Pikas on the Peak

I stepped off a turbulent plane flight less than 30 minutes before meeting Dylan, the new Colorado resident eager to show me his state. He led me up a 14,000 foot mountain hike. I like to think I’m in good shape, but the altitude took advantage of my foreign lungs and seized a 50% tax on every breath of oxygen. It was 60 degrees, but I panted like a bulldog in Houston.

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A mountain goat and her kid enjoying the view with us

Atop the mountain, an unusual bird cried a shrill call. I scanned the sun-dyed horizon but saw nothing. The corner of my eye caught a glimpse of a small, round boulder skipping along the top of other rocks. Not believing in animated rocks, I crept closer for a better look.

My precious Pika nibbling some lichen

A grey, round animal scurried in-between the rocks, stopping only to nibble lichen and to squeak the shrill bird cry I heard earlier. The animal was a Pika, and although it looked like a large hamster, it is not a rodent. The Pika belongs to a separate club of animals, shared only with rabbits and hares. These animals are lagerphones, and Pikas, though they are not endangered, are protected animals. Not considered to be rare, my sight that day certainly was uncommon. I enjoyed the elusive, rock dancing teddy bear on the peak of Mount Evans.

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