Under an ancient volcanic mountain on the edge of the North Cascades, a wide river meanders through a moss-shrouded forest of giant Douglas firs, Western hemlocks, Western Redcedars, and Bigleaf maples. Lumber has been a prominent industry here for centuries, so you’d be correct to think that a healthy forest with easy river access would have been harvested at least once by now. Somehow, part of this verdant lowland forest escaped the cut.

“Rockport State Park” isn’t a place name that excites me. It doesn’t make me want to know more. I had passed by the park sign several times without a thought, bound for places like “Diablo” and “Twisp.” But it turns out, there’s magic behind that sign; after reading about the park, I was determined to go beyond the sign.

Winter is quiet in this corner of the world. Few people are interested in walking through damp woods on a chilly day in January.  They’re up in the mountains skiing, they’ve gone south, they’re indoors. So a winter weekday afternoon proved to be a good time to walk the trails at Rockport State Park. The predominantly evergreen forest practically glowed with vivid greens. Leaves, lichens and mosses dripped with moisture, thanks in part to nearby Skagit River. Creeks gurgled, the trees stretched higher than we could see, mist floated in and out of the tree canopy, and shafts of sunlight knifed into the fern-laden understory. The effect was otherworldly. We were smitten.

Two weeks later we returned to walk another trail, where we were treated to a meeting with a magnificent Redcedar tree that has owned that spot in the forest for hundreds of years. Regal doesn’t begin to describe the bearing of that tree.

I wonder what early Spring flowers are beginning to poke though the moss and forest floor litter now. We’ll have to wait until we return from a trip to explore the park again. In the meantime, here are photographs from two mid-winter walks in the old growth forest at Rockport State Park.

1. On the Way
2. Greenglow
3. Sword fern fronds
4. The green machine at work in January
5. Bigleaf maple trees were leafless but colorful, from thick coats of moss, lichens, liverworts and ferns.
6. Moisture dripped through multiple layers of growth to the forest floor.
7. Everywhere, fallen leaves were caught on branches, and even trapped in lichen clumps. What’s happening between the decaying leaf and the lichen strands is a language I don’t speak, but sometimes I can feel it – that quiet language of nourishment and constant change.
8. Precious drops of water hung like pearls on a slender piece of Usnea longissima lichen. The lichen will use what it needs, and what’s left will drip down to nourish another part of the forest. A sign of clean air, Usnea doesn’t grow in places with significant air pollution.
9. A fallen leaf from a Bigleaf maple tree has laid here long enough for moss to crawl over it.
10. Age and youth.
11. The bench gives you an idea of the immense size of this old Redcedar. Leaning against it was comforting. Circumambulating it, I paid my respects.
12. A certain someone leans in.
13. Water drop magic.
14. Moss or lichen? It can be hard to tell.  I think this is a moss. Naming the plants isn’t necessary but it gives me pleasure. It helps keep me grounded.
15. A big piece of foliose lichen, probably lung lichen (Lobaria pulmonaria), tumbled to the ground to rest on a bed of Sword fern and Bigleaf maple leaves. This lichen can be found in wet places in North America, Asia, Europe and Africa, and it’s been used medicinally in most if not all of those continents, as well as for dye and perfume making.
16. Trees could be seen at every stage of life and decay.
17. Mist and moss conspired to create an otherworldly feeling.

18. There was elegance along the trail.
19. A leaf caught on a branch, wrapped around it, and stuck to itself. Then another leaf landed on the first one, and they breathed the moist, forest air together.
20. Either my fingers were too cold, or I was too lazy to switch lenses on my camera. I photographed the river in brilliant sunlight with my phone, which doesn’t handle bright contrast well. But you can get the idea – it’s a big river with an abundance of life all around it.
21. Creeks race through the forest to feed the river below.
22. A tree trio in black and white.
23. Thanks to mild winters and abundant moisture, massive amounts of mosses, lichens, liverworts and ferns live in the trees. Bigleaf maples can actually grow roots from under the bark on their branches, tapping into the nutrients of the spongy mass of life.
24. Another Bigleaf maple leaf caught on a twig, in a most unlikely manner. Such a delicate balance, and believe me, I didn’t touch it!
25. On the drive home clouds shifted over the heavily logged foothills. The pale patchwork shows what might have been, if the forest behind us had been logged too. I’m glad those trees still stand.


When this post is published I’ll be in the air, hurtling east towards Amsterdam for three weeks’ vacation in northern Europe. While on the road I won’t have the tools I prefer to do a proper post. Another post is scheduled for a week from now, and maybe I’ll post a few phone photos from the streets European cities if there’s time. I hope to get back to Rockport after I return from Europe, to see what changes the waking-up season has brought to this beautiful forest.

Lens and camera notes: On my second visit to the park, I used the vintage Super-Takumar 50mm f1.4. lens (discussed in this post) most of the day.  When I wanted a wider view I used my phone.  Photos #2, #3, #5, #6, #7, #13, #15, #19 and #24 were taken with the Takumar. Photos #1, #11, #12, #20, and #21 were taken with the phone.  Photos #4, #8, #9, #10, #14, #16, #17, #18, and #23 are from my first visit, when I used a Panasonic 20mm f1.7 lens and an Olympus 60mm f2.8 macro lens. I used an Olympus 14-150mm f4/5.6 zoom lens that day for #22 and #25.

Spring(ing) Through an Old Lens

The first blooms have opened, the birds are singing, the air is fresh. It’s time for immersion.








I can get lost in a lens. Especially the old Super Takumar 50mm f1.4. From time to time I get it out, twist it onto the camera body, dial the aperture way down, and see what happens. (Here’s a video about the lens).








The white blossoms of a native Bitter cherry tree (Prunus emarginata) grace a patch of scrappy woods that’s between our house and the one next door. What a lift for the spirit, seeing that sprinkling of white among the bare branches and evergreens. And there are little Indian plums (Oemleria cerasiformis) in the woods, with joyous, lime green leaves and sweet little sprays of dangling flowers.






The emerging energy around the yard is echoed at the state park a few miles away, where red alder (Alnus rubra) catkins glow with color and the rocks follow suit with blooms of lichen, perhaps Orange boulder lichen (Porpidia flavocaerulescens).  Sometimes I wish I could pack a tiny lichenologist, or a botanist in my pocket, and take him out whenever I had a question. I’d pull him out, point to a mysterious lichen and say, “There! Tell me a story about that one!”  If you doubt the existence of lichenologists, here’s an excellent article about one. It’s a great read. Seriously! I included another lichen photo, of a twig with at least four different species on it, just because lichens are cool.

There’s so much to learn.

Back on the trail in the park, diminutive Rattlesnake plantains (Goodyera oblongifolia) nestle in the moss. They will produce slender stalks covered with tiny white orchids; hopefully they will wait until I return. And the humble Red dead-nettle, or henbit, (Lamium purpureum), which hitchhiked here from Europe, is already blooming. Henbit hides its pale blooms under colorful leaves arranged in neat pairs. Seen from above, it’s almost architectural in its orderliness, like a tiny stupa.
















Then there’s the beauty below, the star of our early Spring forests, Red-flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum). This native shrub delights woodland walkers, hummingbirds and bees with a profusion of charming raspberry-colored flowers.











Along the water the steep, rocky cliffs retain enough moisture for clumps of grass to take hold in crevices. I’m drawn by the artful way last year’s tattered leaf blades jostle with this year’s growth. In the forest, Red Huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium) leaves unfurl along green, zigzagging stems. The edible red berries will appear later, but I doubt I’ll get to eat one – the birds and mammals are likely to beat me to it. Next to a tree stump on the edge of the forest, hardy Siberian miner’s lettuce (Claytonia sibirica) blooms. The edible plant can be used in salads but I don’t know whose dog, or which wild creature may have left their mark here, so I’ll pass.










Our common evergreen fern, the Sword fern (Polystichum munitum) took a beating this winter from heavy, long-lasting snow. Clumps of this normally attractive understory plant lie flat on the ground now, their fronds broken and spotted with dead patches. Frankly, I haven’t wanted to look at Sword ferns lately, but a few dried fronds curled against a rock made beautifully intricate shadows, a pleasing sight. No doubt, even the dead fronds can be beautiful but soon their distinctive fiddleheads will begin to unwind, and I’m looking forward to seeing a Sword fern rejuvenation.

Near one end of a favorite trail, the small leaves of Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) dot the dark landscape like a pointillist’s dream.







It’s getting late….time to go.



All of these photos were made with the Takumar 50mm f1.4 lens, during the past week. Yesterday I went for a quick walk before dinner. I rushed out of the house with the old Takumar lens on the camera and a macro lens in the bag. Neither one was the right choice for photographing this Common loon swimming in the bay at sunset. It would have been nice to be able to zoom in closer. It is what it is though, and as a record of a moving scene, it ain’t half bad. So: have the lenses or the camera you’ll need with you – but if you don’t have the right equipment, do what you can and be satisfied.






Come along, walk with me,

and look through a different lens –

not the metaphorical one you learned about in school:

“What are your assumptions, your unconscious beliefs?

Through what lens do you view the world?”

No. An old camera lens,

new to me.

I ordered it online and it required an adapter,

because cameras like mine didn’t exist when the lens was made,

so I ordered the adapter and

it was the wrong one.

And I had to start again.

But eventually

the new-old lens got attached to the camera.


I have to use my other adapter

(my brain) to figure out how to use it.


It has a lovely way with things, even when you don’t focus it quite right.

You have to focus manually

and sometimes it’s


hard to see

whether the subject is in focus.

Or not.


But even out of focus

some pretty nice things can happen, and

one of these days

I’ll get better at using it.


We’re returning to form

here in the Pacific Northwest,

which means rain, clouds, and gray skies.

But this weekend, there were windows of opportunity, so

off we went, Saturday and Sunday, between showers.

We stalked birds and frogs in the beautiful Snoqualmie Valley,

east of Seattle. We roamed the wetlands of Mercer Slough.



There were raindrops and sun rays, clouds and puddles.

There were noisy jays and a pair of Great Blue Herons loping

gracefully over a field with deep, slow wing beats.



The all metal prime lens

feels heavy and authoritative in my hands.

The lack of zoom forces one to walk closer or back away

instead of twisting the barrel. As I squinted through the viewfinder I kept forgetting

where exactly the focus ring was – my fingers unsure on the new lens.

But what a marvel it is – letting lots of light in and going softly loose

at 1.4 – everything blurred

except one spot.


When you can get it right.

These Shaggy scalycap mushrooms are supposedly edible, but not choice. Nearby a woman was mushroom hunting.

She carried a big, flat-bottomed basket and wore a furtive look.

I didn’t dare try to take her picture.

Leaves on the forest floor were a safer subject.


To end on a bright note, a late season Black-eyed Susan. I took this the first time I went out with the lens, three weeks ago.


Playing with my new-old lens is going to keep

my mind flexible, right?

A good thing.

For those who are interested, it’s a Super Takumar 1.4 50mm lens made by Pentax. Though it’s not expensive, it has a certain cult status for it’s “particular character” – a sometimes oddly golden hue, a quality build with sharp glass, and “ethereal rendering.”   I think mine was made in 1965.  (How many owners were there before me? What did this lens see and where did it go?).  It’s heavier than the lens that came with my Lumix G3, a small camera I bought because it does a lot well in a lightweight package. But the weight is not bothersome at all, the focus ring feels solid and smooth, and I think I’m going to enjoy this!

As for the slight golden hue, fall is a perfect time to go with that, isn’t it? But just a slight drag towards the blue end in LR brings it back to normal, if that’s desired.