LOCAL WALKS: WILDFLOWER JOY

Or should I say the joy of wildflowers, or

is it the joy of early spring?

Or maybe it’s the joy of full vaccination…

In any case, here’s a collection that reflects my deep appreciation for “Spring ephemerals,” the fleeting wildflowers of spring that appear and depart all too quickly. These photographs were made within fifteen minutes of home, over the past five weeks.

This is a long, immersive post that you may want to linger over.

ENJOY!

***

1. Like spirits from another world, pure white Fawn lilies (Erythronium oregonum) rise up from the dusky litter of broken sticks and dried leaves left by last winter’s storms.
2. Sitting under the dappled shade of fir trees with my legs tucked under me, I search, focus and click. Waves of enchantment wash over me. There’s nowhere I’d rather be at this moment.
3. I get up to go but I can’t resist another photograph, this time looking down at the perfect symmetry of the flower and its richly colored, mottled leaves. Fawn lilies are perfect from every angle.

4. A single-lane loop road traces a two-mile circuit through a local park that is sprinkled with tiny wildflowers, most of them never seen by people circling the park on the road. I walk away from the road on soft, dirt trails winding through evergreen woods and emerging onto quiet meadows. I see few people on the trails.
5. Here’s one of the park’s wild inhabitants: the diminutive Calypso orchid (Calypso bulbosa), just beginning to open. See how small it is in relation to the grass, leaves and sticks around it – no wonder people don’t see it!
6. Once again I sit on the forest floor – how else can I see their faces? Like twins, these two bloomed close together on separate stems. Also called Venus’ slipper or Fairy slipper, this orchid of dry, coniferous and mixed forests does not tolerate disruption. The plant sends up a single leaf from a small corm (like a bulb), then a flower stalk that will soon disappear. Calypso orchids have close relationships with certain soil fungi in order to access nutrients they can’t produce on their own. If that partnership is disturbed the plant may die. Bees typically visit the intricate flowers a few times before they realize there is no nectar at all in that enticing opening. By then, pollination has occurred – by deception.
7. The Small-flowered woodland star (or prairie star) (Lithophragma parviflora) is opening five, deeply-cut, pale pink petals. “Litho” refers to stone and this little western American native loves the open, rocky bluffs on the edge of the park.
8. In early April, a thin-soiled bluff sports a lovely smattering of wildflowers, among them the Small-flowered woodland star.
9. This year’s plentiful winter rain was kind to the moss, which in turn seems to be kind to Small-flowered blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia parviflora) and Grassland saxifrage (Micranthes integrifolia).
10. On the second Saturday in April I went up to Sugarloaf, a promontory on Fidalgo Island, and sat on a rock. Changeable weather discouraged other hikers that day; it was just me and a spectacular view of storm clouds pouring rain over the San Juan Islands. I barely made it home in time for dinner that day!
11. As I wound my way down the trail to my car that afternoon, I gazed out toward the water through an understory of budding Red huckleberry bushes and paused to take a photo while there was still light in the sky. It wasn’t quite as dark as it looks here – spot metering and choosing where to meter and focus dimmed the scene to match the moody atmosphere I felt in my bones.

12. Fiddleheads no bigger than your fingertip were uncurling among the rocks just below the top of Sugarloaf. I’m pretty sure this is Goldback fern (Pentagramma triangularis), a small Western native fern that favors rocky outcrops and tolerates summer drought.
13. The clouds I watched over the San Juan’s unloaded a surprise on Fidalgo Island on that afternoon – hail. Pockets of the little ice balls still decorated the ground when I hiked up the hill.
14. One the earliest harbingers of spring is the photogenic Skunk cabbage, or Yellow lantern (Lysichiton americanus). These bold beauties rise up from the muck of low-lying wetlands in March. To me, the odor is not bad but I’ve read that the plant’s scent can change with the temperature. Maybe I’ve been lucky to be near them at their “best.” These energetic clumps grow in a wetland inhabited by beavers, near the middle of the island.
15. These fetching fellows favor wet places around bluffs on the fringes of Washington Park. They’re called Seep monkey flowers (Eryanthe guttata). The little charmers grow in a variety of habitats including alpine slopes, desert washes and serpentine balds on Fidalgo, where heavy metals in the soil discourage many plants from taking root. Along with Larkspurs (#18-20), Stonecrops (#28), and Checker lilies (below), Monkey flowers have been hybridized for gardens and exist in many forms, both in the wild and in cultivation.

16. The nodding, oddly colored bells of Chocolate lily, also called Checker lily (Fritillaria affinis) tend to disappear when they grow in grassy areas. You have to look hard to spot them! I found this nice specimen fairly well hidden near a trail in Deception Pass State Park; the one below was at the top of Goose Rock, in the same park.
17. The Fritillarias are a genus of lily with well over a hundred species growing in temperate regions of the Northern hemisphere. In China certain Fritillarias are used medicinally for lung conditions. The flower bulbs of our species have smaller bulbs that look like plump grains of rice stuck to them. Coast Salish tribes used to dig and eat the bulbs; the plant is also called “Rice root.”
18. Perched on the narrow edge of a cliff overlooking tidal waters, this attractive larkspur (Delphineum menziesii) is an ephemeral delight. The deep, blue-violet color mixes well with yellow Lomatium flowers, white chickweed, and the multi-colored leaves of native Stonecrop plants that grow around it at this location. Honestly, I get nervous looking at these Larkspurs because they grow just a step away from a popular trail in a state park. So far though, they are unmolested.
19. Larkspur buds sport warm, fuzzy coats and a jaunty attitude.
20. I can’t resist adding another photo of Menzies’ larkspur. It was taken this week when the sun was sinking down over the waters of the Salish Sea, lending a warm glow to everything. The Latin species name ‘menziesii” is after Archibald Menzies, a surgeon and naturalist on Captain George Vancouver’s H.M.S. Discovery. He was one of the first Europeans to preserve and describe many plants of the Pacific Northwest, over two hundred years ago.

21. Time out to gaze at a Canada goose (Branta canadensiss) swimming across a small lake, not far from the Skunk cabbage wetland in #14, above. Back in New York, Canada geese gathering in large numbers fouled campus lawns with excrement. I never see more than a dozen at a time here and I never have to tiptoe carefully through the you-know-what.

22. That day at the lake, after looking down at the goose I looked up into a wild, Red-flowering currant bush (Ribes sanguineum). What a pleasure to see this beauty reaching toward the light at the edge of the woods.
23. One of my favorite spring wildflowers is the petite Satin flower, or Grass widow (Olsynium douglasii). I’ve only seen them in two or three places.
24. Viewed from above, this patch of Satin flowers shows different stages of growth. The color, simple shape and scarcity of Satin flowers make them special to me. Like many of the native plants that grow here, they are found from southern British Columbia to northern California; they also grow in the interior, as far east as Utah. They favor wet springs and dry summers, like many native plants here on Fidalgo Island.
25. Here’s one place I found Satin flowers: along the edge of this path on Sugarloaf. It was a typically cloudy March day but we could still make out the Olympic Mountains, far off to the southwest, rising over a cloud bank. Since childhood I’ve been prone to switch back and forth between the close, small scale view and the expansive long view.
26. A fern unwinds after a long winter sleep. This is the (very!) common Bracken fern, aka Brake fern (Pteridium aquilinum). The tall, coarse fern thrives from Mexico to Alaska and is also native to Europe and Eastern Asia. Young shoots like this are relished in Korea and Japan. The plant contains a carcinogenic chemical that is probably safe in small quantities but cooks usually soak the shoots in water prior to steaming, which probably eliminates any risk. To me, Bracken ferns are fond friends (or should I say “frond friends?) whose shoots amuse me in spring and whose dried leaves add texture and color to the winter woods.
27. Isn’t the cool, violet-blue of Common camas (Camassia quamash), irresistible? A member of the lily family, this plant grows from a bulb that local tribes used to dig, then steam in large pits for many hours before eating. Before prairies were cleared for agriculture they grew abundantly enough to be one of the most important foods of Pacific Northwest tribes. The pretty flowers are fairly common here on the island, if you know where and when to look.
28. Nature composes pleasing rock gardens all over the island. This one is on Sugarloaf, where Broadleaf stonecrop (Sedum spathufolium) mixes with shaggy mosses and crusty lichens. After the spring ephemerals have faded. Stonecrop plants will take their turn, sending up cheerful yellow flowers in early summer.
29. Standing up like soldiers, Prairie saxifrage (Micranthes integrifolia) has grown fast after being nourished by spring rain. Along with the rain, they’ll be gone by summer. Once again, it’s worth it to get down on the ground to see them at their own level. (Also pictured above, #9, at an earlier stage of growth).
30. How else would I see this, if I didn’t sit in the grass?

31. A cooperative Barred owl (Strix varia) allowed me to point the camera straight at it from a close range one day. I was walking back from a long hike and had a 60mm macro lens on my Olympus Pen-F (about a 120mm equivalent on a DSLR). That’s not really enough reach for birds, but I managed some acceptable shots anyway. Getting out frequently to look for wildflowers brings many gifts.

***

HAPPY EARTH DAY!

***


88 comments

    • They aren’t the easiest subjects, are they? And these are so small but absolutely worth getting down on the ground for (And struggling back up…). Your favorite was taken with an iphone! Their cameras work wonders with skies and that was a great day for dramatic skies. Thank you, Jo, I hope all’s well with you.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I portraited the fly of pic 30 some days ago.
    Pic 16 shows the checker lily. We have a socalled chess flower Festival not far away, but last year and this year the Festival has been cancelled.
    I will come back to your pics once more.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. You sorceress! You keep me looking back and forth through the gallery time and again without ending. How beautiful all of your photographs are! So many soft and colorful bokehs, discreetly wrapping the flowers, never dominating them. Such crispy sharpness in details together with soft blur. You really know what you are doing. If you took the pictures with your new camera, you must be highly content with it.
    But not only the photos bewitched me, dear Lynn. I enjoyed your captions so deeply, because they are so full of love for nature, so precisely describing your feelings, your joy and the places where you were sitting, so I really feel accompanying you on this walk. And all your knowledge about each plant! Never drowning me, always pleasing and graceful, a tender teacher you are!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Your comment really pleases me, Ule. The drawback of posting so many photos is that people may get overwhelmed and simply say it’s all very nice. If I only post five photos there might be more feedback about individual pictures but I can’t resist posting a lot. You make it worth it because you pay close attention, picking up on the details. Yes, the new camera seems to be working out but there’s a lot more I could do with it – a lot to explore. I think I’ll have more time to learn about the camera’s capabilities when I don’t feel so compelled to photograph every flower I see. πŸ˜‰ It’s especially good to read what you said about the captions. I try to include some detailed information but I want to make it conversational and personal, too – not dry. A balance, you know? Yes, you know. A deep bow to you from across water and land…

      Liked by 1 person

      • The decision about the number of photos to post really isn’t always easy. It depends on which purpose you have with the contribution.
        But regularly I cannot get enough once I started watching your photographs!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. So nice to see these delicate little wildflowers that you have lovingly photographed, Lynn. I know how challenging it is to get the focus and aperture right. Love your fiddleheads (of course), the Fawn Lillies and the FLY! Your wider shots – the rock garden, the Seep Monkey (never heard of those) with their complementary colors and the yellows in Sugarloaf. And your final “wow” with the Barred Owl. Perfect. You are using your spring freedom well. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    • This is hands-down my favorite time of year. They do fade fast and I keep thinking that April looks like May did in my childhood. There are so many more photos, it just goes on and on and I didn’t do a very good job limiting this post, did I? Oh well! Thanks for being here, Jane. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Hopefully, I will catch up with your posts soon!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A wonderful immersion indeed! All these pictures are beautiful and imbued with a wonderful calmness. And I love owls, what a charmer that barred owl is.
    One of my aunts has currant bushes next to her house, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen this red-flowering currant, what a lovely, delicate thing that is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The idea that you sensed calm from the whole makes me happy, Robert, I’m glad to hear it. I talked to that owl while I took its’ picture, and said “Bye” too. It seemed quite content to just maintain its perch, look at me, look away, look at me again (when I moved), look away…
      This particular currant is in cultivation. A blogger I follow has one on her balcony in Brussels. They are a very pretty shade of pink. πŸ™‚ Have a great weekend, Robert.

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    • Thank you, Rudi, it’s great that you have seen a few of these flowers or their relatives. Believe me, they aren’t growing everywhere here, either! I’m lucky to live in a plc ae where important areas have been protected for a pretty long time, so these wildflowers can grow safely. You have a good weekend, too!

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  5. Lovely. Liking the sense of mystery with #4 – a metaphor for life: full of blind bends. And how wonderful that the little fella in #31 was so cooperative. Great shot.

    βœ¨πŸ™πŸ•‰πŸŒ±πŸŒΏπŸŒ³πŸŒ»πŸ’šπŸ•Šβ˜―πŸ‰βœ¨

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fawn lilies are heaven to photograph, Otto! I think they’re fading already – we had a record-breaking string of very warm, cloudless days that just ended. It’s a good thing I got over there to see them when I did. Have a good weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I enjoyed the lovely macros, but especially like the stormy view in #10. My husband and I often pick those quick-changing wary-weather days to go out and enjoy the parks like Middle Fork since few others take the chance. I love views with gathering storm clouds or moody mists between the peaks. Northwest girl through and through, I suppose. πŸ™‚
    I’ve collected the links to your recent posts and hope to get to the backlog eventually. I always enjoy the restful adventures you share! Glad to hear you got your second shots. Less than a week away from ours. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    • What you say about #10 is interesting. I had a much darker photo in there at first but it didn’t seem to work well with the rest of the post. #10 was taken with an iphone, the original one was taken with my camera. Anyway, it’s interesting that the appeal of the stormy view is equated with being a “Northwest girl through and through.” I’ve noticed that over the 9 years I’ve lived in the PNW I’ve come to love that moody, PNW feel. I didn’t get it at first but I gravitate toward it now. πŸ™‚
      Thank you for saving my posts, that’s so nice. And YEA! for full vaccination! Enjoy your weekend…..

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Happy vaccination. We’re four weeks past our second doses.
    The species name in your first picture made me think of Oregon oregano, which is presumably to be found in some people’s herb gardens in that state.
    Love the yellows in 14 and 15.
    You’ve got an excellent macro in 30. Be thankful that when you sit in the grass you don’t get chigger bites the way we do in Texas.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Steve, I’m glad to hear you’re fully vaccinated, too. Oregon oregano? Never heard of that! Or are you pulling my leg? πŸ˜‰ Yellow can be tricky – I don’t have to tell you that – but I guess one benefit of the higher latitude and frequently overcast skies is that I’m not always fighting intense sunlight. Chiggers and ticks? It’s a relief not to be worrying about that, either. I had quite a time with Lyme back in NY. I hear that they’re moving north and are found in sandy places like beaches, as well as the woods. The next time we take a road trip to northern CA we’ll have to be more careful. Thanks for the good words, Steve, and I’m sorry I have been absent lately – hope to make up for it soon.

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    • Do you remember a while back when I said something about a certain dark, moody kind of image that I associated with you? You weren’t sure you agreed but #11 is just that kind of look that I think you do so well. Glad you like it! THanks for being here, my friend, and for being such a good influence.

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  8. Wow, the first picture hit me right away! What beauty. This photo is wonderful, it touched my heart, really. I also love the second picture. How graceful this little flower is. I love larkspur, this intense blue! I think I was already surprised last time you posted them, that they bloom so early in your region. Here it is a summer flower. The owl is so cute. What a nice encounter. You must have been very happy to be so near πŸ™‚ The fly on the buds is great! # 27 is a beautiful picture / flower and I like #28. How small is the colorful stonecrop? The mosses and lichens look rather big against them! A very nice post Lynn. One can feel your love for the flowers and for nature in every picture. I understand even better now, why you have to go out all the time and go discovering πŸ™‚ Please, go on!

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    • Oh, I’m so happy you liked the first image – I think you’re the only person who mentioned it. Those lilies are very photogenic. This little larkspur does bloom early but I’m pretty sure we have others (not here, but elsewhere in Washington) that bloom in early summer, maybe even mid-summer. And you’re right, it was nice being with the olw. I talked to him. πŸ™‚ You know that you’re the person who has pushed me to pay more attention to insects and to photograph them (or TRY!) more often. That one was lucky but I do increase my luck by sitting down in the dirt. πŸ˜‰ The stonecrop’s size varies. Those leaves are very small, I believe because they are new. Typical leaves may get bigger but never very large – maybe like fingernails. Of course, the plant spreads out a lot so it can cover an area the size of, um, a shirt? Silly, I know! Thank you for being here, for sharing your own deep love of nature, and for being patient. πŸ™‚

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      • Fingernails, so small! But then my impression was right, that the stonecrops are so tiny. A shirt-country of stonecrops, what a nice idea πŸ˜‰
        I understand you very well, talking to owls. They have such an inviting character πŸ™‚ I am talking to crows here. Today I noticed that they are building a nest in one of the trees, the magpies in another – that will be fun πŸ˜‰ I am happy that you notice more insects, though I think you noticed them before, but maybe they were not your preferred photo object? You captured it so well, so I would be happy to see more of that from you – with less dirt maybe πŸ˜‰
        The photo of the lilly is so wonderful and I like it, that you didn’t do in color. It looks like duplex mode? It is perfect the way it is. I think it shows all your feeling for it πŸ™‚ Have a good time Lynn! A hug from here!

        Liked by 1 person

        • I think you always understand me, Almuth. πŸ™‚ How cool that you see crows and magpies building nests! I think I told you about the professor at the University of Washington in Seattle who studies crows and found out they can recognize specific faces. Here’s a video of an experiment where they put on a mask and carried a dead crow around. There was a strong reaction. It’s good to talk to crows! :-0

          I don’t remember where I started when I processed #1. Lightroom history shows the adjustments but I must have done something else, too. I know that I realized that some type of black and white would be better because the things in the background would “quiet down” that way and not detract from the flower. Thank you…enjoy the birds!

          Liked by 1 person

        • You forgot the link, but I believe I once saw a video on Youtube, where a man with a mask was frightening crows. I think they even give this information to the next generation. The young crows reacted to the masked man, although they never met him before. Astonishing! – The crows here talked to each other in a very funny way. A moment I thought children made these sounds, but it must have been the crows. Some nights before magpie and crow had a loud and long discussion – in the middle of the night and it was for a long time! I hope they won’t do in the next weeks πŸ˜‰
          Whatever it was you did to the picture, it worked! Have a good day!

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  9. How interesting to see some that we have aaaaaaaaaall the way down here in San Diego as well! (the Blue-eyed Maries and the Seep Monkeyflower). We also have a Chocolate Lily species down here and IT KEEPS EVADING ME, I’m so mad! πŸ˜… A lovely selection overall Lynn, and the hail on moss is my clear winner. So nice!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, and I’m sure there are a few more…how about California poppies? πŸ˜‰ But they’re not actually native this far north like the others – If I see them outside someone’s garden up here, it’s usually on the side of a highway – the great escape. I think I read that California is the center of that Fritillaria complex and there are quite a few different species across the state. They’re interesting. Believe me, this one really does hide. I hope this will be the year that you find yours.
      Thanks so much for commenting, Alex, and I can’t help wondering if the hail photo is your favorite because you crave moisture so much !! πŸ˜‰

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  10. No better way to celebrate the wonder of Nature, Lynn. Your beautiful captures of the delicate wildflowers are heartwarming to watch. And what a finale with the Barred Owl, well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Dina – that owl’s presence is actually a bit like your seals, isn’t it? Kind of soft, round, curious…. πŸ™‚ I’m sorry I’ve been absent from your blog – it’s the busy season now – I will catch up at some point! Thanks for your good words.

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  11. I would say it is the “joy of freedom”!
    Be it for the good feeling that it will certainly give you to have the complete vaccination; be it for the freedom of nature by “letting beauty” grow in its corners and paths; be the freedom of looking while enjoying calmly what surrounds you.
    The result is this beautiful set of images of wildflowers (and more!), perhaps one of the best symbols of nature’s freedom!
    Today, in Portugal, we celebrate Freedom Day. I believe that it helps that Freedom is in all my thoughts!
    Have a nice week!

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a good comment, Dulce. I remember your Freedom Day last year and how much it means to you so I’m happy to be a part of it! I’m sorry I haven’t seen your blog in a long time – I will get there soon – have a wonderful week, and thank you for your comment. πŸ™‚

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  12. I’ve sometimes wondered if I’d bore people with a steady diet of flower pictures – the biggest part of my collection that I have shown little of. Your post suggests that boredom would not be a factor. Each of these is like a little appetizer that just calls for another bite… and then another…

    Of course, there’s always the problem of identifying and commenting on all those little jewels. Here too, you’ve excelled. It must have taken a while to put this together.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I figure some people are bored by flowers, others are bored by, say, cars, and we all find our places. I know there are “flower people” who follow this blog, but there are others who follow for whatever reason – maybe it’s an interest in the PNW, maybe something else. In any case, I hope you go ahead and post those flower photos. If that’s what you photograph, then that’s what you love and the love will show through, right? You’re very nice to encourage me with that appetizer analogy – I like it!
      Oh yes, it took a while! Yeesh! Even when you know them, chances are you don’t remember the correct spelling. And I have to relearn some of them (most?) each spring. πŸ˜‰ Sometimes I feel like I didn’t really retire at all, the way I focus on these posts, but I always feel it’s worth it in the end. Thanks, Dave, and please accept my apology for not visiting your posts – I’ll try to catch up soon!

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  13. So many good photos here! Love all these small oft unnoticed flowers. #25 let me think this is a place where I would like to hike a little bit. There are not many things better than time spent in the nature πŸ™‚
    The owl was cooperative ! Great!
    I got the first shot a week ago, next one in two weeks, and middle may my wife is scheduled for her first vaccine. But generally speaking things are still bad in Italy…
    I also like very much the play between darkness and light in #11: well seen and well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’ve been saving this for a quiet moment. And what a delight it was. I felt as if I was wandering along with you. I know what you mean about having to get down on the ground, but lately I’ve been stretching up to get shots of Vancouver’s abundance of cherry blossoms. I bought that Olympus macro lens – still experimenting. Fun.
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sorry I’m so late replying, just like I’m late getting to your posts (and lots of others, and let’s not talk about cleaning the house). Stretching up to photograph those gorgeous cherry blossoms sounds great, though I did get down on the ground again today when I found an odd flower, a Coralroot, just starting to bloom. Kind of like a marron stalk of asparagus poking out of the ground. I was surprised to see that you bought the lens because I didn’t know you use Olypmus – or is it Panasonic? In any case, I hope you love it and I’m eager to see what you do with it. Wide open, it’s just a dream. Have a great week!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. This was a very joyous celebration of the flora of Hidalgo Island and another reminder of how precious our Earth is. Wow, your skunk cabbage really puts ours to shame. It flowers in a much more impressive display.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s funny, you have the Lady slippers and many more colorful birds, etc. But yes, the western version of Skunk cabbage puts on a great show! Such a fun plant. I apologize for being even more absent than usual these days but you can probably understand why. I hope all’s well with you…see you soon online, and HEY! we’re coming to Mass! But we’ll only be there a day and a half (then on to NY) and we have family on both sides to see, plus friends. If there was more time I would love to come out and meet you, and see your neck of the woods. Next time!

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        • Another thought…if you are heading on the turnpike, Route 90, going east we could meet near an exit for a few. If you are doing 95 going toward NYC, once again, next time. πŸ™‚

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        • We get into Logan late afternoon, 5/18, then pick up a car and go to a hotel in Waltham, near 95. We planned to just crash then, after a long day. The next day (5/19) we’re with relatives from about noon to 9 or later. On 5/20 we hope to see Joe’s brother again at about 1pm, then we head down 95 to NY. It’s a very packed schedule – we didn’t expect that but things mushroomed. A few spare moments – coffee? – might work in the late morning on either day, in the Waltham or Weston vicinity.

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  16. A wonderful series. I especially liked seeing the Skunk Cabbage rising out of the water (or wetlands). Such an interesting post for someone like me who loves the natural world, but can longer do the long nature walks I once did.

    Keep up the great walks and sharing online, Lynn. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person


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