LOCAL WALKS: Forest and Bluff

A network of forest trails threads through a state park near a small, freshwater lake frequented by fly fishers. I’ve been exploring these trails lately, in part because they’re less busy than the other trails here. Called Pass Lake, the lake has its own magic but is hard by a highway, so I don’t spend too much time there. Entering the woods, the traffic noise slowly drops away. Tall trees soar above a fern-covered forest floor. This alone might be enough, but by following a particular sequence of trails, I’ve found an interesting variety of habitats that invites scrutiny.

Around the lake the topography veers up and down verdant, steep slopes of evergreens. If you climb north on paths leading away from the water the forest thins, soon opening up onto a series of exposed bluffs. Interesting in their own right, some of these craggy spots have expansive views across the valley below. On the bluffs, also called balds* Madrona trees, grasses, lichens and wildflowers adapted to drier conditions displace the Sword ferns, Salal, Douglas firs, Redcedars and Western hemlocks of the forest below. The contrast between lush, green woodlands and sere, brown bluffs engages the curious mind: one minute you’re treading the quiet paths of a damp, dark forest lit by narrow beams of light, the next minute you’re in the open, with dry leaves crunching underfoot and the sun warming your face. All this can be experienced in just a mile or two of walking.

Below are photographs made at various times of the year of Pass Lake, the forest that surrounds it, and the balds above.

1. In the colder months when the trout have gone sluggish the empty lake is as serene as the sound of a temple bell. One foggy winter afternoon two years ago a few diving ducks plied the lake while I made dozens of photographs.

2. Intentional camera blur and Lightroom tweaks emphasize the vertical nature of the forest and the repeating forms of what is perhaps the understory’s most common plant, Sword fern.
3. On a foggy September day an old Bigleaf maple tree seems to levitate over a steep-sided ravine that stays green all year.
4. Leaving the Pass Lake Loop and taking the Ginnett Hill trail one day, I came across a huge, fern-bedecked rock. I imagine the rock and its cloak of mosses and ferns must have its own micro-climate, a damp and cool one.

5. Another impressionist view of the forest surrounding Pass Lake. You can just make out the woven pattern on the bark of a Western redcedar on the far left. This moisture-loving tree is extremely important to indigenous Pacific Northwest people; strips of the bark could be woven into clothing, mats, rope, roofing material and many other useful things. The wood is softer than most other trees so large logs could be scooped out with stone tools to make canoes. The rot-resistant wood is made into cedar shakes now.
6. As sinuous as a seated Guanyin** sculpture, this Western redcedar became one with its boulder support long ago.

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8. By taking root here this Bigleaf maple tree gains height, which means more light, a critical commodity for plants and one that can be in short supply in Pacific Northwest confer forests.

9. Emerging from the forest after climbing a long uphill stretch, I came upon this bald on Ginnett Hill. You can see the bald’s typical thin, rocky soil. There’s evidence of a fire and new growth at the foot of the blackened Madrona tree. Madrona trees (Arbutus menziesii) grow well on this exposed, dry site. Their attractive, orange, peeling bark and crooked trunks stand out amidst the deep green, upright conifers. It’s fun to find the first Madrona as I climb the trail or the last one on the way back down.
10. Looking up into a grove of Madrona trees. This is a vertical landscape, hence many vertically oriented photographs.

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12. Back at the lake a Great blue heron eyes me warily. You won’t find this bird on the bald!

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14. Looking toward Rodger Bluff from an opening on the east face of Ginnett Hill. The majority of the trees seen here are Douglas fir. Maybe you can see the distinctive, rounded forms of Madronas on the rocks in the upper half of the photo. The yellow-green flowers in the bottom right are the blooming crown of a Madrona tree.
15. Reflections on the lake on an August afternoon. There are no Madronas down here.
16. Another look at winter fog reflections on Pass Lake.

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β€œTrails are all about connections, connecting places and also connecting people to those places.” Jack Hartt, former Park Manager at Deception Pass State Park.

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*Herbaceous balds–Variable-size patches of grasses and forbs on shallow soils over
bedrock, commonly fringed by forest or woodland.
From a US Customs & Border Protection publication detailing the variety of sites found near US borders which may be sensitive, priority habitats, because of their unique characteristics.

** Click Guanyin for a look at sculptures and paintings of this Buddhist bodhisattva.

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80 comments

  1. Pic 16 is great!
    Pic 15: Very subtle colour play
    I also like the Madrona leaf caught under dried grass.

    Fawn lilies flower: I don’t know the Archetype, maybe a firewheel?!

    I had the impression of trees who live in a somewhat difficult situation and stand their own. But they can live nearly everywhere whatever the ground is.

    Greetings
    Gerhard

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Gerhard, I appreciate your input. I can see a firewheel in the Fawn lily, or more obviously, a star. Whatever the archetype, the shape is compelling when you see it from above like that. I’m glad you like the leaf caught in the grass – I was afraid that might be too subtle or too quiet. Trees….they are amazing! So many different forms. The madrona is a really beautiful one. Have a great week!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Lynn,
    we especially like your impressionist pictures. As Gerhard writes, we like your colour editing very much as well. Pictures 2, 5, 15 and 16 we love best.
    Thank you very much for sharing.
    That seems to be a beautiful place where you are living. Your pictures quite often remind us of Scandinavia.
    Wishing you all the best
    The Fab Four of Cley
    πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Fab Four, thank YOU for sharing your thoughts. I remember Dina did beautiful work with intentional camera movement. It’s funny that you mention Scandinavia – Seattle (and the Pacific Northwest in general) attracted many Scandinavians, especially Norwegians, in the early years of European settlement. Perhaps they felt at home here. Have a good week!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dear Lynn,
        we can well understand that the Scandinavians, especially the Norwegians, feel at home there.
        Wishing you a happy week
        The Fab Four of Cley
        πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

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  3. Hi Lynn! Beautiful!
    I besonders like your ICM photos, these vertical motions are great with wood situations.
    This landscape seems special to me, seems to be two landscapes rather, broken to pieces and mixed up to a collage for creating something new. Each of the two with a very special, distinct characteristic.
    The way you describe your walks takes me along and gives me a lot of additional impressions to the photographs. Really a great piece of combination work again!
    The last two pictures make a magical final leaving me with a smile.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a mini German lesson in a gentle style. Use a German word that I might remember in an English sentence and it just might reinforce the meaning. At the very least that got a good laugh – from me and from Joe. We’re visiting friends today; I think we’ll teach them Besonders! The proper way and our way πŸ™‚ I like your idea of the collaged landscapes. It’s so much fun to see the transition as you climb the hill and gradually the light increases, the conifers decrease and the Madronas take over. The balds are the places where I find my favorite little Rein orchids, too.
      Thanks so very much…smiling back to you…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I appreciate most of the photos, but I love the natural magic of the last image and the kind of reflections it offers us. Magic also has photos 2 and 5, but this one was born from Lynn’s hands!
    When we are attentive and available, any trail has its beauty, whether at the base or at the top of the hill… whether in areas with greater or lesser vegetation.
    How nice to be able to share your look with these places, and then share them with us!πŸ‘
    I wish you a good week!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. 1- ooooh! I could melt right into that misty fog over water. You captured the feel of it so very well.
    2- as if the forest and ferns are dancing
    6 and 8- lessons in hanging on under challenging circumstances
    14- looks quite familiar… a bluff like that might have easily been taken up in the hills near us
    16- another cooling, refreshing look at misty fog over water. Much needed at this dry time of year.
    I truly enjoyed taking this hike with you! I may go back again! and again! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s really good to live near so much water, whether it’s open water or lakes. (Or creeks!) I like the lesson you take from the Bigleaf maples that grow on rocks. They’re amazing, as are all the trees that begin life on a tree stump. These things continue to be delightful to see, no matter how many times you’ve seen them before. The familiar look in #14 only changes, I suppose, if you start looking really closely at the plant life. I think you have more variety, or at least more plants that grow in CA and might be at their northern limits near you. Glad you enjoyed the walk, Gunta!

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      • My 14 years living in Utah made me realize just how much I need to be near water (ocean preferably)! Which doesn’t altogether explain my fascination for desert scenes.
        Again. Thanks for the breath of fresh air. August here is often when the mist or fog fades out with rarely any appreciable rain. I tend to look forward to autumn bringing in hints of moisture and a return of the foggy evenings. It’s fun comparing how our climates are much the same, but different. Just up the road aways. πŸ˜‰

        Liked by 1 person

        • We don’t have much fog at this time of year but sometimes it happens and sometimes I’m lucky enough to be in the right place. And boy, is it dry! We’re in a serious drought. Any little bit of fog is a relief, I think! I love the fog you get at the shore, whenever it comes. πŸ™‚

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    • That’s nice to hear…it’s much easier, I find, to just amp up the contrast in a black and white photo, but making a satisfying image with more grays and less contrast takes some work. So it’s really good to read your comment – thank you.

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    • Sometimes I think one needs to leave some of the land’s edge in a water reflection image just so the viewer doesn’t get lost – unless the viewer is perfectly willing to get lost, even to the extent of turning his world upside down. πŸ˜‰ What I liked about #5 was the way the fern fronds are superimposed over or under the trees, and I’m not totally sure why that happens. Maybe I moved the camera down and them back up – I know I tried lots of different things that day.
      Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Dear Lynn, Thanks for accompanying us on this enchanting, long trip! The magic is not only in your excellent photos but in your poetic, well-chosen words, too! Funny, my faves are the first two and the last two images! Air and water …but I love your trees in their soft colours and fine forms, too. Cheers, Petra

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s gratifying to read your comment. I work hard on the text, rewriting it over and over again. Air, water, and earth are very much in evidence here but fire can be trouble. Usually we don’t have problems with fires though. I’m happy to concentrate on the other three elements. Thanks for stopping by, Petra. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    • Fog is such an unpredictable subject and so fascinating to watch. The other day there was no trace of fog where I live but six minutes away, where that first photo had been made over a year earlier, clouds of it were rolling across the lake. I grabbed the camera and found a quiet spot on the shoreline to watch. The photos didn’t come out that well that day but it was nevertheless a beautiful time. I’m happy to haunt you when I can, Don! πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I like the “bald” – it means hill right? Or knoll? Fascinating pictures. The comparison to a sitting Buddha or the Guanyin fits. I ask myself why this sight of a tree growing on a bald does strike us so much? At least it touches me. Maybe it is the strength it shows. I think I could spend a lot of time at such a place. Wonderful! From your collages I like #5 the most. The crisscrossing(?) is great. Maybe it reminds me of a piece of cloth. Fern woven with trees πŸ™‚
    Funny, I just read about the Ghost pipes in a book about fungi and I wanted to ask you, if you know them! They must look fascinating and a bit spooky, so colorless πŸ˜‰ Another exciting essence of nature. #6, 8 (I love it!), the Madronas and the structures in #11 are my favourites here. The pass in autumn / winter looks mysterious and poetic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bald is, of course, most often used to describe the state of no hair. πŸ™‚ I’m pretty sure that most Americans (and probably most English speakers) don’t know this use of the word. The definition I quoted at the bottom is a good one. A bald is not necessarily a hill or a knoll. Only this special kind of landform is a bald. Maybe they use that word because these are places where the forest has a bald spot. πŸ™‚ I think it’s always an opening in the woods (or forest – same thing) where the plant life is different. They are always rocky places with thin soil. We happen to have lots of them in this area – mostly on the islands.
      It’s cool that you can see the resemblance of that tree and rock to the sculptures, which I have always loved, especially the pose where one leg is down and one is bent. So graceful. But in that photo the rock is not a bald, it’s just a really big rock in the woods. #4, #6 and #8 are all near each other.
      Ferns woven with trees! Perfect!! πŸ™‚ Take a look at the reply to Graham (above) about that photo. I wish I knew exactly what I did to get that effect!
      That’s synchronicity with the Ghost pipes. They’re very striking, I’ll try to remember to send you more photos. It’s such an interesting relationship between the fungi. trees and Ghost pipes.
      I’m glad you like the group in #11. Those are all from one of the balds. The Y-shaped stick on that mound of Reindeer lichen was gorgeous.
      You’re right, in autumn & winter there is much more poetry in the landscape here. I have learned to look forward to it. The endless days of gray, damp, cold weather are tedious but there is so much beauty. Hardly any people, lots of subtle colors, and if you’re lucky, some fog.
      Thank you!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bald is funny and it fits perfectly, at least to some extent ;-). About the scultpure: I didn’t think of the one with the hanging leg, but that is even a better picture for the tree on the rock! I ask myself if the people who created or invented this sculpture had a similar image or idea of it: a strong tree growing on a rock. I think I saw pictures like that from south Asia…
        Last year was the first year I learned to love winter, winter in the woods, with all the structures and funghi and patterns… In between I think the wood is even more interesting in winter time. Crazy πŸ˜‰ I like the other times of the year more, but the wood is beautiful in the cold season! Have a nice weekend!

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        • Some photos from places like Cambodia that have trees and thick vines intertwined with early Buddhist statues have that feeling. It’s interesting to hear about the changes in your feelings about winter. Since living here I’ve come to like winter for the subtle light and mystery, which are good for photography, though I still get tired of it.

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  8. I found ghost pipes here on a walk the other day. I’ve never seen them before so thank you for identifying them. Moving from a no-mushroom zone to a full-fungi zone brings about some interesting and new observations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I couldn’t remember where you lived – checked your website – and wow, that’s a drastic change. My best friend lives in Saco but I haven’t been to Maine in years. Once the tourists are gone I bet you’ll love it. And what a nice coincidence with the Ghost pipes. Yes, you’ll have fun with the mushrooms. Thanks for commenting and enjoy the rest of the week.

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  9. #1 and #4 are such tranquil scenes.
    It’s interesting that the wood of the redcedar is relatively soft yet still resists rotting. I tend to think of those properties as contradictory.
    In #7, the ghost pipes seen from above look to me like a school of minnows.
    Regarding #12, you won’t find this bird on the bald, and also you won’t find this bird bald.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Steve. indeed there is a tranquility to be found here, besonders when the tourist season is over.
      Agree with you about the cedar wood.
      A school of minnows – cool, I like that. I was really excited to find them at precisely that stage.
      I sure I hope I won’t find a bald heron, but I always am struck by that odd patch on the bend of the wing that’s usually not visible but sometimes looks almost bald. Ever notice that?

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  10. Given your knowledge of, sensitivity to, forest ecology, are you aware of Dr Suzanne Simard, forest ecology professor at UBC, her work (books, TED talks etc) on interconnectivity of forest ecology, and the Mother Tree Project that she has stimulated (https://mothertreeproject.org)? You’re probably very informed about all this, but just in case not…

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    • Thanks for saying that, Harrie, I’ve always liked that idea of Kuan Yin being the one who perceives the sounds of the world. The trees in #10 are dancing for you. πŸ™‚ Have a great weekend!

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    • Thanks, Adrian, I think I have an instinct for plants but also, I enjoy a little research. What I can’t remember I can always look up and then I find out more. πŸ˜‰ That heron tolerated me for quite a while but then got fed up and flew away.

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  11. I love the way the forests and natural areas around where you live seem to have such an ancient, almost, prehistoric look to them. They seem so beautifully untouched!

    Liked by 1 person

    • They do have that look. I think there’s a whole PNW mystique. This relatively small island has a large proportion of land set aside as parks and preserves…they did the right thing! I hope all’s well with you. πŸ™‚

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    • Hopefully, the intentional camera movement photos are speaking PNW clearly – it looks like they are. πŸ˜‰ There’s not a whole lot of softness in the landscape right now but in a few months, there will be more. ENjoy the rest of your weekend…

      Liked by 1 person

  12. A wonderful series, Lynn. I got stuck on the ghost pipes. Is the left photo of them emerging from the ground?
    Love your monochromes in this collection. The Madrones looking up is lovely and the Ginnett Trail shot is special. Your close-ups of leaves and ground cover are always thoughtfully composed. And your abstracts and reflection shots are beautifully shot. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, that’s what the photo on the left is – I hadn’t seen them at precisely that stage before – pretty cool, right? I’m glad you liked the monochromes…I know you like B&W in general but I was less sure about the success of #4. It seems much easier to make a successful monochrome with lots of contrast than to make one with high contrast. The Ginnett Hill photo (#9) was made with my iPhone. πŸ™‚ Thanks, Jane.

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  13. Wonderful scenes! Love your first foggy image … mysterious and inviting to come explore closer … a good opening for the more intimate observations that follow. I really like how the Bigleaf Maple shot focuses on the base … great form and texture there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fog is so ephemeral – it’s exciting to see and photograph as it drifts and morphs. Probably if I got out early more often, I’d see it more. πŸ˜‰
      The Bigleaf maple on the rock was made with my older iPhone, hence all the detail and the wide angle, It tends to be dark in there and I think I only had one prime lens that day. But resorting to the phone is fine sometimes. Thank you, Denise, I hope you’re enjoying your summer.

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  14. Regarding #1, are you sure you weren’t in Brigadoon? Or maybe Shangri-la? What a mysterious and beautiful landscape. In #3 I love the contrasting greens. Your taking #4 to B&W somehow makes the scene more special to me, maybe because I don’t see that much B&W work. The photo is extremely sharp; I wonder if B&W doesn’t also showcase that feature. I know the plants in #7 as Indian Pipes, but I’ve never seen them before they become upright. I’m not sure I’d know what the bent-over ones were if I’d come across them. The light on the leaves in #10 is wonderful; it almost gives the scene the look of an infrared photograph. I think #15 benefits from the reflections not taking up the whole frame. I’ll have to remember that. The peaceful ending you’ve given us in #16 has the look of an ikat weaving. Thanks for taking us along on another exciting excursion, Lynn.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mysterious and beautiful is something the PNW excels at, especially in in-between seasons, foggy days, etc. Sometimes there’s no trace of fog at home, but I drive 5 – 10 minutes and there it is. It’s good to know #4 appealed to you; often I find that black and white photos are easier to do successfully with high-contrast subjects and that was not High-contrast. But I tried it and it seems to work. I don’t know if the lack of color makes the sharpness easier to see, in fact, it’s not sharpened very much. I added some clarity, texture, and grain so they’re playing a part, too. The Ghost pipes (I”m trying to be pol-correct!) were fun to see in all their different phases – I have more photos, peering into the flowers and after they’re brown and dry. Very interesting plants! Good thinking on #10, I did use a LR infrared preset first, then tweaked it. About reflections taking up the whole frame – one wants to include land as a reference point but sometimes it’s not necessary. That day, the shoreline wasn’t fitting into the frame well and I was mesmerized by just the softness of the reflections. Meanwhile, you should know that traffic was zipping by on the opposite shore of the lake, not at all far from where I stood alone in the woods. It looks quiet but it wasn’t πŸ˜‰
      An ikat weaving, yes, cool. I like that. Thank you!

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  15. Pingback: Going Wide | A New Day: Living Life Almost Gracefully


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