Marmots on Mount Washington
by Andrew Bryant, 19 July 2012.
Sixteen of us made the first Queen of Burnaby sailing at 8:10 AM. The day began with clear skies, calm water and great promise…
From Little River we car-pooled up the winding road to Mount Washington Alpine Resort, where we ascended to the summit via the ski chair-lift. Not only was this method much easier on the knees, it offered spectacular and scenic views of the Comox glacier and surrounding mountains. The discounted lift tickets generously provided by the Resort were a nice gesture (thanks to Peter Gibson…much appreciated!)
From the summit we meandered slowly 2-3 km down the steep, rocky maintenance road towards the main parking lot. Occasionally our fearless leader (me) would pause, raise binoculars, and say, knowingly, things like “naah. That’s just a marmot-shaped shadow/rock/shadow-of-a-rock…sorry…let’s keep looking” Meanwhile we did take advantage of the opportunity to study alpine flora and the frisky Grey jays who obviously suspected we might be carrying food…
It was only about halfway down before we saw our first (and as it turned out the first of only two) wild marmots seen that day. It was enough, as anyone who has had the great good fortune to meet one in person will attest, a thrilling, funny, cerebral moment.
Further down the road we stopped at the marmot breeding facility, which is a poorly-guarded secret located in plain sight, but kept strictly off-limits to the general public. There we saw scads of marmots, met several field-researchers, and learned a lot more about the ecology and history of what used to be North America’s most critically endangered mammal. All in all a fine day.
P.S: On 15 September I repeated the trip with a member who had been unable to attend the July trip.
I did a little better the 2nd time, photographically-speaking. I could even identify a particular marmot as male #327 (left ear) and #326 (right ear). If my records are reliable then his name is “Troy“, he was wild-born at “P” Mountain in 2006 and transplanted to Mount Washington in early 2008. How cool is that?