On a dreary Sunday morning, I struggled to get out of my bed as it was lightly drizzling outside. I was picked up around 10 o’clock to start my journey up Redfish Lake Trail. My friend and I walked through the enchanted forest smelling the shuttle scent of the Balsam furs and moist soil. Out of the forest, we started to climb up the ridge with beautiful wildflowers gathered around us. Beautiful purple, yellows and the occasional red were sprinkled across the greens of the low sagebrush, gooseberries, grasses, and baby Aspen and Lodgepoles. As a flower enthusiast, I did my best to name every plant I could. Most likely to the annoyance of my hiking buddy.
As we walked we chatted about life, shared funny stories, and listened to the breeze all while chipmunks and squirrels yelled and clicked among the trees. In the middle of a chat about cooking dinner, I saw a flash of an amazing deep ocean blue fly across the trail. It had a jet-black head with a small crest of the same color. I asked my friend if she saw the streak of blue. She had missed it as she was admiring her untied shoelace. We Looked in the small thicket of pines for a bluebird. And to our surprise, we saw a Stellar’s Jay sitting on a branch pruning itself.
The Stellar’s Jay, Cyanocitta stelleri, named after George Wilhelm Stellar, the first European man to bring back the first specimen from Alaska, can be found from Alaska to California and out to Texas. They can stand at about 13 inches. This was my first Stellar’s Jay and I was amazingly impressed by its color. Both male and female will have that glossy blue plumage and a large black cress and head, many can be found with white streaks on their forehead sometimes looking like eyebrows. I would have loved to sit and watch for an hour or so waiting the hear the shack-shack-shack call, but I also wanted to beat the rain I saw looming in the distance.
We marched on hitting the bench lakes turn off around noon. We decided to have lunch at the second lake. We sat on a large rock looking out at the lake and off towards Iowa Peak. Soon we got a bit chilly and decided to keep marching on. Well past the lakes the trail started to take us down the ridge in a series of switchbacks. These switchbacks turned from the more coniferous forest to Sagebrush.
Off in the distance, as we descended we could see glimpses of Grand Mogul poking in and out of the clouds. Soon the sun started to peak out again and we saw marvelously large arrow leaf balsam root flowers in full bloom. We also came across strange looking Bitterbrushes. A few twigs were connected together with a silk or a webbing. Not sure what they were we looked for more on the hike. Soon we came across caterpillars on the webbing. Not sure what the caterpillars were, we took a picture to look up later.
Once back in the Visitor Center we took out our insect book and found that they were Western Tent Caterpillars Moths, Malacosoma constrictum. These moths are social and live in silk tents, like the ones we saw on the trail, and eat the leaves off of trees and shrubs. This tent is also used as a molting mat helping the transition from caterpillar to moth.
We finished the hike at the Transfer camp or Redfish Lake trail Inlet. The sun was still doing its best at peeking out of the clouds, so we decided to sit on the dock and dip our toes in. It was around 2 and we had an hour until the boat Shuttle came to pick us up. We didn’t mind however, it was perfect out. Until it began to rain again. It just started off as little sprinkles before it picked up and we felt we must put our rain jackets on and sit under some trees, while we waited to go home. The day was quite the charm to us. The rain held off for us until we were done with the hike.
Written By Naturalist Emma Adams