Day 12 Cripple Creek Campground to Eagle Summit 7/9
We woke up to the chittering of red squirrels and crossbills dropping pieces of spruce cones on us. After breakfast and packing we headed further into the White Mountains. We stopped at Montana Creek, where we found a lot of worker bumble bees visiting Hedysarum alpinum all along the roadside. We collected a bunch, and continued up into the White Mountains.
A storm rolled in as we were driving, and we did our fastest collection of bees at Twelvemile Summit Wayside as rain started. Further up the road we passed a porcupine, and learned that as an Alaskan child Alan would throw his sweatshirt on a porcupine to collect some quills for crafts. We also saw a large, beautiful male caribou so majestic looking that Michelle initially thought it was fake.
We reached Eagle Summit, and found bumble bees visiting a wider array of plant species than we’d seen to date. They were on yellow aster-like flowers (dandelion & Arnica), lousewort (Pedicularis), the reliable Hedysarum and Oxytropis, and even some workers were on little spikes of bistort (Polygonum bistorta & P. viviparum). The storm was passing through, so we collected when we could, and Michelle & Hollis ended up yet again processing some of the bees in the bed of the BeeHemoth. We set up camp in the gravel parking lot, and spent the night.
Day 13 Eagle Summit 7/10
The day started, as many on this trip have, with the sun blazing through the side of the tent at all hours. The early birds got up and had collected quite a few very large Alpinobombus queens foraging on a maroon Pedicularis in wet, puddly spots nearby. Alpinobombus is the subgenus that includes Bombus balteatus, B. polaris, B. hyperboreus, B. alpinus & B. neoboreus, and they are the largest bumble bees I have ever seen in my life. With such great bee activity, especially in the Alpinobombus, we stuck around the Eagle Summit area, collecting and processing bees, and collecting plant pollen and herbarium vouchers.
In the early afternoon we got hit with another large rain and hailstorm, so we spent a couple hours in the truck riding it out (which mostly just meant snacking and napping, and occasionally looking nervously at the tents for signs of inundation). Alan did some creative water management (think channels dug by foot to re-direct water, like you do at the beach) mid-storm, but all the tents were at least a little wet or puddly inside. After the storm we found a bunch of bedraggled-looking bees who had ridden out the storm on flowers, and were able to catch some who had hidden better, but were the first out to forage when the sun cleared. Despite the mid-day storm it was still a remarkably productive collecting day. Alan and I even flushed some ptarmigan while collecting bees!
We aired out and moved the tents around, processed the rest of the bees, and called it a night.
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© S. Hollis Woodard 2022