WINTER WALK

We took another walk in a nearby state forest that’s full of old logging roads –  the same place we found the crazy, moss-growing car wrecks. This time we went a bit further. It had been a very cold week, the pond was iced up and the creek at the far end rushed madly past ice-slicked logs and rocks.

The ice took strange forms – a football-size blob of it hung off a log from a narrow cord of ice – we couldn’t figure out what, if anything, was inside this ice blob to enable it to maintain that shape. We wondered how long ago this creek water had been part of a glacier somewhere far up in the Cascades.  I suspect not too long ago. The noise at the creek’s edge was loud and energizing!

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An ice-covered log did not invite crossing, but it did invite study – we admired the wavy ice form and it’s crackled glass surface.

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Sturdy old cedars and firs were scattered here and there, and a prize Englemann spruce arced precariously over the beaver pond.

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The branches you see leaning against the tree are not propping it up. Maybe someone was drying them to use for a fire – I saw evidence that folks do come down here to sit around a fire, and enjoy that secret family recipe…

Licorice fern fronds on the moss-covered tree trunks had curled up from the cold, but alongside the road an early bug basked in the winter sunlight on a blade of grass.

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The logging road passes through a more recently logged area – not a pretty sight:

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Along the creek I wandered off the path to look at the ice patterns on the water’s edge, and I stumbled across a pile of fresh water mussels – some of them quite sizable, left there by what – an otter, a raccoon, a muskrat?

Freshwater mussels in America are a very threatened group of animals; more than 10% of our species vanished in the last 100 years. The mussel below, the Western pearlshell mussel (Margaritifera falcata)  is thought to be in decline.  Its larvae actually live for a few weeks in the gills of salmon; then later, they drop down and burrow into the stream bed. Another sight that day was an old salmon carcass, caught in a logjam.  That fish probably played host to mussels, which I learned grow abundantly in parts of this creek.

I felt privileged to have seen traces of the lives of creatures that are essential to the Pacific northwest.

And get this – the Western pearlshell mussel can live over 100 years! As you might guess, they are sensitive to changes in their habitat, so seeing them is an indicator of a good, clean, relatively undisturbed environment.

It was cold enough for extra layers, and hats and gloves too –  but it felt good to be out in the fresh air.  Though there was precious little bird life that day, we were delighted to hear the sweet, melodic song of the American Dipper, an eccentric little fellow clad in somber gray who perches just over the water and dips into it head-first – often with his whole body – to forage for food underwater.  All the while he bobs up and down like some cool rocker. I couldn’t get a good photo, but here’s where we saw him (twice now):

And here is an amazing video of a dipper swimming under water, not too far from where we were.

This one is hard to believe – at the Vancouver Aquarium in Canada, a baby Beluga whale plays with a dipper.

We live in such an amazing world.

A parting shot of the winter woods:

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I hope it’s not too jarring to see some of these photos processed as monotone images. The older trees especially seem to lend themselves to that look.


38 comments

  1. Hi Lynn – so many great shots here and some delightful nuggets – the ice blob?, the fine spray lines of photo 3, ice textures on the log, etc. I like the mix of colour and monochrome – as you say, the old trees just need that sort of treatment. The dipper videos are fascinating. I haven’t come across any here so I’ll have to keep my eyes open. They’re obviously in Vancouver. Thanks for the great post!

  2. It was lovely to come along with you on your winter walk, Lynn. I love those licorice fern fronds and the secret family recipe! Interesting ice formations too; I always find it hard to understand how water freezes in such rapidly moving streams. 🙂

    • I love those fern fronds, too. And if you chew on the rootlets that adhere to the tree’s bark, there’s a faint licorice taste. I think you and I both love patterns in nature. And we are both mystified by phenomena like water freezing while moving so fast…if my father were alive I bet he could explain it clearly.

      • Yes, I wish your father was alive, so he could explain it to us, and for your sake. I love learning about these wonders of nature. I learned some new things when I wrote my post about why American beeches don’t shed their leaves and about Tundra Swans in my last post about Mason Neck, VA.

    • A fairytale, an enchanted forest, – it’s true. It is a lot in one post and I constantly think about that. I try to pare it down, and then I think, no, that one is worth showing, too. And hey – you can imagine all I leave out! 🙂

  3. Such wonderful images this morning…and your narrative was very compelling, as well. My forests are different, yet contain many of the same natural phenomena, so it was easy to walk with you and observe as you did with the sound of the rushing stream in my mind and the cold on my face and hands. Thank you for sharing, Lynn. We do live in a wonderful world….

    • I know what you mean, Scott, it’s a mix of similarity and differentness (is that a word? The red squiggles that appeared under it tell me no, but I don’t care). I know we share a similar outlook, too, and it’s good to hear your thoughts.

    • That can was funny! I’m glad you liked the ice, too. There were more photos but it was dark, and they didn’t all come out. I’m glad I got what I did – it doesn’t get cold enough for that much ice too often at this altitude. But you know that! 🙂

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the links. It’s true – it’s very green here throughout the year. But all those evergreens do make it dark in the woods, and sometimes I envy your expansive winter light.

    • Primeval is right! Thank you Patti – as I think I’ve said before, too bad we can’t visit back and forth with the snap of our fingers. There are days when I’d love to be back in the city, and I know you would have fun out here. The blogs are a damned good substitute though!

  4. Beautiful!! We love the ice 🙂 And those videos are incredible. What do you think the beluga whale’s intentions were? A snack? A toy?

    • I was tempted to cross the creek on a logjam. I don’t think I would have gotten wet, but already the trail is muddy here and there, and in a month or so it will be very wet! Thanks for your thoughts!

    • Interesting that you noted the warm wood tones contrasting with the icy ones – cedars especially have a beautiful warm reddish color to their wood. And unlike many northeastern forests, there are so many evergreen trees and shrubs in this region that the woods always look inviting, no matter how cold.

  5. I was stunned when I saw these pictures yesterday. I love walking in forests and I love trees! Your photographs give one a sense of being there – you can feel the elements of spending time in the forest. Thank you for sharing! I’ll come travel and walk with you again.

  6. Wow, these are wonderful photographs, Lynn. Such a beautiful place. The mono ones are not jarring at all. I’m always tempted to mix them up, and I really don’t see a problem with that. The mono ones here are really fine.


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