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Monday, August 22, 2011

Everybody Loves a Train

This last weekend I was on-call at work and required to be in on both days.  This left me with the inability to hit the road early. I had a primary goal of getting my Monthly Scavenger Hunt photos worked on.   I spent the Saturday being totally domestic (translation...doing laundry) and paid a visit to the Redmond Saturday Market where I bought some treats for myself.

A print from Stephanie Johnson.  This amazing and talented student has art work that always catches my eye.


I think you will agree she is an amazing talent.

I also bought myself a treat from Wildflour Bakery.  Gluten Free.  Unfortunately they do not have a shop, but only sell at Farmers Markets right now.  They are in the process of getting bar code registration so they can vend locally.  Their blueberry lemon cupcake was less a conventional Mom's cupcake and more a tea cake.  Totally wonderful.

On to the Scavenger Hunt Photos

Subject : Comfort Food. I consider all baked goods the ultimate comfort food.

Subject : Something Musical

A fiddling group called The Onlies, busking to raise money to go to "fiddler camp".  They were very good.

Subject: Summer event

Vine ripened heirloom tomatoes at the Saturday Market.  Only in Summer, around here.

Sunday I knew I would visit the Snoqualmie Railroad Days since one of the challenge subject was "seen at the bus or railway station"  That is a hard one since here in America, bus and train stations are not that common.

But I knew I could enjoy a mid-afternoon with a train ride on the historic tracks that run from Snoqualmie Falls to North Bend.

Railroad Days is a Summer event celebrated in the town of Snoqualmie, just east of where I live.  At its heart is the Northwest Railway Museum   www.trainmuseum.org

This area was timber country and the railroad line through here serviced the timber concerns.  West of town is Snoqualmie Falls one of the most impressive waterfalls in the region.  I visited the valley area early in 2010 and you can see a picture of the Falls in pretty full roar here.


We start at the historic depot, built in 1890.

The ticket lobby was a wonderful collection of wood panels and squeaky floors. While waiting for my ticket I noted that there was a can of Nallys Lumberjack Syrup in a display case. I had a mini-flashback of very distant childhood.

The train had one engine and two cars.  I selected this 1915 era "hard" passenger car.

It was beautiful but still in need of renovations. I soon appreciated the joy of a well padded dress/bustle or corset.

I loved watching everyone and their reactions to being on the train. Some things are timeless. Parents and children; hard to know who had the most fun.

Everyone waves. We wave out

People wave back...and smile

Mr Conductor (who did not look like Ringo Starr) punched tickets and answered questions.

There was a lot to see along the way.

Pretty houses, back streets, and a lot of blackberries. For the back story on train tracks and blackberries, visit this entry from August of 2009


The engine pushed us eastbound to North Bend. Some of the children were confused as to why we were going backwards. They were the ones sitting in the backward facing seats.

Fans of the Television show "Twin Peaks" will recognize this sight.

After picking up passengers we held up traffic while we returned via Snoqualmie and headed to the falls. The town was hosting an auto show and it was fun to watch the fancy cars and the visitors as we trundled past.

The museum has many old train cars awaiting restoration. They are placed along the tracks and as you roll past you get a too close look at them. It will take a lot of work to restore them all. The museum has a dedicated facility and corps of volunteers who make this all possible.

Around here it is not unusual to find ramps and bridges over creeks made from train flatcars. It is not until you get below them that you can see that they are old train bases. This is an old Burlington Northern car base.

We wind up our trip right at the brink of the Snoqualmie Falls. The foliage on the trees obscure much of the view right now but you can still see a part of the power generation plant and the mitigation Puget Sound Energy is doing to preserve this area. The river valley below this spot is one of the big flood areas of the state.

That large tree is right at the brink of the Falls.  It has been there some time, sooner or later it is going to go over.

After a pause, the engine pushed us back the direction we came. We got a chance to see the collection of old train cars. There was even a snowplow engine. Near the depot a traditional "big log" to try to count rings on.

After leaving the train I wandered about to collect my train station picture. I settled on this detail of a 1926 Mallet steam locomotive piston and wheels. I liked the color the metal has taken on with the lichens and weathering.

Subject: Something I saw in the train or bus station.

Walking along the rows of fancy restored cars I found the perfect subject for what I thought might be one of my biggest challenges.

Subject: Something with a big nose.

A 1941 Willys Coupe.

Driving home after my day out, I realized that I forgot to put a penny on the tracks.

Another opportunity to make mayhem missed.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Fruit Loop

Last weekend was one of those where I was stuck in a rut and lacking in oomph.  I could not get enthused about driving far to get to hike venues so I suck close to town.  I hiked Saturday up to Annette Lake, just west of Snoqualmie Pass.  It was a sweet sturdy climb with not many people about.

I found a new species of orchid (for me) and my friend Ron helped identify this as a Pad Leafed Orchis.

There was still snow on the edge of the lake.  Many areas have been hit much worse than this and are still a challenge to access.  Here the way was smooth.

Sunday I wanted to try and get another hike, close to home.  I looked at Tiger Mountain and decided that the inviting Tiger RR Grade loop fit the bill.  10 miles up across and down.  The across part was said to be the old rail bed for the logging camps that thrived in the late 1800 early 1900.

As I hit the trail I quickly noted how many shrubs and bushes were in berry.  AH HA! I thought, my monthly Scavenger Hunt photo list has "fruit" as one of the topics.  I knew then I had a whole forest of possible subjects.  Here they are.

Dull Oregon Grape , Mahonia nervosa.  Some people say this makes good jelly.  The flavor is so-so.  I have never been one to can, given my usual failures with strawberry jam.  I hate to see what I come up with using wild berries.

Salal, Gaultheria shallon.  Prized by native peoples the fruit was pressed into blocks and given as favor to honored friends and guests.  Here the fruits are very big and very ripe.  The flavor is OK and I see how it could make a good flavorful jam.  The seeds are huge and part of its prized nature is that it took much effort to gather enough.  Along with the Oregon Grape, it dominates the woodlands of the west side of the mountains.

Red Elderberry , Sambucus racemosa ssp. pubens, has burst into berry.  Flavor, bitter.  I can taste the quality you find in alcohols.  I know some people make wine with this, but the more flavorful Blue Elder is for jam and wine making.  Blue Elder is more common on the east side of the mountains.  Here Elder grows well over 10 feet high and is the most common of the middle canopy shrubby bushes.

One the mountain side every opening , creek bed and clearing was dominated by Elder.

In the wet areas you meet with Devils Club.  Oplopanax horridus.  My plant book lists almost a whole page of ethnobotany comments.  This plant is a fierce plant with limbs covered in spines.  It is related to gensing and its medicinal use varied from arthritis to diabetes.

This is the horridus part of the name.  The spines can grow to three inches.  They could be used to make dye and were also used as fishing hooks.  Some peoples even used the spines to make tattoos.

I pity the person sent for harvesting these wicked plants.  I ducked under one that was arching across the trail

but did not duck enough.

After climbing up the Poo Poo Point *** trail, the loop was to continue north across the face of the mountain. 

This is a Vine Maple that was split by a falling log.  The tree continued to thrive and indeed was huge.  The moss covered limbs snaked out and arched over the trail.  I have to return in October when the color comes on and take in this sight.  It might even be worth coming up to in the snow.


I could not resist fruit of another kind.  The fruiting body of fungi is not bountiful right now, but this little cluster on a stump was fun to capture.

I was happy with the railroad grade trail but then it turned bad.  For a signed and named trail it had not been maintained.  I was pressing through shrubbery growing across the trail right in my face.  I did encounter one mystery fruiting subject along this way.  It took a bit of noodling about to come up with the tentative diagnosis of Baneberry, Actaea rubra.  I am glad I did not sample these big bright berries.  My book has BIG BOLD WORDS about how highly poisonous this plant is.

The trail was narrow, mucky in places and with the overhanging brush I quickly decided that I best turn back.  The only plus of slugging along this path for as long as I did was finding this in the mud at my feet.

Kitty Paw Print.  BIG kitty paw print.  Cougar.  (Puma to my Peru friends)  My first encounter of any kind here at home.

After turning back and reaching the trail junction I checked my pedometer and saw that with 5 miles down I might as well have my lunch break and go back the way I came.

On the way down I found a few more fun fruits.  Along with the common Salmonberry and the native Trailing Blackberry, I was happy to find these fun looking berries.  False Lily of the Valley, Maianthemum dilatatum.

Rosy Twisted Stalk , Streptopus roseus.  The fruits are huge, about the size of a small olive.  They were hard subjects as the branches hug the ground and the berries swing at the lightest touch.

For me, the prize of the day was the abundance of Red Huckleberry, Vaccinium parvifolium.  Many people find this a fine fruit for eating.  It has never impressed me for flavors but I do admit the ones here are better and juicier than what I usually find.  I will save my harvests for the Blue and Black species found at higher elevations.  I will attack the Kendall Katwalk for those.

Thank you to all the happy pollinators who bring the bounty to the woods for all its citizens to dine upon.

Including me!

***Poo Poo Point.  The Poo Poo was the steam whistle that communicated, in sound, the directions for skidding raising and moving logs via the steam engines and hoists.  Out on this point is was audible in the valley floor and along the mountain.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I suppose I failed to mention that I set up a terrarium.

I was inspired by the book "Sound of a Wild Snail Eating" lent to me by a friend.

Here is the set up with the Allogona townsendiana , Oregon Landsnail.  These are common on the grounds where I work.  You also see them frequently in our native woods.

A week ago I first spotted little snail-ettes, about 25 when I last counted.

Today one posed for pictures while eating on a snap pea.  This one has a little shell damage so I will have to keep an eye on it. 

All will return to the wild when they are bigger.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Tootling Along the Toutle

Last weekend I joined the Nisqually Land trust on a walk about one of its properties.  It was nice to visit a property I had not yet visited. 

I immediately noticed the abundance of  Redwood Sorel also known as Oxalis.  They were past bloom but their bobbing shamrock-like leaves are enchanting.  They carpeted the woodland floor. 

Beavers have moved in and their handy work is quite noticeable.  The large beaver pond and water diversion fills the area.  The Vine Maple in this picture is changing color already.  It may be due to the excess moisture and perhaps the tannins usually associated with Red Cedar.

Most likely these Beaver are not chewing on the bark of the cedars for food as much as they may be using the fibrous bark for filling chinks in their timber home. 

Everyone has their own area of interest.  While many are looking up, I always have an eye for that close at hand.

This moth gave me a great photo-op.  I was able to identify it as a Pale Beauty , Campaea perlata.  One the underside of this leaf there was a second moth.  I think we interrupted some important business.

Our leaders discussed the river and its powers.  Every year people get into trouble with this river and its currents.  While these rapids do not appear sever by river running standards.Along much of this rivers length log jams, snags and under-currents makes this river quite dangerous.  On this day one local was doing a bit of fishing and retriever training with his fine dog.

Since it was Seafair Weekend, I thought long and hard about were I wanted to be, and more than that where I did not want to be.  I decided to drive south and spend the night in Kelso so I could visit Johnson Ridge Center early in the morning.  What an excellent choice.

I have not been to this area in many years.  While I have been to the south side of the mountain for climbing, I have neglected the north side.  The visitor center and all of its nice exhibits were behind locked doors, but I needed the early hours for my best enjoyment and to be back on the road before noon.

The drive up was wonderful.  As I gained elevation I got peek-a-boo glimpses of the Toutle River valley.  This valley took the brunt of the runoff flooding and destruction in 1980.  Indeed the flood waters and debris almost over topped the I-5 bridge.  Today from the freeway you can seen huge piles of mud debris dredged from the Toutle and Columbia rivers .  The local community has gained a new recreation area from the leavings.

It was a heavy gray overcast morning in the lowlands and as I passed into a huge fog / cloud bank on the way up I wondered if I was going to be skunked.  But as quickly as the fog bank enveloped me, I gained enough altitude to come out on the upper side with mixed clouds and sun.

This is the view up the valley through the area known as The Hummocks.  You can see the Toutle River cutting its way through the mud flow.  The biggest change from when I was last here, aside from the dome inside the crater, is that the dominant color is green.

Johnson Ridge is named after Dave Johnson's, a Geologist sitting watch who famously reported "Vancouver Vancouver This is it!"  as he witnessed the eruption which took his and 56 other lives.  The Visitors Center sits directly across from the crater opening and right on the edge giving you the view across the devastation and rebuilding.

I wandered about enjoying the solitude and the lovely examples of early vegetation.  These flowers have repopulated naturally.  The whole monument is one large science lab of discovery.  Blasted stumps show the force and power.

Dominant flowers are Indian Paintbrush ( red) Lupins ( blue) and Cardwells Penstemon

This bare slope certainly gives you a lot of information.  The remaining logs show you the direction of the blast.  The ruts show you where downed trees, since rotted away have left impressions further channeling water to groove the soil.

On a north facing slope these odd mushrooms are likely thriving on log buried, rotting wood.

To the north and east the Coldwater Ridge shows the effect of loss of trees, the addition of the ashy layer and the odd pattern of runoff scars. 

The eruption created, and destroyed, several lakes.  Coldwater Lake has become a popular fishing destination.  The boardwalk out onto the lake shows water as clear as glass.  The fishermen in their little boats were not in a chatty mood.  I wanted to ask about the clarity further out.

I was happy to be able to capture one oddity, which showed up well on my picture.  In 1983 many of the hills surrounding the monument were replanted with Nobel Fir.  This has led to an odd and interesting effect.  The trees are monoculture, all from nursery stock and all highly uniform.  The visual effect is some odd double vision blurring.  Look closely, each one uniform and so like the next.   I suspect before long, storms and time will take their toll and other trees will creep in and get hold.  Will this land eventually be harvested , or was it determined that this tree species is the one most likely to do well in this unique soil system.  I really don't know.

The Wikipedia entry for Mt St Helen's is well done.  There are lots of good links and photos.  Please pay a visit.

I hit the road home early. I-5 northbound especially between Olympia and Seattle is MISERABLE on Sundays. No matter what happy times you had in the day, the traffic is sure to harsh that happy. I decided that I would take the back road, Hwy 507 from Centrallia to Puyallup then up the Valley Freeway to Hwy 18 . Cut over to North Bend and get home via the backdoor.

At noon I got to the coffee stand in Centrallia, where the young barista (and former commuter to Tacoma for college, poor kid) approved of my plan. I heard on the radio that traffic was already backed up at the Nisqually River.

By the time I got to the backside of Joint Base Lewis and McCord the I-5 Freeway backup was about 8 miles...then 10 miles. I shook my head in pity over those folks and smiled at my good plan. I knew the core of Seattle was no better with the I-90 bridge closed and people out enjoying the rare perfect 75 and sunny day.

 I got to North Bend in three hours!!!  That is a huge record for this drive and I will use this back road to happily meander home when I am in the south and west