The edges of the day — around sunrise and sunset — are the most interesting. Yes, we all enjoy warm sunny blue-sky days, but frankly, mid-day sunshine is visually boring.
A couple of weeks ago I looked out out kitchen window about 7:30 as I was finishing my breakfast and noticed the low morning sun shining through a little fog in the garden. It was about 30 minutes after official sunrise. I figured this little light show wouldn’t last long, so I grabbed the camera I keep in the house and rushed out to the garden to capture this bit of atmospheric light show. Continue reading →
Get ready boys and girls, the Bigleaf Maples (Acer macrophyllum), are getting ready for their once-a-year sexual escapades. It’s going to be a few days before we get into full-fledged maple sex season, but keep your eyes peeled for the first blossoms to open.
Right now the flower buds are just starting to peek out from their enclosing bud scales on the trees at the edge of our yard. I first noticed the expanding buds a few days ago and yesterday evening I aimed my macro lens at a few of them. Continue reading →
Brian and I hiked up the Pine and Cedar Lakes trail to Cedar Lake on Sunday during a break in our current rainy spell. It’s a steep climb, starting right from the trailhead on Old Samish Road and quickly gaining 1400 feet with 1000 of that in the first mile.
Last Saturday morning Brian and I decided to explore the new trail system on the Lookout Mountain Forest Preserve overlooking Lake Whatcom near Sudden Valley. I’d never hiked there, and Brian hadn’t been there for a long time.
The trail system is newly expanded, thanks to the work of Washington Trails Association. The property is a Whatcom County Park, made possible in part by the efforts of the Whatcom Land Trust. It’s part of what’s known to some as the “reconveyance,” which put large tracts of forest into county ownership to provide both recreation and protection for the Lake Whatcom Watershed. We were there to recreate. Continue reading →
April hikes in the North Cascades have to be at lower elevations unless you want to break out your snowshoes or skis. On a rainy Sunday it made sense for my friend Brian and me to choose the East Bank Baker Lake Trail and head to Noisy Creek. Neither of us had hiked this section of trail before.
At only 800 feet elevation, spring was in full swing along the trail. We inhaled deeply as we entered the woods, sucking in the sweet scent of moist humus and conifers. Much of the forest is old growth, the usual mix of Douglas-fir, western hemlock, and western redcedar, the understory a tangle of mossy logs and thickets of vine maples, salmonberries, and huckleberries. Without a trail it would be tough bushwhacking. Continue reading →
Every now and then when I’m hiking in the mountains I run across a really cool plant. Over Memorial Day weekend I was out with a group of friends on the trail to Lookout Mountain and Monogram Lake, off the Cascade River Road east of Marblemount in the North Cascades. We came across more candystick (aka sugarstick), Allotropa virgata, than I’ve seen in one place in the 25 years I’ve been hiking in the northwest. Continue reading →
With the arrival of spring later this month come all sorts of early-blooming wildflowers. Candyflower is tasty as well as pretty. It’s also known as Siberian springbeauty and its scientific name is Claytonia sibirica. You’ll find it growing throughout the Pacific Northwest, except for the driest counties east of the Cascades. Look for it in damp deciduous woods or at the edge of conifer forests. It likes a little shade, but not too much.
Candyflower is closely related to miner’s lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata, which can also be found throughout most of the northwest. Both of these species are delicious spring greens. I like them raw, straight from the plant, and they’re a tasty addition to an early spring salad. Miner’s lettuce got its name because it was one of the few fresh spring greens in miner’s diets during the gold rush era. Continue reading →
Last Saturday I joined a boatload (literally) of Washington Native Plant Society friends for a field trip to Vendovi Island. It’s one of the smaller of the San Juan Islands, located a few miles south of the southern tip of Lummi Island and northeast of Guemes Island. Up until 2010 it was privately held. Then the San Juan Preservation Trust purchased it and has opened it to the public from May through September.
We’d hoped to enjoy spectacular meadows of wildflowers on a couple of west-facing balds, but with our very warm and early spring the flowers were well past their prime. There was still a little camas blooming, and quite a bit of harsh paintbrush, Oregon sunshine, and death camas. Continue reading →
Sunday morning Natalie said, “let’s go for a walk in the woods” and I suggested we hike the loop trail at the Stimpson Family Nature Reserve near Lake Whatcom. It’s an easy 3-mile loop through nice old- and second-growth forest, perfect for a quick getaway on a morning when light rain threatened.
Just a tenth of a mile up the trail there’s a viewpoint to a large beaver-built wetland. This is the view from the trail, with the wetland framed by western redcedars, Douglas-firs, and red huckleberries. The wetland plants are still brown, not yet having started their spring growth in the cold water.
Western Serviceberry, also known as Saskatoon (Amelanchier alnifolia), is a widespread shrub or small tree that’s found in almost every county in the Pacific Northwest. It blooms in April and early May, depending on elevation and temperature. As I write this on April 29 it’s in bloom right now on both sides of the mountains in Washington and Oregon. Continue reading →