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

Sunday, August 15, 2010

For Gaye

The hot weather has me totally shut down. I feel uninspired and have stuck close to home this weekend.

Saturday I slept in way late ( for me) so visited the Hazel Wolf Preserve, which is a close by wetlands area. I was enchanted by tons of damselflies and dragonflies at the marsh

The woods were pretty quiet but I did have an interesting encounter with a pair of Piliated Woodpeckers. One was tucked inside this hole. I neither saw nor heard evidence of young birds.

A Douglas Squirrel harvesting a cone.

This morning I got up early and went to see some Broad-leaved Helleborine. My friend Ron Hanko ( http://www.ronaldhanko-orchidhunter.blogspot.com/ ) reported this sighting in his blog. I knew I would be able to find the flowers and did so without too much difficultly. Gaye is another blogger from New York ( http://www.livingretiredinwesternnewyorkstate.blogspot.com/ )and earlier this season she found some Helleborine on one of her favorite rambles. Through some discussion we found that she had some on her property too. How nice to have an orchid blooming in your own yard.
At the park, what a bounty! The spot I found near a drainage ditch was filled with invasive English Ivy. I have to wonder if the orchids rode in with the ivy plants. There were at least 25 plants in varied state of bloom. Some were quite purple, others mostly green with a blush of pink. Some so heavy with flowers, they appear to have toppled.

I was happy to see and experience these new plants. I am getting ready for a trip in 10 days and hope to see these and other orchids in their native habitat. Having a feel for their size and how they fit and blend in the environment, I hope I will be able to spot them on my rambles.

Gaye, I hope your plants continue to thrive. Ron, thanks my friend for the great tip.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Walking the Katwalk Like you Have Never Seen!!!

With music even!

An amazing video posted on the NW Hikers forum by williswall , will give you a taste of the Kendall Katwalk I have told you about.

An the song, stick with it, the song is for all you Seattle Coffee Lovers.


A huge BRAVO to williswall.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Return to Red Top

I returned to Red Top Saturday to check on a few plants I have been keeping an eye on.

The season has been odd this year and today shows that what I though might happen has come true. All season many have said the plants are lagging behind by three weeks. Today I see that many plants came and went and "Poof" many are past it.

But that is OK. I hiked up the Blue Creek Trail to Red Top and then decided to return down via the Forest Service Road 9702. On this road I had some previous butterfly encounters and I knew there was a boggy area that might yield something fun.

Right were the FS road starts at Hwy 97 there is an abandoned log cabin. I found a plant growing early in the spring. It was only a pair of leaves but their feel and structure screamed "orchid" to me. I went back today and sure enough a very large Elegant Piperia was in bloom. This was the first time I had seen this plant in person.

When I parked my car to visit this spot the area was filled with clouds of moths. Many of them landed on the car and on me. I managed a few shots and I received word that the id is probably Western Spruce Budworm moth. I noticed that here and up to a certain elevation level there is extensive damage to the growing tips of most of the conifer trees. There were many birds about feeding on the moths.

Hiking up the very steep trail I finally found Rattlesnake Plantain in bloom. I believe this is the latest blooming orchid of the season.

Other than that, most plants were way past blooming. The ground was very dry. I did encounter an interesting mixed flock of Nuthatch and Brown Creepers. There was a lot of activity on one dead tree. Obviously a tasty larder of bugs and grubs. I could hear pounding and breaking of bark flakes.

I heard a lot of helicopter activity and when I finally reached a clearing saw one fly over with a water bomb bucket. There were at least 6 round trip passes while I hiked up and I was hoping to get a picture from the top but by then the flight passage had stopped. The fire lookout was manned and the volunteer said the flights were landing or dropping below the ridge line into Esmeralda Basin. He said their was no fire there and thought they might be practicing. The wind at the top of the ridge was fierce and cold. Clouds were quickly moving in from the west.

I decided then to hike down via the FS road to see if there might be some nice butterfly action. I had some great encounters in the past at one spot where water from snow melt flooded the road and made mud. Butterflies love to feed on mud.

There was absolutely no water to be found except a few moist slopes. There was a lot of thistle and Sub-alpine Daisy and that is where the butterflies allowed the best pictures. Many would tease me by landing on the road, as if to gather minerals from the dry soil.

Bee on Sub-alpine Daisy

Atlantis Fritillary , Speyeria atlantis

But some thistle allowed great pictures.

Calcedona Checkerspot.

I was also happy to fine some Pinedrops. This amazing saprophyte is covered in sticky hairs which trap bugs to supplement the plants diet. Having no chlorophyll they take nourishment from other plants and many process bugs as well. They can grow quite tall. This one is at least two feet high and still not spreading its flowers.

This one is starting to unfold the flowers.

When the plant dies it will leave a dried skeleton which might persist for a year, marking the spot to watch the nest season.

The boggy area was filled with grass, Paintbrush and Bog-orchids. I found a lucky butterfly as well

Greenish Blue Plebejus saepiolus

The place I left my car was where I found Mountain Ladyslipper earlier this season. I looked in the bushes here and found more Elegant Piperia as well as the dried remnants of the Ladyslippers. I could recognize the individual plants from my photos last time. They are still lovely.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Gentle Walk to Work Out the Kinks

A little four mile ramble to get the muscles and joints recovered from yesterdays extra long hike. I got a late start after a long morning of noodling with my pictures and writing the last entry. I decided to just go up the road a ways to the Watershed Park. I wrote about this park on Christmas Day 2009.

I decided to take both of my cameras today and just play around with pictures. I walked the length of the park to the far corner where I knew there was a large pond. Near the entrance of the park there is a small pond and I was happy to get this shot of a Pond Lily.

I found a feather I believe is a filoplume from a Great Blue Heron.

Folks bring their horses to this park. I recognize this "cute look" a mile off.

The woods were strangely quite. No bird song, not many people about.

Mr Banana was heading eastbound on my trip in. Coming out of the trails I swear I encountered him heading west.

I like how someone placed this lost hat on a signpost. Perhaps its owner will return. That is a little fishing fly stuck in by the tie cord.

I found a lot of Trailing Blackberry, our true native blackberry. They are so small and so hard to harvest in bulk.

By the time I got out to the far pond the sun was trying to break through the clouds. It was odd for the clouds were casting an odd pinkish glow. I am pretty pleased with this photo of the sun reflection in the pond water and the shadow of a Vine Maple going across the surface. The sky color is due to forest fires in the Interior BC. The air flow from their is reported to be causing this effect and from the weather satelites the whole of interior Puget Sound is covered in this haze. Should be a great sunset!

Lovely local woods.

Thanks to all my regular readers for the nice comments!!!
To my OLDER sister who chooses to make comments in private
ALL snakes are beautiful in my eyes, so poop on you!
and the comment about the skunk cabbage... flimsy excuse, back then I wasn't a nature nut


Orchid Trips

Over the last two weekends I have been on two lovely trips with the Native Orchid Society.


Each trip was distinctly different from the other.

Last weekend was to see a specific orchid. Truly that! The Phantom Orchid is simply that , a rare and elusive plant that blooms inconsistently. You cannot count upon it being at the place it bloomed last year. The Phantom is totally without chlorophyll and makes use of an intermediate fungal hyphae ( underground fungal threads) to connect itself to the host plant.

The venue was a stunning private home on the Olympic Peninsula. The owners had a wonderful home in the woods and had worked hard to preserve the second growth forest around their home. It was here they found the Phantom Orchids and to the knowledge of our leader, this is the only known spot on the Olympic Peninsula where this flower is currently known to bloom.

We were given ample opportunity to view and photograph the two flowering spikes. The freshest spike had grown up inside some greenery which produced a twisted, convoluted stem. The white blossom, as white always is, a challenge for my little cameras.

Sorry this image is so small. Somewhere along the line I lost my original image and could only salvage this from my Flickr account.

But I was thrilled to see this lovely thing and visit such a nice couple who clearly care about the world around them.

Plus needing to pass through Kingston, I stopped at Mora for ice-cream. Simply the best ice-cream shop ever. This picture is from last month when I hosted a little traveler called Rhiney. There is something deliciously decadent about walking on the ferry on the hottest day of the year and riding across to have ice-cream for dinner.

Yesterday was a different type of trip. Lake Elizabeth, outside Skykomish is in the far northeast corner of King County. For years the little lake could be driven to but a land slide took out the road about three miles from the lake, requiring an approximate three mile hike in. I had read about the lake but had never been. When I saw that there were plans for this trip, I knew this would be the opportunity to visit a new place in the company of friends.

I got off to a bad start in messing up on the written directions to the starting point. I encountered two train crossings in my misadventure and had to stop at the train crossing each time, putting me further behind the rendezvous time.

Worse was that each crossing stop was for the same train. A long slow train. But I got to the start and was happy to see some familiar type vehicles. I started up the trail across a bridge that had "road closed " sign. I figured my group was just up the way by about 1/2 hour or less.

I encountered a fire truck simply parked. It seemed strange. There were, however many pieces of heavy road construction equipment along the road. They were trying to do work on this road but personally I wonder if it is worth it. I think I counted at least four landslides that have impacted the road and taken good chunks of it away. You could see parts of the hillside want to slide down in the future. I figured that the water truck was a precaution around the heavy equipment, should all the work spark some fire.

But later I met a ranger simply standing with supplies and a radio near his truck. It turns out there was a spot fire high on the ridge above us. I could clearly see the column of smoke rising from a place at the base of a cliff. In talking to the ranger , he said they figured it was someones poorly left campfire. It had been smoldering for several days. I heard helicopters later on and found out on my return that they had dropped firefighters into the high spot along with equipment. The fighters would camp for several days working to put down the fire. The helicopters would drop supplies as needed. On the return hike I could hear chainsaws working high on the ridge.

As I hiked along I counted the mile markers placed by the county for the road workers. Doing the math I had to wonder where the lake was since the trip schedule said this was about a seven mile (total) hike. I had already done about 3 1/2 and there was nothing but a running creek. I eventually crossed what was the original landslide that took out the road several years ago. I knew my hike was going to be longer than advertised.

I caught up to my group and the leader said that the original bridge crossing was not supposed to be the planned starting point and that today's hike would be longer than anticipated. OK I am game for anything. The weather was fine, there were a lot of butterflies to try and photograph. The only thing more frustrating than trying to identify butterflies (I find it very challenging) is photographing them.

I believe this is a Hydaspe Fritillary , Speyeria hydaspe.

This is Phoebus Parnassian , Parnassius phoebus. They were everywhere and totally frustrating to capture.

This pretty Garter Snake offered a lot of opportunity to take a picture.

We reached the lake which owing to its remote access is little visited. The trail around it has been little used and so we started bushwhacking through greenery.

We encountered many Slender Bog Orchid , Platanthera stricta along the long trail in and around the lake itself.

We also had one small patch of Tall White Bog-orchid just starting to open.

Even though my brothers and sisters insist I was, this is not where I was found as a baby.

Skunk Cabbage

All over in the boggy area frogs of many sizes were swimming popping and hopping. They blend in so well that you really have to be careful when walking in their territory.

The trail, such as it was, became choked with fallen trees and the overgrowth did not support going any further. I was thrilled we came this way, however, as I found a single specimen of Pinesap an odd saprophyte, much like the Indian Pipes. I have never seen this except in book pictures.

We also encountered some Common Butterwort. I am disappointed this photograph did not turn out well. They are pretty little flowers and totally insectivorous. Their leaves trap bugs to supplement their "diet" in nitrogen poor soils. In my reading I found out that it was believed the juice of butterwort protected cows from the elf arrows and humans from witches and fairies. The juice is also used on chapped udders of the cows.

We backtracked the trail and headed off around the lake encountering a better trail and a few more species including Heartleaf twayblade and Listeria caurina (banksiana) Northwestern Twayblade, an impossibly tiny orchid.

By now it was 2:30 and I knew I had at least seven miles to hike back down. I decided to call it a day and I hiked back to my car along with another member. Seven hours on the trail with no opportunity to sit down; about 15 miles round trip, I was feeling it late last night. But I was thrilled with the six different orchid species encountered as well as the Pinesap and Butterwort.

Today does not feel like a day for a long hike, so I will go out and find something "easy" and new.