Mt St Helens & Roosevelt Elks Spring Time
It was a wonderful surprise to open a birthday card and find that my wife and mother had given me a photo safari with Gerry Lamarre to capture baby Elk in Washington's Toutle Valley, now home of the Mt St Helens National Volcanic Monument. What a treat, and in just a few months I was off to Portland with a short drive away. I have several of Gerry's photos gracing our home and have always admired his work and ability to capture nature and wildlife in honest surroundings. We met on Saturday morning. He was pulling a trailer with 4 fine horses. Red, Rusty, Joker and Jasmine would be our companions on this trip and help us cover ground that cannot be accessed if you are on foot. We made our way down into the Touttle Valley, which just 22 years earlier had been the scene of massive mud flows littered with pine trees pummeled to toothpicks. I expected just a small comeback of the valley floor. However it was thriving and nature was reclaiming the land.
We made camp and then pressed on to scout out the local elk population. While the eruption had decimated the animals on hand, neighboring populations of Roosevelt Elk (Cervus Elaphus) moved into the blast zone soon after, and have continued to re-colonize. We soon encountered several large herds of females and knew that the little ones would not be far away. With a PhD. in Forest resource Management, Gerry ensures that as we take pictures, at no time are we endangering any animal nor are we potentially separating mother from child. We rode into a small wooded area and spied our first candidate. A 5-6 day old was up and about with mother off feeding. He was curious at our presence and walked around assessing who exactly we were. Since we were on four legged steeds, we did not represent a threat and eventually he lay down and went back to sleep, but not before we got some excellent close ups. The next morning we hit the jackpot and discovered an elk nursery, silently approached and snapped as many frames as we could before Gerry felt that we needed to move on to avoid stressing the newly born. It was an inspiring event to be so close to the creation of new life! Scroll below and you can view an exciting gallery of Roosevelt Elk.
Mt. St. Helens
Sunday afternoon was spent packing up camp and exploring Mt. St. Helens. On a sunny Sunday afternoon, May 18th 1980 to be exact, the spots that I stood on were under a barrage of volcanic mudflows, ash fallout and utter destruction. It started with an earthquake that registered 5.1 on the Richter scale and melted into a rock debris avalanche that took out 150 square miles of prime forest land. What lay before me was an incredible regeneration and evidence that powers, much greater than our human minds can construct, chart the paths of life on this planet. There were numerous landmarks that described what was taken away, but more satisfying were those that showed the power of nature and her healing ways. St. Helens rises and fills the landscape, drawing you to her power and beauty that is elemental to the mountains on our globe. Check out Mt St Helens pics below.
The last day of this adventure was spent capturing the elusive Osprey along the banks of the Columbia River. We set up our cameras on a nearby nest and then just waited for some action. There were about 8 Ospreys hunting in the area and the comings and goings were minimal. Just as it appeared we would not get any good shots, a Bald Eagle appeared in the neighborhood. It swooped down on the river, grabbed a large fish in its talons and then the skies erupted with Ospreys. They all made an immediate beeline for the Eagle as it attempted to escape without challenge. As if they had some laser-guided detection system, the Ospreys were charging upwards to harass the eagle and hopefully cause a momentary loss of his grip. However, the Eagle fooled his attackers by a upside down free fall, and pull back inches before the river engulfed him. The Ospreys, outwitted, went back to their routine and we left with some memorable memories and photos. A quick click will take you away to the action.
May our paths & errands meet
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