The Knitting Nurse

Rambles and Travels


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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.

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

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

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Fern fronds unroll.

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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.

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

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The Lake was calm under the grey sky.

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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).

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The salal are still in bloom.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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:

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Moss drapes gracefully.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

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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.

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Several fungi caught our eyes.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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Mussels and barnacles:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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So many lovely hiking trails so close to home.


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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.

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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:

 

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

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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.

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

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A Gentian of some sort:

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

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

 

 

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

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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:

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

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

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

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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.

 

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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):

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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.

 

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Spotted mountain bike obstacles:

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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.

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

 

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Robert Geranium” – Sorry…a bit fuzzy.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I don’t know mushrooms.  Yet.

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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.

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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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