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Monday, May 16, 2011

Hummers

   If any of you ever happen to make it to Washington State for a vacation along about August there’s a place you really need to check out. If you head down forest road 52 between Elbe and Packwood there’s a turn off on that road that goes up to High Rock Lookout. The lookout itself is well worth the trip. There’s a big stone tower on top of the cliff that was used as a lookout for forest fires. I don’t have the breath to make the hike up to it anymore but I can vouch for trips past that it is a really great view.


   If you keep going past the turnoff for the lookout you will be headed up toward silver creek pass. Most of that road is a pretty nice gravel logging road. You will be wanting to watch for a dirt logging road to your right as you get to the top of the pass. This is a little rougher but you can still go up as long as you have pretty good ground clearance on your vehicle. This road dead ends at an old log landing at the top.

   On your right side will be a big stretch of old growth forest that’s worth taking a hike through and watching for spotted owls. The main attraction is the huge field of salmon berries to your left.

   I was up there camping out by myself when I found the place. I was backed into a small side road where I was planning on spending the night. I hadn’t paid much attention to the field when I first got there because I was getting a camp set up. I was going to sleep in the back of the truck that night so I had the back door up and the tail gate down. I had built a nice fire and even made a pot of coffee while I was blowing up my air mattress and getting the bed made up. I finally got everything set, got a hot cup and set myself down on the tail gate to admire the world going by.

   It was getting late in the afternoon by then and I was just gazing around when I noticed a swarm of bumble bees flying around the flowers of the salmon berries below me. I was watching them buzz around and thinking to myself that I had never seen that many bees in one field before when I saw one heading toward the pickup. I didn’t think too much about it. I knew bumble bees weren’t going to hurt me as long as I didn’t mess with them so I just kept drinking my coffee and watched him fly my way. He was almost to the truck before my brain kicked in about what I was actually seeing. It wasn’t a bumble bee at all, it was a humming bird.

  I just set there in total surprise and stared at him for a minute. Then I looked back down at that field at what I thought were bumble bees. I figured it had to be just the one humming bird and still thought the rest of them were bees but I reached around behind me and grabbed my binoculars just to make sure. When I got them to my eyes and was able to focus them in I could not believe what I was seeing. Every one of what I had thought was bee was in fact a humming bird. I have no idea how many were in that field but there must have been well over a thousand. I know I had never seen anywhere that many in one place at one time in my life.

   I was so busy staring at them through the binoculars that I wasn’t paying too much attention to what was happening right by me. I finally set the binoculars back down on the tail gate and was starting to take another sip of coffee when I happened to glance up at the door to the canopy. That door was a little over six foot long and there was a line of humming bird sitting along the edge of it. There were so many there that there wasn’t even room for any more to land. With the sun low in the sky and shining on their backs it looked like every color of the rainbow was lined up on the edge of that canopy. I set there as still as I could be so i wouldn't scare them off and the next thing I knew they were landing on the tailgate right next to me. I very carefully held my hand up with my finger pointed out and within a minute I three of them sitting on my finger. I forgot all about my coffee and sat there spellbound watching them unitl they all left at night fall. I have always thought I had been born with a pretty good gift of gab (some folks might say to good and they tend to call it B.S) but sitting there watching those birds was one time words fail me. I’ve seen some pretty neat stuff out in the woods but all I can say is you have to see this for yourself.

     I have found a couple of other fields where they also flock in all of which have been low berry bushes either salmon berries or blue berries. It seems like the best time to see them is during the last two weeks of August.