The Knitting Nurse

Rambles and Travels

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Mt. Baker – A Much Needed Trip-Finally Above Treeline-Ptarmigan Ridge

There are so many worthy photos to share from this one hike.  My day above treeline, on my Mt. Baker trip, took me out Ptarmigan Ridge Trail.

That fog obscured bump, I think, is Coleman’s Pinnacle.  But I’m not completely positive. DSCF5712

Heavy clouds blanketed Mt. Shuksan and Mt. Baker the entire hike.  So thrilled to be there, and all so beautiful, it didn’t matter.  While hunting for images of Coleman Peak, I found this image which shows what Mother Nature hid from me.  If you don’t mind a spoiled surprise, take a gander.


Exiting some trees, this stole my breath.  The trail hugs Table Mountain to its right.


Fireweed.  This pretty plant grows from rhizome roots that prefer disturbed soils (fires, avalanche paths, roadcuts). The fluff from the plants were used by natives for stuffings and combining into weaving fibers. The inner pith was sometimes consumed and the outer stem layer was split off, dried and twined into rope.  Interestingly, the French Voyageurs grew it to use the leaves for tea. Being high in Vit. C, I wonder if they knew it staved off scurvy?  I’ve had delish honey made by bees feeding on fireweed.


After 1.2 miles the masses peel off to the right to hike the Chain Lakes Loop Trail.  I happily veered left and made my way to the top of a ridge. Another breathtaking moment, my view of the way ahead revealed.  Glaciers peek out of the clouds.  There are three up there, Rainbow, Park and Sholes though I can’t tell you which is which.  You can see the trail scratching across the left hand side of the photo below. This land was scoured by glaciers. The geology fascinates me.


Zig zagging down the ridge, I walked across a bowl-shaped depression.



Ridges of rocks are evidence of glaciers passage.


My goal was to land somewhere before the pointed spot (Coleman Pinnacle?) on the left side of the photo’s skyline.  Of note, the guidebook cautions hikers to prepare for snow travel. Apparently this trail (normally) holds snow all year. Not this year, not a smidgen.


Here are a  few plants new to me. This one is a Yellow Monkey Flower variety. It likes seeps which were lushly carpeted where I passed over them. It looks very different from the Monkeyflower I got to know in CA.


Below is Pink Monkey Flower, again an “ice cold” stream and seep loving plant.  An intriguing fact I’d like to test – its stigma will close if touched with a pin or a blade of grass.   How do plants know how to do that?


And this is Cousin It plant.  No seriously…I spotted this up by Hurricane Ridge, once, and can’t find it in my notes or a book.  But I’ve emailed a gal that might.  I missed the Lupine. What a blue carpeting that must have been.  Reflecting, a hot and dry summer must have forced early and shorter blooming times.


After crossing the open scree and walking up the hillside (minus snow) the Ridge is gained.  The trail crosses steep hillsides, at times disappearing into the fog.  I looked for but did not see any Ptarmigan. I heard marmots (I think) but did not spot them.



It was blueberry season, a month early some folks proclaimed. Perhaps scant snow and an early melt off allowed an early season?  I gorged.  My hands turned blue.  Deliciously sweet, I’d never picked wild blueberries before then.


The rock up there is volcanic, stacked up in a columnar structure.


Aproaching my stopping spot and looking along the spine of the ridge the way I came from., Mt. Shuksan is back that way and obscured.


I reached my destination with a view of what I think is Coleman Peak, glaciers to the right and Mt. Baker cloaked over behind it all.


Whoo was it windy when I  popped up to peer down and out over the ridge.  Ducking down, with the ridge deflecting the wind, I ate and knit in splendor.  I gave my sis’s birthday hat a spin.


Peering over the edge of my perch, just look at that contoured landscape. You can just imagine the heavy layers of ice grinding downhill eons ago.


Mt. Baker stayed hidden. On the walk out, glancing over my shoulder I got a sliver of a view.


Next time, I’d like to walk the 5+ miles to Camp Kiser to overnight.  If one can safely con’t from there, the guidebook promises passing Sholes Glacier close enough to touch it.  “The Portals” are the end of the trail.

This was a healing trip, refreshing and a renewal of sorts for me.  Next summer promises a return.  I’ve a guidebook full of flagged pages ready to go.

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Mt. Baker – A Much Needed Trip-That started in the Trees

A few weeks ago I enjoyed 5 days off, spending 4 on the road and one at home.  Not yet dipping into the Cascades, I chose the north section of Mt. Baker Nat’l Forest out Hwy 542 from Bellingham. I figured it would be quieter than the lower portion of the wilderness, out hwy. 20.

Rain greeted me. Sweet, wet, drizzly, foggy rain. And it didn’t bother me a bit.  It’s bone dry out here. WA state to CA is crispy, fires burn everywhere. Not sure what the statistics are.  I tried to look them up but couldn’t find them.  Funny, look for a cat video and there are millions. Ask Google what the Port Townsend WA year to date precipitation figure is and nada.

But I don’t need numbers to tell you our average 19″ per year is sorely short. There are water restrictions in place (not firm enough in my opinion) and concern for enough potable water come September.

So, rain, I reveled in it.

On arrival, I scooted to the end of the hwy to Artists Point, not sure why as I should have known it would be socked in but I still needed to go. The rain was falling sideways and I could hardly see my hand in front of my face. Obviously, no photos taken but this one I took on the way up. That was, maybe, 8 (?) miles from the top.


Retreating down, I set up camp and went for a stroll along Horseshoe Bend Trail, an easy sub-three-mile level walk along the Nooksack River.  It starts across the rd. from the Douglas fir campground.

The river roared so loud I at first thought I was hearing airplanes overhead.

This photo is from farther up the river but it shows you a sampling of the lush, green, thick vegetation along the river.


Trees, dripping in moss,  arch over the trail in places. Enchanting.


These pic are awful, fuzzy, I wonder if there was some condensation on the lens?  Ooops.


This fallen Cedar was almost 6′ in diameter. Now a nurse log, its occupants were pretty thick, they’ve been there awhile. DSCF5628

Lichen, sculptural in form:


Stressed, tired and needing to unwind I plunked down on a rocky river bank and drifted away, letting the sounds and sights soften and blur.

It must be the glacial melt that colors the water this opaque, pale mineral green.

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On the way out I stopped and had a gander at some Devils club plants. These things are gnarly!

What you don’t see in this pic is the underside of the leaves and the stems.


Look underneath and behold, one helluva defense system. Even the ribs on the leaves have spikes on them.


Growing 1-3 meters tall (I’ve seen them close to 3 meters tall) this shrub is related to ginseng. White flowers turn to scarlet berries. Inedible for humans, bears love them. Home in the PNW coastal areas, they like low, wet but somewhat drained areas. This plant still has oodles of medicinal uses.

After the walk I retired to camp, ate and plunked into a chair under a ring of cedars. They were my umbrella, keeping me and my knitting dry. It was a lovely day, a much-needed exploration.

Next post: Getting Above Treeline

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My Love Affair with the Maples – Anderson Lake Part Two

I have a thing for Big Leaf Maples. The first time I saw one was my first trip onto the Olympic Peninsula while walking in the Hoh Rainforest.

They are magnificent trees. Usually coated in green moss, they grow to great heights and have lush, full canopies of huge, impossibly green leaves. In the fall these leaves turn brilliant yellow.

Anderson Lake State Park has some fine specimens.

This one is huge, wide, wise.  Unfortunately, no clues to scale are in this photo.



Light filters down through the leaves making them glow.  I just love to stand underneath them to look up.  They’ll grow up to 120′ tall with leaves up to 12″ wide.  They prefer low to mid elevations and forest that’s been cleared by fire or logging.


I spotted seed pods on this tree. Note the spider web thread as well.  Look at how the light illuminates the veins in those pods.

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The bark of the maples, covered in moss is a perfect foil for the bright green leaves.  This moss can completely obscure the bark and become soil that new trees sprout and grow from high up in the canopy.


The wood was favored for making paddles and fiber spinning tools by First Nations peoples. Their leaves had medicinal uses and were fashioned into temporary containers.

Cut stumps will easily foster new growth. Some foresters see this as a nuisance as they can crowd out conifers.

I see them as gigantic beauties.


Spring Blooms – Rhodies and Other flowers – Anderson Lake Hike Part One

It’s been an early, warm spring and with that comes Rhodie-fever. Rhododendrons abound in the PNW. Numerous varieties adorn yards. I waited with baited breath to see what color the ones in my yard would be (purple, a gorgeous purple). Wild ones dot the woods, clumping under canopy openings and along forest margins and roads.

Anderson Lake State Park is a place I’ve blogged about many times.  It’s close and always affords me a walk in solitude, especially during the week.

I was on a rhododendron mission that day.


The Pacific Rhododendron, AKA California Rhod. grows to 20+’ tall in these parts. Over 1,000 species beautify the world with the tallest stretching up to 100′.  The Arctic has a wee, inch tall ground hugging variety.  Their range extends from Coastal B.C to Northern CA.  In WA they meet the coastline and stretch into the mountains (esp. the Olympics). Thriving in the understory, most preferring forest openings and the edges of forest.

Blooming begins in April or May.  They bloom earlier at lower elevations. Leaves are leathery, thick and evergreen. They will curl up for protection in cold weather. The plant provides cover for critters but little to no nutritional value. Leaves and flowers contain toxins. In fact, humans have become very ill (heart palpitations, GI upset) from ingesting honey from bees who have fed on rhodies extensively. Livestock have died from ingesting the leaves.


This is the state flower of WA. I find them stunning, such a cheery pop of color in a technicolor green woods.


It was a lovely day for a hike. Fresh, spring green perks up the year-round dark greens.



Fern fronds unroll.


I came across two oddball plants I’d never seen before.  This one below is a Groundcone, a plant that hitches onto other plants’ roots and saps nutrients from those roots.  A bit of trivia:  A single plant can produce more than 1/3 of a million seeds. The roots were sometimes eaten raw by Natives.


Not entirely sure about this one as it has no flowers.  I wonder if it is Spotted Coralroot with unopened flowers?


The Lake was calm under the grey sky.


Yellow Pond Lily (AKA Waterlily) floated in patches by the shore.  The rhizomes they bloom from are huge, up to 1′ wide and 15′ long. Though bitter, AK natives used parts of the plants for numerous ailments. Some also ate the plant’s seeds and a different variety’s rhizomes (not this one).


The salal are still in bloom.


This pretty ground covering plant is False Lily of the Valley.


In stark contrast, on a rocky, exposed and sunny hillside there are patches of Stonecrop. The succulent leaves are orange in places, so pretty next to the pale green leaves.


And lastly, The dried blooms from last years Oceanspray. New blooms will soon form.


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Striped Peak Hike – Salt Creek Rec. Area

Haven’t been hiking much being rather distracted by domestic crafting (sewing) bliss. Throw in all the sunny, warm days promoting yard and gardening work and hiking is taking a back burner to it all.

Managed to venture to a new place about 90 minutes away from home, Salt Creek Recreational Area, with a new friend named Carrie. Carrie works for the Jefferson Land Trust and has a wealth of plant knowledge.  She taught me lots on this hike.

Striped Peak reaches 1,000′ above the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  Logged a bit, fortunately  some huge Douglas firs, hundreds of years old, were spared. Clallam County manages this park which includes a campground and former Army post site.  Hit the tides right (which we did not) and some of the best local tidepools can be enjoyed. Friends have even spotted octopus there.

Washington Trails Association has a great write up on the hike. Most of the hike is easy with a short push to the top.  The hike follows a thin ridge, the sea to the left and a drop to a creek on your right.  Carrie kept her pup Dosi on a leash at the parts with a steep drop off to the water. This would not be a safe hike for small kids in danger of impulsively running off.



Moss blanketed over stumps. Stand still long enough and you’ll grow a layer.



I spent some time looking at nurse logs and the wee micro-environments they support.  There are mini-forests living on these fallen trees.  It’s fascinating to look down at this small a scale.

Here’s  a wee cedar:


Moss drapes gracefully.








Check out this tree rooted to the top of a boulder.





A secluded cove side-trip beckoned. The tide not being in our favor we skipped it.


There are some huge trees enroute. Lacking scale, the ones below are easily 4-6 feet in diameter, not as large as old growth giants but still impressive and awe-inspiring.


Several fungi caught our eyes.


Have you strolled though the thick woods of the Pacific Northwest?  It’s calming. Soothing.


Once up top, thick fog obscured what could have been views to the mountains on Vancouver island.  Regardless, it was pretty neat being above the trees.  We sat and had a snack.


Once back down we visited a sliver of the shoreline as the tide was too high to venture out.  It’s a beautiful spot. I can’t wait to return on a clear day.




These raised marks must be from some sort of large, boring, ancient worm.


Mussels and barnacles:



A fine place to explore.  Crescent beach lies down the coast a short bit. Wide and sandy, it’s on my must-see list soon.

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Wintery Walk

It doesn’t snow much here.  Saturday after Thanksgiving we woke to a couple inches of light, wispy fluff.  Compared to growing up buried in MN snow, it was just a smidge.

The neighbor kids were playing in it when I drew open the blinds first thing in the AM.  Coffee in hand, we thoroughly enjoyed watching them flop around in it.  One made his way over to the front yard.  “Can I use your snow for a snowman?” He timidly asked. Too cute!  Soon, tracks of non-sticking snow webbed across the yard.

The pics below are from a walk through the neighboring woods the day after.





A maze of trails lace through the woods around the neighborhood.  We’ve been enjoying new explorations.  This day was something special with snow covering surfaces. Sure…it’s not a lot, but it was still pretty!



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Winter Walking – Pre-Snow – In Fort Worden

A friend from way-back visited over Thanksgiving.  The bone-chilling cold and snow thankfully arrived the day of his departure and not earlier.  A walk on the beach and in the trees was on his request list.  A trip to local Fort Worden State Park we took.

Starting on the beach we wound around Point Wilson and its sea-wall, past the lighthouse.



That might be Mount Constitution on Orcas Island in the middle of the photo below, behind the red buoy.  Not sure.  I’m guessing. Thick clouds gave way to a sliver of light on the horizon. It was beautiful.



The tide was too high for my usual full loop down to North Beach, up over the bluff and back.



I’ve noticed gray days make an excellent foil for bright colors such as these rose hips.



It rained buckets that AM, nixing our plans to visit the high mountains.  The clouds held off and allowed us a precip-free walk.




Up top, the old forts’ buildings spread out below.  The point in front is Hudson Point. Around its corner is Port Townsend Bay and the town itself.  Mystery Bay is the the bay straight ahead separating Indian Island and Marrowstone Island.



So many lovely hiking trails so close to home.


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