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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Orchid Field Trip

Had a quick trip to a location in the Cascades.  This is the only spot for that county known to contain Clustered Ladyslipper.

It was a glorious day.  I left early so I could stop by Sun Top during my drive.  I knew I could bring you this glorious shot.  It is one of my favorite vantage points.

The snow will stay on this mountain year round, but the lower peaks really are late in melting off.

But that is not stopping the upper elevation flowers from doing their thing.  Here the morning sun really made things pop.  This is Beargrass and a little Syrphiae fly.  Click on the photo to enjoy this pretty insect.

A tangle of Red Columbine in the rocks.

A Western Anemone is more commonly called a Tow-headed Baby, due to its fuzzy , hairy seedhead.  I hope to get up here when they set seeds.

It was fun to spot the stamens in these Lupin blossoms.

Continuing on after many more miles where Pearly Mae performed brilliantly, I met with a small group and we hiked a ways to find these lovely and rare orchids.  Last year we visited some in another part of the state and they were very difficult to find in the underbrush.

Today they were right underfoot.

Clustered Ladyslipper aka Brownie Ladyslipper.

They come in a pale and a red form.  Some we saw last year were much redder, but these were bountiful and so easily viewed.  What a fun treat.

There were also some Western Coralroot and this form was so pretty with both pale and purple coloration

It was so nice to get up into the alpine area.  Many of the familiar alpine flower hikes are still snowed under and I suspect we will not have much of a year again.

Friday, July 29, 2011

All Aflutter at Navaho Pass

I ventured up into the elevation last Sunday.  Many areas in the Cascades are still impacted by snow.  Other areas have access issues due to collapsed roads, blown down trees and washed out crossings.

I knew the trail along Stafford Creek to Navaho Pass in the Upper Teanaway / Esmeralda Basin are was good to go.  This is a hike I have been wanting to do.  It is well known for its wildflowers and big views.

I was not sure I was going to be able to get going, the road into the trail head was taken over by range cattle.  They seemed to be everywhere and would appear from and disappear into the trees with no warning.  They did not seemed overly concerned with Pearly Mae, my car.  A polite toot of her horn didn't shift them so I rolled down the window and did the nearest thing to a cowboy "Gitalong";  I pounded Pearly Mae's side.

that shifted them.

After signing in at the trail head I set off.  It was a wee touch chilly but I let that work to my favor.  The trail parallels Stafford Creek and the music of the splashing running creek was with me most of the way.

I love getting on the trail early, it beats the heat and the crowds.  Today there were more people coming down from overnights at elevation than were passing me going up. 

I had a nice visit with a Hermit Thrush , Catharus guttarus.  He shared his wandering song with me.

Flowers made were ever changing as I gained elevation.  Along this slope occasional wet areas supported our usual orchids and as I climbed the elevation specialists starting to show themselves.

Scarlet Gilia, Ipomopsis aggregata,  and lupin in abundance

Tiger Lily, Lilium columbianum, most of them past prime.  I cannot see these flowers without thinking of all the early Disney and Merry Melodies Cartoons with dancing and singing flowers.

Red Columbine, Aquilegia formosa,  grew in clusters and I had one classic view of a hummingbird dining.  Unfortunately the wee thing was not willing to put on a show for my camera.

Columbia Lewisia , Lewisia columbiana,  falls into the fight of Washington's most beautiful wildflower along with its cousins Bitterroot and Tweedys Lewisia.  It is certainly a striking and stunning color.

I was trucking along well until I reached the 6000 foot level.  I really hit the wall feeling, drunk and giddy.  I rested, drank water,  ate and tried to proceed on, but I could not manage my feet.  I had another sit, drank more and ate more but still my unsteady feet just made me feel uncomfortable.  I turned back just short of my ultimate goal and descended.  Upon reaching 6000 feet, I felt fine.  I have had some issues with high altitude before, usually swollen hands, but nothing like this.  I am hoping that it was simply "first higher altitude hike of the year" syndrome and I won't have to concern myself with this again.  I need to stock in some snap energy gel just to be on the safe side.

I was pretty disappointed to have to come down but I had a treat in store. 

All of the moist areas that crossed the trail were now supporting butterflies.  Most butterflies sip mud, sand and wet spots to obtain minerals from the soil.  This was abundantly seen in Peru and it true here.  The butterflies become very placid in this situation and it can be possible to get quite close to some of them.

My camera got a work out.  My id skills are pretty rough and my tentative identifications are just that.

Canbey's Lovage, Ligusticum canbyi,  with a checkerspot

Common Banded Skippers , Hesperia comma

Dotted Blue (L) and Greenish Blue (R)  Euphilotes enoptes , Plebejus saepiolus

Field Crescent ,  Phyciodes campestris

Great Arctic,  Oeneis nevadensis.  This was the first I have ever captured an image.  I was lucky to get a glimpse of the colorful eye spot on the upper (inside / top of the wing)

Northern Crescent,  Phyciodes selenis, a bit blurry but these are not as common or as docile

Variable Checkerspot,  Euphydryas chalcedona...closed

and opened

Zerene Fritillary , Speyeria zerene

A Pale Swallowtail, Papilio eurymedon  look how worn out this one is.

I stopped when I spotted this swallowtail.  It really loved the Scarlet Gilia and was predictable as it flew from patch to patch.  I took many pictures and I could tell they had bad light, bad timing, bad positioning.  I kept at it and shifted down trail a wee bit when some people walked through and spooked the butterfly.  But I waited and it came back.

and I got my prize.

Everyone loves mud, particularly when it holds gems like this...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Dog Mountain

This last weekend I seized the opportunity to get away overnight.  I have consistently put off going to Dog Mountain but knew this was the last great opportunity for this flower season.

Dog Mountain is about 55 miles east of Vancouver right on the Columbia River.  It is a popular hike and the huge bonus is the spectacular views and great wildflowers.  Unlike other areas of the Cascades that are still snowed under, this mountain is snow free right now.  I saw some pictures from the 4th of July weekend on Flickr and I knew I had to make a visit a priority.

I needed a place to stay so I took a look at Google Maps.  I spotted a landmark reference for Sandhill Cottages so went to their website.


A restored 1930's era Auto Court. 

Totally charming, I was hooked.  I called and they had a unit open so I grabbed my stuff and drove smack into I-5 Friday afternoon bogged down traffic.

Stupid stupid stupid why didn't I go via Yakima?  Somehow I convinced myself that traffic at 215 could not possibly be as bad as traffic at 315.

Well it took 2 hours to get to the other side of Tacoma, about 45 miles.  A total of 5 1/2  hours for the usually 4 hour drive.

But Oh look what greeted me.  A funky little cabin that reminded me of the cabins at the ocean so many years ago.

Beadboard walls!  Super comfortable bed!

The bathroom shower fixture was directly overhead.

The little porch, the wood was worn and raw.   Boy did that take me back to childhood.  I stepped carefully and did not need needles and alcohol for splinter surgery.  There was a slider on the porch and it was nice to sit and read just enjoying being outside.

They had chicken and you could buy fresh eggs and coffee, beans roasted on site.

No radio , no TV ( but WiFi no problem)

It was perfect.

But the little kitchen area took the cake.  A Crosly Shelvador, something I have never seen before.  A refrigerator with a sink and 2 burner stove top.  All in one unit.  To my dismay I assumed that cooking utensils and dishes were provided, they were not. 

Next time I will be prepared.

I got up early the next day and drove to the trail head, arriving before most of the crowds.  My Wildflower hike book mentions that Phantom Orchids were possible here and suggested that the Ausperger Mountain Trail is the best way up and then come down Dog Mountain trail.  I heeded Professor Kruckbergs advice.  I grabbed a walking stick since I knew Phantoms likes to grow under and associated with low shrubby plants like Salal or Oregon Grape.  This trail area is filled with Poison Oak so I was needed my stick for safety.

The trail got underway with a nice sloping climb.  It was persistent but not bad.

There were fabulous views out from the trees of the Columbia River and the mountains to the west.  I was not having a lot of flower or bug action and I was disappointed that the Rattlesnakes seemed to be sleeping in.

But what greeted me when I entered a stretch of piney woodland... I still cannot wrap my brain around.

Phantom Orchids

Not a few, not some

Hundreds.  Hundreds of the RARE Phantoms.  The hillside was littered with them.  Occasionally there were clumps that looked like bouquets.  It went on and on and I was giddy with the thrill of it.

I was so distracted as I walked along that I misstepped right off the edge of the trail, giving my upslope foot a scary twist.  My ankle and instep are still puffy.

But oh the views.  Oh the flowers. 

That is Mt St Helen's.  I was up there a year ago.

Mt Hood, in Oregon, plays peak-a-boo

I am looking ahead to the last bit of this climb.

Bugs were surprisingly few.

Lupin and Paintbrush

I think this bee was snoozing.

I didn't see the pretty beetle on this Larkspur, it was far too small.  I regret the timing, the green metallic sheen would have been awesome.

Wild Ginger, on of my favorite flowers.

The perfect lunch spot.  The lookout point on "Puppy" a little mountainette next to Dog.

The route down was slippery with little stones and I am so happy I came up the way recommended.  I was the only one going up the trail when I was on it.  Beating the heat of the day was key, though here the winds are very persistent so overheating was not an issue.  Coming down the trail I encountered still more Phantoms on the trails.  Overall I encountered seven different orchid species in bloom, one a variant I had never seen before; an "immaculata" Spotted Coralroot.

Getting back to my cozy cabin I spent the afternoon reading, sipping coffee, fresh roasted in the office

and still trying to wrap my mind around the magnificent bounty of Phantoms.

I was higher than these clouds!