LOCAL WALKS: Little Cranberry Lake

On a quiet Friday afternoon last month I traced the zigzag outline of Little Cranberry Lake on Fidalgo Island. The peaceful, mirror-like lake with its dense fringe of evergreen forest is one of my favorite places to walk. In fact, since moving to Fidalgo I’ve trampled the trails there nineteen times in sixteen months.

I wrote about Little Cranberry Lake earlier this year in a post called “Dark Places.” That day I was thinking about allowing more darkness into my photography. After presenting ten darker-than-usual images I somehow veered off into a series of photographs from Little Cranberry Lake and totally lost the thread of what I’d planned to write about. But that’s what happens with me and this park – even looking at photos of it has the effect of hijacking my brain. The walk last month was no exception; amidst mesmerizing reflections and delicate seasonal changes, once again I surrendered to my surroundings.

1. A froth of golden blonde Bitter cherry (Prunus emarginata) leaves floats over the trail.

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How places get their names is always interesting. This lake’s name puzzled me: cranberries? I didn’t think they grew here, but sure enough, I found the native Bog cranberry, Vaccinium oxycoccus, on a plant list compiled in 2000 – 2001 by the Washington Native Plant Society for Little Cranberry Lake. They must have found the plant growing on the boggy islands in the middle of the lake. I’ve gazed longingly at those small islands many times, intuiting that the plant life there must be different from the forest. I’ve never seen anyone on the islands. One of these days I will get a boat, paddle over there and see for myself.

The “Little” part of the name differentiates this park from the larger Cranberry Lake, just over the bridge on Whidbey Island. Fidalgo Island’s Little Cranberry Lake is the perfect size for a day’s outing: you can circumnavigate its shoreline on about a mile and a half (2.4km) of winding trails. More paths, some open to mountain bikes and horses, some only for hikers, wander into the hills and over to Big Beaver Pond and beyond. Narrow, rocky and rooty, the trails twist and turn, forcing you to slow down and watch where you place your feet, as scene after magical scene of enchanting evergreen forest and picturesque lake unfolds before you.

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No hunting is allowed here so you might spot a beaver, or perhaps a river otter – I have found piles of cracked crayfish shells on a path by the water where an otter had a meal. The first time I came here a Bald eagle flew down the length of the lake, emitted a piercing cry and disappeared. The hoarse, nasal “cronk” of ravens often reverberates overhead while the friendly chirp of Song sparrows emanates from the underbrush. On my November walk the silence was interrupted by chickadees fretting tiny insects from the Redcedars and Douglas firs, and an occasional Douglas squirrel scolding me for intruding. A few humans passed me on the trail too. As the sun lowered, the woods darkened and the water surface grew increasingly reflective. I photographed the lake from different angles as breezes rippled its surface and water dripped from overhanging branches, patterning the lake with concentric circles. A patch of late-blooming asters nodded at the edge of the lake, their lavender flowers enchanting against the blue water; lichens, abundant in the moist, near-shore micro-climate, decorated trees with a surprising range of colors and textures.

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I went back yesterday afternoon. Overcast skies darkened and spat raindrops onto the lake as I walked around it. A flock of Dark-eyed juncos called tsk-tsk as their white tail feathers flashed through the dim shrubbery. Before I knew it, the sun had set and I could barely see the trail. On went the cell phone for a bit of light on the path. I stopped for one last image: the reflection of a sinuous Madrone limb arching out over the midnight-blue water. I was almost tempted to just sit there and be with the deep blue stillness, but chilly air and thoughts of hot coffee kept me moving. There will be a next time.

17.

There are more photographs in the Lightroom library from Little Cranberry Lake: more water reflections, wildflowers, berries, mushrooms, fire-damaged trees, lichen-clad rocks, and an odd duck or goose. Maybe I’ll get lucky and see an otter next time I walk here. If not, I’m satisfied with the beauty of the land as it is, ever changing and generous with its gift of life.

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53 comments

  1. Such beauty and I love the trees and leaves and now I’ve got the cranberries singing linger in my head…I could linger and wander in these woods too β˜ΊοΈπŸ€“ always enjoy your narrative and photography Lynn πŸ€“β£οΈ

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    • The tree in #4 has a coating of lichens and faces the water in a way that seems to give it a beautiful look. I will keep playing with images of that tree, it’s a beauty. I’m sure it would enjoy your hugs. πŸ™‚ Thank you for commenting – I’m glad you enjoyed!

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  2. What a paradise you show us here, dear Lynn! It really feels like walking by your side when I’m reading your well set words with a nice bit of humour in them. But much more than that I can read your love for the landscape.
    The last photo, the one with the falling night covering the world with blue, is smashing, it just makes me stop breathing in a sudden. And After that, I believe, no.4,6 and 8 are my favorites, but all the others are also so beautiful.
    I cannot thank you enough for showing me your wonderful part of the world.

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    • Keep breathing, Ule, it’s good for you! πŸ˜‰ Seriously, I appreciate your enthusiasm. This lake and the woods around are precious. I will post about it again – I already have hundreds of photos from Little Cranberry Lake! I was lucky that the last photo came out as well as it did, since it was so dark. Maybe it was thanks to a good, bright prime lens. I think #4, #6, & #8 go together, and they are each scenes I have photographed more than once. I will return to them again. I’m so glad you enjoyed the armchair tour.

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  3. I’ve found blueberries in the Adirondacks, Catskills, even the woods near Ithaca, but have never seen cranberries. My last year in college, I visited Oslo, and learned there had been a brief “Cranberry War” in 1788-9, where the starving Norwegian/Danish forces had nothing else to eat. Like most wars of the time, the soldiers didn’t die in combat, but rather from exposure and disease, although I guess they were safe from UTI’s. I don’t think people generally eat the European cranberries at all.
    7 & 8 are very welcome images. It would be a very nice thing, to sit on the bank and watch the intersecting ripples from the raindrops.
    The last four shots possess tremendous magnetism, just instantly pulling the viewer into those story tale places. The saturated blue in the last shot, with the delicate silhouette of the branches, is just a trip.

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    • Re blueberries, me too – they are way easier to find. Interesting story! Native tribes here used them, and so did early whites but at some point that stopped. I would bet it’s because they’re not all that abundant. It IS very peaceful watching the water on a quiet lake. Your take on the last four iamges, and the last one, is very much appreciated. I was saying in a reply above that it’s lucky the last one turned out as well as it did, given how dark it was. πŸ™‚ Picking my way back on that trail in the dark was a trip, too! πŸ˜‰

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    • So google translate says “momentum” for schwung. Do you think that’s close? I think there’s a beautiful swing to that curve. That kind of tree – a cedar – grows in wide curves, from the bottom like this one, but also in the branches, very often. I don’t know why. I’m glad you liked it, Harrie.

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      • I thought Schwung was German for Swing…. But indeed I like the curve that starts in the tree and is finished by the ridge with the green leaves. Sometimes the Germans have the better words.. ‘Zum tode betrΓΌbt’ sounds a lot better than ‘Sad to death’, or may be I should say: is more suitable to the content.. πŸ™‚ Auf wiedersehen!

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        • For no rational reason, I’ve always loved the sound of the German word for five. Your example is a good one and I know there are many more.
          Manaaki manaaki – that’s Maori for goodbye and take care. Or so google says.

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  4. Maybe an otter is even the hardest to find!
    And that’s why it is in the imaginary of those who like to walk along rivers and lakes. I know what I’m saying because, some years ago, I’ve seen one in a river, but she was so fast I didn’t have time to shoot. Therefore, the desire remains …
    So, let’s appreciate the places that “hide” the fleeting otters, because they always offer great beauty. The presence of water, by itself, is already a source of beautiful images, reflections, transparencies, colors, etc. Pure beauty, as Lynn well demonstrates in this post!
    Have a nice day!

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    • Guess what – I was very lucky and saw a family of them (3) in another park near here, and I was able to photograph them. The photos aren’t very good but they exist. πŸ˜‰ Then I saw another one bring a big meal (I’m not sure exactly what it was) to the shore and curl up and eat it. Again I was able to get a few photos, none very good. So it seems some of them around here are not as hard to see as I thought. But I like your idea very much of appreciating the place that hides the otters. I’m never disappointed if I don’t see wildlife because the plants always enchant me, as you know. Thank you!

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  5. Yes, LOL! >>> what happened to your Dark Side??? >>> its not all peace and light you know!!!! πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰ Some of my favourites here are the darker ones. I like 4, 6, 8, 11 (love the orange bits!), 15, 16, 17. And ohhhh for 10!!! A πŸ™‚

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    • Is there any peace and light? Between what’s going on in your neck of the woods and what’s happening in mine, you’d think the lights had really gone out. πŸ˜‰ I do enjoy the dark images too and I’m glad they spoke to you. #11 is there because of those orange lichens, which are odd. It wasn’t a great photo but it shows something unusual. Thank you, my friend!

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  6. I was right there with you on this hike… between the images and the narrative, I distinctly felt the experience. And then… you blew me away with that last image… that amazing blue and the delicate traces of the madrone shadow. Utterly superb!

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    • Thank you, Gunta, so glad you enjoyed the walk….that last one was taken under less-than-optimal circumstances so I was very happy that it came out well. Unfortunately, the growlers have been active lately so some afternoon walks have been accompanied by noise. 😦

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  7. I really would love to take a walk there! When I read the other comments, I think most of us had the feeling, you took us with you through this marvellous wood! Your beautiful description so well narrated soaked me quite into it. Funny, with the Cranberries. Do you really take a boat to get there? That would be adventurous πŸ™‚ 8 and 12 are my favourite pictures today. The others are beautiful too and show so much of the stillness, the colors, the spirit of the country. I feel relaxed now, as if I have walked there too. Thank you Lynn!

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    • Yes, you would have to use a boat to get to the two small islands in the lake In photo #6 you can see one of the islands – that one has no trees. The other island has trees. Any small boat would work – you’d have to get it on top of your car, drive to the parking lot, take it off the car and put it into the water. Then it would only take about 10 minutes because it’s a small lake. In the summer sometimes people bring small boats or kayaks there. That stump in #8 – I have photographed it many times. πŸ™‚ And the asters – they were so pretty. I’m glad you felt relaxed after this. πŸ™‚ We need it these days! Happy Solstice to you!

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      • And do you have a boat or can you rent one? How exciting. I wasn’t sure if it is allowed to go there. In some parks you can’t go anywhere, but apparently the lake is open for all visitors. I would feel like a discoverer. When will you go – can’t wait for your post πŸ™‚ – I had to look up the word Solstice. I didn’t know it. Yes, happy Solstice to you too. The days will be longer again, yeah!

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    • It’s not so easy to find simple compositions like the one in #16, so I enjoy processing them when I do. It’s nice to hear you approve! Thank you very much, Robert, I appreciate your comment. Enjoy the holidays. πŸ™‚

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    • It was probably the one on Whidbey Island at Deception Pass SP – this one doesn’t have a road going past it, just a little one-lane leading to a small parking lot that’s tricky to find – in a residential area off a short street. I’m glad you liked these – like I mentioned above, I’ve been there over and over and will keep going there – it’s such a pretty little spot. Enjoy your holiday, Dave!!

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  8. This is a lovely location and seems a wonderful place for a walk. We have a Cranberry Pond locally that I haven’t visited in years. I guess I should so we can compare. My favorite here is number 10. I am a sucker for colorful reflections and like the blue/green combination despite always being told that they don’t work well together. The color wheel is just a suggestion like all “rules”. πŸ™‚ #17 has me hooked too. So dark and peaceful with the Madrone branch silhouette over the deep blue water in the dimming light. It’s a great finale for this post and also for a pleasant evening walk. Thanks for sharing with us.

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  9. Well, I’d like to see the MA Cranberry Pond, that would be fun. There was a fire at ours 3 years ago, before I knew the place. All the Doug firs on that side of the lake are burned – their bark is like charcoal for 6 ft or so – but they do fine in fires and the land is recovering. I’ll post about that at some point, too. Green and blue are, of course, fantastic together. πŸ™‚ My mother considered her hair red (as she aged it really wasn’t red) so she would never, ever wear anything in the red-orange-pink family. Not allowed! Ah, rules. I guess if you wanted to analyze it you might say #10 works partly because it’s a rather warm green and a cool blue. But we go with our guts, don’t we? I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Steve, thank you!

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    • I will do my best to do a bluebrightly style walk there this Spring. To give you an inappropriate idea of how long it’s been since I last visited, it was for a hippy skinny dipping party. I can tell you that the likelihood of a repeat of that event (circa 1972 or so) is more than just out of the question as well as ancient history at this point. It would probably be a crime against all that is in good taste. A gentle hike makes more sense at my age and physique.
      Mary Beth is also a bit particular about what colors she wears and there are some she refuses. Don’t ask me which. I think she looks great no matter what she wears but then I am not exactly an expert on good fashion. She doesn’t dress fancy but does like certain things.
      Yes, the color combination in #10 might be good for a non-monochrome yin/yang symbol. As far as going with the gut, yes. I will readily admit that a lot of my images are not deeply thought out at the moment and are basic responses.I don’t know whether that is an asset or liability. πŸ™‚

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