Family trip to the pacific northwest

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kevin h
Posts: 98
Joined: January 18th, 2015, 3:04 pm

Family trip to the pacific northwest

Post by kevin h » July 2nd, 2016, 8:52 am

Hey guys!

So about 5 years ago my family, consisting of my mom, my dad and myself took a trip to Washington. We went out to the Olympic Peninsula, over to Mount Rainier and up to the Northern Cascades, visiting National Parks. This is what we do once a year every summer and we love it. The National Park Service is one of, if not the best idea America has ever created. Anyway the Washington trip spoke to me on a special level above the trips to Yellowstone or Rocky Mountain National Parks and I find I can deduce this to one reason: salamanders!!! Being from the east I find it strange to have such a great diversity here and then nothing until you get to the Pacific coast, besides Tigers that is. Don't get me wrong I love tigers, but ever since that trip to WA I've been nagging to get back out to the Salamander rich PNW, with species so different than the ones in Appalachia. Getting to the point, this year it was my turn to pick the destination and you'll never guess what I said. I planned out the trip to start in Portland, OR, then move east up the Columbia River Gorge and over to Mount Hood. From there we would head south to the beautiful Crater Lake National Park and then further south into the Cascade range of California, visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park. Finally we would end the trip by going west to Redwood National and State Parks to see the tallest living organism on the planet. So without further ado here we go!


Like stated we flew into Portland and the next day I was out herping. With thanks to some forum members I had been given a local site for turtles and garter snakes. The one person that sent me a PM was a huge help and I'd like to thank him especially. Doing my research I found that Long-toed Salamanders also called the place home and hoping against hope that it wasn't too late for their breeding season I started off.
ImageNorthwestern Garter Snake by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr
It didn't take long to see an old friend that I hadn't found since WA. Not far after that I saw a Red-spotted Garter but lost it before I could take a photo. Eventually I came to the edge of the seasonal wetland and to my utter surprise saw a metamorph Long-toed in the water!
ImageLong-toed Salamander by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr

There were also your Western Painted Turtles hanging around for me to get some bad photos of.
ImageWestern Painted Turtle by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr

Satisfied with my finds I was already heading back to my car when I got a text from my mom stating that my dad had found something. The wonders of modern technology I tell you.
ImageLong-toed Salamander by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr
An absolute stunner adult Long-toed!!! This like the majority of my finds on the trip was a lifer too.


After that we spent the rest of the day doing your typical touristy things like going to museums and the rose garden where they had a "1000 year old rose bush" that ended up being a clipping from a 1000 year old rose bush in Germany. It didn't even have roses on it either. But the next day I knew would be awesome because we would spend it heading up the Gorge stopping at breathtaking waterfalls on the way.
ImageLatourell Falls by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr

ImageUpper Horsetail Falls by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr

ImageStarvation Falls by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr

ImageColumbia River Gorge by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr

We also stopped at a fish ladder to see some of Oregon's native fish and while the salmon weren't at their peak we still saw some, not to mention these amazing Lampreys.
ImagePacific Lamprey by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr

There was also a fish hatchery there that has one of my favorite families of fish too. This big guy is named Herman and was pushing 12 feet.
ImageWhite Sturgeon by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr

Now that the other stuff is out of the way I can get to the herps. I'd read up on the species in the area and figured I'd look around the splash zones of waterfalls and as the day dragged on I racked up some awesome species.
ImagePacific Giant Salamander by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr

ImageDunn's Salamander by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr

ImageCascade Torrent Salamander by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr
Now all of these were lifers but the only adult was the Dunn's. The Cascade Torrent was large enough to be an adult but I latter learned that the population in the gorge stays in its larval form longer than the others. My dad may have found an adult in a seep but I got separated and he lost it.

Once we got on the east side of the gorge we headed up in elevation to Mount Hood. I loved seeing the change in ecosystems as we got out of the "Fruit Loop" and into Douglas Fir forests. However while rain had brought the promise of salamanders it obscured the view of Mount Hood and this is the best shot I got.
ImageTrillium Lake by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr

But that didn't phase my attitude towards herping and the next day my dad and I went out for some morning exploration while my mom caught some Zs. Once we'd gotten to the stream valley that I was hoping would have some adult Torrents my dad didn't even have time to park the car before I had found my next lifer.
ImageRough-skinned Newt by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr

ImageRough-skinned Newt by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr
Now I know that the locals probably disregard a roughie like I would a Red-spotted Newt back east but these guys were so amazing. I never would've thought that they'd be so huge too. Common or not this was one of the best find of the trip for me.

Once on the creek proper my dad told me to come over and that he'd found a toad. While I figured a boreal toad is cool it ain't a lifer, what I wasn't figuring was this:
ImageCoastal Tailed Frog by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr
An actual lifer.

We hiked our butts off trying to find an Cascade endemic of sorts, whether it be a Slender or a Torrent but we failed at both. Later a local told me that the temps the week before were up into the 90s and that combined with the high water in the streams prevented me from seeing anything other than the high altitude newts. However still we had some nice scenery to accompany our failure.
ImageLittle Zigzag Falls by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr

Our next stop was down south into much drier areas so I figured I wouldn't be seeing anything of much till later in the trip. We arrived at Crater Lake and nothing could've prepared me for this sight.
ImageCrater Lake by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr
It must be the most beautiful place I've ever been and certainly now at the top of my favorite National Parks.

ImageStephen Tyng Mather plaque by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr
Speaking of the Park System here's a tidbit of history for you. This plaque is dedicated to Stephen T. Mather the father of the National Park Service who got involved when he realized the way Yosemite was being managed. He wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Interior telling him so, and the Secretary told him if he wasn't happy with it run it himself, and he did. It helped that he was a millionaire but as the plaque says, "There will never come an end to the good that he has done."

As much as I'd like to go on and on about the Parks this is a herping forum and I did get a chance to herp. Not in the park mind you, but near our "hotel" there was a breeding pond that held all sorts of goodies.
ImageBoreal Toad by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr

ImageLong-toed Salamander by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr

ImageCascades Frog by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr
Lifer.

ImageCascades Frog by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr

ImagePacific Treefrog by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr
This treefrog was the largest of its genus I've ever seen. It was also incredibly beautiful and a lifer.

One day we decided to walk down to the waters edge which, considering the roads were closed required a 12 mile hike. No matter it was fun and 6 hours later I had meet some new friends.
ImageSagebrush Lizard by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr

ImageGolden-mantled Ground Squirrel by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr
I'm normally the exception with my generation on the selfie but I couldn't resist this opportunity.


With our time at Crater Lake ending we now moved further south into California and I think Robert Plant summed it up when he said, "I'm going to California with some herping in my heart." Our next destination was a little known National Park called Lassen Volcanic, created in 1916 after Mount Lassen erupted. This place was a geological wonderland, it has all 4 types of volcanoes (cinder, plug, composite, shield), fumaroles and mud pots.
ImageMount Lassen by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr

Imagemudpot by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr
Extremely scenic mud pot.

ImageCalifornia Cascades by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr

As for herps I din't do too well because it never hit above 45* F here, however I didn't leave the place completely empty handed.
ImageSierran Treefrog by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr
Lifer if my range mas are correct and this isn't another Pacific.


The next stop was the most anticipated for me and the most salamander rich. It was the long awaited Redwood National & State Parks. By the time the 5 hour drive was over it was almost dark but I was dying to see a Redwood up close and personal so we stopped along 101 and it was amazing!!!!! Those trees are unbelievable! There are no words I can use to describe my joy at first seeing something so massive, so here are some pictures.
ImageCoast Redwood by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr
Can you spot the human?

ImageCoast Redwoods by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr

ImageFern Canyon by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr
Compared to the Coast Redwood this amazing canyon lined with maiden hair ferns was a side attraction.

All this shock I was going through wasn't just over the redwoods now. In no time I came across a species I was certain would be aestivating this time of year.
ImageDel Norte Salamander by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr

ImageDel Norte Salamander by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr

ImageDel Norte Salamander by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr
These were all juveniles and the adults were much darker. Also lifer!

Seeing these guys gave me some hope in finding the goal a Aneides of some sort. Back east there's only one species in this genus which is the Green Salamander and it's my favorite, so to see a western species would top everything else. As we spent more time amoung these living giants more species began to reveal themselves.
ImageCalifornia Slender Salamander by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr

ImageCalifornia Slender Salamander by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr
An amazing lifer.

ImagePainted Ensatina by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr

ImagePainted Ensatina by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr
This was a sub-species lifer and this individual had some particular striking coloration.

ImageFoothill Yellow-legged Frog by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr
Lifer.


Now one day my mom again wanted to stay back at the hotel to be with the beach and still nurse her blisters from the Crater Lake hike. Honestly I couldn't comprehend why you'd take a beach over these old growth woods. Live and let live I guess. Anyway my dad and I took a drive through virgin stands with trees as old as 2000 years. At one point I decided to take a flashlight and shine down a crevice in a 6 foot tall redwood log. I wondered if Greens back east live in rock crevices, couldn't western Aneides live in wood crevices? Unbelievably this worked and I saw a small head peaking back out at me! I was able to persuade him out with out hurting it.
ImageWandering Salamander by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr
Lifer!!!!

ImageWandering Salamander by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr
This species, the Wandering Salamander is amazing. Researchers in redwoods have found females guarding their eggs in the canopy of a redwood over 300 feet above the forest floor. The trees are so massive that dirt collects in their branches and the salamanders can live, eat, breed and die without ever having to touch the ground! As John Muir said " There is not a 'fragment' in all nature, for every relative fragment of one thing is a full harmonious unit in itself." I believe that this is perfectly exemplified in the redwood forest. Having found my goal of the trip I was content with doing some stream wading to try for some Torrents. I eventually came to a beautiful side stream that was very small. Looking good for Torrents I wasn't surprised when I came across one and then a much larger fatter one later.
ImageSouthern Torrent Salamander by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr

ImageSouthern Torrent Salamander by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr
Lifer.

As all good things must end, so did my time at the redwoods and we had to start are route back up to Portland. On the way we stopped at a couple of places along the coast.
ImageOregon Dunes by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr

ImageSea Lion Cave by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr
If you look closely you can see Stellers Sea Lions on some of those rocks in there. This is also America's largest known sea cave.

There some herps as well.
ImageRed-legged Frog by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr
Lifer.

ImageWestern Red-backed Salamander by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr

ImageDunn's Salamander by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr

ImagePacific Treefrog by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr

Having already seen the Wandering Salamander I was hoping to be able to find its sister species the Clouded. I was also encouraged cause once I knew the Wandering's habitat they were everywhere and knowing that the Clouded shared the same habitat I gave it one last shot. Unbelievably I came across a tiny little hatching on my last day! Although it was small and somewhat pathetic this species was beautiful and I was elated to get one last lifer.
ImageClouded Salamander by Kevin Hutcheson, on Flickr


And with that we finished the drive back to Portland, made through the airport and in no time were flying back home. While I was sad I knew that I'd be returning soon. Once again as John Muir so eloquently put it, "This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on the seas and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls."


Thanks, Kevin.

AZherper
Posts: 19
Joined: August 31st, 2015, 7:53 am

Re: Family trip to the pacific northwest

Post by AZherper » July 2nd, 2016, 9:19 am

Sweet report! Looks like you found a lot of cool stuff. I was recently up in the Columbia River Gorge (also on a family trip) and found many of the same species, however I had very limited time to search Rhyacotriton habitat and unfortunately dipped on those, how hard were they to find?

Looks like a really fun time, nice job clearing up some great species up there. And I agree that while Taricha might be quite common in the area, it's such an awesome animal and one that I really enjoyed seeing.

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kevin h
Posts: 98
Joined: January 18th, 2015, 3:04 pm

Re: Family trip to the pacific northwest

Post by kevin h » July 2nd, 2016, 10:50 am

Sweet report! Looks like you found a lot of cool stuff. I was recently up in the Columbia River Gorge (also on a family trip) and found many of the same species, however I had very limited time to search Rhyacotriton habitat and unfortunately dipped on those, how hard were they to find?
Thanks and I'm not sure whether they're hard or not. In total I only found 2 larva at one site in a day of herping, but at the best habitat there was some guy taking photos so I'll never know.

daniel
Posts: 109
Joined: July 2nd, 2013, 9:29 am
Location: California

Re: Family trip to the pacific northwest

Post by daniel » July 2nd, 2016, 8:27 pm

Thank you for the wonderful report!

Was the fish ladder at Bonneville Dam by any chance? I used to live up in that region. Your photos bring back fond memories. Love that sturgeon!

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kevin h
Posts: 98
Joined: January 18th, 2015, 3:04 pm

Re: Family trip to the pacific northwest

Post by kevin h » July 3rd, 2016, 10:31 am

Was the fish ladder at Bonneville Dam by any chance?
It was in fact that one. I glad to hear you enjoyed it, thanks.

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