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Backpacker Magazine – June 2010

Natural Wonders: World's Tallest Geyser, North America's Smallest Bird and Best Shade Tree

Discover the world's tallest geyser, North America's smallest bird, and the country's best shade tree on these three treks.

by: Sarah L. Stewart

Steamboat Geyser (EE Mackin/NPS Photo)
Steamboat Geyser (EE Mackin/NPS Photo)
Calliope Hummingbird (Tomas Kaspar)
Calliope Hummingbird (Tomas Kaspar)
Live Oaks (www.kadamsphoto.com)
Live Oaks (www.kadamsphoto.com)


North America’s Smallest Bird
Glimpse a pinkie-length hummingbird.

The Wonder

Grab a dime. That’s the weight of the calliope hummingbird, a territorial sprite that migrates 6,000 miles round-trip on a four-inch wingspan. In spring, calliopes leave southern Mexico, heading for the Cascades and seeking insects and wildflowers emerging when spring hits the mountains. In the forests and meadows of their Northern Rockies breeding grounds, emerald-and-ruby males entice females with a diving, twittering display. By late August, these tiny migrants take wing again on the two-month return journey to Mexico.

The Way

In June, you’re virtually guaranteed a calliope sighting on the 11-mile out-and-back Fourth of July Creek Trail in Washington’s Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. From Leavenworth, take Icicle Creek Road south 9.4 miles to the trailhead. Look for calliopes near the creek in the first .5 mile, and watch them zip among Indian paintbrush, mock orange, and honeysuckle as you switchback for five miles to 7,000 feet. Catch your breath—and Chiwaukum Mountain vistas—at the burn zone on top of the ridge.




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