“Mist rising—streams falling—
Clark’s Nutcracker hollering
A day to be alive and wandering through.”
Gary Snyder always perfectly captures the wonderment of a day in the Sierra with his poetry. To complete the story of my amazing hike on Monday, I would just need to add a few lines about pika, pika poop, thunderstorms and Yosemite toads to the verse.
My friend Ranger Dick, a Yosemite Ranger for over thirty years, has a saying that "weather is always better when you are outside in it." I agree. At the end of my hike, I sat comfortably under a small grove of pine trees on Gaylor Ridge and listened to the thunder reverberating across the lake, rushing and pounding the surrounding cliffs. The thunder was a physical thing, I could feel it shake and tussle with the granite.
I wandered in the basin, looking for pika and Yosemite toads, and to my delight found both. A rocky slope near Gaylor Lake has become my almost never miss place for pika sightings--one even ran over my foot one year. Sure enough, as I approached I heard the distinctive warning chirp of the pika, and saw him dash over some rocks. I sat and watched a few of the adorable critters for some time, along with marmots and ground squirrels. And I even found some pika toilets from the winter--huge piles of poop!
At lower Gaylor Lake, I listened for the trilling of the Yosemite toad, a melodious love song that signals the beginning of spring. But the low snowpack--and very dry conditions--had accelerated their annual breeding schedule and I heard only a few lonesome calls instead of the usual deafening chorus. It's not going to be a good year for the toad (and probably Sierra frogs in general) as the conditions in the Gaylor basin resemble mid-summer instead of spring. I found only one pond with egg masses and tadpoles, and many of the usual sites were dry already.