Old Forest

Under an ancient volcanic mountain on the edge of the North Cascades, a wide river meanders through a moss-shrouded forest of giant Douglas firs, Western hemlocks, Western Redcedars, and Bigleaf maples. Lumber has been a prominent industry here for centuries, so you’d be correct to think that a healthy forest with easy river access would have been harvested at least once by now. Somehow, part of this verdant lowland forest escaped the cut.

“Rockport State Park” isn’t a place name that excites me. It doesn’t make me want to know more. I had passed by the park sign several times without a thought, bound for places like “Diablo” and “Twisp.” But it turns out, there’s magic behind that sign; after reading about the park, I was determined to go beyond the sign.

Winter is quiet in this corner of the world. Few people are interested in walking through damp woods on a chilly day in January.  They’re up in the mountains skiing, they’ve gone south, they’re indoors. So a winter weekday afternoon proved to be a good time to walk the trails at Rockport State Park. The predominantly evergreen forest practically glowed with vivid greens. Leaves, lichens and mosses dripped with moisture, thanks in part to nearby Skagit River. Creeks gurgled, the trees stretched higher than we could see, mist floated in and out of the tree canopy, and shafts of sunlight knifed into the fern-laden understory. The effect was otherworldly. We were smitten.

Two weeks later we returned to walk another trail, where we were treated to a meeting with a magnificent Redcedar tree that has owned that spot in the forest for hundreds of years. Regal doesn’t begin to describe the bearing of that tree.

I wonder what early Spring flowers are beginning to poke though the moss and forest floor litter now. We’ll have to wait until we return from a trip to explore the park again. In the meantime, here are photographs from two mid-winter walks in the old growth forest at Rockport State Park.

 

1. On the Way

2. Greenglow

3. Sword fern fronds

4. The green machine at work in January

5. Bigleaf maple trees were leafless but colorful, from thick coats of moss, lichens, liverworts and ferns.

6. Moisture dripped through multiple layers of growth to the forest floor.

7. Everywhere, fallen leaves were caught on branches, and even trapped in lichen clumps. What’s happening between the decaying leaf and the lichen strands is a language I don’t speak, but sometimes I can feel it – that quiet language of nourishment and constant change.

8. Precious drops of water hung like pearls on a slender piece of Usnea longissima lichen. The lichen will use what it needs, and what’s left will drip down to nourish another part of the forest. A sign of clean air, Usnea doesn’t grow in places with significant air pollution.

9. A fallen leaf from a Bigleaf maple tree has laid here long enough for moss to crawl over it.

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10. Age and youth.

11. The bench gives you an idea of the immense size of this old Redcedar. Leaning against it was comforting. Circumambulating it, I paid my respects.

12. A certain someone leans in.

13. Water drop magic.

14. Moss or lichen? It can be hard to tell.  I think this is a moss. Naming the plants isn’t necessary but it gives me pleasure. It helps keep me grounded.

15. A big piece of foliose lichen, probably lung lichen (Lobaria pulmonaria), tumbled to the ground to rest on a bed of Sword fern and Bigleaf maple leaves. This lichen can be found in wet places in North America, Asia, Europe and Africa, and it’s been used medicinally in most if not all of those continents, as well as for dye and perfume making.

16. Trees could be seen at every stage of life and decay.

17. Mist and moss conspired to create an otherworldly feeling.

18. There was elegance along the trail.

19. A leaf caught on a branch, wrapped around it, and stuck to itself. Then another leaf landed on the first one, and they breathed the moist, forest air together.

20. Either my fingers were too cold, or I was too lazy to switch lenses on my camera. I photographed the river in brilliant sunlight with my phone, which doesn’t handle bright contrast well. But you can get the idea – it’s a big river with an abundance of life all around it.

21. Creeks race through the forest to feed the river below.

22. A tree trio in black and white.

23. Thanks to mild winters and abundant moisture, massive amounts of mosses, lichens, liverworts and ferns live in the trees. Bigleaf maples can actually grow roots from under the bark on their branches, tapping into the nutrients of the spongy mass of life.

24. Another Bigleaf maple leaf caught on a twig, in a most unlikely manner. Such a delicate balance, and believe me, I didn’t touch it!

25. On the drive home clouds shifted over the heavily logged foothills. The pale patchwork shows what might have been, if the forest behind us had been logged too. I’m glad those trees still stand.

***

When this post is published I’ll be in the air, hurtling east towards Amsterdam for three weeks’ vacation in northern Europe. While on the road I won’t have the tools I prefer to do a proper post. Another post is scheduled for a week from now, and maybe I’ll post a few phone photos from the streets European cities if there’s time. When I return, I hope to get back to Rockport to see what changes the waking-up season has brought to this beautiful forest.

Lens and camera notes: On my second visit to the park, I used the vintage Super-Takumar 50mm f1.4. lens (discussed in this post) most of the day.  When I wanted a wider view I used my phone.  Photos #2, #3, #5, #6, #7, #13, #15, #19 and #24 were taken with the Takumar. Photos #1, #11, #12, #20, and #21 were taken with the phone.  Photos #4, #8, #9, #10, #14, #16, #17, #18, and #23 are from my first visit, when I used a Panasonic 20mm f1.7 lens and an Olympus 60mm f2.8 macro lens. I used an Olympus 14-150mm f4/5.6 zoom lens that day for #22 and #25.


87 comments

  1. What an extraordinary series of images. The light and moisture is really quite magical at this time of the season and so beautifully captured.

    I must admit I love the winter views of the moss and lichen. Forget Summer DownUnder. Roll on Autumn and Winter for me. You’re lucky to be able to walk through this wonderland and experience it all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Vicki…. That forest is particularly lush because of all the moisture nearby, but in general we are quite green all year long. And I do feel lucky to be here!

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    • Great, I’m glad you like that look Ken. Ah, productive……maybe it would be better if I just went for enjoyable. It can be a little crazy, thinking about all the photos I want to take while on vacation in a new place.

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  2. I’m not even going to compliment the photos, which are wonderful, because I’m in a rush to say, your writing for this piece is just glowing and beautiful. I think it could have included dwarves or elves, otherwise, it’s a perfect story.
    I was in Holland for a week when I was a kid, still remember it vividly, and Amsterdam is such a neat city, sometimes, some of the streets seemed to be flooded, but otherwise, terrific, if you see Mosterdsoep, mustard soup, that doesn’t sound good, but it’s great! and visited Denmark and Germany in college, so many great places to visit, have a wonderful time!!

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    • I’m always happy to hear someone appreciates the writing, especially someone who wrote well, like yourself. You have to supply your pen dearness and elves though, and I trust you can do that with your eyes closed. Or open. We are in Leiden, a medieval University town, and we’re so enamored of it that we have no desire to go to Amsterdam. Posdiy Rotterdam though. We’ll see.

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  3. What a comfort to bask in the beauty of those grand trees! it would be difficult to choose a favorite.
    ” Moss or lichen? It can be hard to tell. ” – I experienced that two days ago in the cloud forest. The botanist was pointing out that the moss was important for the orchids to thrive on the citrus trees. The citrus were so loaded with ‘moss/lichen’ that one would think they would die – but all was in great harmony and a fantasy to walk through with orchids and ferns and of course the citrus.

    Presently raining like crazy, and it has been all week. Those orchids and moss and lichen and ferns will thrive!

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    • That’s interesting, Lisa – I can just see you listening intently to everything the botanist has to say. That must have been a great walk. Yesterday we went to Hortus Botanicus, this country’s oldest Botanicus garden. Linneas even spent time there. It’s a relatively small place and is still attached to Leiden University. They do a lot of research on Nepenthes, among other things. They have huge collections of epiphytic plants growing on a bark medium, lots of orchids, and a systematic display garden in addition to the usual more ornamental displays. Holland’s tulip craze was born there too. So much history! Stay dry Amiga!

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    • We’re really enjoying Leiden. Very few tourists, at least at this time of year. Most everyone is bilingual, and the Dutch are so open and friendly. It makes you think you forgot what that it’s like to approach the world with trust and confidence, and a bit of lightness. 🙂

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    • As you might guess, there were many Bigleaf Maple leaves slowly decomposing in of and beautiful situations. No doubt there will be photos from the trip. Thank you for commenting! Enjoy this beautiful time of year.

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  4. Another magic and beautiful place you discovered, dear Lynn. What always fascinates me is the way you write your texts: always filled with information up to very acute detail, but singing a poetic tune all along. I deeply love your writings.
    The first day’s photos are especially speaking to me: they seem dynamic and peaceful at the same time, I think, it is because of the way you combine little but fine sharpness (spreading from a corner or edge) with beautifully soft bokeh.
    Now, I’m looking forward to your Europe photography (can’t imagine what you are going to make of it – the narrowness of everything doesn’t seem to fit in your artistic ways). Have a good and safe trip!

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    • We’re really enjoying Leiden. Very few tourists, at least at this time of year. Most everyone is bilingual, and the Dutch are so open and friendly. It makes you think you forgot what that it’s like to approach the world with trust and confidence, and a bit of lightness. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Please ignore any extra reply – it’s tricky doing this on the phone after a long day. :-). You make me very happy when you say you like the blend of facts and more poetic writing. That expressed two sides of my nature, so it’s wonderful to know you see and recognize that duality. And thank you for the observation about the photos.
      Now I’m not sure what you mean by the narrowness
      Of Europe and how that may need not be a confortable fit. So far I’ve mostly been photographing medieval buildings and details, and it’s delightful. But it’s not whatI I usually do so I have no idea how the photos will work out. I will see in 3 weeks 😉

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      • Narrowness in comparison between USA’s wide landscapes, empty roads, low density of population as well on one side and on the other hand crowded situations everywhere in Europe, one town next to another and small cut landscapes. I think it is really good you start in the Netherlands, because I find the Dutch people especially open minded and amiable.
        Have a really good time.

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  5. Nice reading and really beautiful images, as always. That green glow in the second image is just magical. And seventeen, wow.
    So, you are visiting northern Europe. How far north will you roam? Sweden? I hope you get a really nice stay in Europe!

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    • I would love to see Sweden, but that will have to be another time. We’re in Leiden now, which is really wonderful, and then Ghent. Then northern Germany, where we will meet several photographer/blogger friends and I will see the village where my grandmother grew up. Thanks for commenting Gorhan….. And when or if we get to REALLY northern Europe we will surely be in touch.

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  6. 13. Begs me to find a story for some reason. I find it so compelling that I imagined it as an Anthology cover with the theme being One Drop, and built an instant fantasy of approaching you regarding the image use and approaching others to submit stories. But I can’t take on an Anthology edit right now. Just a passing fancy, it will have to be.
    I think you’re correct that 14. is moss. I love that you noted the ‘language’ of the forest. Though this climate is wet and cold for much of the year, I prefer it to the desert climate I enjoyed visiting for a quick vacation this past season. And I believe you’ve put your finger on it. The forest speaks my native language, the one that’s most deeply ingrained in me, and the desert doesn’t know those special things to say to sustain me. But it also gives me hope that perhaps I could learn the desert’s language someday and have more appreciation for its subtleties. Have a wonderful time in Europe, my friend, and be well!!

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    • Wow, I love that the photos prompted that chain of thoughts. And your thoughts about a landscape language dovetail with my ideas about the importance of place and the way geography shapes all of us, flora and fauna alike. I love the desert, actually, and I feel akin to it somehow. Not sure how I would do living there though. And sometimes I miss the northeastern US, which speaks my most primal (?) language. Or at least my earliest one. Thanks so much for responding, Sherri. Enjoy your day!

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      • I was born in the PNW but whisked away before I was 2. So this climate is my earliest as well. I don’t think your body and mind (soul?) forgets and I can relate to missing this area in a way that sounds similar to your missing of the northeastern US. Just the air will bring me back again, like the air in Jamaica felt so much like my home in Miami for me. I wonder how I would feel if I returned to Pennsylvania? I was there from 2-almost 5 years old. So I don’t know specifically what would trigger that feeling of belonging. I do know I had an unexplained love of Appalachian/blue grass music that my older brother brought to my understanding for me. He cognitively remembered that type of music from Pennsylvania where we sat around campfires with folks playing it and singing along ourselves often.
        Have a wonderful day, and thanks for sparking my thoughts and this conversation.

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  7. What a wonderful old forest Lynn. I love it!! The moss on the trees is unbelievable, awesome! I saw a lot of moss in Ireland, but this is far above. Amazing, really. And again you made such wonderful pictures of the lichen and the drops, the foggy wood and the two umbracing leaves 🙂 Beautiful! Thank you for taking us with you and for your beautiful writings. – I hope you had a good flight and you relax now some place nice 🙂

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    • The first time I saw trees covered with that much miss, I was blown away. They are a delight. Scientists are studying what goes on in that little ecosystem, like the fact that the maples learned to grow tits into the mood for more water and nutrients, since the soil can be thin. The flight? I can’t fault the stewards, who were very helpful, but for me, it was impossible to sleep. And I needed that. But I am catching up now on sleep a little each day, thanks to a very beautiful, comfortable, quiet and peaceful household. See you soon!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting! Here, abundant miss signifies a healthy, whole system. And we have had drier than normal weather, which as you would imagine it’s not good for the trees, moss, lichens, etc. Lots of changes coming our way!

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  8. Coincidentally, the cemetery I trekked to for photos of Texas’s spring wildflowers was in the town of Rockport. Your Rockport and mine couldn’t be more different, but that’s part of the charm, isn’t it? We can get beneath the names, and share our visions. Safe and happy travels to you!

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    • That’s funny – maybe they are or were both rocky ports? I’m enjoying that famous northern European light, some new birds, the medieval feeling here, and the people, who are relaxed, warm and open. (It’s fun to see local versions of familiar birds – coots, gulls, corvids, etc.).

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  9. Somehow, being on the fringes of a National Park (one I’ve seen but once and am long overdue to see again), somehow I’m not surprised you’ve found a little fairyland. Strands of moss and lichen for hair and skin, trees for bones, leaves and ferns for clothing, water and mist for magic.

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    • Anne, I can’t tell you good it is to hear from you! I think it’s not so easy to comment when you don’t have a WordPress blog so I appreciate your making the effort. Go to Leiden! It’s amazing – I think you would love the medieval architecture and the open, warm, good natured people (if I can speak in generalities). Enjoy your weekend, and beautiful Spring.

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  10. Magic, as always — many of the images, the first especially, remind me why I so like the title of a Scottish blog I follow, “Breath of Green Air”, for isn’t that the perfect description of this forest walk of yours as well?

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  11. Love “Leaning against it was comforting. Circumambulating it, I paid my respects.” – I know just what you mean. Here, for me, 2, 17 and 23 are special – but 5 and 16 are ohhhhh!!!!!! Have a good holiday!!! Adrian 🙂

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    • Thank you for pointing out the photos that grabbed you, it’s always good to know. I am really loving Leiden – don’t know if you’ve ever been there, or if you could be coaxed away from your big English breakfast 😉 but I sure would recommend it as a pleasant stay .

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      • I meant to tell you that I’ve been enjoying the city birds – magpies (not sure what they are called here but that’s what ours are called) jackdaws, coots of course, wild parrots flying around the canal, a Sean on it’s neat seen from the train to Rotterdam, tits, your huge gulls, a grey heron seen from the train near a Welland, etc. Fun to see the slight difference in some, like the coots – ours have red above the bill where you’re have white. Oh and a goose family on the canal on Rotterdam. I’ll have to ID them. 🙂

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  12. This compilation displays most of the characteristics I associate with your work – choice of subjects, sense of place and atmosphere, crispness of composition, keen observation, restrained use of colour. I love them! Safe journey Lynn.

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  13. I understand, and we are finding that openness to be delightful. It seems emotionally a healthier place than the US right now, where there is a lot of worry and stress. Amiable – how refreshing! 🙂

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  14. I guess I am a bit late to wish you Bon Voyage, but do hope you are having a wonderful time. I am sure you will be coming back with some great images.
    As far as these images, it’s another of your great tours filled with wonderful observations and, although I love New England, I am envious of you with rain forests to trek in. We do have moss, but not hanging from trees and covering everything (a slight exaggeration I know).

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    • Never too late Steve, thank you. The moss and lichens (and liverworts apparently, but I know very little about them) do seem to cover every surface in some places, and it is an enchanted feeling. We’re lucky to have these places!
      Spring has been gorgeous over here and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s happening when I return in just a few days. I hope you are enjoying it, too (I haven’t been visiting and blogs for weeks now).

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      • I am glad that you are enjoying yourself there, Lynn. Yep, spring is busting out all over and this is the time I wish I were completely retired to enjoy it without missing a day. Although, we are getting rain by the bucket-loads lately so…May should be outstanding. 🙂
        I envy your old growth. Here in WMass there are small pockets still in existence but, for the most part, the woodlands here are all second growth or even third.
        Have “too much fun” in Amsterdam…and elsewhere.

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  15. You’ve got such an amazing talent for letting your photos tell such a detailed and intriguing story ~ and in this case, it covers one of my favorite topics, the beautiful old forests of the Pacific Northwest. From the macro to the micro ~ simply magic, thank you.

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    • 🙂 you know I pay close attention to what you have to say, John…. I’m glad you liked #8. That species of locked is a favorite of mine. There was a big, dried leaf from last year behind it that added some nice color. Your remark about the photo of Joe at the redcedar is intriguing – I can see that! Thanks! Soon I’ll be able to catch up with your blog……

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  16. Oh phooey… I had just written a long and glowing comment when WP (or the cybergremlins) disappeared it.
    Don’t know if I can recreate the moment, but wishing you so much great pleasure during your travels. Sounds as though it’s already been going well. Can’t wait for your return.
    #2… what’s not to love about that glowing invitation to enter into a magical realm
    #3… the lighting is utter perfection

    Every single image is beyond my handy stock of superlatives. Your written word brings it all alive. It’s been a great pleasure.
    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, so frustrating! Sorry that happened. Do you ever use spot metering? Effects like to light in #2 are really enhanced by choosing spot metering instead of one of the others. Sorry I haven’t written you or sent photos – as you imagine, it’s one thing after another, collapse into bed and start again. And lots of socializing! I have meet 4 other bloggers!! So much fun. Spring is gorgeous here, birds singing beatification songs on city streets, lilacs, Tessa at that perfect point of fresh green, flowers everywhere. Very little rain, which worries people but of course makes it easier for us.

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      • Not to worry about writing. I know how impossible that can be while traveling. We just got back from another Godwit Festival and I’m utterly pooped! Falling and straining a muscle in my ankle didn’t help matters, but luckily it was the last day. Sounds like your travels are wonderful! Waiting patiently to read and see all about it. 😊 Wishing you a pleasant and uneventful trip home!

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  17. How wonderful to have discovered this place … camouflaged by a less than intriguing name. I’m sure you will want to go back here many times. The size of that tree with the bench below is amazing! Fabulous images and my favorites here are #3 and #13.

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    • Camouflage, yes! Funny. And they say don’t judge a book…..oh well!
      You can bet I am eager to see what little flowers are popping up in those woods. Meanwhile, it’s very pretty over here, and today we’ll be in the German countryside. Then back to Amsterdam, and home. Thanks for your comment, Denise.

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