Posts Tagged With: wildflowers

My 20th? annual trip to Sunrise

Actually, it may be my 19th.  I moved here twenty years ago this month, but I don’t remember if I went up there that year.  I know I’ve gone up there twice in a summer at least twice, so does that count?

I love both Paradise and Hurricane Ridge, and I’ve been to a lot of other wonderful wildflower hunting places (including Yellowstone, which doesn’t seem like a likely place to find a lot of wildflowers but most certainly is, and an incredible little state park in Indiana called Clifty Falls, which is absolutely amazing in April), but my favorite wildflower hunting grounds of all time are at Sunrise at Mt. Rainier National Park.

The Mountain from Sunrise.

The Mountain (as it’s referred to locally) from Sunrise.

This year I was slightly late getting up there — my beloved alpine phlox was all but over except in a few favored places — but I still managed to rack up 36 different kinds of flowers.  That’s my best total this summer!

One of the really neat things that the rangers do up at Sunrise (and at Hurricane Ridge) is put little signs near clumps of blooming plants that tell you what they are.  I also have a couple of ID books, and I take photos of everything I see, so I can examine them better when I get home.

Here’s a sampling of what I saw today:

Pink and one yellow monkeyflower on the road to Sunrise.

Pink and one yellow monkeyflower on the road to Sunrise.

Small-flowered penstemons (their name as well as an accurate description).

Small-flowered penstemons (their name as well as an accurate description).

Partridge foot.  I don't think I've ever ID'd this one before.

Partridge foot. I don’t think I’ve ever ID’d this one before.

Subalpine daisies (genus Erigeron).

Subalpine daisies (genus Erigeron) and one of those nifty park service signs.

Magenta paintbrush -- see, they're not endemic to the Olympics!

Magenta paintbrush — see, they’re not endemic to the Olympics!

A clump of scarlet paintbrush in a field of subalpine daisies.

A clump of scarlet paintbrush in a field of subalpine daisies.

Jacob's ladder, aka Polemonium.  One of its relatives is a self-inflicted weed in my garden.

Jacob’s ladder, aka Polemonium. One of its relatives is a self-inflicted weed in my garden.

A field of sickletop lousewort (what a horrible name to inflict on a perfectly nice wildflower!), in a damp spot where it's happiest.

A field of sickletop lousewort (what a horrible name to inflict on a perfectly nice wildflower!), in a damp spot where it’s happiest.

Elephantella.  The flower book calls it elephant head, which is an accurate description of the flowers, but I grew up calling it elephantella.

Elephantella. The flower book calls it elephant head, which is an accurate description of the flowers, but I grew up calling it elephantella.

Dwarf alpine lupine at Sunrise Camp.

Dwarf alpine lupine at Sunrise Camp.

White rhododendron, which doesn't look much like a regular rhody to me.

White rhododendron, which doesn’t look much like a regular rhody to me.

Cusick's speedwell, whose formal name is Veronica.  I didn't see Betty.

Cusick’s speedwell, whose formal name is Veronica. I didn’t see Betty [g].

 And here’s the list, pretty much in the order I saw them:

Monkeyflowers (Mimulus), pink and yellow

Small-flowered penstemon

Pearly everlastings

Broad-leaved and dwarf lupines

American bistort

Potentilla

Gray’s lovage

Thread-leaved sandwort

Common yarrow

Partridge foot

Subalpine daisy

Cascade aster

Pale agoseris

Fan-leaved cinquefoil

Pasqueflower seedheads

False hellebore

Sitka valerian

Spreading phlox

Paintbrush, scarlet and magenta

Polemonium (Jacob’s ladder)

Broadleaved arnica

One lonely Columbian tiger lily

Sickletop lousewort

Elephantella

Beargrass

Harebells

Pink heather

White rhododendron

Cusick’s speedwell

Mertensia

Newberry’s knotweed

Mountain ash

Pussy-toes

Oh, and I saw a bear!  In all the times I’ve gone hiking up at Sunrise, this is the first time I’ve seen a bear.  It was at the Sunrise Camp, which is an ex-auto camp that’s been turned into a backpacker’s camp about a mile and a half behind Sunrise visitor center.  There were about twenty of us watching it browse from a safe distance when I was there.  It obviously knew we were there, and it equally obviously couldn’t have cared less.  It was a bit closer to the trail than I was comfortable with, so instead of making my usual loop, I went back the way I came, along by Shadow Lake.

The first bear I've ever seen at Sunrise -- the ranger had me fill out a report when I went into the visitor center to tell her about it like the sign says to.

The first bear (photo taken with the zoom) I’ve ever seen at Sunrise — the ranger had me fill out a report when I went into the visitor center to tell her about it like the sign says to.

And I saw this bird.  It’s got some blue on its back and rust on its front, and it’s about 6-8″ long, maybe?

A bird I'm hoping my friend will ID for me.

A bird I’m hoping my friend Katrina will ID for me.

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Categories: animals, birds, exploring, hiking, Mt. Rainier, national parks, outdoors, parks, plants, travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A trip to Hurricane Ridge

Hurricane Ridge is in Olympic National Park. I don’t get up there every year — it’s a bit farther than it is to Mt. Rainier — but I did combine a trip up there with a stop at the annual quilt show in Sequim, Washington, which in turn is associated with Sequim’s annual lavender festival. All in all it makes for a terrific, but very long day.

I’m going to concentrate on the wildflowers I saw, like I did with my last post about Paradise. The lavender festival was a bit earlier than usual this year. It’s usually the last weekend in July, but this year it was the 19th through the 21st. This meant that the flowers I saw were a bit different than those I normally see on this trip, because summer progresses so quickly in the mountains.

Most of the flowers I actually saw this time were on the Hurricane Hill trail, the first mile or so of which is along a south-facing slope. The meadows above the visitor center at Hurricane Ridge itself were mostly not quite in bloom yet, especially the lupine, which can turn whole sections of the meadows blue.

Anyway, here’s a sampling of photos of what I saw, with the full list after.

Columbia tiger lilies -- literally dozens of them.  I've never seen that many at one time before.

Columbia tiger lilies — literally dozens of them. I’ve never seen that many at one time before.

Scarlet paintbrush, just opening.

Scarlet paintbrush, just opening.

Harebells, or, as my flower book insists on calling them, bluebells of Scotland.  How can they be of Scotland if they're here?

Harebells, or, as my flower book insists on calling them, bluebells of Scotland. How can they be of Scotland if they’re here?

A cow parsnip, a purple thistle, and a meadow.

A cow parsnip, a purple thistle, and a meadow.

Scalloped onion.  I'd never seen this one before.

Scalloped onion. I’d never seen this one before.

Rockslide larkspur.  The last time I saw these I was in Yellowstone.

Rockslide larkspur. The last time I saw these I was in Yellowstone.

Some sort of saxifrage, I think.

Some sort of saxifrage, I think.

A nice bouquet of larkspur and paintbrush.

A nice bouquet of larkspur and paintbrush.

Nootka roses.  I don't think I've ever seen them here before.

Nootka roses. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them here before.

Broad-leafed lupine.  I had a hard time finding any that weren't just in bud, but these were lovely.

Broad-leafed lupine. I had a hard time finding any that weren’t just in bud, but these were lovely.

Magenta lupine, which the flower book claims is endemic to the Olympics. But if that's the case, why have I seen it elsewhere?

Magenta lupine, which the flower book claims is endemic to the Olympics. But if that’s the case, why have I seen it elsewhere?

Those white dots are American bistort, and the mountains in the background are the Olympics, with the visitor center in between.

Those white dots are American bistort, and the mountains in the background are the Olympics, with the visitor center in between.

And here’s the list:

Western wallflower

Broad-leaved arnica

Yellow monkeyflowers

Alpine phlox

Nootka roses

American bistort

Columbian tigerlilies

Paintbrush, magenta and scarlet

Harebells

Hawkweed

Yarrow

Woolly sunflowers

Pearly everlastings

Cow parsnip

Avalanche lilies

Thread-leaf sandwort

Thistle

Saxifrage — not sure what variety exactly, sometimes it’s hard to tell

Scalloped onion

Fireweed

Leafy peavine

Rockslide larkspur

Broadleafed lupine

Mountain heather

Asters

25 in total.  Not quite as many as I saw at Paradise, but a credible day.  I wonder how many I’ll see at Sunrise next week?

Categories: exploring, hiking, national parks, outdoors, parks, plants, quilting, travel | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

counting wildflower species

Can be quite the process on Mt. Rainier this time of year [g].  I spent the day up at Paradise (including a short jaunt down to Stevens Canyon) today, and counted 28 wildflower species that I could identify, and at least one that wasn’t in my book.  Not bad when you consider that there were still two and three-foot snowdrifts around and about at Paradise.  Instead of showing you the usual tourist pictures of the mountain for this trip, I thought I’d pull a Katrina (a birder friend who posts lists with accompanying photos) and show you some of what I saw.

Avalanche lilies -- if you time it just right, you can see literally fields of these at Paradise.  I did time it right this year.

Avalanche lilies — if you time it just right, you can see literally fields of these at Paradise. I did time it right this year.

One of the few I haven't been able to ID yet.  This was a woodland flower near where I stopped to photograph the Columbia tiger lily, between the Nisqually entrance and Longmire.

One of the few I haven’t been able to ID yet. This was a woodland flower near where I stopped to photograph the Columbia tiger lily, between the Nisqually entrance and Longmire.

I must have passed three or four clumps of these Columbia tiger lilies before I found one in a place safe to photograph without running the risk of getting hit by a car.  Thse were growing down near Longmire.

I must have passed three or four clumps of these Columbia tiger lilies before I found one in a place safe to photograph without running the risk of getting hit by a car. These were growing down near Longmire.

One of the two kinds of penstemons -- these are Davidson's penstemons, and I found them on the Stevens Canyon road.

One of the two kinds of penstemons — these are Davidson’s penstemons, and I found them on the Stevens Canyon road.

Rosy spirea.  This is all over the place at Paradise, and was just starting to bloom.

Rosy spirea. This is all over the place at Paradise, and was just starting to bloom.

Alpine phlox, my favorite wildflower, growing out of a crack in the rocks on the Paradise loop road.

Alpine phlox, my favorite wildflower, growing out of a crack in the rocks on the Paradise loop road.

Spring beauties on the trail to Myrtle Falls at Paradise.  They were growing some distance away on the hillside, but I did my best.

Spring beauties on the trail to Myrtle Falls at Paradise. They were growing some distance away on the hillside, but I did my best.

Jeffrey's shooting stars along the Stevens Canyon road at the Snow Lake trailhead.

Jeffrey’s shooting stars along the Stevens Canyon road at the Snow Lake trailhead.

Beargrass! on the Stevens Canyon Road.  I think this is the first time I've ever seen beargrass at Mt. Rainier.  I normally associate it with Glacier National Park.

Beargrass! on the Stevens Canyon Road. I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen beargrass at Mt. Rainier. I normally associate it with Glacier National Park.

Red heather along the steps down to the Myrtle Falls overlook.

Red heather along the steps down to the Myrtle Falls overlook.

A patch of glacier lilies (glacier lilies are yellow, avalanche liles are white, otherwise they're basically identical -- repeat until memorized [wry g].

A patch of glacier lilies (glacier lilies are yellow, avalanche liles are white, otherwise they’re basically identical — repeat until memorized [wry g].

Potentilla along the trail at Paradise.

Potentilla along the trail at Paradise.

Part of a huge patch of mertensia along the road almost to Paradise.

Part of a huge patch of mertensia along the road almost to Paradise.

I love summer, and mountain wildflowers are a big part of the reason why.

Oh, and here’s the list of everything I saw today that I could identify:

Goatsbeard

Mertensia

Potentilla

Avalanche lilies (white)

Glacier lilies (yellow)

Violets

Pasqueflowers

Spring beauties

Red heather

Mountain ash

Alpine phlox

Sitka valerian

Mountain bistort

Columbia red columbines

Beargrass

Serviceberry

Pink spirea

Jeffrey’s shooting stars

Two kinds of penstemon, Davidson’s and one not in my book

Lupine

Two kinds of paintbrush (magenta and scarlet)

Clover

Veronica

Columbia tiger lily

Cow parsnips

Ocean spray

Oh, and one more thing, or, rather, two.  I saw a dipper at Myrtle Falls (at least I think it was a dipper — it was too far away for a formal ID, but it was acting very much like a dipper, which is pretty distinctive, at least I’ve never seen any other kind of bird that dives into pools just above waterfalls).  And a pika skittered across the trail in front of me on my way back from Myrtle Falls.  He was too fast to get a photo.  But you can hear the pikas everywhere up there this time of year.  They sound very odd.

That’s it.  I think [g].  It was a gorgeous day in Paradise, what can I say?

Categories: animals, birds, exploring, highways, hiking, Mt. Rainier, national parks, outdoors, parks, plants, travel, weather | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Two weeks ago, Day 8

The beach just north of Lincoln City.

The beach just north of Lincoln City.

Two weeks ago today I drove from Lincoln City to Seaside, plus side trips.  The first one was down the Nestucca River National Backcountry Byway, as the brochure I picked up at the Yaquina Head Visitor Center the day before titled it.

This was the only real stretch of road on this trip that I hadn’t ever been on before, and I only drove sixteen miles of it.  But what I did see was lovely.  It started out very bucolic, with farms and cattle and crops.  Mostly dairy cattle — I wasn’t all that far from Tillamook and its famous cheese factory, after all.  Then it narrowed down to something of a real canyon, with twists and turns and a rapidly running river.  I came around one bend to find a deer at the side of the road staring at me about as avidly as I was staring at it.

I only went as far as the first campground, and I was happy to see that it, at least, had not been leased and/or ‘improved’ into an imitation private campground.  Tucking that away in my mental notes for the next time I came down here, I headed back to Hwy. 101.  Why is it that going in on a road like that always takes twice as long as coming back out?

My next stop was entirely serendipitous.  I saw a sign, out in the middle of nowhere along Hwy. 101, saying Quilt Shop.  Well, how could I not check that out?  I turned down a narrow little dirt road, and about half a mile in, came to the end at a house with a quilt shop underneath it (in a daylight basement).  I went in, and was amazed at what I saw out there in the middle of nowhere — lots and lots of fabric and notions, and samples pinned up wherever there was space.  I spent a little time in there prowling around, and came out with several fat quarters from a sale bin.  I suspect I’m going to regret that I didn’t get yardage of one of them — it was a really nifty tone-on-tone world map.

After that, I drove on to Tillamook, where I ate lunch and went to the cheese factory.  You can’t go to Tillamook without going to the cheese factory and getting ice cream.  Well, you can get cheese, too, but you have to get ice cream.  Tillamook Mudslide, by preference.  Chocolate ice cream with fudge ripple and chocolate chunks.  Yum.  They used to carry a really delicious lemon pudding ice cream, too, but apparently they’ve quit making it.  Their other flavors are lovely, but I adore the Mudslide.

The afternoon was spent tooling up the coast to Seaside, via Garibaldi, a little town on Tillamook Bay, where I visited their historical museum, which was mostly about Robert Gray and his ship Columbia.  He was the one who discovered and named the Columbia River.

Another view of Tillamook Bay.

Tillamook Bay near Garibaldi.

An unusual (most Oregon iris I've seen are lavender) roadside iris.

An unusual (most Oregon iris I’ve seen are lavender) roadside iris.

And via Cannon Beach, where I went to their historical museum.  It was like Lincoln City’s museum in some ways.  Cannon Beach (named after a ship’s cannon found not far from there) is an upscale tourist town, and has been one for most of its life.

I spent most of the rest of the afternoon walking the beach at Cannon Beach.  I started at Tolovana Beach State Wayside, on the south end of town and walked all the way to Haystack Rock and back.  Haystack Rock is another cool place to see tidepools, and here’s the evidence.

Haystack Rock from Tolovana Beach State Wayside.

Haystack Rock from Tolovana Beach State Wayside.

Kites flying at Cannon Beach.

Kites flying at Cannon Beach.

A closer view of Haystack Rock with tidepools at its base.

A closer view of Haystack Rock with tidepools at its base.

Artificially-looking green but real sea urchins.

Artificially-looking green but real sea anemones.

A sea star.

A sea star.

Whelks.

Whelks.

A hermit crab in a whelk shell.

A hermit crab in a whelk shell.

The view headed back from Haystack Rock with the wind at my back instead of my face.

The view headed back from Haystack Rock with the wind at my back instead of my face.

You can also see Tillamook Rock Lighthouse from here, just barely.

A seastack with Tillamook Rock Lighthouse in the distance.

A seastack with Tillamook Rock Lighthouse in the distance.

Another view of Terrible Tilly.

Another view of Terrible Tilly.

Tillamook Rock Lighthouse,  or Terrible Tilly as it was called, is one of the most remote, desolate lighthouses in the U.S., if not the world.  You can read about it at the link, but suffice to say it must have been one of the most dreaded postings in the lighthouse service.  It is awfully picturesque, though.  And then, at last, I drove up to Seaside and checked in at the Seaside Hostel.  I’ve stayed here before on several occasions.  It’s in an old motel, backing up to the river that flows through Seaside.  Comfortable, convenient, and relatively cheap, and that was all I really needed for my last night on the road.

Categories: animals, birds, exploring, highways, hiking, history, museums, outdoors, parks, plants, travel, weather | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Two weeks ago, Day 5

It’s very odd to go back to a place where you used to live thirty years before.  Or maybe it isn’t for most folks, but it is for me.  The three years I lived in Eugene, Oregon, were extremely tumultuous for me personally.  Perhaps that’s why I always feel odd when I go back there.

At any rate, this time I wanted to go back to a particular place, Mt. Pisgah Arboretum, which is in the hills east of Eugene and south of its twin city on the other side of the freeway, Springfield (yes, That Springfield for you Simpsons fans, according to Groening himself).

But I digress.  Mt. Pisgah isn’t an arboretum in the strictest sense of the term, or at least it’s not what I think of when I think of an arboretum, where lots of different kinds of trees and shrubs are planted and labeled.  It’s more just a park.  A really nice, wild park, with quite a few wildflowers in late spring.

I strolled the trails for a couple of miles, under the oak trees and through the meadows.  I always forget how much this part of Oregon looks like parts of California.  And what those big oak trees are like.  I love them.  I also saw a few critters, and even got photos of a couple of them.

Here’s what it looks like, and a sampling of the flowers.

Columbia columbines at Mt. Pisgah Arboretum

Columbia columbines at Mt. Pisgah Arboretum

I think these are some kind of penstemon.  Or perhaps some sort of corydalis.

I think these are some kind of penstemon. Or perhaps some sort of corydalis.

Meadow and oak trees at Mt. Pisgah.

Meadow and oak trees at Mt. Pisgah.

The Willamette River at Mt. Pisgah.

The Willamette River at Mt. Pisgah.

I don't know what these are, and I couldn't find them in my flower ID books.  Which is just wrong, but they're still pretty.

I don’t know what these are, and I couldn’t find them in my flower ID books. Which is just wrong, but they’re still pretty.

A red squirrel.

A red squirrel.

I don't know what kind of bird this is.

I don’t know what kind of bird this is.

After that, I went looking for some of my old stomping grounds in Eugene, mostly the apartment (since converted to condos) I lived in with my first husband, which was way up in the hills on the south end of town with a spectacular view down the valley.  I didn’t take any pictures of it this time because I didn’t want anyone accosting me asking me what I was doing that for.  I left my first husband in Eugene, and I met my second one there, too, probably way too soon for my own good.  I also went looking for the apartment my second husband and I lived in for a brief time before we left the Northwest, which was one of the dumbest things I ever did (leaving the Northwest, that is), and found it, too.

Then, after a fast food lunch, filling the gas tank (I will never get used to not pumping my own gas, but they don’t let you do that in Oregon), and getting some cash, I headed west towards the coast.

It’s only an hour’s drive from Eugene to Florence, which is situated at the mouth of the Siuslaw (sigh’ oo slaw) River just about halfway down the Oregon coast.  I visited the Old Town section, right on the harbor, then found the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum.  After perusing their exhibits, I went to their library, which was staffed by a nice volunteer in her eighties who had recently taken the collection over from her predecessor who’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  She was still trying to deal with the results.  But she helped me find some good things, and make copies, and it was several hours well spent.

I also spent some time in the local history section of the public library, and found more good stuff.

Then I went looking for a campground, and discovered something disgusting.  I am normally a fan of forest service campgrounds.  They’re usually cheaper, nice, and in quiet locations.  Not this time.  Most of the forest service campgrounds along the Oregon coast have been leased to private companies for management, and they might as well be privately owned for all their price and ambiance.  I was appalled.  $22 for a plain site (as opposed to one with hookups) is absolutely ridiculous.  Camping in Yellowstone National Park costs less than that.

But I didn’t have a whole lot of choice.  The three campgrounds I checked (one private, one state park, and the forest service one) were all the same price and the others were even worse for ambiance.  So I paid my money, and I still may write my congresscritters about it.  That was just Wrong.

There was a nice trail at the campground with a sign that said “to the beach” at the beginning of it, though.  So I decided to walk it.  I never did get to the beach — I checked the next morning, and it was several miles one way — but I did have a very nice walk.  At one point, the trees arched overhead looking like that scene in The Fellowship of the Ring where the Black Riders are after Frodo.  And flowers — mostly false lily of the valley and rhododendrons.  Florence has a festival every spring celebrating the rhododendrons, which I’d just missed (which was fine).

Native coastal rhododendrons.

Native coastal rhododendrons.

Where are the hobbits?  Or the black riders?

Where are the hobbits? Or the black riders?

False lily-of-the-valley.

False lily-of-the-valley.

After my walk, I fixed supper and settled in for the night.  And that was my only night camping on this trip.

Categories: animals, birds, exploring, hiking, museums, outdoors, parks, plants, research, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Yet another new park

I keep stumbling across lovely new parks lately.  I don’t know if it’s because I’ve just been obtuse in the past or what, but I like it.  The process sort of reminds me of new car shopping, how when you’ve decided which model you’re going to buy, all of a sudden you see that model everywhere you go.  But at any rate, here’s another good walking park, near Puyallup (pew-al’-up, in case you were wondering), Washington, with pictures, of course.

South Hill Community Park is largely taken up with sports fields for soccer, etc., but there’s also a rather big wetland and forest area with a loop trail winding through it.  A separate trail, named for Nathan Chapman, who was one of the first soldiers killed in the war in Afghanistan, leads from this park to the Heritage Recreation Center a little over a mile and a half away.

It was a lovely place to take a walk on a rare warm spring day:

The beginning of the trail, between the road and the ball fields, with crabapple trees.

The beginning of the trail, between the road and the ball fields, with crabapple trees.

Across the ball fields to the woods.

Across the ball fields to the woods.

The wetlands, with cattails.

The wetlands, with cattails.

Into the woods.

Into the woods.

Goatsbeard blossoms.

Goatsbeard blossoms.

Around the bend.

Around the bend.

Wild western bleeding hearts in bloom.

Wild western bleeding hearts in bloom.

The boardwalk across the wetlands.

The boardwalk across the wetlands.

The expanse of water the boardwalk crosses.

The expanse of water the boardwalk crosses.

I’m looking forward to exploring the seasons in this park, just as I am for the others in the area.

Categories: exploring, hiking, outdoors, parks, plants, weather | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

early spring at Clark’s Creek

Clark’s Creek Park in Puyallup, Washington, to be precise.  I discovered this park last August, and at the time I wondered what it would look like in other seasons.  I meant to get back there in the fall when the big leaf maples turn school bus yellow, but somehow it didn’t happen.  Ah, well.  There’s always next year.

But we’ve been having the first 60+dF days so far this year this week, and I decided I needed to go for a walk.

This is what I saw:

Robin and worm

Robin and worm        

When I first got there, a light shower had just ended, and the robins were out full force on the park’s baseball field, worm-hunting.  This fellow was quite successful.

Pieris

Pieris

The landscaping around the parking lot is rather pretty.  This shrub is a pink-tinged Pieris japonica, one of the prettiest early spring bloomers around.

A huge pink heather

A huge pink heather

The heather’s been blooming for almost a month now, but it’s still gorgeous.

Clark's Creek with alder catkins

Clark’s Creek with alder catkins

This is Clark’s Creek.  The bits dangling from the tree are alder catkins.  Pretty in the wild, but I used to have an alder tree in my yard, and if it wasn’t dripping catkins it was dripping twigs and leaves.  I was glad when the condo association decided it didn’t need its roots in our septic system and cut it down.

Maple? flowers?

Maple? flowers?

I’m not sure what these are, except that they’re some sort of very stamen-y blossom.  They may well be the blossoms of big leaf maples.  The tree was certainly big enough.

Mallard and friend

Mallard and friend

Your standard mallard, and a very similar but brownheaded version.  Clark’s Creek attracts lots of waterfowl, ducks and geese and coots among them.

Pussy willows

Pussy willows

The pussy willows have gone past the fuzzy stage and are very stamen-y now, too.  Still awfully pretty, though.

Boy and heron

Boy and heron

The land across the creek is private property, mostly people’s back yards.  These two sculptures were alongside the permanently-sandbagged creek bank.

Oregon grape, Oregon's state flower

Oregon grape, Oregon’s state flower

This is what Oregon grape (mahonia) looks like in full bloom.  Isn’t it lovely?

Golden shrub

Golden shrub

I’m not sure what this little shrub is, or whether the color is new spring growth or the color it’ll be all year.

Wetlands buffer

Wetlands buffer

The city’s been doing some wetlands restoration and protecting their work with a new split rail fence.

Telling us about ripaprian [sic] restoration

Telling us about ripaprian [sic] restoration

This is the explanatory sign about what they’ve been doing.  Note the creative spelling of ‘riparian.’ [g]

Wet tennis courts

Wet tennis courts

The tennis courts after a spring rain.  When I was at the park a couple of days ago, in the warm sunshine, the courts were buzzing with people.

Indian plum

Indian plum

This is Indian plum (Oemleria).  It’s a native early blooming shrub.

Salmonberry blossom

Salmonberry blossom

This is salmonberry, Rubus sp., which means it’s closely related to blackberries, only the berries themselves are peachy-orange when ripe, and mealy rather than juicy.  It’s another native.

Skunk cabbage spathes

Skunk cabbage spathes

This is skunk cabbage (Lysichiton), and there’s a reason it’s called that.  A big patch of it will make you want to hold your nose.  But the big blossoms (technically they’re spathes — the tiny flowers cluster on the stalk in the center) pop up early early, and, as long as I don’t get close enough to smell them, they’re a glad sight in the spring.

Early azalea

Early azalea

And back to the landscaping around the parking lot, just before I left to go home.  Some rhododendrons and azaleas bloom really early (most bloom in May).  There used to be one in the yard of a duplex I once rented that bloomed in January.  This azalea isn’t quite that early, but it’s still awfully pretty.

And that was my walk through Clark’s Creek Park today, on a damp early spring afternoon.

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a winter stroll

About three miles from my house is a place called Bradley Lake Park. It’s not a big place — the lake itself takes up most of the acreage, and the trail around it is less than a mile long (.8 of a mile, according to the little sign where the path from the parking lot Ts into the lake trail itself).  And it’s directly behind a Walmart.

But you’d never know that to look at it.  Or to walk through it.  I’ve seen a bald eagle catch a fish out of Bradley Lake.  I’ve seen rabbits and squirrels there, and of course the resident populations of coots, ducks, and Canada geese.  In the summertime it’s green and lush, and there are more wildflowers than you’d expect — ranging from skunk cabbage, which is much prettier than its name — it looks like bright yellow candles rising from the ground, Siberian miner’s lettuce with pinkish white flowers that look like something a kid would draw, wild geraniums (as opposed to pelargoniums), hawkweed, bleeding hearts, and even the occasional tiger lily.

But not in the wintertime.  Of course, here in western Washington state, winter isn’t what it is in other parts of the country, and if you didn’t know any better, some of the photos in the slideshow below look like they could have been taken in summer — especially those showcasing an unusually blue sky (no, it doesn’t rain all winter here) and bright green grass.  Our grass doesn’t go brown in the winter.  Unless it’s watered, it goes brown in the summer.

Winter is more subtle here, and it has more subtle beauties.  And this is what my little park behind the Walmart looks like in early February:

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Never too late for wildflowers

 It’s summer still, barely.  At this latitude (a little over 47 degrees north) in late August, we’ve already gone from a peak of sixteen hours of daylight at the summer solstice, to about fourteen hours and losing minutes by the day.  Headed towards Christmas, and barely eight gloomy hours, alas.

 But it’s still summer now, and while I thought I was going to be too late this year for my annual wildflower pilgrimage to Sunrise  on Mt. Rainier, happily I was not.

 It was a gorgeous day.  It was only supposed to get to 59dF at Sunrise’s 6400 foot altitude, but it went well into the sixties.  It was also supposed to be overcast most of the day, and I suspect it was at sea level, but since Sunrise is on the east side of the Mountain, there was plenty of blue to go along with the gray.

 Because I was late getting up there this year, I even got to see two new-to-me kinds of wildflowers, a yellow spire called rainiera , and two varieties of the sadly-named lousewort, which are much prettier than the name would make you think.  The smaller white lousewort looks from a distance, almost like a cream-colored lupine.  The taller lousewort is lemon yellow.  Both are in the same genus as one of my favorite flowers, elephantella.

 Asters were everywhere, and lupine was still blooming in great blue pools.  I love lupine, especially the variations of color from almost white to dark reddish and bluish purple.  This time I saw one with stripes, which I haven’t seen often.  The phlox was all but over, but there were a few patches still blooming.  The yellow daisy arnica was still going strong, as was the paintbrush, from almost pink through red to orange.  The other usual suspects, bistort and pearly everlastings, were still out, too.

 The Mountain played hide-and-seek with the clouds most of the afternoon, but I did get some good glimpses as I walked the almost three miles of one of my alltime favorite trails, down the service road past the backpacker camp, and around by Shadow Lake.

 The fog began to roll in as I climbed into my car.  Altogether perfect timing.  I’m so glad it wasn’t too late for wildflowers.

 Where is your favorite place to go wildflower hunting?

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Three weeks ago, Day 16

Waiting for things to erupt!

 Actually, three weeks ago yesterday.  Monday got away from me, alas.

Anyway, the weather did a 180 from Sunday night to Monday.  When I woke up the sun was shining and the birds — or were those chipmunks? — were chirping outside my cabin at Old Faithful, and it was positively balmy compared to the day before.

Happily I loaded my backpack with my Kindle, my cross-stitch, a bottle of water, and a notebook, slathered on sunscreen, slapped on my hat, and headed out.

First stop was the lodge, for one of their large, delicious muffins.  Second stop was at the visitor center, to check the eruption predictions and make notes.  Three geysers were predicted for late in the morning — Daisy and Riverside around 10:30, and Castle for just after eleven.  Grand’s prediction wasn’t till the afternoon, at 3:45 (which really meant any time between 1:45 and 5:45 — Grand’s window is always two hours on either side of the predicted time). 

I headed down the paved trail, which used to be the old road before the early 70s when they rerouted automobile traffic out of the geyser basin, only to have a ranger redirect me around a stretch past several bison cows and their calves, and the bull who was apparently keeping an eye on them.  As I made my little detour, I heard the ranger trying — apparently in vain — to keep someone from strolling right up to them who did not realize the danger of getting too close to something that weighs 2000 pounds, can run faster than you can, and has babies to protect.  Yellowstone is not a zoo, folks.  Those animals are wild.

I had been planning to watch Daisy and/or Riverside, but somehow I didn’t get any further than Castle at first.  Castle is great fun to watch, and to listen to.  I hadn’t seen a whole Castle eruption, from the first spout of water through to the steam, which makes a mighty roar, in a long time, so I decided to wait for it.  It was well worth it, as you can see in the photos.  I’m just sorry I can’t reproduce the sound for you. 

I struck up a conversation while I was waiting for it with a lady from Virginia whose first visit to Yellowstone this was.  She queried me about a lot of things, including wanting to know which was my favorite geyser, so I got to tell her about Grand a bit.  Turns out that was my good deed for the day, as I will explain later.

After Castle finished bellowing, she and I walked down to catch the last of Riverside Geyser, and to see Morning Glory Pool.  By that point it was getting to be lunch time, and she and I each went our own way.  I went back to the lunch counter at Lower Ham (one of the two general stores at Old Faithful — the other one being called Upper Ham, short for Hamilton), to grab a quick meal before heading out to stake my bench at Grand.

It really was a glorious day for geyser-gazing.  Other than a few white puffies, the sky was a never ending blue, it was warm without being hot, there was just enough of a breeze to keep things comfortable, and the boardwalks were bone dry.  The flowers were blooming, too — I saw gentians and shooting stars, among others.  And, of course there were red dogs (bison calves).  What more could you ask for?

Well…  I ran into Lisa from the geysers email list and we had a nice conversation.  I’d been at Grand for about an hour when Kristin, the lady from Virginia, showed up, with the comment that she wanted to see the geyser I’d gone on so about.  Less than an hour after that, Turban went and Grand overflowed, and then up, up, up it went. 

It was a terrific eruption.  I will never, ever, ever get tired of watching Grand erupt.  There’s something about geysers that makes them look like they are having way more fun than is good for them.  They’re just exuberant.  Playful.  Whatever.  I know better than to try to anthropomorphize them, but I can’t seem to help it.  And when it was over, people applauded, which always just tickles the heck out of me.

I glanced over at Kristin, who was sitting there with her fingers over her mouth and her eyes wide, and after it finished I said, was it worth the wait?  And she said, oh, yes.  Like I said, my good deed for the day.

What was left of the rest of the day after the stroll back to the cabin, which wasn’t much, was an early supper, then one last viewing of Old Faithful, with an eruption of Lion in the distance.  And early to bed.  Because, whether I wanted to or not, tomorrow I needed to head home.

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If you like my travel writing, you might enjoy my fiction set in Yellowstone:

Repeating History, “A GRAND yarn you can’t put down.” Janet Chapple, author of Yellowstone Treasures
http://mmjustus.com/fictionrepeatinghistory.html

Categories: animals, exploring, geysers, national parks, outdoors, plants, travel, weather, Yellowstone | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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