To the Mountain!

_8162581

“The Mountain” in this case, is Mt. Rainier.  A powerful presence in the Seattle area, Mt. Rainier has an elegant silhouette that always turns my head. It rises on the horizon like a grandly elegant queen dressed in pale silk and dark velvet. Even for those who only see a huge dome of ice and rock, it’s a commanding feature of the the local landscape. Below, Rainier on clear days in June and November from Seattle.

 

The destination most people visit when going to the mountain is called Paradise, and for good reason. Paradise is stunning. It offers scenic trails that accommodate everyone; families, serious hikers, and people in wheelchairs can all wander together through mountain meadows and gape at breathtaking vistas.

But Paradise gets crowded.

Arrive after 10 am on a summer day and you’re probably going to park in a distant lot and then trudge uphill to the trailheads and lodge. We went to Sunrise, on the southeastern side of the mountain. It’s not as crowded, it offers plenty of spectacle, and at 6400 feet, it’s the highest place you can go on the mountain in a vehicle.  Rainier’s icy summit is much higher – over 14,400 feet – and getting up there is a whole different matter, best left to those in top physical condition.

As you switchback your way up the mountain towards Sunrise, Rainier is a formidable white beast looming overhead.

_8162635-Edit

Partly due to its abrupt rise from the foothills below, Mt. Rainer makes its own weather.  Air warmed by the sun rises up the slopes, then it cools and clouds are created. When viewed from Seattle and the suburbs, the mountain is often graced with a frothy, cumulus cloud necklace around its middle. Sometimes Rainier sports a stylish white cap of clouds, and once in a while a curvy lenticular (lens shaped) cloud parks over the summit. The mountain has many faces, many moods.

20170816_122930

When we arrived this time, the top of the mountain was draped in clouds.  I enjoyed watching them continually coalesce, dissolve and re-form in a mesmerizing, vaporous dance.

It’s all part of the pageantry.

_8162500-Edit

Above, Emmons Glacier (the largest in the continental US) can be seen coming down the flank of the cloud-covered mountain, with the White River at its base and Frozen Lake to the side of the river. Little Tahoma, a satellite volcanic remnant of Rainer, is the craggy peak to the left.  Tahoma was the native name for Mount Rainier before British Captain George Vancouver named it for a friend, Rear Admiral Peter Rainier. I won’t go into my opinion of naming places after powerful friends instead of choosing a name that describes the place itself. Or how about honoring the name already given to the place by earlier inhabitants? You can guess my feelings on the matter.

*

_8162521-Edit

Above, the White River braids through the valley. Originating from the Emmons glacier, the river flows 75 miles before meeting the Puyallup River, which empties into Puget Sound. The sound’s tidal water flows through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which empties into the Pacific Ocean.

I imagine that a fist full of ice on Rainer’s summit at 14,400 feet might eventually become water deep in Puget Sound, perhaps 900 feet below sea level. The locations are only 75 miles apart as the crow (or raven) flies: over 23,000 feet difference in elevation, in just 75 miles.  Imagine Pacific Ocean water evaporating into clouds that drift east and eventually fall as snow somewhere up on Mt. Rainier: the circle is complete.

_8162604

*

_8162464-2-Edit

For a moment the clouds drift away and the summit emerges. The air is crisp with breezes that seem to emanate from the purest places. Butterflies float across my path and sip from lavender alpine asters. I hear a raven croak, it appears overhead a minute later, then disappears in silence. I peer at the mountain’s surface, fascinated by the glacier’s curved fissures and cracks. They look tiny from where I stand, like wrinkles, but these are the deep crevasses that form as glacial ice glides over the mountain’s rough surface, and they claim lives. Just days before we came to gaze at this glacier a climber fell into a crevasse while descending from his summit climb, and was killed.

Great beauty, great power.

_8162389

 

*

_8162495-Edit

The Silver Forest Trail at Sunrise is well named. The area saw a serious fire years ago; now, tree skeletons are scattered about the terrain like giant beasts and sculptures, some still upright, others long since collapsed. Each one nourishes the flora and fauna here, as it slowly decomposes.

_8162514-Edit-2

*

20170816_142350

*

_8162508-Edit

*

_8162557-Edit

*

_8162617-Edit

*

_8162535-Edit

*

_8162600

*

_8162575-Edit

*

_8162570-Edit

*

_8162564-Edit

*

_8162614

*

_8162544-Edit-Edit

*

_8162506-Edit-3

*

_8162465-2-Edit

*

_8162633-Edit

*

_8162511-Edit

*

It’s sad to see the mountain disappear in the rear view mirror. I want to go right back up! Until next time……..

_8162634-Edit

*

 

The West is East of Here

 

Here are images from my recent trip east, where I roamed around the West.

P7131198-Edit

Confused? Well… Washington is geographically in the western United States, but only parts of the state look like our idea of the “West.”  The Cascade Mountain Range divides the state in two: western/coastal Washington and central/eastern Washington. The western side of the mountains, where I live, has a wet, temperate climate. Industry and technology drive the economy, especially in and around Seattle. On the eastern side the weather is much drier, the population more sparse, and agriculture takes precedence over technology or industry.  That’s where I expect to find remnants of America’s “Wild West”  – but I have to travel east to get there.

 

78090023-Edit

The Govan Schoolhouse. Photo taken with a film camera and processed in Silver Efex.

P7131208-Edit

The shingles are loose, the floor is rotten, and birds scatter and cry foul if you get too close.

P7131202-Edit-2

The schoolhouse roof has seen better days.

P7131232-Edit

More old buildings in Govan that seem to embody a life of hard work and practical values.

78090024-Edit

A deserted home welcomes plants more than people these days. Photo taken with a film camera, processed in Silver Efex.

P7100960-Edit-Edit-2

The town of Curlew still has a false-fronted saloon and a general store, but miners no longer come looking for moonshine.  Around the corner…

P7100949-Edit

An old Seagrave fire truck from about 1949 gathers dust and dirt. 

*

P7100962-Edit

The Curlew bridge. It hasn’t been altered since it was built in 1908, and still features a wooden roadbed. Center your wheels!

 

 

Sadly, Riverside’s Detro’s Western Store is going out of business after 71 years. Western boots are on sale, along with saddles, hats, and rodeo equipment.

P7100898-Edit-2

Down the street from Detro’s Western store, a weathered building has an aura of neglect.

P7100932-Edit

Another anonymous building in Riverside.

P7100941-Edit

The stretch of small town shadows and summer afternoons is mighty long.

 

P7100899

A bike in front of the store has been left out a little too long, but it sure adds to the charm.

P7100903-Edit

A cigar store  Indian stands guard at the grocery store in Riverside.

P7131176-Edit.jpg

A life-size, sculpted Indian on horseback gazes into the distance. He’s part of an extensive Wild West collection at the Black Bear Motel in Davenport.

P7111015-Edit

In Metaline Falls, architectural details recall a more prosperous past.

P7100942-Edit

There’s plenty of room to spread out, here among the rolling hills.

P7131257-Edit

It seems that everywhere I look, whether at an old storefront in town or a grassy field outside of town, colors are subtly weathered, from the harshness of the elements.

P7100881

An unidentified wildflower, past bloom but still beautiful, graces a vacant lot.

P7131253-Edit

A barbed wire fence, a bullet-ridden old can, and utter quiet in Lincoln County.

P7131189-Edit

This pretty Mariposa lily hosts an insect convention.

P7090863

One lone tree stands vigil amid grasses and wildflowers.

P7090877-Edit

Glacial erratics are scattered over the earth in Douglas County. A National Natural Landmark, the area was on the edge of an ice sheet several million years ago; these giants were left behind.

P7131292

The empty road reminds me of all the people who have come west, looking for freedom and a new life.

P7090870

 

***

Why do we take photographs when we travel? To remember. In the emotional rush that is the excitement of new places, there often isn’t much consideration given to the best angle, the best settings, or how to compose a picture that tells the story – we aren’t even sure what the story is sometimes. We just want to record, and sometimes that means less than optimal images. But each time we travel we get a little better at remembering to work the image, to make it more than a snapshot. There’s another factor that motivates me – I’m looking for patterns. Not just patterns within a particular frame, but patterns across time that are connections to other images from other places.

This post is presented as a visual narrative of a particular trip, but also carries forward ideas I have about beauty and loss, the intrigue of form and shadow, and maybe, an expression of the fullness of spirit that sometimes finds me, in the best moments of forgetting.

 

 

***

 

Other Roads

Our trip to the Kootenay region of British Columbia hit a snag, and roads led us

elsewhere.

I found the four elements arranged themselves nicely,

anyway.

Fire, earth, air, water – we felt them all, sometimes

painfully.

The heat was oppressive and we had a bad meal or two. But smile-inducing surprises

found us.

And visual delights?

I found them.

P7090879-Edit

Pastels soothe the eyes and in the distance, power giants loom, but delicately.

We were there, and

Yes, you’re here.

P7090787-Edit

*

Here is an arrangement of images, reflecting various arrangements of the four elements, as seen on my trip through central and eastern Washington State.

 

P7141350

*

P7141323-Edit

*

P7131272-Edit

 

*

P7131165-Edit

*

P7131193

*

P7131300-Edit-2

*

P7131211-Edit

*

P7100910

*

P7111054-Edit

*

P7141389-Edit

*

P7141349

*

P7090811-Edit

*

P7100976

*

P7141325

*

P7100973-Edit

*

P7100889-Edit

*

P7100964-Edit

*

P7131293-Edit

*

P7090871-Edit

*

First Photo:  A rural road in Douglas County, central Washington State. There were 849 farms in the county at last US Dept. of Agriculture census in 2012. The average age of the farms’ principle operators was 59, and farms produced $327,190,000 in wheat. (Earth)

Second: Trail marker at Ohme Gardens, Wenatchee.

Third: Rushing water at Deception Falls, Cascade Mountains, near Skykomish. (Water)

Fourth: Detail of the Tumwater Pipeline Bridge. In the 1890’s the bridge supported a wooden pipe carrying water to power the Great Northern Railroad as it climbed Stevens Pass. Now it is repurposed as part of the Tumwater Pipeline trail. (Earth)

Fifth: A field of Yarrow behind barbed wire outside the ghost town of Govan, Lincoln County. (Earth)

Sixth: “Amber waves of grain” – and green, Lincoln County. (Earth)

Seventh: More wheat fields outside Govan. (Earth)

Eighth: An old windmill in a wheat field, at 60 mph. (Air)

Ninth: Shingle siding on the old Govan Schoolhouse, built in 1905. The small town has slowly faded over the years and is now marked by a grain elevator and shipping terminal.  The steeple came down two years ago; there are many photos of the two room schoolhouse online, with the steeple intact.  (Earth)

Tenth: Plants press against an old window at a general store, Riverside. (Earth)

Eleventh: Lungwort lichen (Lobaria pulmonaria) on a tree at Sweet Creek Falls, between the old mining towns of Ione and Metalline, in Washington’s northeast corner. (Earth)

Twelfth: The Tye River eases over rock at Deception Falls, about 13 miles west of Stevens Pass. Nearby, on January 6, 1893 the last rail spike was set to connect Seattle to St. Paul, Minnesota, and through to the east coast.  Echoes of revolvers and the shouts of men on a winter night marked the achievement of over 1800 miles of track laid down across the West. Twenty-four years earlier the first transcontinental railroad had been completed in Utah; the privately financed GN was now the northernmost rail line in the states. Nearby Stevens Pass is named for its discoverer, John Frank Stevens, who engineered the Great Northern Railroad and later was chief engineer of the Panama Canal. (Water)

Thirteenth: Water roars through a narrow passage at Deception Falls. (Water)

Fourteenth: An old tree root, probably Western redcedar, at Ohme Gardens in Wenatchee. (Earth)

Fifteenth: Forest fire damage in the Colville National Forest, seen from Boulder Creek Road at 60 mph. The Stickpin Fire of 2015 originated with a lightning strike on August 11th. By early September the National Guard, helicopters, and crews from distant locations were on the scene working to contain the fire. It was just 36% contained on September 8th, almost a month after it began, The fire was one of many across the region that year. Three firefighters lost their lives on August 19th when fire enveloped their vehicle in a separate fire east of here. By that time, 600 square miles were burning across Washington. The road this photo was taken from was closed, people miles away wore face masks outdoors, and evacuation orders were issued for some areas.

–  From the Barreca Vineyard blog: “The valleys filled with smoke, the ghosts of dead forests from the mountains around us. We wore breathing masks outside. Ash rained down on buildings, cars, the garden… Fire camps sprung up in Colville and Kettle Falls. You would see helicopters and planes flying here and there to fight the fires.”

By the end of October the 73,392 acre conflagration was 82% contained.  The Incident Commander planned ongoing patrols and mop-up repair work. Today, fireweed blooms among blackened pine trees.  (Fire)

Sixteenth: The Tumwater Pipeline strut work casts shadows that would make an engineer happy, though now they fall on a flat trail bed instead of a rounded wooden pipeline. (Earth)

Seventeenth: Another view of forest fire damage in the Colville National Forest.  (Fire)

Eighteenth: An unidentified wildflower in a vacant lot by an auto parts store, Omak. If you have any idea what it is, let me know!  (Earth)

Nineteenth: Hay bales ready for pick up outside Curlew. (Earth)

Twentieth: Looking up into a wheat field planted hard by the road in Lincoln County. (Earth)

Twenty-first: Summertime on the road, eastern Washington. (Air)

** There is an admitted arbitrariness to these elemental assignments. And let’s not forget spirit, an element that may weave through it all.

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Away

That too-quick trip I took up north –

the slow climb to the high peaks, the road’s

twists, slopes and curves, revealing ever-prettier views –

a zippy swoosh

down the east side of the mountain, then

dry, rolling hills,

burnt timber scattered over the valley.

So many discoveries – it was all over

too soon.

I saw this – and more:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

20160723_125544

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Most of the photos above are from Newhalem, a tiny company town built for hydroelectric projects that supply about a quarter of Seattle’s electricity. Three dams were built here on the fast-running Skagit River.  One hundred and fifty miles long, the Skagit tumbles down from British Columbia, twenty-four miles to the north, through the mountains, past small towns and lowland farms and out to Puget Sound, where the river forms a rich, life-sustaining delta. Seattle is about 116 miles south and west of Newhalem; the road didn’t cut all the way through the North Cascades until 1972, when Washington’s most  northerly route to the “east side” was finally created, tracing a path used for thousands of years for trade by indigenous people.

Newhalem is a clean, orderly little dot on the map, a stopping-off place where tourists traveling over the North Cascades Highway learn about the hydroelectric project and stroll the beautiful Trail of the Cedars. Last year fires raged in the area, as seen in the fifth photo above, but this year’s fire season has been better…so far.

Skies were glaring the morning we passed through so I selected the “Dramatic tone” filter in the camera, and a sepia one. In the end, no matter what you do, pictures don’t convey the bulk and size and benevolent majesty of the old cedars, without question, my favorite Pacific northwest tree.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Here’s the old Gorge powerhouse plant –

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

…where you can learn about the history of this extraordinary project, which involved some nervy railroading feats. In the photo below you can see two local women on the car with an assortment of men in charge and project laborers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Back on the road, you’re soon in the heart of the scenic view territory, as one by one, shimmering turquoise blue lakes created by the three dams begin to distract you from the road.   The only question is which overlook to stop at.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Waterfalls at the road’s edge are irresistible.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Imagine the flow of these waterfalls and the river in Spring! The highway opens in April or May each year, then closes in November or early December. It takes the crew four to six weeks to clear snow and get the road open each year, and… Every spring, Tootsie Clark, the matriarch of Clark’s Skagit River Resort  (near Marblemount), drives her Cadillac up to the west-side closure gate near Diablo, opens the trunk and serves cinnamon (Tootsie!) rolls and coffee to those waiting in line for the gate to open. It’s a tradition she has been carrying on since the 1970s.” (from the Washington State Dept of Transportation website. I think she is still around but I doubt she’s still driving!)

Forty-two miles down the road is Washington Pass, after which we would descend the mountains along the eastern slope to the Methow Valley. The Pass was our last stop in the mountains, and a fitting one. There is a profound charge to the atmosphere there. Walk away from the parking lot, wander over rocky, moss-strewn ledges, inhale the sweet air and look across to the high peaks. You’re rooted and lighter than air at the same time. Your whole being quiets.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

20160723_175834

By the time we dragged ourselves away from the pass it was 6 pm. Our destination, the little town of Winthrop down in the Methow Valley, was only a half hour away. Set in the beautiful, dry hills of central Washington, Winthrop is a Western town offering a main street with old, false-fronted wooden buildings and a sprinkling of lively restaurants with good food.  The day satisfied!

(But sometimes WordPress does not. I have fixed the alignment over and over, and nothing I do will make the photos all align left or centered, so please forgive that some are on the left margin and others aren’t. Likewise with the uneven spaces between the photos).

 

 

 

Wacky Words for the Wordpress Weekly Photo Challenge

A Photo Challenge that makes you think! The idea this week is to take three photos: one to establish the scene, one to show interaction between two elements in the scene, and one to up get close.  My second shot shows four rather than two elements – but I think the principle is the same, and who could resist that wacky word quartet?

*

*

These photos (taken with my old Samsung Galaxy phone) show a public art piece called “Vernacular” by Seattle artist Buster Simpson, at the Bellevue Public Library. The man and his son are heading into the parking garage, where even more license plates stamped with words hang on an interior wall.

*

Anyone care to create a poem from these words? Grabbing more words from the first photo is permitted.

*

More responses to this week’s Daily Post WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge are here.   And I can’t resist – here are two more images from yesterday’s trip to the library – an uncanny vamping welcome, anyone?

*

In case you’re wondering, as we were, a zyzzyva is a kind of snout-y, tropical American beetle, but the word’s obvious charm has led to other uses, among them, the name for a group of West coast artists and writers – how cool is that? Here’s their latest work.

WASHINGTON’S OLYMPIC PENINSULA – A Quick Trip!

We were itching to go back to the Olympic Peninsula. We knew two days would be barely enough time to make a dent, but…off we went! It required a drive to the ferry, a chilly trip across the sound, and more driving to get to Hurricane Ridge, a popular spot up in the Olympic Mountains with great views and our first destination.

Fellow chilly ferry passengers.

While docking we saw a gull dining on a sea star – how he got it down, I don’t know!

We stopped at our favorite “truck stop” ever:  the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe’s Longhouse Market & Deli. Selling gas, groceries, wine, take out food, and much more, it is the epitome of taste in gas stations.

A closer look at one of the totems guarding the entrance.

On the way up to Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic Mountains we broke through the morning fog into a clear, sun-filled day.

Cooperative black-tailed deer posed along the trail. No one was feeding them, happily. They seemed to be getting salt or minerals from a little seep of water in the rocks near the trail and clearly didn’t mind having people close by.

What seemed to be the very last flower of the season up there was this tiny spreading phlox, sitting pretty on a sunny slope. This kind of situation is what gardeners call “sharp drainage” – I’ll say! It takes a tough plant to survive these harsh conditions.

Another detail that fascinated me was the amount of sap on these cones:

A long view across a valley in the Olympics, with snow in the distance. You can see two people on the trail to the right near the trees.

Looking down onto the fog:

These cones were losing their seeds to wind, birds, or squirrels. I don’t know which, but it made for a comical profile!

The fog returned as we made our way to the coast, to Third Beach. First we stopped at our hotel in Forks, the little town famous for the Twilight books and movie. Having secured our room, we drove to one of the nearby beaches. I knew it would be low tide when we got there and I was eager to walk out and see what I could find.  Fog gave the narrow two lane road lined with tall trees an enchanted look.

By the time we parked and walked about a mile through the forest to get to Third Beach, it was late afternoon and light was getting low.

Hardly anyone was around – just a few gulls and one or two people. It was a good place to lose yourself in the mist and rocks.

I picked my way across the rough, barnacle-covered rocks towards the sea stacks.  I was hoping for sea stars, anemones, whatever might hide in those crevices…

And there they were, but it was hard to focus properly in the low light.  I guess I’m happy to have gotten anything. It’s just more reason to return.

In the photo below, the little trench of water is filled with sea anemones. The sea stars in both photos are the same species even though they’re different colors. Called Purple Sea Star (Pisaster ochraceus) it’s thought that diet may play a role in the coloration.

The next morning we visited the Hoh Rainforest. Instead of too little light, there was too much – it was unusually bright and sunny. Most days the rainforest is, well, rainy, or at least very misty. But that day the contrast of bright sun and dark shadows made it difficult to photograph the complicated landscape.  There were only a few workable images. But again, it’s more reason to come back.

An old phone booth with no phone in it at the parking lot was overgrown with moss. I’m so glad they didn’t remove it.

Sunlight created complex reflections and shadows on the surface of a fast-moving creek full of aquatic plants.

I saved our prize sighting (and the worst photo!) for last. As we drove into the rainforest that morning, we noticed something big up ahead in the road. When we saw it – a bull elk and two females – we slowed to a stop and then tried to creep forward in the car to get a photo, as I scrambled for my camera – I was so excited! I ruined shot after shot because I couldn’t calm down enough to hold the camera steady.

But it was still a great experience.  The bull soon became annoyed with us, whistled to his women, and with a nonchalant glance over his shoulder he strolled into the forest and disappeared. They dutifully followed.  I remembered to breathe.

Later that day we saw several warning signs in the park. You’re never supposed to get as close as we did to a bull elk in the fall. Ignorance was bliss, this time.

After the rainforest we returned to the coast one more time. It was almost high tide at dramatic Rialto Beach. Being a weekday in the fall, almost no one was around. Ethereal mist and fog silvered the water, the wind blew, round black stones clattered under breaking waves that crashed with enough force to roll log giants…it was impossible not to be fully there, with all senses engaged.  Photographs from that day are here.

And here are a few more shots from Rialto:

One more, snapped with my phone as I regretfully left Rialto for the long drive home.

The road home across the peninsula’s north side (the middle is unpassable because of the mountain range so you either go north or south) follows Crescent Lake’s quiet, scenic shoreline for miles.  I thought about our next visit to the Olympic Peninsula. Maybe the rainforest will be rainy…maybe we’ll spend more time in the mountains…explore another beach…get out to Neah Bay…take a closer look at Crescent Lake. But for one trip, we sure packed it in.

RIALTO BEACH

The goal was a wild, fog-smudged shoreline over 150 miles from Seattle…

We drove, ferried, and drove again, finally arriving in Forks, the small town made famous by the Twilight books & movie. It was a two day blitz – on the first day, the Olympic Mountains and Second Beach; on the second day, the Hoh Rainforest and Rialto Beach. (Even with all the water around Seattle and Puget Sound we are starved for the beach!)

Rialto Beach is an easy half hour drive from Forks, but first we wanted to explore the Hoh Rainforest.  Often mist-filled and rainy, the Hoh area was sunny that day, but even in sunny conditions it was dark inside the forest. Most of my photos of the rainforest didn’t turn out well – patience and a tripod would have worked better than our determined pace. Next time.

As we headed to the coast the fog returned and hovered just at the edge of the land. We parked and made our way through a patch of forest towards the pounding crash and boom of high tide. The powerful sound overtook me well before I saw the beach. Within the woods, even at water’s edge, dim light concealed details, and where thick forest confronted heavy surf, spindly fir tree skeletons stood tall, their future a tangled wreck at their feet.

It was all wet grays and diffuse light.

*

*

*

*

The smooth, round rocks clattered as they rolled and tumbled under receding waves.

*

*

A miscellany of sea life was scattered about the beach. It all made me wish we had a handy marine biologist along to grill with questions: What’s this? And that? Why this color? Who eats this stuff? And what does the other forest, the one that lies beneath the waves look like?

*

*

*

A few enormous logs – the trademark of Pacific Northwest beaches – rolled around freely in the tide. We actually recognized one giant log from the first time we came here, two years ago.

*

*

*

*

*

The softest, most subtle colors could be seen through the mist, whether you looked out to sea or back into the woods.

*

*

*

The sun would hide behind thick clouds, then a vague, barely blue patch would form up the beach revealing tantalizing glimpses of rugged outcroppings and sea stacks. There’s a natural arch not far from here, but that would have to wait.  It was getting late. I wished I could stay another night – there are birds here, (last time we saw pelicans), killer whales, seals, and a whole other world out there at low tide.  Today all that was invisible to us, but we were well satisfied.

*

Drift with me

along sea-sprayed shores…

*

I discovered a gem – please take a second to listen to this recording of the rocks and surf at Rialto, and sounds inside a hollow log on the beach.  The recording was made by acoustic ecologist (acoustic ecologist – that idea alone makes me shiver with pleasure!) Gordon Hempton. He was interviewed by Krista Tippet, who produces a very good NPR show called “On Being.”

Heaped Horizons

Up on Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park last weekend I gazed at the distant horizon of the Olympic Mountain Range, a floating parade of glacier-covered peaks. Marching out to the Olympic mountain tops were folded hills covered in dark spruce and fir. Closer by, the slopes were clad in gold grass sprinkled with evergreens. At my feet, there was yet another horizon, a thin veil of grass stems: horizon heaped upon horizon, as far as I could see.

This week’s Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge is “Horizon”  –  you might broaden yours by checking out a heap of horizons here.

VASHON ISLAND

We took the ferry over to Vashon Island the other day.

This big island near Seattle (37 sq. mi.) has no bridges, so it has retained a good bit of charm. Lining up to wait for the ferry, we relaxed and watched the sun struggle to break through thick morning fog.

While we waited, I got out of the car and gazed into clouds of fog. The blending of one tone into another was so subtle, it was mesmerizing.

We boarded and began the short ride to Vashon Island, with just enough time to get out of the car and walk briskly around the deck.  I looked in vain for Orcas (killer whales, regularly seen here), but instead, another ferry slowly appeared through the fog.

There are no big towns on Vashon Island, and only one stop light.  This old wood building which may have been a feed store but now stands empty caught my eye. I’m always drawn to this kind vernacular architecture.

We parked in town to check out the Farmers Market, first stopping at the island’s only supermarket for a bottle of water, which I had forgotten to bring in the rush to leave that morning. In front of the supermarket was a “Scone Wagon” – go figure!  As local residents caught up with each other I took a photograph. This is a typical look on Vashon – relaxed, ready to pull up a weed or two, with a bit of whimsy at one’s side.

The Farmers Market was full of beautiful veggies, many of them organic and all grown on the island. No bargains here though!

Exuberant bunches of dahlias added to the celebration of fall color at the market.

And these root vegetables are ?  I’m not sure…

A huge mural painted on the wall of an old bank next to the market features local history. This is just a portion of it.

We stopped for espresso at a roadside cafe that has a nice front porch. You could help yourself to coffee from carafes left on a table outside (and oh, how I love the easy availability of good espresso in rural places here in the northwest).

Inside there were old Danish coffee grinders on display:

It’s an island, so of course we explored the shore in various places…

The water is so clear!

The sturdy Pt. Robinson Lighthouse is an island attraction – there were at least 4 or 5 other people there!  This lighthouse was built in 1915 and the old keeper’s houses next to it (below) can be rented ($225/night on the off season; about $1500/wk in the summer).

The charming keepers’ houses are situated beautifully along the shore, facing east. There’s a stunning view of Mt. Rainier, wildlife on the water, and plenty of driftwood for building impromptu sculptures. Making interesting piles of driftwood is a common past time in the Pacific Northwest.  A sign reminds you not to take any driftwood from the beach, just in case you could be rude enough to contemplate that…

This was my favorite sculpture:

And here’s that spectacular view of Mt. Rainier, complete with a fishing boat and a loon. We sat on a log, basked in the sun, and watched the loon dive for fish. Perfect.

Back inland we walked a short trail through typical northwest woodland. There were feathery cedar boughs, abundant sword ferns, plentiful mushrooms and moss, and a slant of sunlight brightening up a spot where someone cut down a cedar.

Bright red-orange berries growing in a tangle along the shore were attractive.  I think this plant is poisonous though.  I couldn’t remember its name but I’m pretty sure it’s in the same family as tomatoes.

Back at the ferry dock, the Cascades tore a ragged edge along the horizon and gulls sliced the air over calm waters.

On the ride over to Vashon that morning, fog had completely obscured Mt. Rainier, but now the grand lady’s snowy flanks were resplendent in the late afternoon sunlight.

I feel very lucky to live in a part of the world that so readily offers up treasures of land, water and sky.

ONE SCENE, TWO TAKES

Or, as the current Weekly Photo Challenge puts is, One Shot, Two Ways.

In either case I think I have an affinity for this assignment, which is to capture two images of a scene, one horizontal and one vertical.  Seeing things in different ways comes naturally.  I often begin looking from a normal eye level angle, scanning left and right. Then I like to think about other ways to see a scene, switching up the viewpoint for another angle.

I could wade through the photo archives and come up with pairs of photos that demonstrate the principle of One Shot, Two Ways, but I’m trying to hew more closely to the spirit of the challenge by using photos taken just for it.  There was an opportunity for a little road trip the other day and I figured I’d look for a scene  that would lend itself to horizontal and vertical shots. Now, which way to go?

We had major construction and road closures to our south, so that direction was out. Last weekend we went north, and going west means Seattle, unless there’s time for an overnight out on the Olympic Peninsula.  So I scanned a map, searching for some place east of us and not too far away.  Somewhere new.  State Route 2, one of the handful of roads that manages to climb the great barrier of Washington’s Cascade Mountain range, would be the starting point, but then what?   I found a promising road on the map – a local two lane that parallels Rt. 2 for a few miles toward the tiny town of Index, famous for its 1000′ granite rock climbing wall.  We had yet to explore Index, so the route was set.

The road lived up to our expectations. It’s a secondary road that few people use, and it was a delightful ride as it lifted and tumbled and whizzed us around its curves. Tall second growth native trees hung with glowing green moss pressed hard upon its edges. When we stopped the car, the silence soothed our highway-buzzed nerves, bringing us back to that grounded place of rest and renewal.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Index was a cool little town. With about 150 inhabitants, it’s hemmed in by that huge wall of granite, a beautiful winding river, railroad tracks that used to transport ore from mines nearby, and the jutting finger of Mt. Index to the south. There’s a general store, a tiny museum and a rafting and outdoor adventure outfit, and not much else. We heard that homes rarely come up for sale – it’s a tight community in a stunning landscape – and when they do, you’ll need to wait in line and pass muster to buy in. We could see why. Here are few phone photos around Index. Click to enlarge:

You can find more Weekly Photo Challenge double takes here.