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Hika for the Pika
Find out more from the Center for Biological Diversity:
Pacific walrus

By Mike Sweeney

Mike Sweeney Off to "Hika for the Pika"
July 16, 2009

Every year, for the past 22 years or so, I have gone off on a multi-day hike in the summer or fall. In 2007, I completed a multi-year project, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. In 2008, I hiked from Badwater in Death Valley to the top of Mount Whitney. So, it's only natural that friends, family and acquaintances now ask me, "What're you gonna do next?"

This year, I didn't have an answer for many months - I thought that maybe I'm getting kind of old for that stuff. I pondered climbing Half Dome in Yosemite, but that's just a one-day deal. I was just starting to come up with the idea of walking somewhere from my house when I read Jerry Budrick's account of his attempt to get to the top of Yosemite Falls. He referred to his determination to get to the top of these spectacular falls as an "obsession." That's just what it is when an idea pops into your head and won't go away until you give it a try.

My journey crystallized in my addled brain just recently - to walk from my house in Sutter Creek to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite. Why? Because it's stuck in my brain. Because we should do these things while we are in this temporarily able state that we "non-handicapped" folks all take for granted. Because I need to have an answer to the question, "What're you gonna do next?"

Also, I want to take this hike to go look for my old friend, the American pika. When you see a pika you know you are in a very special place. These little relatives of the rabbit only live at high elevations in boulder fields near mountain peaks in the Western United States. They have been heading up to higher ground each year as temperatures rise and they are running out of room. They don't tolerate heat and can die from temperatures of even 78 degrees for just a few hours. Higher temperatures also lower the availability of food in the meadows where they forage and reduce the amount of time that they can gather food.

More than a third of documented pika populations in the Great Basin Mountains of Nevada and Oregon have disappeared in the past century. Field studies are now being conducted in the Sierras and preliminary results suggest that their numbers are down and those that remain have migrated several hundred feet upslope. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now conducting a one-year review of the status of the American pika to determine if it should be considered for Endangered Species status.

I hope to see some of these little guys on my hike and to hear their call. 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. They are wholly dependent on our willingness to do the right thing to help them survive. Many scientists believe that biodiversity is critical to the health of our entire ecosystem and not just the health of the species at risk. Perhaps, if we can save our pikas, we can save ourselves. Maybe if we walk more, bike more and develop alternative energy sources, we can get a better handle on everything from childhood obesity to the warming of the planet.

My hike is not carbon neutral by any means as I will need a ride back from Yosemite. But maybe it can demonstrate that we can get to more places under our own power than we realize. Increased awareness about the plight of the pika might also make it easier for our leaders to see the value of sidewalks, trees, bike lanes, solar power and electric cars.

The Ledger Dispatch has generously offered me another column to let you know how the hike went. I plan to leave my house on July 24 and hope to climb Half Dome around the fifth of August. The 220-mile route will take me up the Sutter Creek Volcano Road to Shakeridge Road, then up Highway 88 to Bear River Reservoir Resort. From Bear River, I will take a road and then trails east up to Blue Lakes. From there, it's only a half-mile or so to the Pacific Crest Trail. I will follow the PCT south to Tuolumne Meadows and then take the John Muir Trail to Half Dome. My friend Mike Nasiatka is calling it "Hika for The Pika." I like the sound of that.

Editor's note: When the PUSH America Journey of Hope cyclists came through Amador County in June, their support team placed "Caution" and "Special Event" signs along the route. Recognizing the improved safety conditions at that time, Sweeney decided to walk the Highway 88 from Dew Drop to Bear River then and he is counting that part as done.

Mike Sweeney's Pika Hika, Sutter Creek to Half Dome
August 20, 2009

Jerry Seinfeld used to do a bit about Night Man versus Morning Man. Night Man would stay out late drinking and partying with total disregard for the responsibilities of Morning Man. Morning Man would wake up to his alarm hung over, with dark circles under his eyes. After awhile, Morning Man really resented Night Man.

My personal dueling duo are Living Room Man and Backpacking Man. Living Room Man gets out the maps and makes ambitious, extremely optimistic plans with total disregard for Backpacking Man's age, fitness, knees and willingness. Backpacking Man puts on the pack, looks at the plans and freaks. Their conversations go something like this - Backpacking Man: "So, where am I going this year?" Living Room Man: "Well, you're going to zip up to the old Emigrant Trail, south of Silver Lake, zip down Horse Canyon and then zip up to the Pacific Crest Trail and take it south to Yosemite." BPM: "Did you just say zip? I don't zip! I never have zipped! What the hell are you talking about!" LRM: "Well. look here on the map. It doesn't look that hard." BPM: "No, not hard for you, sitting here in the living room, eating nachos! Have you even trained for this?" LRM: "No, but I watched the Tour de France to inspire you. Boy, that Lance is something, huh?" BPM: "Well, next time, get off the couch and help out a little. Also, I want to be involved in the planning from now on." LRM: "Uh, there's a couple of problems with that." BPM: "What now?" LRM: "First of all, you don't exist until you put that pack on. And remember what you planned when you put the pack on in the living room last time? You wanted to backpack at Sunrise Mall so you could stay on one level and be within 50 yards of the Food Court at all times. It's best you leave the planning to me."

And so it goes. The two never, ever, come together completely, but they started out farther apart than usual on this hike to Half Dome. But eventually, as the hike progressed, they got along a little better and were almost cordial towards the end.

I started the backpacking portion of the hike from the Bear River Reservoir area on Saturday, July 25th. The day before I had day-hiked from Sutter Creek to Volcano to complete the road miles I had not done in June, when the PUSH America cyclists came through. As reported previously, I made the decision to use their "caution" signs and support vans to make walking on the road (especially the Highway 88 portion) a bit safer.

July 25: I followed the old Emigrant Trail south of Silver Lake to Horse Thief Springs. I walked alongside lots of motorcycles and off-road vehicles carrying young men and families out for weekend adventures. We helped each other with route finding and it was pretty cool to think back to when this route was used by pioneers making their way west. It's a dry stretch until you get to the Springs, so it was a relief to find the cold, sweet water running out of a little pipe right by where I camped. Hot dusty day, beautiful cool night with millions of stars.

July 26: a tough day. I followed the Emigrant Trail up to Horse Canyon, then dropped down the Canyon into the Mokelumne Wilderness on a trail the map says is "infrequently maintained." This is true. It was last maintained when the pioneers came through in 1849 or so. Some trail angel had placed ducts (small piles of rocks) to try to mark the trail, but since these rock cairns didn't really go anywhere near a trail I figured this trail angel is dead down the canyon somewhere. (Maybe Monty Wolf placed the rocks in the canyon).

To be continued next Friday...

Mike Sweeney's Pika Hika, part II
Thursday, August 27, 2009

Editor's note: This is the second of a four-part series by Mike Sweeney on his ambitious 200-mile hike. Please note that BPM is Backpacking Man and LRM is Living Room Man.

Eventually, I found a trail that headed up towards the Pacific Crest Trail and, after some more route-finding snafus, I made it to the Forestdale Divide on the Pacific Crest Trail a few miles north of Blue Lakes. I took the PCT to Upper Blue Lake and camped at PG&E's Evergreen Campground. An 18-mile day with lots of terrain made for a good night's sleep. (It probably helped that Living Room Man and Backpacking Man were not on speaking terms at this point).

From Blue Lakes to Sonora Pass, it was a daily challenge to get back on LRM's schedule after the lost half-day in Horse Canyon. At Sonora Pass, sweetheart and trail angel extraordinaire Patty Porter-Redkey would bring re-supplies and the bear canister I would need in the Yosemite area.

This was a section with flowers in every color of the rainbow. Blue lupine, red/orange Indian paintbrush, and elegant little purple star-shaped flowers were scattered throughout vast green meadows. The mountains here are reddish in color because of their volcanic origins and generally more eroded than the younger glacier-carved granite cliffs of Yosemite. I had last been through here in 1987 and had forgotten just how spectacular this section of the Crest Trail is. July 27th brought me to Ebbetts Pass, while the 28th took me to the East Fork of the Carson River. (BPM was finally remembering that this type of hike is better than mall-walking).

Early morning on the 28th, I was hiking down a beautiful canyon above Noble Lake when I heard what sounded like a log splitter without the generator. There is really only one thing that makes this kind of noise in the wilderness and I've only heard it a couple of times. I came around a bend in the trail and there was a bear tearing the base of a dead tree to shreds. He was looking for grubs and termites for breakfast and quite preoccupied with the task at hand. I watched him for about 30 seconds or so and then he waved his nose in my direction and took off running down the hill. (Bears don't see very well, but have an outstanding sense of smell). These are the magical moments on a hike. He was a truly wild bear, not like the bears wearing sunglasses and plaid shorts in Yosemite. He had never raided a backpack or broken into a car for food. I felt so thankful to see him in this wild setting - his home.

On the way to Sonora Pass, the trail goes above 10,000 feet in several places and, although I saw several marmots, I did not see any pikas. Marmots are stocky little burrowing animals also found at higher elevations in the Sierras. You will often see them lying in the sun on rocks. Unlike pikas, they hibernate in the winter and do not yet appear to be severely impacted by global warming.

Along the trail, there were only a couple of places at the base of mountains with the giant piles of rocks or "talus slopes" that pikas need for habitat. Perhaps the second half of my hike I'll have better luck locating these little Alpine cousins of the rabbit - July and August are prime months for harvesting the flowers and grasses that sustain them in the winter months. Unfortunately, the dense fur that helps them to live through the long cold winter makes them vulnerable to heatstroke in the summer, as they work diligently to stockpile the 60 pounds of vegetation they will need to survive. You won't find a more industrious critter on the planet.On Wednesday, July 29, I hiked out to Sonora Pass, 9.3 miles (a blessedly short distance after covering 62 miles the three previous days). I met Patty at the 9,620' Pass about 11 a.m. and she filled me in on the weather report, which predicted rain, thunder and lightning in the area from noon on. She also noted that my new personal satellite beacon didn't always work and so, while I thought I was checking in with my location every day, there were some days no signal was received. This new tool is very cool in that it sends out your longitude and latitude, so you can be tracked on Google Earth. It also has a 911 emergency feature, which can be a lifesaver. The bad news is that it doesn't like clouds or trees, so you need to know its limitations.

I had dodged a number of thunderstorms the last few days, so I wasn't too worried about this one. We had a peaceful couple of hours and I decided to camp there at the pass for the night. The trail south goes up a steep ridge and it would not be good form to be up there if the storm did come in. I got my food and my "bear-resistant" canister, which is required by law in the next section, and made a promise to use the new satellite beacon when on top of cloudless mountains. Patty headed down Highway 108, another trail-angel mission accomplished with her usual flair. She drove right into the heart of the thunderstorm that was on me in 20 minutes or so. I got my tent up just in time and all hell broke loose about 2 p.m. I spent two hours in the tent, listening to the rain and thunder and wondering if I'd be safer in the outhouse 50 yards away. (Lightning is one thing to have a healthy respect for, not that it does you any good). By 4 p.m., the sun was out, the air was crystal clear and the remaining clouds were absolutely spectacular. Tomorrow, 1,200 feet up and over the trail by Sonora Peak and into the Emigrant Wilderness. There will be more people along the trail as I get closer to Yosemite and they will be from all over the world. It will be interesting to talk with them about our hard-working little friend, the American pika.

Mike Sweeney's Pika Hika, part III
September 3, 2009

On Thursday, July 30 I left Sonora Pass early in the morning to make my way up the Pacific Crest Trail to Leavitt Peak and the Emigrant Wilderness. This 1,200-foot climb up from the pass is dangerous early in the summer when it is snowbound, but by late July you only have to wade through a few deep patches of snow. Fortunately, by the 30th, no patches were close to the steep drop-offs along the trail that the guidebook refers to as "potentially fatal."

Once you get up to Leavitt Peak at 10,700 feet, you begin a windblown traverse along a volcanic ridge for about two miles. The views on this section of the Pacific Crest Trail are breathtaking. About a mile into the traverse, I meet a college professor from Boise, Idaho. He is hiking the PCT from Mexico to Canada in three summers and plans to do it all again in 2012 when he retires. He looks tan and fit. We comment that the mosquitoes are not bad up here at 10,700 feet and then head down the trail. He's heading north to Echo Summit while I continue south toward Yosemite.

There are still few people along this section of the trail, but you are never alone in nature. On the switchbacks down to Kennedy Meadow Canyon, I see several Clark's nutcrackers, very vocal black and gray birds often seen at high altitude in the Sierra. As the elevation drops, the white bark pines and mountain hemlocks are back along the trail, clinging to life tenaciously in the most inhospitable places. They seem to grow right out of the granite, stunted by the wind and the short growing season but persevering nonetheless. In the meadow, I see two striking Mountain Bluebirds. It's a gorgeous hike, but by early afternoon the storm clouds gathered once again.

My goal is to make it to a bridge across the Walker River, four or five miles beyond peaceful Kennedy Meadow Canyon. The sky darkens with each hour. I make it to the bridge and decide to push on. Rain hasn't started yet and I figure I should go as far as I can before it does. At 4:30 p.m., rain is imminent and I stop at a little pond by the trailhead to Cinko Lake. On this day, I develop the system that will serve me (poorly) for the next several days. Hike a little too long; stop and try to put the tent up in a thunderstorm, with rain and hail pouring down; get everything wet; and, finally, get in the tent and wait for the sun to come out. An hour later, take everything out of the tent and spread it around to dry. Every day I plan to develop a new system. Every day I panic and put the tent up in the afternoon storm and get everything wet in the process. Well, you gotta have a system.

I hiked to Stubblefield Canyon Creek on the last day of July, well inside the boundary of Yosemite National Park. Saw marmots, deer and a hiker named "Stoner," who is creating a Web site about the section of trail from Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney. Also met Chris, a high school teacher from Mariposa, hiking part of the PCT with his daughter. Chris was very familiar with the challenges faced by the American pika and recommended that I look into research on pika colonies done at UC Berkeley. He also has a student who is interested in proving that high school students can do "real" science. She may be interested in doing an internship studying Sierra pika colonies. We promised to stay in touch.

At camp that afternoon, I saw a small black bear heading my way as I put my stuff out to dry. Clapped my hands twice. He changed his heading by one or two degrees and went around the perimeter of the camp. Not a "wild" bear. He most likely has had previous success getting food from backpackers. Put the bear canister with all my food, toothpaste, etc., a little farther from the tent that night.

About 10 p.m., in the light of an almost-full moon, I look out and, sure enough, there's a dark shape outside my tent nosing around. I put my headlamp on it and am somewhat relieved to see a large deer staring back at me. He's a buck with a good-sized rack and now I'm thinking, great - the bear sent the deer to take me out.

The following is probably more than you wanted to know but here goes. Deer have discovered that they like or need the sodium or ammonia or whatever in human urine (there is no consensus as to why this is). Therefore, if you camp and heed the call of nature nearby, deer will often pay you a visit as they dig up the ground around your camp in search of this prize. Sometimes, they will even wait outside a tent, waiting to collect their "tax," so to speak.

No, I won't go into greater detail except to say that the buck was eventually satisfied and everybody lived happily ever after. Tomorrow, up and over Seavey Pass and on to Smedberg Lake. This will be the toughest climb of the hike so far. Time for some uninterrupted sleep.

To be continued next Friday...

Mike Sweeney's Pika Hika, part IV
September 10, 2009

On Saturday, Aug. 1, I headed up and over Seavey Pass, down to the cutoff to Benson Lake (the "Riviera" of the Pacific Crest Trail), and back up to Smedberg Lake at about 9,300 feet. Although it was only a 16-mile day, someone had come in and made all these mountains steeper since I was last through here in 1987. Not sure how they did it, but there is no doubt that the climbs are harder and more radically inclined than they were 22 years ago. I'm guessing aliens or the CIA.

Along this section, I met Amador resident Phil Nichols and his son Will. It was fun to talk with them about the "Hika for the Pika" and to hear about their backcountry adventures. They were doing a very ambitious loop that included a side trip to Benson Lake and a hike into Matterhorn Canyon. Unfortunately, Phil just had to mention the tri-tip barbeque he was missing the day I saw them, so I was blessed with images of Swingle's tri-tip sandwiches for the next 50 miles or so. Thanks, Phil.

In this section, I also met a hiker who had been in the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, just off the PCT, where a wildfire had been burning for several days. He showed me the tips of his hiking poles, which had melted from the heat of the ground in that area. He thought his boots might start to melt next so he went faster and faster until he found the cutoff that veered up to the Crest Trail. I told him I doubted he was supposed to have been in that area. He said something like "no joke, Sherlock."

Smedberg Lake is an alpine jewel nestled at the base of several granite cliffs, including the grand sentinel, Volunteer Peak. These cliffs were carved by glaciers during the Ice Age and remain a stark reminder of the power of water and ice. My camp above the lake in this stunning setting was absolutely spectacular. I camped by the creek that drops into the lake and was able to watch the sunset and the moonrise surrounded by the healing power of nature.

Next morning, it was up and over Benson Pass and on to the dramatic waterfall at Glen Aulin camp on the Tuolumne River. Along the way, I met a backcountry ranger named Roger, who had worked three summers in the park and had yet to see a pika. He suggested that I "clamber" up off the trail by Cathedral Peak on the John Muir Trail after leaving Tuolumne Meadows. He said that would be my best bet, as there is definitely an American Pika colony at the base of Cathedral Peak.

In a huge meadow alongside Cold Canyon Creek, I ran into another Amador native, Chris Hubach, who is interning as a Yosemite National Park Ranger. Chris grew up in Sutter Creek and had been in a local Boy Scout troop. My friend Dr. Terry Holland had been his Scoutmaster for several years. In fact, Terry had suggested I keep an eye out for Chris in the Yosemite area. We laughed about it as Yosemite has over 800 miles of hiking trails and the odds of running into him were slim. When we did run into each other out in the middle of nowhere, Chris said, "This is really weird. You hiked here from Sutter Creek. I grew up in Sutter Creek. I'm not even supposed to be here right now. My supervisor just called me on the radio and told me to go out this trail to see if Roger is coming in."


Chris has worked in the backcountry for a couple of summers now and will probably make a career with the Park Service. It's great to see young talented people dedicating their lives to the preservation of our natural resources.

Chris has not yet seen a pika either, so I'm starting to get more than a little worried that I may not see my old friends on this hike. At camp that night, another ranger checking wilderness permits told me about an interpretive guide in Yosemite Valley who specializes in presentations on the American Pika. She goes by the nickname "Pika Anna." Apparently, she decided to become a park ranger after seeing a pika as a young girl on a hike with her parents. She is passionate about educating people about these industrious little rock rabbits. I decide that, even if I don't see one on this hike, I need to talk with more folks about the pika and the challenges they face due to the warming of the planet. People love these little guys when they learn about them. The problem is that few people have ever heard of them. Maybe a Disney movie is in order. They are our canary in the coal mine of global warming, and we have a moral obligation to educate people, especially children, about their plight.

Tomorrow, it's on to Tuolumne Meadows and civilization. At TM, you can get food, showers, telephone access and, maybe, the wilderness permit you need to hike on the John Muir Trail to Half Dome. More next week but, for now. let's just say the food and phone were easy, the shower a little tougher and securing a JMT wilderness permit a real challenge.

"The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired in value. The conservation of natural resources is our fundamental problem. Until we solve that problem, it will avail us little to solve all others." - Theodore Roosevelt.

To be concluded next Friday...

Mike Sweeney's Pika Hika, part V
September 16, 2009

I probably shouldn't have said "You won't shoot me if I go without a permit, will you?" I made it to the Yosemite Wilderness Center at 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 3, after first hiking to the Visitor's Center two miles away to try and get a wilderness permit for the John Muir Trail. It had been a perfect morning hiking into Tuolumne Meadows. An osprey took flight from a fir tree along the Tuolumne River about 7 a.m. and the reflections of trees and mountains in the slow-moving river were magical along the route.

My mistake was going to the wrong "Center" first. At the Wilderness Center, a young employee named Melanie told me there was no way I was going to get a permit to hike the JMT to Half Dome until later in the week. She said the Park Service issues too many permits already and that this section of trail was "out of control." She then said if she found me on the trail she would not shoot me, but she would personally walk me out. We were at a standstill. The line behind me was getting anxious, but I was determined not to leave the office without a permit. Finally, after charm and assertiveness had failed, I resorted to begging. Melanie stared at the computer screen and said, "I can give you a permit for today. You must go at least four miles today or it's not valid. Want it?" You betcha. I felt like I'd just robbed a bank after I aced the little wilderness test they give you before issuing the permit. I bowed deeply to the Park Service as I exited the Center, permit in hand. I had planned to stay at Tuolumne Meadows for awhile, but now it was phone, food, shower and back on the trail.

I camped that night at the base of Cathedral Peak. Ranger Roger had told me that my best bet to see a pika would be to "clamber" up the talus slopes of Cathedral to the 11,000-foot level (my camp was at about 9,500 feet). I couldn't do it. I couldn't "clamber" anywhere. The forest was dense between me and the rocky slopes, and I didn't have the energy to bushwhack through it. I'd backpacked 170 miles from Bear River Reservoir and I was done for the moment. I felt bad (mostly I hated to face Jerry Budrick without a pika photo), but it turned out for the best. I was able to rest up and watch the light change on the mountain as the sun set. It was a very peaceful afternoon, after the hectic time in bustling Tuolumne Meadows.

Next day, it was down the John Muir Trail towards the cutoff to Half Dome. I tried to mosey. I talked with hikers from Japan, England, Australia and Kentucky about the American Pika. I took lots of photos. I even got a photo of a Northern Pacific Rattlesnake (at five feet long with 12 rattles, it was the biggest, yet most mellow rattlesnake I have ever seen). I still got to the junction to Half Dome by 2:15 p.m., and I found lots of people coming down from HD and a few still heading up the mountain. I had promised myself I would not go up in the afternoon because of crowds and thunderstorms, but here I was, thinking about doing just that. I put my tent up and hoped the motivation to summit today would go away. It didn't and I headed up the hill about 3:15 p.m.

I didn't take my hiking poles, as I knew they wouldn't be needed once I got to the cables. I made good time up the trail, until I got to the granite section that leads up to the cables. There were only a handful of us heading up at 4 p.m. A young woman with her boyfriend looked scared as he tried to reassure her where the trail switched from dirt to granite. I went up about 75 yards on the granite staircase, missing my hiking poles every step of the way, and when I heard a thunderclap in the distance, my feet turned around and headed back down. Nothing felt right. Too late, no poles, and thunder activity about 50 miles away. I was back to camp by 5:30 p.m. Perhaps, if I hadn't known about the man who fell to his death in June of this year, I would have continued. Maybe if I hadn't read the book "Shattered Air" I would have gone up. But I did know about software engineer Manoj Kumar, who slipped off the Dome while coming down the cables and fell to his death June 15. I had read about the two young men killed by lightning on the mountain back in 1985. It was good exercise hiking up to the granite stairs, but an excellent decision to turn around.

Next morning, I was up at 4 a.m. to join the early birds on the two-mile trek to the top. I brought the hiking poles and felt much more confident with them in hand as I started up the granite staircase. It was windy, but not too cold, when I got to the cables about 5:45 a.m. I didn't look around much on the way up and was relieved to be on the cables with only one other person. I made it to the top right at sunrise, the clouds orange and black. There is no more spectacular view in the world. You look down on Yosemite Valley and across to Yosemite Falls and El Capitan. Amazing.

I met a group from the Tuolumne Camp of Berkeley and, of course, being from Berkeley, they all had animal hats on. I asked what the deal was and they said their theme was "animals on parade up Half Dome." They were all working shifts later in the day at this family camp that began operation in 1922. They were a fun and energetic group. They promised to ask their seamstress to add a pika hat to the parade.

I didn't spend a lot of time on top. It was still windy and I wanted to get down before the cables got clogged with people. As I went down, there was again only one person on the cables below me. I must have looked like a big bowling ball to him, but it all went well and I was back in camp by 8:45 a.m.

I passed hundreds of people as I hiked the JMT down to Happy Isles on the valley floor - people from all over the world. "Out of control" for sure, but they all want to experience this famous trail one way or another. Some headed for the Dome; some to Mount Whitney, 222 miles away; some just to the first view of Vernal Falls, a mile up from Happy Isles. I made one last tactical error in taking the Mist Trail "shortcut" down. Why I thought it made sense for a 57-year-old man with bad knees and a backpack to go down the Mist Trail I'll never know. The "shortcut" saved me about a half mile but took an extra hour as I gingerly hopped from rock to rock on this treacherously steep track.

I took the shuttle from Happy Isles to Curry Village and, when I got off the bus, the rescue team of Patty Porter-Redkey and granddaughters Skyler and London was right there. It was time for bike rides (ouch), and snacks. We finally saw an American Pika in the Yosemite Natural History Museum - a great end to a fun hike.

What can we do to save the pika? We have to be creative in our approach to our energy challenges and willing to try new solutions. We need to be mindful about developing open space, as trees are one of the best tools we have for combating global warming and maintaining biological diversity. We need to educate our children about these challenges, as they are our best resource for truly creative solutions.

My next step was to purchase a membership with the Center for Biological Diversity (1-866-357-3349 or www.biologicaldiversity.org). They have been fighting for the pika and the polar bear for many years. They need our help if we are to maintain diversity in the biology of the world. If we don't change current trends, we stand to lose a third of the species on earth by 2050, and up to 70 percent of the species by the end of this century. We can't let this happen. We have to do a better job to save the pikas, to save ourselves.

Copyright © 2009 Ledger Dispatch.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton