[Tweeters] Mike the Marmot

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Sun Sep 28 15:33:12 PDT 2014

Marcus Roening's recent post re: sightings of friendly Marmots at Mt. Rainier's Paradise, reminded me of a Marmot I'd met decades ago, when I worked on The Mountain.
After posting awhile back about "my highest bird" - the highest flying bird I'd ever seen in Washington State ( a Golden Eagle above Sunrise on Rainier), I thought of the highest mammal ( aside from me and my fellow hominids atop Rainier's 14'410 ft. summit) I'd seen in the state.
I worked at Paradise for two summers back in the early 70's. Each of those years I made the long slog up to the famed climbers hut - Camp Muir - a pilgrimage, if you will. At 10'000 ft the view is astounding. That was back when ol' Saint Helen's still had a head.
Anyhoo, Camp Muir is pretty much stone and snow. My last year, I went up to visit a friend who was a volunteer ranger there. Sitting in the thin air by the tiny A-frame ranger hut of the time, we watched as a bunch of climbers on a guided climb showed up and leaned all of their packs in a row along Muir's rock shelter wall, then went off to get a climbing lecture from the professionals.
It was then that my friend gave me a nudge and a grin and said "check this out !", just as a big fat Marmot came out of the rocks. I was really surprised to see a Marmot there - at 10'000 ft on Rainier there is almost no vascular plant growth to speak of - the nearest marmot meadow forage about 4500 ft below. "How can that Marmot be here!" I wondered.
So we watched as Mike (as the Marmot was known) made that clear. Back in those days, Rainier Mountaineering - the Guide service - supplied all the client climbers with REI frame packs that had a zippered section in the lower part of the pack - so you could get stuff out of the bottom more easily.( I had one of those packs myself for a few years).
Ol' Mike started at one end of the pack row, and grabbing a zipper tab with his teeth, neatly opened up a pack and started tossing stuff - socks etc- out over his shoulder. Not finding anything good, he went on down the row of packs, un-zippering them one after another until finding a score - a big bag of gorp ( aka "trail mix", food). Mike hauled off his goodies into the rocks.
I guess my friend was sort of a lax ranger - hey, he was unpaid, and of course ain't rangers supposed to support wildlife? And it was my day off too, and I was mostly in charge of litter and toilets in Paradise, so we just enjoyed the show.
Later in the season I heard that Mike had babies, so I guess that made Mike a Michelle. The only other animals I ever saw at Camp Muir were Ravens and Grey-crowned Rosy Finches. And just for the record, after two years hiking everywhere around Paradise, over and over, I never saw a Ptarmigan - so if you don't, I wouldn't feel too bad. Years later I saw plenty in the North Cascades.
Jeff GibsonMemory Lane Wa.

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