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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Scouting Report

It is inevitable that in my ramblings I will see things I do not know or understand. This was very evident in my attempt to learn my wildflowers.

Last Spring and Summer I encountered many new plants and flowers. I was able to figure out most of them, but one left me perplexed. I posted it on a Bulletin Board I belong to in hope that someone else might have an idea. One member there suggested posting it to a Flickr Forum.

I was not familiar with Flickr. I quickly discovered a wonderful place where I could solve mysteries and perhaps learn a thing or two about photography. I posted my mystery picture and it was not long before someone suggested a possible genus. From that thought I was able to figure out its identity in the University of Washington Herbarium site. This is Washington Twinpod, the seed pod stage at Red Top Lookout north of Cle Elum.

I discovered many groups, one dedicated to Washington Wildflowers. One member is quite a prolific poster and has an extensive collection of stunning photographs of many unusual flowers. I noticed that quite a few of them were taken at one place, Washington Park in Anacortes.

This park is about 250 acres and encompasses the small peninsula just west of the Anacortes ferry dock. I had been there once before and remembered that it had some unusual areas. I thought that I should go take a look and see what is possible come this Spring.

I did not find a map or any explanation of trails so I started out walking along the loop road. This one lane road circles the peninsula and certainly offered nice views of the water.

This Douglas Fir, called the Leaning Tree, continues to grow despite having fallen off the bank over the water.

The west side of the peninsula faces Rosario Strait. There were many benches for enjoying the sights. The water was pretty calm today and a group of sea kayakers were making their way across the strait.

I decided to leave the road and take the well marked trail. I quickly noted that the soil is quite thin and that the rock face of the land mass clearly supports a different ecology. There were many Madrone trees and unique Common Juniper trees. These are the trees the Juniper Berry comes from. They are not common around here as they love dry rocky slopes.
The distinctive peeling bark of Madrone.
Gin in the raw :-D

The trails here are small and make their way along open rocky ground. There are amazing pillows of moss and lichens and very little understory plants. Salal, usually a hardy thick shrub barely grew over one foot high. It reminded me of many areas in the eastern slope of the Cascades. I could see how this harsh thin soil might support some unusual plants. It was not until I found a nice interpretive guide at the end of my walk that I found out there is serpentine soil on this peninsula. Serpentine contains unusual minerals and often supports plants that will not easily grow elsewhere.
There are some nice elevation climbs and they offer many views of Rosario Strait and Burrows Channel.
I diverted away from the edge of the peninsula and walked towards the inside of the point. Here the soil quickly changes to support the typical large trees and plants of the Puget Sound environment; Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar and Hemlock. The Salal was now well above three feet high.

I am really looking forward to returning in a few months. The guide nicely lists some rare delights like Chocolate Lily, Hookers Onion and Spotted Coral Root. Given how mild the winter has been I will likely start checking out the areas early in March. It will be a tune up for the wild flowers of the dry eastern Washington ecology which start showing off in April.
Driving back towards town I stopped to take a picture of this unique sight. An old burned out ship has been worked into a marina breakwater. I assume it had been filled in with dirt. There is now a nice group of trees and grasses growing from the hull.

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