We started out early in the morning to summit Wheeler Peak (13,063). (A) You’re in beautiful forests with comfortable trails until you get about a mile past Stella Lake It’s pretty tame until you get above the treeline and then you’re in switchback/scrambling/sucking air hell. For the last 1,000 feet of the ascent, we probably averaged 30 seconds of progress for every 2 minutes of rest. Breathless, we made it to the top (B) found a friend, a Black Rosy-Finch, one of the highest nesting birds in North America. The trail is 8.6 miles, round-trip, with about 3,000 feet of elevation gain. It was quite satisfying from the top but we couldn’t linger too longer as there was a storm the next mountain over.
Once we returned to the trailhead, we drove down to the visitor center (F) for some ice cream and rest. Alison took a brief nap in the shade while I explored the area surrounding the building. Our ongoing joke about the best birding in national parks being the area around the parking lot held true. As I was walking around, I ran into a Common Nighthawk being harassed by an Ash-throated Flycatcher. Violet-green Swallows circled overhead and a Black-throated Gray Warbler was spotted behind the cave trail. Once Aly woke up, she came to join me an ended up finding a second nighthawk right off the main path down from the caves. Who knows how many people walked right past this little guy!!
Finally, after an action packed day, we head back to our site (D), had a cold beer, and made steak fajitas on the fire.
Here are my eBird checklists from the day: