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Just a meandering soul sharing my backyard. Visit my Flickr page too! www.flickr.com/photos/meanderingwa/

Thursday, December 31, 2009

To The North West

Grabbing an opportunity to get away during the holiday week I wanted to see someplace I had not seen before. The weather seemed to be stable for the long term so I booked a room at Bullman Beach Inn outside Neah Bay. What a sweet place. My room was right on the beach and had all I could need for a cozy stay. The kitchen was well stocked with cooking utensils. The table was right at one of two large picture windows The beach right outside that. Decor was basic 60's cabin. What a sweet deal!

See the notebook on the desk? It gives all sorts of helpful info. The first page is about the dog and three cats that live on or next to the property. The orange tabby cat is Mouse Mouse and Not To Be Allowed IN Cabin.

He claimed not to have read the book himself. He was a real con artist.

I arrived just in time for a pretty sunset.

The stone pillars in the Strait held plenty of sea birds and almost always held a Bald Eagle at the top. There were a lot of sea ducks on the water. At low tide this beach has a lot of low rocks filled with mussels and kelp beds. At the high tide line there is a lot of kelp and drift wood that held surprises. One my first morning the crows showed me where an octopus had washed up.

I gathered a lot of nice shells including a sea urchin. I didn't think to ask about gathering mussels on permit. I will keep that in mind for next time.

On my first day I drove out to Cape Flattery, the most northwestern point in the lower 48 states. It was a short little journey through the woods on a nice wood plank boardwalk. The Makah Nation is doing a very nice job of preserving their areas for visitors. Entering these areas required a yearly permit which costs only 10$. This old dead tree was mighty interesting and certainly worth keeping and building the boardwalk around it.

Out at the observation point I encountered a man from Customs and Homeland Security. He was very well armed I can tell you. He gave me quite a start. But this is the point of entry for the ships from the Pacific and they have their share of drug and human smuggling to watch for. We had a nice chat and I said he had pulled good duty to not be at the airport on Christmas Week. He chuckled and agreed and said that he would likely face bringing his Mother-in-law to visit the viewpoint the next day. I don't know if he considered that "Hazardous Duty"

Tatoosh Island, just off shore is home to a lone lighthouse and serves as a very important research station. There have been some significant work done there defining rocky shore ecology. There have also been some wonderful birds seen at the location. They come ashore during faulty migration. With the open ground and eyes looking for the unusual, these birds are more likely to be seen.

Driving further south I visited Shi Shi ( shy shy) Beach. It is a serious hike through the forest to the beach, about 2 miles. Once there I had the beach to myself. The sand is a softer, looser sand than the beaches further to the south. I had thought I might hike down to Point of the Arches, but I could see on top of the 4 miles from and back to the car, another 6 or so miles on that soft beach was out of the question. I contented myself with poking around in the tide pools and walking along the beach looking at shells (protected, no taking) and finding interesting creatures washed up.

This was a rock fish of some type the night before. His expression makes him look a bit vexed to have wound up like this.

I was so pleased my drive home allowed this photo at the mouth of the Sooes River.

The following day it was off the the Hoh Rain Forest. So far the weather had been perfect, no rain, no wind, mild and cloudy. I was fully prepared for unending rains. In fact I welcomed the full experience of being at Hoh in the rain. No such luck. While it was gray and threatening, there was no pit a pat of rain to make the experience complete.

The Hoh is inside the Olympic National Park, just south of Forks. I could see glimpses of Mt Olympus which I cannot see from home. There was so little evidence of life in the outside world once I was out of Forks and off Hwy 101. A nice change of pace.

I saw no vampires.

The Olympic National Park was named a World Heritage Site in 1981 owing to its unique Temperate Rain Forest. Here it rains over 180 inches per year. There are gentle hikes and many nice graphics through the woods near the visitors center. Even with all the rain, the footing on the trails is excellent.

There is also a trail up to Mt Olympus which is a 17 mile hike. Here there is more potential for interesting ecology. It is listed in my Wildflower hike book. I have seen photos on the Flickr Washington Wildflower group which show the promise of unusual species.

Every porous surface is growing something. I am sure a botanist could spend all day recording the living content of one downed log. Yes that is a bit of snow.

The Hall of Mosses features many enormous Big-leaf Maple trees. They must be something to see when in full leaf. I conveniently left my spare battery in my room and my camera was on low juice. I wish I could have captured more images of this lovely place. The streams were filled with spawning salmon (and two researchers in hip waders BBBbrrrrrrrrrr)

The roads into Neah Bay are dark and twisty. It only takes about 4 hours from Edmond ferry loading. I will certainly return for another weekend. In Spring I hope to catch some of the wonderful old forest plants and flowers.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Christmas

Such a beautiful chilly blue day calls out for a walk.

Exactly one year ago I was working hard at making a double batch of Ratatouille. Today I am at it again, but on this day it was well worth getting out for a walk while the eggplant salts out.

Last year was a different story with the only option was to stay inside rather than slogging about. Little did I know when I took the photo above that it would continue to be a problem all day and I went NO WHERE that day.

And ate Ratatouille for a week.

Today, I went over to the Watershed for a quick walk. It was still, blue and quite frosty.

The trail out to the little pond is seldom used, as evidenced by the moss covered walkway.,

I wanted to get some pictures of the frozen water and happily there was some nice contrast close to the viewing platform.

a white patch caught my eye while I wandered through the woods. At first I thought it was a bit of garbage but upon close examination I see that it is frost formed into frozen threads. I have never seen anything like this and it was very odd as there was only two patches. They were springing from downed tree limbs. We are not children of the ice so I posted photos to "ID Please" on Flickr to see if anyone could explain this interesting sight. I am thinking it is soft rime but we have such little experience of frozen environments.

A regular on Flickr pointed me to the id of "Frost Flowers" In viewing the Wiki page and seeing some of the other photos, I agree with him. The rising sap on broken limbs pushes moisture out and it freezes in a linear fashion.
The woods were pretty quiet. I found one feeding guild of nuthatch and chickadees and a very quiet Hairy woodpecker. A few early morning joggers were about, as usual.

I thought this trail fence made a pretty picture.

The Ratatouille is done. I suspect there will be left-overs.

Happy Christmas

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Back At It

These grand trees need more friends.

The last month has been challenging for getting out and about. The short dark days make you want to make the most of the weekend. But come the weekend there have been far too many dicey weather changes that can bring me up short. All in all it felt more like hibernation than a time to celebrate the season.

Roaring winds after Thanksgiving put the choice to go up to Port Townsend and Sequim right on the back burner. Pictures on Flickr in the Washington Bird forum tell me I should have headed south to the Greater Vancouver area. While we were socked in and broody with howling winds and gloom, they had clear blue skies. The winds, set up the ice locker effect and days of frozen roads and sub-freezing chill I was not quite prepared for. I did learn a lot from Dr Mass and his weather blog.

(Please note the effective use of my new toy, a camera that fits in my purse and goes everywhere. )

Then there was girls weekend which is delightful. There is not a lot of natural wonder and wildlife in the core of downtown Seattle, unless you count Fox's Gem Shop windows and their famous collection of teddy bears.

I did see a interesting flock of Christmas effluvia running in the streets of downtown during the annual Jingle Bell Run. I think the flock of runners dressed as penguins was pretty good. People plan all year for this event. I think if I was inclined to run, I would dress as a coal sack.
The gingerbread houses were particularly good this year with a theme of Christmas in the Movies.

Yesterday, I was back out there, happily at another work party with the Nisqually Land Trust.

The weather has shifted and now all is rain. Last weekend was the original planting weekend and the ground was frozen solid. Saturday the ground was like soft butter which raised its own challenges.

The Wilcox Flats parcel is along the river adjacent to the Wilcox Farm complex. Most locals have seen the Wilcox eggs and milk in the stores and the farm is tucked away in a quiet small valley just back from the river east of Yelm.

The rain was pretty steady driving down but once it was daylight, it seems to just sprinkle now and then. The sudden quiet mood at daybreak allowed me to see and capture this interesting braided fog over a pasture.

The Wilcox parcel was originally destined to be 40+ housing plats. Some construction had started but the river showed, with a flood, that this was not a wise place to settle. The houses started, were destroyed and debris from places up river is still on the property. Ongoing work focuses on clearing the debris and replanting felled trees.

We worked at planting small Red Ceder, Western Hemlock and Sitka Spruce trees. The spruce trees were my favorites. They have a pungent sharp odor and resembled Charlie Brown Christmas trees. It was challenging work. The ground showed no ill effects of being frozen last week. It was as soft as can be and in some places, too soft. The soil would cling to shovel and shoes in big globs. Since we were working inside an area with tall trees and mixed shrubs there was plenty of water all around. Vines grabbed and tangled and it was soggy work. It was not long before the wet clothes mixed with the mucky soil. I have not been this dirty in a long time. I think I received enough clunks to the head to keep my brain well seated for a while. I kept forgetting that there were many low limbs. I smacked into and came up under plenty of noggin knockers.

Isolated parties made quick work of planting. I was only able to stay three hours but, as always, feel the drive and time spent working was well worth the effort. I enjoy driving as I can listen to the radio. I particularly enjoy NPR on the weekend.

Yesterday my drive home was just in time to hear "KUOW Presents". These stories and interviews focus on topics of the region. One particular timely guest was Nalini Nadkarni, President of the International Canopy Network and a professor at the Evergreen State College. She told the story of growing up in crossed cultures back east and the impact of the Holiday season. She focused on the presence and symbol of the tree. In recent years she has worked at ways of bringing the conservation story to more people. Part of that work is outreach as different religious services as a guest speaker. She tells of looking for and discovering the presence of trees and forest in the holy books of the different major religions.

I hope you enjoy listening as much as I did. She tells a wonderful and fascinating story. I would like to hear her speak.
Stay safe and warm.