Winter’s Green

Winter Forest
Mature Pacific Northwest Forest

We may joke about it a bit, but winter in Pacific Northwest forests is surprisingly green.

Sunday morning, after a few days of heavy rain that brought flooding to the lowlands, Brian and Natalie and I went for an easy walk in one of our favorite low-elevation forests near Bellingham: the Stimpson Family Nature Reserve. This forest, which includes both old-growth and second growth trees, is located east of Bellingham near Sudden Valley with access off Lake Louise Road. The main trail is a 2.8 mile loop which passes wetlands formed by beaver dams, alder forest, and a superb example of our lowland conifer forest with large Douglas-firs, western hemlocks, and western redcedars.

We chose to walk the loop in a counter-clockwise direction, which is opposite the suggestion on the sign one enounters coming from the trialhead toward the loop. Going backward we did most of the elevation gain first. Then we enjoyed ambling gently through the woods. Even after some 3 inches of rain in the previous couple of days the trail was generally in good shape, firm under foot, and only a few wet spots where we needed to watch our footing.

The green all around us came from a mix of the conifer foliage, thick carpets of moss and lichens, and sword and licorice ferns. Buds on early shrubs were swelling, but still far from opening. Trailside sedges were just starting to emerge, too. Within a month we’ll be spying osoberry (aka Indian plum), red-flowering currant, and salmonberry blossoms, with skunk cabbage poking up in the wetlands. It will be a good excuse to go back and walk the trail again.

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