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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Day #5: In Search of the Green-Tailed Towhee

Today's Route: Walla Walla, WA to [Somewhere], WA (10 by bicycle, many by car)
Total Trip Miles (by bicycle): 284

[My apologies for the radio silence. I had a few busy days socializing, followed by a few days with no cell service and super spotty wifi.]

Before leaving my Warm Showers hosts in Walla Walla, Alison took a photo of me, as she does for all cyclists they host.

Although I had pitched my tent in the yard, I sorta wish I had stayed in this little playhouse.

I have a friend from Seattle named Eric. Eric is a cycle touring friend. He's biked in some truly awesome places - most notably, Southeast Asia, where I would love to bike someday. I've never toured with Eric, but I'm sure he'd make an awesome cycling buddy.

Eric sent me an email a day or two ago saying that he was going to be out in eastern Washington this weekend doing some bird photography. As he knew I'd be biking in the area, he asked if I was interested in joining him.

Eric, with the smallest of his lenses.

Sure, I was certainly up for a little side adventure! Especially if it meant catching up with a friend. I told Eric that I'd be happy to hang with him, but that I needed to make sure that I continued making progress towards Missoula. Eric agreed to drop me off wherever I needed to be at the end of our visit.

Eric and I decided to meet in Dixie at about 9:30 Saturday morning. Dixie is about 12 miles outside of Walla Walla. Ten miles into my ride, I hear the beep of a car horn, and I see Eric passing by. He turns around, pulls over to the shoulder, I throw my panniers in his car, throw my bike on the rack, and then we're off.

We take a dirt road up to a crest in Dixie. This location is known among birders as one of the few places to spot green-tailed towhees in Washington. We get to the crest, Eric hands me some binoculars, and off we go in search of the green-tailed towhee.

Now, I've never gone birding before, and I'm somewhat blonde when it comes to using binoculars. Eric would be observing a bird for (seemingly) a few minutes before I would even be able to spot the little guy through my magnifying eyes.

We spent quite a bit of time looking through binoculars, but we also spent some time sitting out on the hillside, taking in the beauty of the surroundings.

The cool thing about Eric (well, there are other cool things, too) is that he is very dialed into nature. He knows everything about birds - their markings, their calls, their habits. But he's also really good at scouting out other creatures as well.

A bit later in the afternoon, we drove to Palouse Falls, where Eric did some more photography. We came upon a rattlesnake (which I hopefully would have noticed), but Eric also pointed out a number of marmots that I definitely would have missed.

Palouse Falls.

Eric had hoped to camp at Palouse Falls that night. But, it happened to be a day with free admission to the park, and the place was crawling with people. We decided to drive on to a USFS campground instead. We are so glad we did. Although their was one other party at the campground, the camp was otherwise very quiet and peaceful.

Eric brought a hammock, which was heaven. (Mental note: I gotta get me a hammock.) We made dinner, went for a walk, and then called it a night. Eric has this thing about sleeping outside on picnic tables. I wasn't going to argue; the table was his.

Eric displaying proper camp eating etiquette.

What a nice diversion from biking. Even though we never did spot the green-tailed towhee.

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