About Me

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

Saturday, April 26, 2014


O were my love yon Lilac fair, 

Wi' purple blossoms to the Spring, 
And I, a bird to shelter there, 
When wearied on my little wing! 
How I wad mourn when it was torn 
By Autumn wild, and Winter rude!  

But I wad sing on wanton wing, 
When youthfu' May its bloom renew'd

Robert Burns

Monday, April 21, 2014

Keep Clam

I spent a short weekend down at Long Beach.  For Earth day weekend, the Beach Clean required attendance.  A bonus this time is that Long Beach has returned to an old tradition and it was time to enjoy the Razor Clam Festival.


I was able to slip out of work a bit early and get a head start on the holiday weekend traffic.  Four hours slips by quickly and just as I got to Long Beach the sun made a brief appearance.  I went for a walk around town before dinner.  It was the calm before the storm.

This weekend pretty much marks the end of the Razor Clam season.  Spawning will start soon and to preserve the quality of the clamming, digging ends now.  The state Fish and Game monitor the beaches with test digs and open the beaches to clamming as the test digs indicate.  Sometimes there is very little notice and folks who are dedicated to the clam are prepared to drop everything and hit the beach at low tide.

Even in foul weather

This weekends low started after sunrise so the beach clean started a bit later than usual.  Weather was horribly wet and even with my waterproof pants and boots my feet still got soggy.  The rain ran down the pants legs into the cuff of my high boots.  It was too late ( water under the bridge, so to speak) and by the time I noticed I was getting wet.  The wind was really whipping things around and the plastics I gathered int my bag started making cuts in the bag.  I found a flat screen TV.  It really weighed a ton and I was surprised it could strand far above the high tide line.  I guess that is good evidence of the force of the winter storms.

I gathered garbage for 1 1/2 hours.  After my second sack started falling apart I called it good and went back to my room to change.  Of course the rain stopped by the time I got there and for the rest of the afternoon it was partly sunny with the occasional sprinkles.

I stopped by Dennis and Co, a general store in town.  They were HQ for all things clammy and early in the morning folks were lined up to get their clamming/shellfish license and get supplies.  Clam Guns are the old traditional way to dig clams.  The long blade of the shovel is to scoop sand to intercept the clam.  Usually you have to get your arm into the hole and feel around for the fast clam.  It is then when you can find out why they are called Razors.  Sharp edges.  More popular these days are clam tubes.  A long tube, usually PVC with a handle.  You plunge the tube into the sand and draw it back, bringing sand and clam if you are lucky.  Those are clam tubes in the rack behind the shovel.

There was a nice display from the Fish and Wildlife.  They were there to register the catches.  Diggers could bring in their limit and there were prizes for biggest clam, smallest clam and "best looking" limit.

This is what they look like awaiting cleaning

These were really some good looking, robust clams.

Out the door and on to the Clam Chowder Taste-off stopping to say howdy to these characters.

The bragging rights for "Best Chowder" will be used by the winning restaurant.  I dutifully sampled the offerings from 10 restaurants and selected The Depot as my favorite.  I have not heard who won.

The room was stuffed to the rafters with people tasting and visiting.

Of course the Bathing Beauties were on hand showing off their guns.

Grade School kids participated in a Clam Tube decorating contest.

and there was music

The outdoor beer garden and stage had really taken a pounding overnight.  When I stopped by early in the morning, they were pulling the tarp off the twisted frame.  I am sure nothing dampened their spirits,though.

I spent my time making my way down and up the main street visiting the shops.  A new shop selling old glass and dishes caught my eye and I found a pretty vase I had to have.   I also gave in to a previous desire for a unique fabric wallet made by Erda Leather in Maine.  Campiche Studios is a dangerous store with many fine things I would really love to own.

A true highlight of the afternoon was the re-dedication of the Worlds Largest Spitting Clam.  The Bathing Beauties held the Blue Ribbon while the mayor, dressed in his best waders and wellies gave a little speech. Then with the help of a kiddo from the crowd it was cut and spout time.

The clam is programmed to spit on the hour.  If you don't wish to wait about, you can drop a quarter and get on demand action.

Right next to the Worlds Largest Spitting Clam is the Worlds Largest Frying Pan.

This fry pan was used in long past festivals to cook the largest clam fritter.  This weekend a new pan was introduced and students from the culinary program had a contest for the best clam fritter.  Student mentored by the Shelburne Inn won the coveted honor.  The four teams each had a section of the pan to work with.

What a fun day.  I could have spent more time wandering around and watching the crowd.  The merry-go-round was running and everyone was having a great time.

While driving through South Bend, a little speed trap in the road, something caught my eye I had never noticed before.

Of course I had to stop.  The little coffee shop was open and with a little fuel I was good for the next three hours drive.

It was a superlative weekend.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Dry Run

A perfect, glorious day means getting out for that first taste of the dry side.  My first thought was to go looking for blooming cactus.  My GPS had other ideas, however.  The cactus area is remote and trackless, for the most part.  While I am pretty familiar with the spot, I like having the GPS to leave a "breadcrumb trail" so that option was out for the day.  My secondary reason for a good solid hike was to field test my new hiking shoes.  I needed a pair of low profile (below the ankle, lighter weight) sturdy hiking shoes.  My feet are not in the greatest of shape so I picked out a pair of shoes from the same maker of my hiking boots; Vasque.  I wanted to give them a good test-hike.  REI is glad to take back any footwear that does not work out and I need to commit to these shoes right away.

I decided to head over to the Ray Westberg trail outside Thorp.  This trail is popular with the folks in and around Ellensberg.  Early in the morning you meet a lot of runners and the occasional mountain biker.  The trail gains about 1700 feet and is 4 miles round trip.  I call that a good solid walk and a good test of the feet.  I will leave it to the younger or crazier to actually run up this trail.

Nature study is a great excuse to stop and pause during such a walk.

This area is Shrub-steppe with a sprinkling of Ponderosa Pine woodlands in some areas of the slopes.  I have wandered here quite a bit and it is one of my favorite places.

The wildflowers are just getting started with Gold Star, Crocidium multicaule and Grass Widows (Blue-eyed grass) Sisyrinchium angustifolim the major players at the start of the hike.  I didn't think I would get to see the Grass Widows and they are often passed by now, but there were still plenty to enjoy.

One thing about blooming flowers is that they are adored by bugs.  These little polka-dotted bugs are ubiquitous in this area and I have never been able to get them identified.

There were hardly any butterflies out but I did meet a few on my walk down the hill late in the morning.  I was thrilled to spot a green colored Hairstreak.  These butterflies are teeny tiny and I really gave a good try at getting a shot while one basked.  I was down in the dirt on forearms and knees and was just reaching in when it flittered off.  Impossible!  There is no other butterfly like this leafy green sweetie, barely bigger than a blouse button.

The Rabbit Brush and sage are not yet greened up and I found this little nest, a remnant from previous season.  It was very visible from the trail without the greenery to hide it.

The middle third of the trail is where you get above the surrounding slopes and you can see far and wide. Out here I started spotting Sagebrush Violet Viola trinervata, Bluebell Mertensia longiflora and Yellow Bells Fritillaria pudica. These three love the areas in and around the Rabbit Brush and sage and the shade they provide later in the month allows the bluebells to stick around quite a while.  All the flowers out right now are THE signs of Spring here.  Spring Beauty Claytonia lanceolata was just getting started in the high area of the trail where it is still a bit moist from melting snows.

I didn't spot any bluebirds at the nest boxes.  I noted that there are more boxes than in previous years. Stellers Jay were pretty noisy and it looked like possibly two different couples were squabbling about possible nesting areas in some of the Ponderosa Pine.  I also saw an American Kestrel sitting in a tree where in previous years I know there was nesting.  Western Meadowlark were starting to sing as I neared the upper area.  One of my favorite songs.

This little pee-wee chipmunk didn't move and inch while I shot some photos and passed by.  It may have had a nest near and I suspect freezing in place is a good tactic.

The first 2/3 of the trail is where the hard gain happens, then the upper 1/3 slopes up more gentle like until you reach the top.

There are many memorials up here to members of the community including a fair number of POW/MIA. Sitting here is always a peaceful time and such great views.

The Stewart range with Mt Stewart dominating.

The beautiful hay fields of Kittitas Valley.  My old trainer called this stuff "horse crack"

My New Shoes!!  <3 nbsp="">

After a brief sit it was back down , down , down...

...for I had a burger on my mind.  I love the Red Horse Diner good diner food in an old converted Mobile Gas station.  It is filled with a ton of gas station signs and a few old road signs from around the Kittitas Valley area.  The Van de Kamps Bakery sign is certainly one I remember from kid-hood

The dry side is always a good bet for fair weather.  Getting an early start to the day is key, for it wont be long when daytime temps climb into the upper 80's to 90's.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Wilcox Flats Clean-up

I spent a wonderful, warm sunny morning working with the Nisqually Land trust cleaning up the Wilcox Flats property.  This parcel is on the far side of Wilcox Farms and just north across the river from where we burlaped the end of last December.  This parcel was inundated several years ago with flood waters which washed debris downriver.  Today the focus was cleaning up and clearing out.

When I arrived Chris, our coordinator said there were at least 15 soldiers from Lewis/McCord joining us.  They are great help as they are willing to put themselves to tough work.  I grabbed a knife and set out removing tubes and stakes from around plants which were planted several years ago.  I have done several of these plantings here and the results are a mixed bag.  The spruce trees were thriving and so were many of the roses and currant bushes.  In one area, however, most of the plants were dead or barely thriving.  It could have been a series of unfortunate weather events, a bad batch of root-stock or perhaps something bad in the soils from the flood.

Spring has clearly sprung.  All around there was bird song.  White-crowned sparrows have arrived here too.  Orange-crowned and Common Yellowthroat Warblers shyly took off when people started working.  Sapsuckers and Flickers were rat-a-tatting in trees.  I even hear a small group of California Quail.

Without a doubt, however, the domineering bird here was a noisy clan.

Several male peacocks noisily "eeeeYAH-ed" around the property.  They have been in the area for sometime, clearly escaped (or released) from someones farm.   How anyone would want to live with these loudmouths is beyond me.

As handsome as they are.

This fine fellow was really strutting his stuff.  He had four hens in his little harem and I have no doubt he was the A Number One fellow

The hens acted just like females of many bird species where the male struts and performs.  They wandered around and appeared to act just liked bored women strolling the counters at the department store.  Oh he tried so hard.

I found myself working quite alone pulling tubes and sacking them for disposal.  I found a few of these little fellows.  Woolly Bears, the caterpillars of Isabella Moth were having an early start to the season.  I usually think of them as a late Fall presence.

Little charmers.

You can see from the trucks that a large number of tires were pulled from the shoreline woods.  Chris said he had underestimated how many and said today he thinks there are at least 100 in and around the woods.

I found a broken lamp and a shoe (size 8)

What a great way to spend a lazy morning.  The good weather has arrived. There is promise of a few rain-free days and temperatures in the 60's.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Meandering on a Sunny Day

Up an on the road early.  If rain is forecast before noon, best get to it.

I was happily surprised as I got north of Everett to see that the skies were getting a bit lighter and before I got to Mt Vernon, there was actually sun in the sky.

Even though I was walking in the woods, it is good to be out in as good a sunlight as the day can muster.

I headed to my favorite place, Washington Park, near Anacortes to do my first good wildflower walk of the year.  There were few disappointments save for my camera work.

The Calypso Orchids are out.  This seems to be a good year, though not a great year.  Numbers look down a bit, and some of the flowers have already started to go to seed.  I was up one month ago and saw no buds breaking, so they came and went pretty fast.

First of the year

A happy trio

Fawn Lily are doing well.  Here too , many which were just starting to show buds are past.

The trail most of these are on is just magic.  A solid carpet of all kinds of mosses and lichens with dainty flowers and solitude.

I even saw a fair number of Coralroot Orchids starting to spike, looking like red asparagus.

The south facing slope was starting to show off its special delights.

Small Flower Blue Eyed Mary is truly small flowered.

Early Saxifrage, Prairie Star, Meadow Chickweed and Death Camas  are doing well.

The Common Camas were not breaking their bud yet.

I skirted into the woods to seek out some rare and elusive things.  In the woods there was plenty of birdsong and all over wrens, chickadees and kinglets were courting and squabbling.  I watched one wren check out multiple holes in a dead tree.  It was shopping in a condo block. A chickadee patiently waited to do its inspections.

There was a lot of new fungus coming up through the mosses. This fallen Madrone tree was really covered with tails

Out on the rock-face the wet area is just getting started with Monkeyflower

I paused to take in the view.  Clouds are starting to set in.

It was here I heard something missing for some time.

"I'm a pretty little bird-e"  The call of the White-crowned Sparrows, back from their winter in the South.  I didn't think this zoomed in photo would work, but you can see him in the top of that Juniper

Barely.  I looked in my archives for a nice picture of this bird but have none in my computer, they are all on backup discs.

What a nice walk.  Many people were out and everyone seemed in joyous spirits.  Our region needs these fine days and any break in the weather to help the workers up at Oso is welcome.