July 23-29, 2023

Go high now

North Cascades
Time for the mountains, photo by David Lukas

This is the best time of year to see flowers and countless butterflies in mountain meadows—so let's get out and see them while we can!

Special Issue: Head for the Mountains

wildflower meadow
Red paintbrush, purple lupine, and yellow stonecrop fill entire meadows, photos by David Lukas

Once in a while I feel like doing a photo essay just to celebrate a special time of year, and getting into the mountains during peak flowering is definitely one of those times.

subalpine daisies
Fields of daisies, photo by David Lukas

This fleeting moment passes quickly, so I want to inspire you to get out and enjoy the mountains as soon as possible.

checkerspots and blue
There are so many butterflies, including many kinds of checkerspots and blues, photo by David Lukas

Don't worry about picking the perfect spot, almost anywhere you can drive or hike is fabulous right now!

Field of lupine
Purple lupines filling a meadow, photo by David Lukas

hiking in the mountains
Heading into the mountains in search of flowers, photo by David Lukas

Our mountain flowers and insects disappear for months of bitter cold winter, then in a blowout burst of energy it seems like they all appear at once.

Everywhere you look there's a different combination of flowers, photo by David Lukas

There are flowers absolutely everywhere right now and they are attracting a huge number of insects.

flies on daisy
So many insects there isn't room for them on some flowers, photo by David Lukas

Surprisingly, many of these insects have flown up from lower elevations to look for mates in a behavior known as "hilltopping."

White parnassians are conspicuous in mountain meadows, photo by David Lukas

If you're a tiny insect in a huge world, finding a mate can be a daunting task, so the easiest strategy is to have every individual fly uphill until they reach the nearest summit.

hilltop flower
An insect's view of summit flowers, photo by David Lukas

This brings all the insects together at the same location. Males will simply hang out around flower patches, or establish simple territories, and wait for females to show up. And females will fly upslope, find a mate, then return downslope to lay eggs in the habitat where they came from.

fritillary butterfly
Fritillary waiting for a mate, photo by David Lukas

Flowers also have fascinating strategies, but I'd rather talk about them in a future newsletter because this week I just want to celebrate with some beautiful images and inspire you to visit the mountains.