A Hika for the Pika
Lifetime backpacker and new Center member Mike Sweeney loves hiking — especially in the high-elevation boulder fields of north-central California, prime habitat for the American pika. PIkas are small, furry relatives of the rabbit that are gravely endangered by global warming.
Sweeney also loves pikas, and he’s very aware of their imperilment, so this summer when he embarked on an ambitious 220-mile hike from his home in Sutter Creek to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite Park, he decided to give his trip a mission: to raise awareness about the pika’s plight. He dubbed the endeavor “Hika for the Pika” and secured a spot in his local newspaper to write about it and report on any pikas he could find.
On his hike, Sweeney talked with many people he met — from California, Japan, England, Australia, and Kentucky — about the pika, and he camped at the base of the rocky talus slopes of Cathedral Peak, the well-known site of a pika colony. When Sweeney returned home, he wrote a six-part series for the Amador County Ledger Dispatch all about his adventures and why it’s important to curb greenhouse gases to save the pika and countless other species. Unfortunately, while Sweeney saw bears, deer, rattlesnakes, and more, he didn’t see a pika on his hike. He hopes future generations do get to see them.
“When you see a pika you know you are in a very special place,” says Sweeney. “They are important to all of us, not just because they are cute, but because they are our canary in the coal mine when it comes to global warming. . . . Perhaps, if we can save our pikas, we can save ourselves.”
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