The Knitting Nurse

Rambles and Travels

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Mt. Baker: Heliotrope Ridge Hike

August 2017 – yes way back then – I took a long weekend trip to get back to the Cascades. It’d been two years.

Day one I chose a trail that was too busy for my taste but fit the required logistics.  In 6 miles or so round trip I was able to perch above the Coleman glacier and be nose to nose with Mt. Baker  via flower studded meadows. During my last visit to Mt. Baker she was shy and stayed shrouded in clouds the entire time.

Not this time.


I was itching for views that go on for miles and miles and I found them.  Numerous small streams were crossed.


The views opened up and meadows were found.

There is one helluva obstacle on this hike.  Heliotrope Creek must be forded. I mustered up some vitamin-brave to do so. The water was swift and icy-cold.  Someone had strung a safety line across. It was handy but I did not rely on it fully not knowing its strength or condition. Poles were helpful.

The water to my knees, across I went. I yelped in icy pain. It was scary. But I made it. Looking up the creek:


It took some time to get the feeling back into my feet.

It was so worth it.

Today, the sky was bluebird clear. There she is! So thrilling!  And how about that flower-studded meadow?

I believe the fuchsia pink flower on the right and above is Red Willowherb and the orange one might be a saxifrage.


A climbers trail to summit Mt. Baker is way off to the right of this frame. While stopped on the ridge overlooking the glacier I could see dots of people moving upward. Mt. Baker is 10, 781′ tall.

Water and glacier sculpted rock ran with rivulets of water were everywhere.  So lush!


Pearly Everlasting?

Pink Monkey flower. I think.

My end goal was a picnic perch on the flank of the Coleman Glacier. There were people climbing it, looking like ants from my perspective. Note I’m not referring to the buffoons below me loudly carrying on. Some people are clueless when outdoors.

Isn’t the mountain striking?

Glacial ice:

Some sort of thistle?

A lovely yellow flower that looks like the 100’s of other yellow flowers in my plant book.

Cow Parsnip. I think.  I’m taking a stab at plant names using several guide books.

Here’s one of my favorites, lupine. My last trip up here was in 9/15 and it was a frightfully low snow pack year. The lupines and other usual flowers were long done (water starved) or barely bloomed before I arrived.

I was glad to catch some this time. I’ll show you more in the next post of this series.


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A lovely walk at Anderson Lake State Park

Fall is here. Thank goodness! It’s my favorite season. Gone are the dry, hot days.  I celebrated with a stroll through a local state park that is one of my favorite retreats.

I noticed further out west the other day, towards Port Angeles the maples are changing to yellow. Here, more east, it’s just barely starting. A few yellow leaves lay scattered on the forest floor. This park has grand, noble maples under which I often stand and gawk.

The lake’s been closed to use due to a toxic algae bloom, a shame as it would make for a lovely, quiet paddle. Instead, I enjoy reflections and on this day, cormorant and heron activity from the shore.

This spider built a large web across the trail. I managed a limbo underneath to spare it.

The quiet enclosure of trees was just what I needed.

I’ll bring you golden leaved photos when able—


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A Glorious Walk Through the Ceiriog Valley – Wales

Our Air BNB hosts in Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog were well supplied with local walking maps and books. Needing a leg stretcher, we set off from the comfy home and walked a circuit along the bottom of the valley.


One source I found calls this circuit walk, over 8 miles in total, “one of the most neglected and yet one of the most beautiful areas for walking in Wales, if not in Britain. This walk, based on the village of Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog, makes a circuit of one of the hills around the village. It can be divided into three parts and is something of a sandwich, in that the start and finish are very easy and most beautiful, while the middle section is the most strenuous albeit with the widest views. There are lovely woods, old drove roads and the added attraction of absolute peace and quiet.”


Looking back towards town from a high point of the walk:


It was completely quiet. Not another soul we saw aside from a local woman who stopped and chatted with us when we walked past her home.

Sheep.  The bleats of sheet were our soul company. Skittish, they skirted around and avoided us.

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The walk takes one through low, creek bottoms, woods and along pretty roads lined with knarled trees.

It was stunning. Everything I saw was beautiful. And I still head back there from time-to-time in my mind.


We got lost. But we walked on, looking for signs and fence step overs, switching to a lovely drovers’ stone paved road. That made our way uphill to the single-lane road high above town where wound our way back down just drinking in the views.


The wee town of Tregeiriog below:


We had lovely weather. I started out overdressed, as usual. What looked like rain clouds at the start never emptied.


Lowering light changes the shadows and quality of the light, something fun to watch.

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And just because, a photo of a farm I snapped the day earlier, farther down the valley:


What a day. What a glorious walk. How I miss those open fields, lines of hedges and trees, wide open views of rolling hills.


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In Search of Rhododendrons – Fort Townsend

The wild Pacific Rhododendron are in bloom down low. I hear they’re getting close above 3000′.  Liking filtered sunlight, they are especially happy along roadsides and forest margins.   Spindly arms dressed in pink blooms and fresh, pale green new leaves punctuate dark green woods and brighten up a gray day.   Our state flower, they can reach up to 8 meters tall.

I just love them!


We chose Fort Townsend State Park for our evening walk the other night knowing there’d be plenty. I’ve been on this particular trail, aptly named the Rhododendron Trail, minus the blooms.  Giddy with anticipation we set out.

From my estimate about 25% of the shrubs were in bloom with much more to come.

From emerging buds to partial blooms to full blossoms, all stages we enjoyed.

Wild honeysuckle is also in bloom. It smells so sweet. This is also called Western Trumpet Honeysuckle, I believe.

It’s such a privilege to live somewhere so beautiful.  Here, new Elderberry foliage fans out under a dark green background. Every value of green known to man must exist in PNW forests.

Out of focus elderberries, not yet ripe, and likely the red variety. These guys prefer moisture via stream banks, swampy areas and damp clearings. The berries are only palatable when cooked and may cause nausea when raw. Some make wine from the berries. The stems, roots, leaves and bark are toxic.

Thimbleberry blossoms symbol the seedy berries to come.  Some like them. Some don’t. I find them rather bland. Full of moisture, the berries tend to fall apart when picked. Native Americans apparently dried them and mixed them with other berries.

We’ve had great rain this spring, promoting a profusion of blooms. I’ll keep sharing them with you.


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Deer Ridge Trail

It’s spring. And we’ve got the hiking bug. Not that it ever goes away, it just settles down for the winter a bit.   I chose the Deer Ridge  hike for a few reasons:  1) it’s not raging popular and we wanted some quiet  2) the guide’s promise of views  3) a chance to peer into the Gray Wolf River Valley and scout the rhododendrons.

All were achieved!

It was a beautiful hike and much, much steeper than I’d anticipated. We put in a good effort for about three miles up when we decided to turn back. One could con’t on and meet up with Grand Ridge. That would make a great (and long) shuttle hike.  It was a beauty of a hike with peeks into the mtns and green, deep valleys that slice and scoop across this gorgeous place.

The lower portion of the trail (before the steepness started, just the thing to soften one up before the grunt-work begins) was lined in Pacific Rhododendrons getting ready to pop their pink flowers.  I’ve never seen such a large concentration of them.



Spring wildflowers are enjoying a wet spring. Here’s the Western Trillium. I vaguely remember these in the woods where I grew up back in MN.  They grow like mad in this climate.  Consulting my plant bible, the Plants of the Pacific Northwest book by Pojar and Mackinnon, I learned these guys have an oil-rich appendage that ants love to grab and carry back to their nests to feed their larvae.   In turn, the ants put the seeds in “rubbish piles” and hey!  Instant dispersal.  Bleeding heart and wild ginger also spread via ants.

The petals may turn purple-tinged as it ages.


Here’s the sweet, delightful little Calypso Lily AKA Fairy Slipper.  The floor was heavily dotted with these in spots. Apparently they smell sweet. Next time I’ll kneel down to enjoy. Be cautioned that the plant’s attachment to its roots is very delicate. They will break off if tugged slightly which kills the plant.

A real treat, the Fawn Lily, spreads by corms.  There are two thoughts to the origin of its common name. It’s leaves have a mottled (fawn like) green coloration (tough to see in my photo) and the leaves look like two little fawn ears.

And spread it does!  Just look up this hillside.

And along the trail:



Wild strawberries:

The red flowering currant, done blooming at lower altitude, is in full bloom up here, 3,000+ feet above sea level.

Lichen and a ground-covering plant:

A well-earned view appears after the trail meets a knoll. It was breathtaking.


Pete promptly napped.  He falls asleep in seconds. I worked on my niece’s little sweater.  The pattern is called In Threes and in Tosh Vintage. Candlewick is the color. More on that later.



A happy clump of manzanita and Oregon grape soak up the sun on this knoll as it’s rocky and sun-exposed.

img_9464Manzanita was a familiar site in CA. I was surprised to see it up here.  Its flowers, a pretty pink, turn to red berries. The wood is hard and smooth, reminding me of Madrona trees.


More twisting up more steep trail gained another peek-a-boo spot where we could sit on a little outcrop of rocks and peer waaaay down into the valley and across to the mountains.  One very large raven provided a complex and vocal  aerial show.  It was quiet. So quiet. Excepting the Gray Wolf river below, the birds and the breeze in the trees.

A small panno:


The diversity of flora in these mountains just floors me.

It’s been an unusually warm spring. There will be more hikes to share.

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Hawaii – Part 2 of ? – Volcanoes National Park – Glowing gasses and lunar landscapes.

Let’s travel back to Hawai’i. It’s March. And Pete and I are in search of sun and new terrain to explore.  After hanging out in Kona, we head to Hilo via Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.

The first day started with an outstanding meal at the Volcano House. We ate there twice. With a view over the Kilauea Caldera, the Halema’uma’u Crater venting, it was my first glimpse into an active volcanic process.  Wait…I’ve been to Yellowstone NP.   The Hawaiian chain was created by volcanoes which con’t to add land mass in a more fluid, less explosive manner than what we commonly associate with volcanoes. In this park, 70 million years of activity are showcased. It was fascinating. The visitors center is packed with learning.

We chose the Destruction Trail hike that day.  From it’s start, there’s an overlook into the Kilauea Iki Crater. A popular day hike, the Kilauea Iki Trail passes through the crater below. The last violent eruption of the Kilauea crater occurred in 1959.  Lava filled to the demarcation of brown and green you see on the opposite wall.


Our trail set off through forest, thick and gnarled, twisted while lush at the same time. This trail is wheelchair accessible.


Pre-historic looking vegetation abounds.





The trail pops you out into this lunar landscape. It’s breathtaking.


Pu’u Pua’i is the cinder cone in the background. It formed with the 1959 eruption. The crater above, for reference, is tucked down behind the cone in this photo.

The view is dry and sparse. Bits of vegetation slowly grow. I found it quite beautiful.


Many sunken spots pock the land. Our knowledgeable friend and natuaralist explained to me the land continues to shift and change.

This is the Ōhelo berry and plant.  Related to the cranberry, they are edible but protected in this park, being the food for the beloved Nene Goose.  I thought the color against the cinders striking.

Our walk took us to the start of Byron’s Ledge Trail. It was stunning! We parked ourselves here and drank in the sounds, sights and smells.


There’s just no way to capture all that in a photo so I’ve uploaded a video I took, a meager substitute.

I’m not knowledgeable on taking video and making it look great. Imagine the birdsong magnified so it completely fills the space, several times louder than you hear, almost deafening.   We gaped. And listened. And enjoyed.

A real treat, Ohi’a lehua flower buds and blooms up close:


The blooms’ nectar feeds the Crimson honeycreeper.  Check out this page for some fun facts about the plant and some photos of it’s aerial roots (which don’t reach the ground but collect moisture from the air).

This pretty little plant I cannot find information about.

My mind spun at the foreign nature of the land and the flora.

Later that night we returned and saw the park at night. The gasses from the first photo in this post glowed in the dark. Some lucky visitors see lava. On this night, no lava percolated out.  But still, what a thrill!

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I’d spend a whole week at this park next visit.

Next leg of the trip, into Hilo.


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Orcas Island Day Two – Hiking in the Sweet old Oak Trees with My Guys.

A gift!  A day with mere sprinkles, fog, no real rain, we went for a walk up Ship Peak in Turtleback Preserve.    Zac’s a good sport and seems to like hiking. I’m glad we can share this with him.

I knew there were Garry Oaks there and had to see them.  I am drawn to them.

The trail starts up a steep road.

There is a whole lot of moss and lichen to be found.

The first Oak Meadow had seedlings, newly planted, scattered about.  This view came into sight coming around a corner.

These trees are gnarly, twisted, so old and wise looking. They do not like their roots disturbed, however. The area was well signed alerting folks to this to keep folks on the trail.


Mist and fog obscured expansive views over the water. Bummer.

A giant of a tree.

The care folks have put into restoration of the meadows is evident in the limbing of many trees.

These oak trees have a sculptural quality. Check out the trunk on this one.

I miss the many varieties of oak trees I fell for while living in California. There is something familiar and comforting in these trees.

A timely rest bench appears after a steep climb. The panoramic view from the spot was breathtaking. Unfortunately, the photo I took not so much.

We had some munchies atop Ship Peak. Minus the fog,  we would have seen views of many mountains and water. Looking at a map, I noted the spot is almost directly above the little cottage we were staying in.

The trails were well marked.
 It felt like a hobbit world in spots. 

Minutia. At eye level.

  Finally! Once lower, under the clouds, the water views revealed themselves. 

A lovely hike. And a good workout. With good company.