and mountains of the Northeast. It has also been introduced to the Olympics. They are found in craggy steep areas of the alpine and subalpine regions.
  • Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis) belong to the genus Ovis which contain seven species of social mammals spread across the world. Bighorn Sheep are uncommonly found in the Cascades and eastern Washington. They inhabit rocky areas with scattered trees. There have been reintroduction efforts.

Cetacea

This order consists of aquatic mammals such as dolphins, porpoises, and whales. They are exclusively carnivorous and breathe while moving through the water and spend only a short time at the surface, where they exhale in an explosive ventilation called a blow. The blow is expelled forcibly and can be compared to a cough. Cetaceans use up to 80 percent of their lung volume in a single breath.

Mysticeti is a suborder known as Baleen Whales, which consist of 16 species of carnivorous marine mammals.

Balaenidae is a family of large whales with a distinguishing feature of narrow, arched upper jaw, which gives the animal a deeply curved jaw line. The family contains Right Whales and Bowhead Whales.

  • Black Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis) is a state and federally endangered whale that is found in polar and subpolar waters of the Pacific Ocean. It is defined by bumps of the upper surface of the head.

Balaenopteridae is a family of whales with two genus, considered rorqual, which means they can expand their mouth to gulp down food.

  • Minke Whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) is found in the Pacific Ocean, Salish Sea, and Puget Sound. It is the smallest baleen whale in the Northern Hemisphere.
  • Sei Whale (Balaenoptera borealis) is a state and federally endangered whale found in the Pacific Ocean that is distinguished by a gray dorsal surface and a white ventral surface.
  • Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus) is state and federally endangered and is the largest animal on Earth. It is found in the Pacific Ocean and has bluish-gray coloration.
  • Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus) is a state and federally endangered whale that is found in the Pacific Ocean. It has a gray dorsal surface and white ventral surface.
  • Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaengliae) is a state and federally endangered whale that is found in the Pacific Ocean, Salish Sea, and Puget Sound. It has a flattened head with numerous bumps. It has very long flippers and is nearly all white.

Eschrichtidae is a family of whales consisting of only one species: Gray Whale.

  • Gray Whale (Eschrictius robustus) is a state sensitive animal found on coastal waters of the Pacific Ocean, Salish Sea, and Puget Sound. It is mottled gray with a yellowish baleen.

Odontoceti is a suborder known as Toothed Whales.

Delphinidae is a family that consists of dolphins, killer whales, and pilot whales. The family consists of 32 species placed in 17 genera, this is by far the largest family of cetaceans. 

  • Short-beaked Saddleback Dolphin (Delphinus delphis) is one of three species in the genus Delphinus. It is found in the Pacific Ocean in large groups where it feeds on fish and squid.
  • Risso’s Dolphin (Grampus griseus) is the only species in the genus Grampus and it is a gray colored Dolphin with a bulbous head and pointed snout. It is found in the Pacific Ocean.
  • Pacific White-sided Dolphin (Lagenorynchus obliquidens) is the only member of genus Lagenorynchus and is found in the Pacific Ocean, Salish Sea, and Puget Sound. It has black coloration with a light gray stripes.
  • Northern Right-Whale Dolphin (Lissodelphis borealis) is one of two species in the genus Lissodelphis, the other being Southern Right-Whale Dolphin. It is found in the Pacific Ocean and has a long slender body with no dorsal fin.
  • Killer Whale (Orcinus orca) is the only surviving species of the genus Orcinus. It is found in the Pacific Ocean, Salish Sea, and Puget Sound. It is the largest member of the dolphin family and is a species of concern in Washington State.

Phocoenidae is the Porpoise family, which have a short jaw and no beak.

  • Harbor Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) is one of four species in the genus Phocoena. They are found in the Pacific Ocean, Salish Sea, and Puget Sound. They are the smallest marine mammal in the eastern North Pacific. They have a chunky body and a rounded head.
  • Dall’s Porpoise (Phocoenoides dalli) is the largest of all porpoises and is endemic to the North Pacific. They are the only member of genus Phocoenoides and are found in the Pacific Ocean, Salish Sea, and Puget Sound. They have a white patch on their dorsal surface and feed on fish and squid.

Physeteridae is the Sperm Whale family, which contains 2 genera and 3 species, all of which are found in waters surrounding Washington State.

  • Pygmy Sperm Whale (Kogia breviceps) are found in the Pacific Ocean and have a robust body with a square-like head and a mouth set well behind tip of snout.
  • Dwarf Sperm Whale (Kogia sima) are found in the Pacific Ocean and have a robust body with a square-like head and a mouth set well behind tip of snout.
  • Sperm Whale (Physeter catodon) are state and federally endangered and are found in the Pacific Ocean, Salish Sea, and Puget Sound. They have a flattened head with many bumps. Their flippers are very long which are scalloped on the leading edge. They are nearly all-white, with some gray coloration.

Ziphiidae is a family of beaked whales containing 19 species within 6 genera.

  • Baird’s Beaked Whale (Berardius bairdii) is one of three species in the genus Berardius. It is found in the Pacific Ocean and has a bulbous head and long snout. The lower jaw extends past the upper jaw.
  • Mesoplodon is the largest genus of the Cetacean order, containing 15 species of toothed whales. It is the most poorly known group of large mammals. 
    • Hubbs’ Beaked Whale (Mesoplodon carlhubbsi) lives in the Pacific Ocean and is gray with a lighter gray dorsal surface.
    • Stejneger’s Beaked Whale (Mesoplodon stejnegeri) is found in the Pacific Ocean and feeds primarily on squid. It has a dark coloration on the dorsal surface and lighter coloration on the ventral surface.
  • Cuvier’s Beaked Whale (Ziphius cavirostris) is found in the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean. It has a rust brown dorsal coloration and a black ventral coloration.

References:

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/species/antilocapra-americana#living

University of Michigan Museum of Zoology https://animaldiversity.org/

Burke Muse https://www.burkemuseum.org/collections-and-research/biology/mammalogy/mamwash/index.php

Olympic National Park Grand Loop

Olympic National Park Grand Loop

While the eastern part of Washington state was in a sweltering heat wave and even being shut down due to fire risk on Jul 21st, Apryle and I drove as far west as possible to the Olympic Peninsula. On the peninsula it was cool and misty 

Cascade Crest 100

Cascade Crest 100

This was perhaps the most important race of my running career because it took place at a time in my life when my world was crumbing around me. I spent most of the month of August at my mother’s bedside while her brain was overtaken 

Needles 50K

Needles 50K

Needles 50K was one of my most anticipated races of the year, second only to Cascade Crest in terms of importance to me. I was signed up in 2020 but the race was cancelled due to COVID. Therefore I was extra motivated for this year’s race. I started the day with about one liter and six hundred calories of tailwind in my hydration bladder and seven gels in my pockets. I also elected to take trekking poles in order to prepare for Cascade Crest later in the summer.

I started the race fairly quickly, chatting with race legend Jesse Lange as we warmed up on the flat trails near the airstrip. However, once the course started to climb, I lost some ground to Jesse. I kept a pace that was comfortable to me, which was generally a slow jog. When the trail pitched up, I would sometimes power hike to save the legs.

After about five miles, I saw Rob Irr closing the gap behind me and I was excited to potentially share some miles with one of my Issaquah training partners. We spend the next eight miles chatting and running together at a comfortable, but solid pace.

The trail was a pleasant single track that was generally runnable despite the occasional loose rock descent. I recall the trail undulating in a wave-like manner. A gradual ascent would yield magnificent views of the surrounding mountains and then a steep gravely descent would take us back into the forest.

I assume that we took the first thirteen miles a little slow, given the breadth of conversation and quantity of laughs we shared during the first half of the race. A gradual forest road descent brought us into a well-stocked aid station. I spent a few minutes there, refilling my hydration bladder and taking in some calories. Rob however, spent a little less time at the aid station and I had to put in a surge to catch back up.

The following three miles were mainly flat forest road passing over large streambeds. I finally lost Rob on the next gradual climb towards No Name Ridge. I enjoyed the remote feel of this section as I passed through forest, meadows with wildflowers, and even rocky ridgelines.

The temperatures were heating up and the sun was baking so was I fortunate enough to pick up a handful of snow right before I began my out and back ascent of Thorpe Mountain. En route I passed Rob Irr on his way back down from the summit. I reached the summit a few minutes later and very efficiently took in the views. When I passed by the spot that I saw Rob earlier, I counted nine minutes, a considerable gap.

I kept the pace strong as I passed through the iconic cardiac needles topography. I did a little too much power hiking and not enough running, but it was all I could muster at the time. I found the ridgeline on the west to be more forested than the opening ridgeline on the east, which was excellent considering the fiery sun and sweltering temperatures.

After a seemingly endless dusty switchbacking trail I reached the final aid station at French Cabin and refilled my hydration bladder one final time. The volunteers informed me that Rob was about eleven minutes ahead and he was on a mission. Therefore, I too kicked in the afterburners and increased my tempo.

Although the final pass took some wind out of my sails, I was able to recover and descend with confidence. The trail was in great condition and passed through some upland meadows before reentering the forest. I continued to be assisted by gravity as the downhill grade persisted through the dense forest. Unfortunately for my pace, the trail transitioned from smooth dirt to an uneven path due to tree roots and loose rock.

The other thing that slowed my pace was the continual stream crossings of Silver Creek. No sooner did my shoes dry out and I was back through another tributary. I finally reached the Kachess Ridge trailhead just before six hours and was disappointed to see that a sub six-hour effort was certainly not on my horizon.

My body really began to fade as I weaved through the flat-forested trails that seemed so easy in the morning. Once I reached the airstrip, I was doubled over with a bad side stitch. Even though my form was atrocious, I was able pull it together and cross the finish line with a respectable pace. I ended up finishing third behind Jesse and Rob, with a time of 6:20.

Overall I thought that Needles was worth the wait. It was a well-organized event, there were no frills, and the course was beautiful. Thanks to all the volunteers, the race directors, and of course my wife Apryle. I hope to return next year to pursue a sub six-hour time.

San Juan Island Expedition

San Juan Island Expedition

Apryle planned a spur-of-the-moment trip to San Juan Island on June 23rd. The morning of our departure we booked an airbnb cabin in central San Juan Island near Friday Harbor. It was a cute little cottage overlooking a grassy meadow and we were very lucky