Take flight

This post is about butterflies and rodents. But it is not about magical butterflies and creepy rodents. It is about the views we take, the scurrying creatures, the interwoven webs of life.

We went on a beautiful 8-mile hike at Silverstar Mountain northeast of the Columbia River Gorge. I hadn’t been there in FOREVER — since 1990 or so. Good grief. The trail took us high into the open alpine meadows and rocky outcroppings made not of basalt, as we’re used to seeing around here, but granite.

Thanks to a slow, cool start to summer, the wildflowers are still going nuts. Brad spotted a bushy-tailed animal in the rocks, perhaps a Martin? We also saw at least two pikas, said to be indicator species for global warming. They must have been enjoying the heck out of that cool, cloudy, mist-drenched August day. Unfortunately, temps above 80, even briefly, can kill them. I hope they’re high enough. A third of them in the Pacific Northwest have already disappeared.

We saw another indicator species — the Edith’s Checkerspot. It flits about for only a week in the summer. A week! Reading about the Checkerspot, I fell into the rabbit hole of information. Butterfly wings are made of a thin layer of veined protein — the same stuff that our hair and fingernails are made of. The color and texture comes from hundreds of scales. They are pigmented from the plants butterflies eat, such as bright red Indian Paintbrush, but the cellular structure of the scales is what causes irridescence and other coloring because it reacts to light.

The Checkerspots do not migrate — and they rely on specific plants, such as paintbrush. As they move northward and upward into cooler climates, the host plants may or may not be available to them.

Adult Checkerspots live just a week to ten days….and yet, they are part of a timeless, endless ecosystem.

One week. I’m so glad we hauled ourselves up that mountain trail. Life is sweet. Paper or plastic?


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