The Knitting Nurse

Rambles and Travels

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Grand Ridge Hike – Olympic National Park

Hey folks.  I’ve been saving up plenty of pics and info to share.   I’ll try to catch up.

Today I enjoyed a hike in Olympic National Park with a couple of folks from a local hiking group.  The day started out blue-bird blue.  Some fluffy clouds came in later.  Temp was around 75 but a cool breeze kept it comfy.


The Grand Ridge Trail leaves from the end of Obstruction Point Rd., an 8 mile dirt road that carries one away from the bustling Hurricane Ridge Rd.  I’ve shown you this place before.  Starting at 6,000′ it’s one of the highest maintained trails in the park.  It was pretty mellow, only 600′ elevation gain in 2.5 miles.  One can walk it through to the Deer Park entrance to the park. We did an out and back of 5 miles.

The trail skirts along Elk Mountain (to the left, out of the picture) Badger Valley is below:



I noticed a pattern of rocky rivulets down the hillsides.  Where the terrain flattens, the rocks are distributed evenly.




Three weeks ago I hiked on Hurricane Ridge and the flowers were in full splendor. I have oodles of photos to share of that hike.  Two weeks ago the flowers on the same trail were nearing completion.  Fortunately, some still graced our walk today.

I believe this is some sort of Saxifrage.  The bees were all over it.


Thyme Buckwheat. The color varied from pale peach to raspberry.


A Gentian of some sort:


Mountain Owl’s Clover.  I have a thing for this one.


I think this is a sort of Monkeyflower. It’s sticky and shaped as such.  The stripes on the flower caught my eye.




This striking, black lichen thickly blanketed the rocks of a whole hillside.


Shale is abundant up there.  I find it fascinating how it flakes apart in sheets.  Here, it looks like pages of a discarded and charred book:


Well know Paintbrush, this specimen was fiery red.  Not in focus, just had to share the color.


At times it feels like you’re walking along a knife-edge into nowhere.


See the snowy peak in the background? That’s Mt. Olympus. There are glaciers up there.


Pictures just don’t show the splendor.

Soon snow will fall up here.  Today was a reminder that I’d like to make more trips up before winter.

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Anderson Lake – A Local Hike – More Flora

Peter and I checked out a local state park the other day, Anderson Lake.  It is a state park.  The park’s web page does not tell you  the lake is completely closed to fishing, swimming and non-motorized boat use due to a blue-green algae containing toxic cyanobacteria.   Called Anatoxin-a and a neuro-toxin, it’s linked to the deaths of humans and pets.  The level in Anderson lake was almost 1,000 times higher than recreational criteria allows.

The day was grey and a bit muggy.  The lake is 70 acres large and is surrounded by 410 wooded and wetland acres.  It’s a pretty spot. Five acres of trails lace through the park.  We walked around four+ I figure.





This post is about the flora. New to the PNW, I’m hungry for knowledge of my surroundings.  Snapping pics while out and about, I frequently look up plants and such once home.  Mind you, my info is gleaned from several reference books I have at home.  It’s not guaranteed correct. Please don’t go eating large quantities of something or using it for an unverified purpose without doing your homework.  Just have to throw that out there.

My favorite book is called Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast by Pojar and Mackkinnon.  I find it divided into sections that are easy to navigate. Much info about plants’ cultural significance and practical uses are included.  This interests me.

Pond Lilies:  Most all parts of the plants were used for medicinal purposes by native Americans and First Peoples (of Canada):



The trails varied from well worn paths through thinned forest (the area’s been logged) to tunnels through thick foliage to open and grassy meadows.





Spotted mountain bike obstacles:


On one end of the lake we passed through thickets of blackberries.  Oh they are tasty! BTW, differentiate blackberries from raspberries this way:  If you pull off a berry and there is a divot into the center of the berry it’s a raspberry. If the berry end is flat, it is a blackberry.



I believe this is Nettle (didn’t touch it to find out) tucked into Horsetail.



Robert Geranium” – Sorry…a bit fuzzy.


Here’s a plant I’ve been noting but took awhile to look up.  Oceanspray  is also called Creambush.  They favor dry, open sites such as logged land, thickets, ravine edges and coastal bluffs.  Also know as Ironwood, the wood was once used for harpoon shafts, fishing hooks, and bows and arrows by numerous coastal groups.  The wood was heated to make it even stronger.  Sometimes the wood served as nails.  Come winter, the flowers will turn brown and remain on the plants through the season.



Hardhack (AKA Steeplebush) surprised me. I’ve never seen anything like it. Then again, being new to the PNW means I’ve many of these encounters of wonder.  These plants like damp spots next to lakes, streams, swamps and wet meadows.  It’s in the Spirea family.


Salmonberries:  Color varies from yellow to red.  I’ve noted their flavor to be mild.  Native peoples ate the berries as well as young stem sprouts (peeled and eaten raw or steamed). Quite watery, (almost mushy, I think) the berries weren’t dried but often mixed with other foods such as salmon spawn and grease.  I think the collar-like frill around the berry looks like  a crown. You can really see that on the red berry pic below.



Red Elderberry – Here’s another common sight I finally looked up. The berries are brilliant against the green foliage.  These like steam banks, moist forest clearings and swampy thickets. I note them on road sides a bunch.  An important food source for coastal Natives, the berries must be cooked before consumption or nausea can occur.  The leaves and woody parts of the plant contain cyanide and are toxic.


Nootka Rose:  Pete showed me how to turn the hips into tea once they are ready to be harvested. I’d like to try it.  These (thankfully) grow everywhere up here, especially in disturbed areas.  I just love the pretty pink flowers (these are darker pink than I’ve seen) in masses and grab a nose-full of scent when I can.


Indian Pipe: I stopped dead in my tracks when I spotted this one.  This plant is fascinating.  It prefers shady, humus-rich soil in mature forests.  Having no chlorophyll means this plant  cannot make its own food.  Instead, the roots of this plant connect to tree roots via fungi.  Nutrients are taken from the tree.    Other names include Ice Plant, Ghost Flower and Corpse Plant.  Fascinating.  The plant blackens as it ages.


I don’t know mushrooms.  Yet.


Red Huckleberries:  It’s important to note there are other varietiwa of huckleberries.  I’ve come across Evergreen huckleberries on Vancouver Island.  I find the delicate, thin branches, pale green leaves and dainty red berries delightful.  Looking up through the bunch with sun filtering through is even more sweet.  Berries are edible though reportedly sour.  I haven’t tried any.  They like forests, especially ones rich with decaying wood.



Have you noted a trend?  “They like forests” I seem to tap out frequently.  How I’m loving learning about this ecosystem new to me.


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Spring Walking – Today’s Amble Through Town

Like a cat batting at a mouse, Mother Nature toys with us. Must’ve been over 50 today. A long walk through town I took under a clear, blue, sun-drenched sky.


Weather report (and the friendly guy walking past me on the bike path with a small, rambunctious terrier) predict cold, windy,rainy weather moving in later this week.

One thing I’ve learned, being new to the PNW, is to run with these blue-bird days because they may not return for awhile.  This winter’s been abnormally warm and clear.

Today, I met a friend for a walk to the library. After catching up, we parted ways and I continued up to the Uptown portion of town to my favorite bakery (Pan D’Amore) for coffee and a cinnamon roll.

Signs of spring abound.

Ornamental rhododendrons are blooming, the wild ones are not.






I think this is a camellia:




Cherry blossoms give a heady scent to the air. I’m a total sucker for them.




Here you can see some on the hillside above the lagoon.  The plume in the center is the paper mill.  The Olympic Mountains line the horizon.




The clock tower on the Jefferson County Courthouse is still the tallest structure visible on Port Townsend’s skyline.





Such a beautiful building.  When I went in for my plates and registration there was NO one waiting.  Real people answer the phone.  Can you imagine?  I was floored.



Walked past one of the marinas on the way home.  My phone died.  I wasn’t able to snap pics of the boatyard and its smallest of sailboats to giant commercial fishing boats being repaired.

I also couldn’t photograph the blackbirds in the marsh, the busted up boat that’s entertained beach-playing kids for a year or the two eagles chattering and soaring above.  There’s a whole lot to take in during these walks.

I’ll continue to share my new backyard with you.  I’m rather fond of it.



Getting to Know the Elwha – Yep that’s water on my lens.

This weekend I enjoyed the company of my friend Olivia.  A co-worker back in CA noted my knitting on break and suggested I meet her.  The friendship was meant to be.   Olivia has a quiet and  calm presence.  We enjoyed much time knitting on the couch.  Her homemade soup, pie and company warmed me more than the cozy fire in the stove.

On her last day here we went to Olympic Nat’l Park (ONP) and hiked up the Elwha River and down to Goblin’s Gate, a rock stricture in the river that makes it roil and quicken.   I’ve been in ONP to see the Hoh Rainforest Hall of Mosses and hiked out by Hurricane Ridge on my first trip up here.

This was my first trip into the park since moving in November.

Something big’s happened in ONP.  The Elwha Dam is removed.  A second dam is nearly removed.  The waters of the Elwha now run freely from their source to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  A lack of fish ladders prevented 10 species of anadromous fish from spawning.  Sediment and silt built up and erosion changed the landscape.

The salmon, denied access for so long, are returning already.

This is an NPS PDF that gives  info on restoration related to the dam’s removal.

You can also watch a video chronicling a year of the removal process through time lapse photography:

It brings me great joy to see the needs of nature supported in this way.

We began at the Whiskey Bend trailhead.  A PDF map from the NPS is handy.

High above the river, fog and clouds blanketed the river and hid the hills across the way.  Occasionally, I caught glimpses of the other side.


The hike wasn’t long, maybe 4 miles total.  After walking out the mostly flat Elwha River trail we headed down to the river on the spur labeled “Rica Canyon.”   This is a STEEP half-mile  to Goblins Gate.  Even with poles, my knees crunched.


It’s apparent the topography here consists of steep hillsides diving down to rivers.  This trail had few switchbacks.


Olivia knows plants well. She could survive in the woods with all her knowledge of hunting and plant gathering. This is DULL OREGON GRAPE.  The blue berries it produces are edible but very sour.  My plant book actually suggests combining the grapes with salal berries for a jelly.  It had medicinal use (one apparently for shellfish poisoning) and the inner bark made a yellow dye.  It’s flowers are yellow. It’s an evergreen.

BTW, I know little about plants and their medicinal uses/whether they are edible.  I’m gleaning basic facts from reference sources.

The book Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast by Pojar and Mackinnon,  is a great resource if you can find a copy.


This is VANILLA LEAF or DEER FOOT.  Growing from rhizomes, they can form thick forest floor carpets. Having no petals, a single spike of stamens only sits atop one leaf per plant.  When dry, like this lacy specimen, it smells of vanilla.  Native Americans used the ground up plant as an insect repellent.

Moss is boss in ONP.  The moss below the Vanilla Leaf is called FERN MOSS.  Up close, it looks like miniature ferns.


Viewed as a whole, a lush carpet of green.


Pretty sure this is a Douglas Fir.  Being so huge,  I couldn’t see any needles.


Anticipation made me antsy to get to the river.  Here she is!  Like usual, the photo doesn’t share the true picture.  That’s still inside my mind.

This bend in the river had a meadow on the other side.  Steep hillsides stretched up in the background. Layers of clouds, the rain make a moody setting.  I’ve mentioned before how my eyes rest here in the PNW.  Lines and colors are softened unlike in CA where light defines more sharply.   I took a video but I can’t figure out how to get if from my Mac to here.


Yes there is water on my lens. It only got worse!


The gates:  Arms of rock defy the water, funneling it through a narrow passage.



Just above the fallen wood before the Gates we noted 5 Roosevelt Elk (who live west of the Cascades) grazing away.  Rocky Mountain Elk live in the Cascades.


This was a teaser of a hike.  Having ONP at my back door is a treat.  There are alpine, rainforest and coastal places to explore.  Can’t wait to return!

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Marrowstone Point and Fort Flagler State Park – Things you find on the beach

I was antsy for a long walk last week.  Marrowstone island is across from Port Townsend.  At its northern tip lies Fort Flagler State Park, a military fort established in the 1800’s.  It’s home to miles of coastline, tall bluffs and woodland laced by trails.  I started my day on Marrowstone Point.  A Western Fisheries Field Station occupies a former lighthouse and outbuildings on this point.

This photo I took at the end of my day when the fog lifted. Notice you can see Mt Baker just peeking out on the left horizon.


My day began cloaked in fog and clouds.   A pair of eagles perched on this chimney.  I’m glad to get re-aquainted with eagles after seeing so many in AK.


A low tide allowed me to head around Marrowstone Point and along the beach trail.


The PNW is revealing new beach finds to me.  This post will focus on mainly rocks and shells.

Glaciers and melt water deposited layers of sand eons ago. Here they are revealed in chunks of the bluffs slumping off.  I’ve heard tales of locals finding mammoth tusks in the bluffs.


Rocks.  Oh the rocks!  The rocks are so colorful here compared to CA’s muted beach palettes.  I’ve purchased two guides, A Field Guide to the I.D. of Pebbles by Eileen Van der Flier Keller and Field Guide: Seashore of the Pacific NW by Ian Sheldon. 


Using my guides, I’ll attempt to ID rock types. By no means do I claim 100% accuracy.  If you spot something I’ve goofed on, please comment and let me know.

L-R:  Sandstone, Quartz, Unsure.

Sandstone are sedimentary rocks formed on the surface of the earth (not buried far beneath.)  Sans great heat and pressure, deposited sediments cement together (lithify).  Erosion from water/weathering smooth chunks into pebbles/rocks. Other sedimentary rocks include limestone (formed from coral and shells) and coal from plants.

Quartz is a common mineral in our Earth.  It is fine/even grained.


Quartz is very hard.  It can often be found in bands and veins through other rocks.


A remnant of a quartz vein clings to a  rocks’s surface.


Some things on the beach are human-placed.  Here is a brick, edges rounded from the water.


More human-placed concrete forms. Not sure what they were for.


Not sure what this is.  Anyone know?  I’ve seen a few. There is no shell.


The reverse side is a domed and rather smooth surface.


Here’s a Smooth Washington Clam.  Abundant to the area, it is an important food source.   Thick rings of growth on the shell mark the slower winter growth season.  These clams can live up to 20 years.


In contrast, the Common Pacific Littleneck Clam has concentric and radiating shell ridges.  Victims of the Moonsnail bear the hole near it’s hinge where the snail drills a hole and siphons out the clam.  This one avoided such an end.


I believe this green beauty is CHERT.  Chert’s formed from the bodies of plankton and silica which have hardened on the  seafloor.   It comes in other colors and appears waxy and smooth.


Rocks which form when volcanic magma cools are called Igneous.  If this happen on the Earths surface via lava flows, smaller crystals form from a quick cooling time.  Intrusive Igneous rocks cool below the Earth’s surface. Longer cooling times mean larger crystals.

This piece of granite is light in color meaning is has sillica and/or aluminum in it.  Darker granite has more mineral content such as iron or magnesium. Granite comes in pinks, whites, greys and blacks/greenish blacks.  The key to ID’ing granite is to look for interlocking crystals of different sizes. This makes a speckled look.  Granite is usually not layered or banded and is notably heavy.


More flotsam – a piece of wood and brown beach glass.


Here’s one of my new favorites, JASPER.  It’s red in color. This specimen is a large piece that’s speckled with something else.  I’ve found pebbles that are pure red.  Jasper is a form of chert (see the large, green rock above) with iron in it.


A Troschel’s Sea Star, I believe.  It’s range is from AK to No. CA.  It’s becoming more rare. It’s tiny, white spines on the surface form no pattern. In contrast, the more familiar Ochre Sea Star’s are patterned and they have wider arms. It’s diet consists of mussels, barnacles and limpets.


This looks like a Metamorphic rock but not positive. These are a class of rocks formed when a pre-existing rock is changed deep in the earth by intense heat and pressure.  Crystals look flattened and you may see folded layers.


Like pretty candy treats these looked to me.  There are bits of Jasper in the one on the left and far right.  The fourth to the right may be an agate, the more I look at it.  Not sure.


At the beach’s end I found a campground and a view to the Olympic Mountains.


Once I reached the end of the beach I hoofed it up to the bluff trail which hugs the edge of the bluff. Still foggy, it was a trip to hear the various foghorns and boat traffic without seeing them.  Thick, beautiful forest forms canopies over the trail at times.


Cedar’s graceful drape:


Lichen traces branches:


A Shore Pine, perhaps ?  This low-growing specimen lined the beach.


Along the Bluff Trail I passed many gun sites and bunkers.  I’m not in the mood to write about the park’s connection to the military.

Back at Marrowstone Point, after about 5 miles of walking, the sun finally decided to peek out.  I took a proper lie down on the beach, shut my eyes and just listened.  So soothing.  Much more beach is at this park, ripe for exploration.


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Ebeys Landing – Coupeville, WA – A Hike

I’ve become a Weekend Warrior.  It’s sinking in.

Hungry for adventure I took the ferry over to Whidbey island the weekend before last. A sizeable pod of Orcas sliced through the water, in circular acrobatics, on the ride over.

Had breakfast a sweet little place called Knead and Feed in Coupeville.   Breakfast’s my fave meal to have out.  This place is mom and pop with printed menus based on seasonal and local ingredients.   Love that!  A bakery sits on the street level and the restaurant sits below with a lovely view across Penn Cove.  Scramble/coffee was scrummy.  Coupeville’s a pretty little water-front town graced with Victorian architecture.


The back of Front St. from the Wharf.


Perused the one block long main street, most shops closed.  A winter Sunday slows, as it should.

Found the local museum.  An enthusiastic volunteer gave me a map to Ebeys Landing National Historic Reserve.  Headed there with hiking in mind.

Prior to the  whites’  arrival,  Skagit peoples cultivated the rich prairie, fished, and hunted for centuries prior. Colonel Isaac Neff Ebey was among the first permanent white settlers.  He came from Missouri, in 1851,  on a land donation claim program for Oregon Territory.

His simple home and Blockhouse still stand. 


I believe the blockhouse was used for defense.


Isaac became a prominent public figure. He was killed by Natives in retaliation for the killing of one of their tribe.

“Ebey’s Prairie”  looks much the same now as then.  18,000+ acres support 18 farms which grow veggies and hay.  The reserve was formed in 1978 when a housing development threatened.  What a shame it would be to lose this expanse to houses.



I chose a partial loop hike.

After passing the house and Blockhouse, a fence-guided trail reaches the bluff and prairie edge.


A fine mist softened edges.  To the right Puget Sound passes Admiralty Head towards the mainland.  here I stand on a high point looking southeast.


Turning about, the trail took me over sandy paths, through brush and along wind-stunted Douglas Fir.


The trail follows the edge of the bluff set back just far enough to remind one a slip or stumble  could be disastrous.  Peregos Lake  sits below.  Puget Sound turns to the Strait of  Juan de Fuca in the distance.


Social trails weave in and out of the woods.

On a hot summer day I suspect this south facing hillside gets hot.

Across the Sound, Point Wilson’s white buildings marks the tip of the Quimper Peninsula, the entrance to Port Townsend Bay nearby.  On this day, thick clouds obscure expansive views of the Olympic Mountains. A visit here on clear/mostly clear day reveals the Olympics,  the Cascades including Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier.


Looking up the beach on the STEEP way down to the beach.


Followed the beach for a bit (walking on beach rocks is hard work) then walked over the driftwood wall to Perego’s Lake to give my legs a break.


Spotted a few ducks in the lake.  I bet there are oodles at times.

Rejoined the beach.  Breakfast started to wear off.  Realized I forgot my snacks.  The horrors!


PNW rocks are gorgeous, multi-colored, much different from CA beach walking.  Just found a little field guide, with beautiful illustrations, on identifying PNW beach rocks.

Followed the beach to the steps back up to the bluff trail and walked the trail back to the Prarie Overlook where I parked.

Total walk was a bit over five miles and a lovely time.  This walk’s an enjoyable mix of  sights, sounds and smells.  This park has more trails, some ok for biking.  I’d like to take a bike over and pedal the four miles from ferry to park.


Dungeness Spit – Exploring My New Backyard

Sunday I needed to back away from the boxes and unpacking and take in some good ol’fashioned scenery, sniff some fresh air and steady the swirl life’s become.  The new job started on Monday. More on that later.

In Sequim, WA, about 30-45 minutes away (depending on who you are driving behind) is a county park I’d read of called Dungeness Recreation Area.  Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge shares its boundaries.

Here’s a park map pic of where it’s located on the Olympic Peninsula. Port Townsend is on the farthest thumb of land to the right of the red arrow.  Kinda looks like a dinosaur head.



In 1915 President Wilson set aside the 636 acres as a refuge for native birds.  Eelgrass beds and tide flats provide rich habitat yielding food and winter shelter.  Young steelhead and salmon also use the eelgrass beds as nurseries.

The sand spit (5.5 miles from shore to tip) shelters a small bay which is off limits to people.  A forested upland area has hiking trails, camping, and picnic areas to enjoy.

Formed ten to twenty thousand years ago during a glacial period, the spit is one of only a few of its type in the world.

Heres a pic of the lighthouse, WAY out there, from the road just before the park entrance:




A half mile walk along and down the bluff takes one to the crook of the spit where it meets the beach and the bay to the walker’s right.

Looking out the spit, there was  rainbow that barely shows to the left. The lighthouse is the white object on the right.




Just can’t figure out the panoramic’s sizing. Here’s one anyhoo:




I believe this is Victoria, way across the Strait on Vancouver Island:




This Great Blue Heron was on the opposite side of the spit which is roped off from all human contact.




Been enjoying the beach rocks. They are much more colorful than in CA. Must learn them.






The walk up top is thick forest, green and lush.  Seems I have a smudge on my camera lens which obscured most all pics I took on the trail. Here’s one that’s fuzzy but you get an idea of the huge trees and thick ferns and salal below:






Found some wee little mushrooms:






Got bit by a stinging nettle plant while taking above pic.  This was my first encounter with them.  Ouch!  Sting lasts a couple days.



Lesson learned!


Treated to a sight not seen in ages – snow capped mountains.  There’s a whole lotta Olympic mountains up there just waiting for me.




A fine outing this was.





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