LOCAL WALKS: Summer Medley

From lush early June to parched late July….

1. A June afternoon view from Fidalgo Island’s highest point, Mt. Erie, celebrates peaceful Campbell Lake and the dramatic cliff called Roger Bluff. Toward the middle of the frame is the blue sliver of Deception, beyond it is Whidbey Island. The Salish Sea is to the right (west) and Similk and Skagit Bays lie to the east, in the upper left of the frame.
2. Speaking of a celebration, let’s celebrate the last rainfall that I can remember – on June 6th.
3. This orchid flower, one of about a dozen on the stalk, is about the size of your fingernail. Spotted coralroot (Coralrhizza maculata) lacks chlorophyll – you’ll search in vain for a green leaf on this plant. Happiest in moderately moist woodlands, the odd flower depends on fungi mycellium (mushroom “roots”) for energy. A pure white lip like the one here is unusual; normally they have maroon spots. The flowers tend to hide in plain sight with their dark red color and preference for dappled shade; Robert Frost used that feature in the poem, “On Going Unnoticed.”
4. Wild roses were already shedding petals in early June.
5. Incoming tide at West Beach, Deception Pass State Park. Travel straight out over that water for a hundred miles and you’ll be in the Pacific Ocean. You can taste the salt here, too, and the water is perennially cold.
7. On the 19th I took a walk at Little Cranberry Lake, a favorite place to unwind. One of two or three patches of Maidenhair fern that I know of on our island grows there on a cliff by the water. Just as satisfying as revisiting the little Maidenhair fern colony was seeing this alder tree bend to caress the lake.
8. Weedy little Wall lettuce (Mycelis muralis), an officially noxious weed in Washington State, actually looked pretty that day, with all the blooms closed except one. Especially with spot metering.
9. It’s the Fourth of July weekend and I’m back at the beach, foolishly. Yes, it’s crowded but at least I came in the morning. The dunes beckoned and hardly anyone was back there. This portly pear of a rock and its friendly neighbors were probably tossed up here long ago. They were arranged as harmoniously as a chamber quartet, waiting to be discovered by a passing human, photographed, and now seen by you.
10. You can see them in the distance, the dog walkers, the compulsive driftwood shelter-builders, the beachcombers and stone skippers. Who am I to covet a lonely shoreline?
11. A week later we took a long, low-tide walk at Cornet Bay, on the bay side of the park. Fishing boats and tour boats plied the water and later we found out that orcas were seen right there, that afternoon. How I long to see them! But we were happy with the hulking, twisted driftwood logs, the strands of eelgrass that decorated driftwood branches like bizarre giant’s party hats, the clear views of snow-covered Mt. Baker, and the warm sun on our backs.

12. July is the month my beloved Rein orchids begin to bloom. This one was on a bald in the forest near Heart Lake, on protected land that the city of Anacortes (the only city on Fidalgo island) set aside long ago for community recreational use. This is probably Flat-spurred piperia, Platanthera transversa. These delicate orchids are often overlooked by trail-walkers.
13. On one of my walks that week I ran into a botanist looking for unusual plants with his dog at his side. He told me about a bald near a dead-end road, so the next day I pulled my car over to the side of the raod near the end, away from the “No Parking” signs, hoping I wouldn’t anger the homeowners. The bald wasn’t hard to find – just a short walk down an old dirt road behind a gate. I found a few beautiful Rein orchid specimens there, a lovely view, and this fortuitous arrangement of fallen Madrone (Arbutus menziesii) leaves and Reindeer lichen (Claytonia sp.).
14. The road to the bald is set with Bigleaf maples (Acer macrophyllum).
15. Last Sunday the clouds were busy.
16. Clear skies have been the rule this month and Monday was no exception. With a group of five friends, we hired a boat to take us to Cypress Island, a large, mostly state-owned island that is only reachable by boat. What a day it was! Here, two members of our group look across the Salish Sea at Orcas Island and beyond to Canadian waters. This is Eagle Cliff, a 1.3 mile hike through the woods from Pelican bay, where we were dropped off. We climbed 752 feet in that 1.3 miles and I was panting. There is no water on the island so you have to carry all you’ll need for the day. Oh, and the food, too! Having lunch up here was beyond relaxing.
17. We arrived at our pick-up spot in plenty of time. Two of us took of our shoes and socks and stood in the cold water – brr! But refreshing! – while one wandered the beach and the rest of the party sat on the driftwood and talked as the sun sank behind us.
18. The ride back to Fidalgo was delightful, with warm sun, spectacular views of Mt. Baker, the wake curving behind us, and thoughts of dinner in town…

*

The Pacific Northwest is known for rain and beautiful scenery but the rain has been scarce the last few months. We are normally dry in summer but not this dry, not this early (there was precious little rain in June and May wasn’t as wet as it should have been). Most of our state, as well as the rest of the American West, is in a state of drought. For me, it means adjusting my expectations and finding beauty in a different world. I can do that. And we’ll get through this.

***


68 comments

  1. Thank you for another delightful local walk, dear Lynn. The first photo already shows an unusual yellowish colour in your region indicating the drought. I hope for some rain in your western country, long, soft rain to gently soak everything until it will have enough of it.
    Nevertheless, your photos are a treat again, you make the best of the situation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, it was a lot of walks but you know that. πŸ˜‰ #11 is another fallen beauty, right? I was talking to Joe about ways to carry your camera this morning and he said you used a holster – something on your belt. I didn’t remember. Is that right? Do you like it?

      Like

      • I have a hip-bag… Goes around the hips; closes on the belly and then you can tighten it as tight as you like. If you loosen it a bit, you can turn it from back to front and take out a lens, or whatever. It has a central bag which can contain a camera with a 70-300 mm. lens. And 2 sidebags that can contain a lens or a bidon with water. Sidebags are removable. Never used anything else πŸ‘βœ‹

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What a wonderful tip you made, I’m completely in love with the first and the last picture πŸ™‚
    It must be a wonderful region and the nature is awesome.
    Many thanks for the nice pictures you enclosed.
    Many greetz,
    Rudi

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, these are from many walks, in June and July, but yes, it’s really amazing up here. The scenery is just gorgeous. Thank you, Rudi, I’m glad you enjoyed the photos – have a good week!

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  3. Love the variety of photos through this adventure. Is so weird the variations of weather we are having this year. The drought (and heat) out west, while here in the Great Lakes area we’ve been getting these β€œrain bombs” causing flooding. Our summer started fairly dry, but it seems to be trying to catch up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Right, I’ve heard you’ve had some heavy storms – and look at Germany! We are traditionally very dry in July and August but the dry season began much earlier. I’m afraid we won’t see much precip before the rains come back in September. We just have to roll with it, right? I’m thinking about golden grass textures… πŸ˜‰ Thanks for commenting, Mark.

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  4. I figured there must be people named Roger Bluff, and sure enough I found one on Facebook.

    If you sail beyond Orcas Island and into Canadian waters, do authorities come after you?

    What do you mean by “a bald”?

    The stones in #9 might have inspired Henry Moore.

    Liked by 1 person

    • πŸ™‚ You’re funny with your Roger Bluff. I always think it should be “Roger’s” but no, it’s just Roger. Actually, there’s a great story associated with it – a well-known painter, Morris Graves, isolated himself up there during WWII, finally moving away when the time it took him to haul water and supplies up was eating into his painting time too much. It’s still private property and all traces of his cabin have supposedly vanished. I like to look at that cliff and imagine him up there. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morris_Graves
      Oh yes, you’d better not sail into Canadian waters! But in a few weeks that will change. The ferries that go from here (Anacortes, Fidalgo Island) and one other WA town have been idle for a long time. https://www.visitsanjuans.com/traveling-to-and-from-canada
      Yes, those stones are very Henry Moore!
      Good to hear from you!

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      • A year or two ago we watched a documentary about Morris Gravesβ€”I don’t recall where, maybe PBS, maybe a DVD we took out of the libraryβ€”and I remember that bit about the inconvenience of hauling water and supplies. And speaking of “Roger’s,” baseball player Rogers Hornsby is buried near Hornsby Bend in southeast Austin.

        Liked by 1 person

    • And balds – I need to do a post about balds. They’re places without trees, sometimes in the middle of a forest and often on the edges of the islands here in the greater Puget Sound area. They’re usually on the small side, and almost always sloping. The soil tends to be thin, sometimes it’s serpentine soil too, which many plants don’t like. The exposure is harsh, as you’d guess, and over our dry summers, a bald retains very little moisture. so the flora communities can be interesting. Where there is abundant winter & spring moisture there are many spring wildflowers, giving way to dry, crunchy grass until the rains return in September and lichens and mosses take over. You see a lot of balds on the south and west sides of the islands here. It’s an imprecise term but it’s used often in this region. And I could be wrong about any of these statements! That’s why I need to do a post, to get my facts straight. πŸ˜‰

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        • I’m not sure where you are and that would make a difference. We have serpentine soil areas here on Fidalgo Island…one that I’m thinking of is very exposed and totally dries out in the summer. I’m too new here to be sure which species are more comfortable with that soil. One that I know is the little fern called Indian dream – Aspidotis densa. I like watching it “bloom” and then dry up, and I enjoy seeing it in the rock crevices. Wholeleaf saxifrage is another little wildflower that grows well there – Micranthes integrifolia. Also Claytonia exigua – Serpentine spring beauty – a fascinating, odd-looking plant. Small-flowered blue-eyed Mary is another…Seaside juniper – originally thought to be a Rocky Mtn. juniper variety but now a species – grows in abundance in that location.
          I posted this https://bluebrightly.com/2020/04/26/local-walks-back-to-washington-park/ about the area. It’s not loading properly – I hope it works for you. And this: https://bluebrightly.com/2020/01/14/local-walks-washington-park/
          I found this paper about lichens on serpentine soil: https://www.jstor.org/stable/3243217. Lichens are very plentiful here in general, and are so interesting.
          It’s fascinating, the way these plants adapt to such a harsh environment – let me know if this helps.
          Just remembered – in SW OR there are wonderful serpentine areas. Exploring one with friends a few years back we found beautiful Ceanothus pumilis and hundreds of Pitcher plants (Darlingtonia) – amazing!

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        • You’re kind of poised to go north or south to explore that SW OR corner or this area. Washington Park is a great place to look down (rocks, spring wildflowers, and winter Reindeer lichens) and out (the views! and Harbor porpoises). Get a trail map if you go and wander off the road, onto the trails. On weekdays the road is open to cars so you can park midway through the loop road and follow the trails from there. (Washington Park is just past the San Juan ferry terminal). NW California – Ferndale! the Lost Coast! Wonderful places.

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  5. Just for the moment, I will com again later: Your sentence “For me, it means adjusting my expectations and finding beauty in a different world. I can do that. And we’ll get through this.” is impressive. I like your attitude and I think it is the best thing you can do. I have to work on it πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, I was really just thinking about photography there – I was happily photographing wildflowers and lush greenery but everywhere I go now, it’s dry. So I told myself that instead of being sad about it, it’s time to find beauty in the dried grasses, which isn’t that hard to do. πŸ™‚ You were up late again!

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      • And you are right. What else can we do than accept the situation as it is. The last year I went mad about the missing rain and I still sometimes do, but then I try not to think about it. It doesn’t help. What you wrote about the last rain in the midst of June is the same we experienced the last years. Besides our last autumn / winter was dry too, like your spring. Others drown, we plead for rain (but in normal amounts please!).

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I love getting to new islands; wish I was on that trip with you guys. πŸ™‚

    Your sepia treatment in #10 conveys a great sense of weather, mood and narrative (and the tiny figures in the landscape: perfectly positioned). #11 is my favorite here; I think you wisely brought those shadows around the driftwood to an inky mysterious place. Wonderful piece of wood and image.

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    • We would have loved to have had you along…maybe someday. The driftwood on most any beach around here continues to amaze me but it can be difficult to photograph. Throwing some “ink” around helps. πŸ˜‰ Thank you very much, John.

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  7. The first photo is beautiful, a bit of springtime is still to see. I love all the details here. The leaves – typical Lynn πŸ™‚ – the stems, the orchids and tiny flowers #8. The red orchid is wonderful. About the driftwood in # 10: is it the normal amount of driftwood at this coast or were the “mountains” made by people? Also in picture 17 it is amazing. Do you live together with giants πŸ˜‰ Everything else looks so small in comparison to it! The orchids are somewhat unpretentious. That makes them even more beautiful. I think you are quite an expert in between πŸ™‚ Interesting the poem by Frost. Did he live in this area?
    Please do find more such beautiful things!

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    • Hi Almuth – the driftwood in the sepia photo has been arranged into little shelters but it’s all driftwood that washed up on that beach – some years ago, some very recently. Last winter we had some fierce windstorms that blew a lot onto the beaches, especially when the storms coincided with super high tides, like at a full or new moon. You see more of the built structures when lots of people are visiting, like summer, and fewer of them in winter. Only once or twice have I seen a big group of huge driftwood logs in the water, and it was an amazing sight. You wouldn’t want to be out there in a small boat when the water is pushing them around. #17 is on Cypress Island – same thing – lots of big driftwood logs. πŸ™‚ The first time we saw them, in 2011 when we first vacationed in the Pacific Northwest, we were astounded by the size of these logs. But trees grow fast and big here, and eventually, they fall. I’m pretty sure Frost never lived out here but similar orchids grow in the east, too.
      I’ll keep looking… πŸ˜‰
      THanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Beautiful and fun tour! It’s definitely different this year having everything so dry. Ferns are suffering in our yard and we’ve had extra maintenance to do watering 4 new trees in pots that our next door neighbor gave us. We plan to plant them in the fall when the expected rain will help us kept them moist enough to root well before the coldest part of the year. It’s been fun to tend plants, most of our yard is full of native plants, so they maintain themselves other than a bit of trimming them back to keep things from becoming overgrown.
    The river path is fairly parched, though it’s lined with tall trees so keeps a fair amount of moist cool air when other places get unpleasantly hot. I find myself drawn to the waters edge and spend time there as much as possible.
    We haven’t ventured out much this summer. Mostly drives to Middle Fork on a whim. No complaints there! πŸ™‚ But it’s fun to see your variety of places and views. Thanks for sharing!

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    • IT was the wrong year for new trees, that’s for sure, but it’s a good thing you’re there and can water them. Yes, def. wait to put them in the ground! When I water plants in pots lately it just disappears. Unbelievable, the way everything dried up so fast. It seems everything is “crunch crunch” lately! Does the river path get a little early morning moisture from the river? Of course, that’s where you want to be and no reason to travel far when it’s (generally!) the best time of year where you live. We went over to the peninsula – it wasn’t great. One of the nicest places I’ve been since the drought is a ravine right near home that I hadn’t explored before, where a huge redcedar grows. Down there, it was quite cool and not so dry. Refreshing! Well, we’ll see if this possible rain later in the week pans out. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

      • The air feels a bit moister by the river, but we haven’t been getting dew, and there’s rarely mist in the air by the river – which I was surprised by when we settled here. I noticed the columbines in my backyard are drying up. Usually their plants are leafy all summer and fall after the seed pods dry up. We’re losing ferns and moss too. All those will come back with the rain, quite likely. But we’re nursing the larger plants along.
        Yes, only the shady fissures or deep woods seem able to sustain moisture. But I’m confident it will be back this fall. πŸ™‚

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  9. What a rich feast this post was Lynn. Your photographs take me into a place with such depth. I don’t even know if we have those orchids here though one would think so. I love the opening photo, and number 10 especially.
    I too am concerned about the lack of rain. I imagine we last had rain at much the same time as you. Much is wilting that shouldn’t be, and it doesn’t seem likely that this cloud cover we have will bring rain either.
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s very good to hear that the photos have an impact, thank you. I try to balance emotional impact and photography technique without going too far in either direction, if that makes any sense. #10 probably looks familiar – that PNW mystique, right? πŸ™‚ Yes, Rein orchids grow in your area, though maybe not within city limits. They’re really picky about location, soil, etc., and they’re so easy to miss. On inaturalist there are many reported sightings of the species I see most frequently here on Vancouver Island and one near Halfmoon Bay.
      Yes, as I said to Sheri above (who lives an hour south of here), everything is “crunch, crunch” underfoot. Maybe later this week we’ll get a few drops…
      Thanks for being here, Alison.

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  10. What a day! Wonderful perspectives wide and close, imagining you perched on the driftwood sharing the beauty with friends which must have been special. The close-up of that gorgeous rock really struck me – the image not the rock, haha. The madrone leaves and lichen is stunning and the delicate close up of the rein orchids is fabulous. I laughed at your “compulsive driftwood shelters”… so true…they are everywhere on the CA coast…along with the hand built towers of rocks.

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    • In case it wasn’t clear, these photos are from multiple days over the last couple of months but that one day, yes, it was really memorable. Everything worked in our favor. I’m so glad you responded to the rock. They often are beautiful but the feeling of beauty in a rock isn’t so easily conveyed. I’m happy that you enjoyed the Rein orchis and little leaves and lichen composition, too. Joe and I went up to that spot yesterday – it’s so incredibly dry now, but there are still a few dozen orchids blooming – I was delighted to find them.
      The driftwood shelters – it’s nice when you come upon a beach that isn’t full of them or is even free of them, right? At first, I thought they were cool but like most any human intervention in a wild, beautiful place, I came to wish people could leave well enough alone. Isn’t it enough as it is? Ahh, well.
      Thank you, Jane! Enjoy your weekend.

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