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

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Found the Rainshadow!!

I love signs like this!

This morning I decided to take another try at the rain shadow effect and made for Whidbey Island. I have two choices "up and over" which retraces the route from yesterday Hwy 20 and down via Deception Pass or via ferry from Mukilteo. I decided as much as I love driving, the ferry is money well spent on this holiday weekend. The tulip fields were likely to be calling Easter visitors. While I was on the road bright and early at 7am I just didn't favor the potential traffic.

Did I say bright and early... well early. I realised while driving the highway to Edmonds that I sort of automatic pilot navigated my way to the highway that takes you to the Edmonds ferry and the route to the Olympic Peninsula. Luckily I was not far from I-5 before I realised my mistake. If I had got to the ferry in Edmonds I would have likely shrugged and gone to Sequim.

But my quest was Ebby's Landing and the Robert Pratt Preserve on central Whidbey Island outside Coupeville. This section of the island has very low rainfall and gets some benefit of the rain shadow cast by the Olympics.

It was a stunningly clear morning by the time I arrived. I had never been to this site and pictures did not do justice. The slope is high flat and sweeping. Colors seemed bright in the morning light. The entrance of the site is part of the state park system and you can have a hike to the historic Ebby homestead. At the top of the wandering hill climb, you enter the Robert Pratt Preserve, part of the Nature Conservancy. This trail follows the bluff face then descends to the beach. You return along the unique Pergo Lake for a 3.5 mile loop.

Pergo Lake from the bluff top.

The top ridge of the loop trail was nicely wind free. Just a gentle breeze today. At the very top, Douglas Fir trees, some over 200 years old show the effect of the wind in their growth. The trees are quite stunted and their branches are close to the ground, some even dragging on the ground, like crutches. A 100 year old plus Douglas Fir would usually be well over 75 feet high and its branches would be nowhere within reach.

The first thing I noticed about the trail here was that it was compacted sand. Indeed this whole hill is sand and supports some rather unique plant life.

Brittle Prickly-Pear Cactus.
Who knew!!! A very small area of Western Washington supports this plant, here and on the other side of Admiralty Inlet and south along the east shore of north Olympic Peninsula. I found a classic Prickly-pear sheltered by some Douglas Fir surrounded by grass.

Down slope to the rocky beach and the wind at that level was pretty brisk. Most of the plant life was lupins, not yet blooming and some Beach Pea.

I cut over drift wood to the beach and walked along watching for something interesting. There were Surf Scoters and Harlequin Ducks in the water and certainly a lot of Gulls and a few Bald Eagles riding the wind. This White Crowned Sparrow was singing about his territory. Plenty of nesting space for sparrows with tons of driftwood to provide shelter.

I found two Sunflower Stars washed up on the beach. No doubt the rough seas of the last few days took their toll. I also found many large rocks with kelp attached tossed up onto the beach.

This Chiton was an unusual find. Typically this mollusk is stuck fast to a rock , impossible to pry off. Rarely you find their 8 shelled armor, empty of the creature. Chiton are sometimes called "coat of mail shells" The 8 shell blades are connected with fibrous bands, almost like a rib cage.

I wandered between seaside and lake side and after reaching the south end of the lake stayed up close to the bluff edge. I was hoping to spot the other rarity known to be here, yellow paintbrush. I never found any but did find more cactus. These fruiting bodies looked more like fingerling potatoes than the classic cactus. They were mixed in with the grasses right at the exposed sandy foot of the bluff. Thank goodness the slope down is so steep that no one would be running barefoot in this grass.

I will need to return as this site is a good place to learn beach plants. There are so few wild public beaches on Puget Sound. This one is so easy to access and in the proper tide it is possible to hike the beach north to Ft Ebby SP, about 8 miles round trip I suspect.

By the time I got to the south end of the island ( 30 miles) the waves were storming and the sky gray and clouded. Often Whidbey is like this, the central island gets the rain shadow! The gulls were pretty active at the ferry. I went to look out and saw that people were holding out fries for them to grab. I have to image they burned more calories keeping up with the ferry in the stiff wind than they consumed. It did provide for some fun pictures.


  1. Your photos are gorgeous and your knowledge so impressive. I'm learning so much reading your blog....eventually, you will have to make a book of it. Have you heard about blog2print? I haven't checked it out, but I think for you it would be a must. Thanks for the education and pure enjoyment of the pictures.

  2. I have never heard of this but I certainly like the idea. Thank you pointing me in that direction.

    I toy with the idea of printing my favorite photos via flickr and their services. Fun to think that blog could result in something.

    I think Ultimately I would enjoy putting together a basic "nature nut " guide of where to go. Something simple and on line.

    I find it challenging to find fun and interesting places to visit. I appreciate when people tell me about places. like Snow Mountain Ranch from last weekend.