Pika mouthfull landscape WMOn a 3-4 hour round trip hike into a backcountry area of the Rockies my girlfriend was struggling to stay motivated and it was clear she wasn’t enjoying the steady uphill climb. While she can carry a heavy pack and hike like a machine in the prairies on scorching hot days while I whither under the sun, she detests any uphill hikes in the mountains. Finding a hike that would be enjoyable was out of the question, it was just a matter of finding one that had a big enough reward at the end to make it worth it!  I tried picking one that was not very steep and that had a tea house at the end where we could treat ourselves to drinks and treats in a beautiful wilderness setting. While that helped get her to the trail head, it didn’t guarantee that she would want to do anything like it again. Thankfully, her love of small mammals seems to trump almost anything else and as luck would have it there were lots where we were heading, including pika, a species she had never laid eyes on before!

After visiting the tea house and trying some of homemade treats and teas we went over to a huge rock avalanche area with a nearby meadow full of lush vegetation; about as ideal a spot for pika as you can find. We sat quietly on the rocks and within a few minutes we were rewarded with our first pika, then another and another! We watched as they sun bathed on the rocks, learned their favourite feeding spots and travel routes and saw them unsuccessfully trying to defend their stashes from the raiding chipmunks. It was a rodent biologists dream come true and needless to say the torture of the uphill hike quickly melted away and was replaced by her excitement at seeing and watching these little farmers go about their daily lives.

With the pika and chipmunks providing the entertainment, I focused on photography. I set up my wide angle lens on a rock next to an area that it routinely passed by on the way back to its hay stash. I pre-focused on the spot I guess it would pass through, moved back and waited with my remote in hand. It didn’t take long before it jumped along the rocks with a mouth full of green grass completely unconcerned by the addition a clicking camera.

That little pika really did save the day and plans are in the works for the next mountain wildlife hike!