The Olympics and The Cascades

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Late July and early August have been a time to be at home with Thea, as she cruises through her chemo, and with my grandchildren, before 2/3 of them moved to Guadalajara (see Thea’s photo).

But I also got up into the mountains of home several times, cherry-picking the butterflies of late summer. The Olympics (Washington’s, not Beijing’s) displayed superb wildflowers. But it was as if a butterfly-specific neutron bomb had struck – I did not see one, where hundreds, or thousands, usually fly! One fritillary caterpillar crossed the trail to Hurricane Hill, and so this strange, wet, cold summer proceeds.

RMP tracking ringlets with stepson Tom Hellyer, and grandchildren Cristina and David Hellyer, and Francis VanBockel. Photo by Thea.

But the Cascades were better, sunnier, and fairly prolific with frits and skippers, nymphs and sulphurs, checkers & blues. By the grace of happenstance, on Slate Peak in the Pasayten Wilderness Area, I ran into my friend Dave Nunnalee. Along with entomologist David James, he is working on a book on Washington’s butterfly eggs, larvae, and pupae. Dave was hunting ova of the Arctic Blue. We shared a splendid encounter with the rare and beautiful Astarte Fritillary (see his fine photographs) and also put up a Vidler’s Alpine among the parti-colored scatter of alpine wildflowers.

And thanks to that chance field meeting, I enjoyed a bed and a good meal that night, as Dave’s guest, as well as his good company. And what company could be better than that of a wildflowers, butterflies, and a curious, observant, and simpatico naturalist? Except maybe the grandchildren.

Below: The very rare Astarte Fritillary at Slate Peak, Washington. Photos: David Nunnalee

Ditto for another trip to the hills with my master-dentist and good field-buddy, Dr. David Branch. We began here at the Cottage for sustenance, then ranged into canyons as dry as the Olympics were wet. Nonetheless, we found my special quarry: pine white, zerene fritillary, mariposa copper, and half-moon hairstreak. Next: points E.