Saturday, August 7, 2010

Duck, Duck, Goose

When we're camping, every so often, the Tadpole and I take time out from Geocaching, just to enjoy what's near us.  In the case of Lassen, it was Manzanita Lake, a gorgeous body of water right next door to the campground where we were camped.  One of the days we were there, we decided to hike around the lake, a 1.8 mile loop, plus walk to and from our campsite, probably put it close to two and a half miles.

Since we were walking around a like, the terrain, for the most part was very flat.  There were a few up and downhill sections, but it was an easy hike. We were out, just to enjoy the scenery and to get a little exercise in the process.  We'd also learned at the visitors center that the trail would be open all the way around the lake.  The park service had been doing a controlled burn along one part of the lake and the trail had been intermittently closed during the week.  We were fortunate that day.

Hiking with the Tadpole has become an adventure over the past couple of years.  My daughter and wife have always complained that I walk too fast for them.  I have a quick pace, but I don't feel it's that fast.  His pace, on the other hand, is freeway speed.  And I really think that's probably not the right choice of speeds.  He has very long legs and he just takes longer strides.  Needless to say, I spent most every hike, catching up to him.  That's not a bad thing, just an observation.

I had a couple of goals in mind when we went on this hike.  The first and foremost was to enjoy myself.  That was a pretty easy goal in reality.  The walk was pleasant, and we ended up with several spectacular views of Mt. Lassen.  This leads me to my second goal.  I have a picture in my bedroom of Mt. Lassen that I took after I graduated from college.  My friend had driven up with my family to see me graduate and then he and I went camping at Lassen and Yosemite before I came home and started the reality of life.  It was one of those last flings before adulthood set in permanently.

I'd gotten a decent picture on the hike we took back then, and my goal was to get at least as good a shot this time.  I figured that the likelihood would be that the shot, overall, would be better because of the excess snow on the mountain.  I was not disappointed in the overall effect.  The breeze was just strong enough that there wasn't a really good reflection in the lake, but you can still make out the form of the mountain in the lake's reflection.

From that spot, we headed through the controlled burn area.  This was interesting from the standpoint of just seeing little smoldering areas.  Signs had been posted telling not to report it, since they already knew of this fire.  Also, the fire wasn't going to go anywhere, because it was very small, and the wind was blowing it to the lake's edge.  There was no place for it to go, so it would naturally burn itself out anyway.  I took a picture of one of the little tongues of flame coming from a small area of pine needles, but it didn't come out very well.  The purpose of the burn was to clear out the underbrush, so when a natural fire does occur, it doesn't become catastrophic like many fires have become recently.  I'll be writing about this more in depth in another post later on.

As we continued around, we stopped and watched a wood duck family enjoying what looked like one of their first outings outside of the nest.  8 little ducklings and mother were enjoying a fine day for a swim.  We watched the ducks for about a half an hour, mainly because there was another duck harassing the mother, so we decided to stay and watch the interaction between mother and this intruder.  Ducklings stayed together, almost in formation, while mother chased the intruder off.  When mom was back, then they would break ranks, so to speak and be a little more adventurous.  It was an interesting study in animal biology.

As we continued on, we rounded another bend and came upon four Canada Geese feeding on the shoreline.  Canada Geese are very large birds and they were the dominant swimming bird in this lake and the nearby Reflection Lake.  We'd actually seen a gosling earlier in the morning and it was the size of a large chicken.  These geese were not the exception, but I was still very surprised when only three of them waded out into the shallows as we approached their feeding spot along the trail. One goose, apparently, couldn't have cared less that these two larger creatures were invading its space.  It just kept eating and enjoying life.

We spotted several other groups of geese as we continued on our hike.  They tended to congregate near the boat launching area of the lake, mainly because I believe they probably ended up getting some handouts from some of the tourists in that area.  Needless to say, feeding the wildlife, no matter how hungry they appear to be, does the wildlife no good whatsoever.  In fact, it harms them, because they'll become dependent upon people food and won't bulk up on their natural foods that are better for them.   What was nice was none of the people who were at the boat landing area were even encouraging the geese to come over for food.

Fortunately, the park service is doing a fairly good job of educating the visitors to the park. Bear boxes seem to be the norm in most campgrounds in California now.  I have think back to the early 80s to remember a time when there weren't bear resistant boxes in the campgrounds.  My first camping trip to Sequoia National Park with my daughter in 1995 was the last time I've actually seen a bear.  That's a good thing.  Bears that stay away from humans will remain living bears.  Bears that congregate near humans and start feeding on human food become dead bears much more quickly than bears that don't.  The same holds true for the ducks and the geese.

We continued around the lake, ending up at our starting point, then headed back to our campground.  No geocaches were found, but then again, none were attempted, so that was fine.  We'd had a good day, just enjoying nature.   And that worked for us.

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chaosmanor said...

A nice little journal entry :-) I wish we'd had the time to go to the north side of the Park when we were up that way, but we had a schedule to keep.

BTW: I believe that those ducks are buffleheads rather than wood ducks. Female wood ducks don't have that white patch under the eye.

We've been seeing bear boxes at places where I know that bear don't go except in the most extreme of conditions. The good about them is that they are also racccon-proof, seagull-proof and most-other-critter-proof. The less trash of any kind that any wild animal can get into, the better.

Steve Natoli said...

Very nice musings and photos. Lassen brings back memories for me. It is the highest peak I've ever climbed.