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05/20/16 - Hurricane Hill Flowers, Marmots and a Bear

The wildflower season progresses up at Hurricane Hill. The hillsides are covered with phlox. The wallflowers are out, and the glacier lilies are blooming. The marmots are out as well. We saw at least four of them including two younger ones sparring. On our way back down from the summit we saw a black bear eating ferociously along the hillside below. It was close enough for us to see its black mane, but far enough for comfort. They say black bears are the little ones, but they are not that little.

One of the amazing views

A golden marmot amidst the phlox

Another marmot

Snow still covers the north face.

The hills are alive.

A wallflower and friends

More flowers

Another marmot reminding us to stay off his or her lawn

Two young marmots sparring

The black bear at the limit of our telephoto lens

More flowers

Keywords: flowers, hurricane hill, marmots


03/09/16 - Cherry Trees in Bloom at WSU

Washington State University has a beautiful campus including a quad filled with Yoshino cherry trees. They usually bloom the second or third week of March, but this varies with the weather. We lucked out on our most recent trip to Seattle and saw the blossoms at their peak.

The quad was full of people admiring the 80 year old trees and taking pictures. Some were serious photographers who were actually using cameras instead of cell phones. The trees were full of flowers, clouds of them, light pink set off by the dark bark of the trees. We made a lazy double loop of the quad exploring the pathways with the laden branches arching overhead.

That’s enough labored prose for now. Enjoy the pictures, just click to see the larger version.


As we approached …

Dark trees with pink blossoms

More cherry trees

Even more

A close up

Lots more

Yet even more

Clouds of cherry blossoms

Another view

Yet another

A token magnolia doing its best in the shade of the cherry blossoms

Keywords: flowers, seattle


10/23/15 - Autumn Phlox at Hurricane Hill

This has been a strange year. We hiked up to Hurricane Hill the other day and couldn't help noticing that there was phlox blooming by the trailside. Phlox are usually one of the first flowers to bloom in the spring, not long after the snows have melted, so seeing it in the autumn was a surprise. There was enough of it to scent the air here and there. As we said, this has been a strange year.

Phlox in bloom

A real surprise

Also, a dramatic mushroom

The scenery is getting paler.

The view

A bit of frost in the shade

Still some color here

More snow in the distant mountains

A last harebell

More phlox

Pine cones

Keywords: autumn, flowers, hurricane hill, spring, trails


07/10/15 - Hurricane Hill in the Haze

We ran into some foggy spots on the road to Hurricane Hill, more or less centered around the tunnel, but by the time we made it to the Switchback trailhead, the sky was softly milky, but blue. It was dry on the trail to Hurricane Hill. It is only July, but we were seeing late summer flowers, the harebells and yarrow. There were butterflies everywhere.

The clouds below filled the valleys and the haze softened the mountains. This wasn't the usual crystalline mountain air. Mount Olympus, in the distance, was softened, almost part of the cloudscape.

There was a mountain goat grazing not far from the summit and a real marmot keeping his or her distance on the field containing a deceptive stone we call Marmot Rock. The corn lilies were doing surprisingly well. There was a full crop of them, a good number of them already in bloom.

On the way down we passed a young girl heading upwards. She wore a tee shirt exhorting us to "Stop, Smell Roses", so we did. There were a few wild roses still in bloom. Few tee shirts offer such excellent advice.


Soft clouds, soft mountains

Awash with clouds

Harebells and yarrow

More soft mountains

A mountain goat

More soft shapes

A plover

Corn lilies

More mountains awash with clouds

A golden marmot in retreat

We stopped to smell the roses.

Keywords: flowers, hurricane hill, summer


06/12/15 - Top of the World

Obstruction Point Road has been open to the end for some weeks now. We've been recovering from our colds, so we weren't too keen on a big dose of dry, thin air. Then we hiked up Hurricane Hill and realized that this year's flowers are well along. If we hoped to see the blossoms at Obstruction Point, we would be ill served by delay.

So, we drove out from the Hurricane Ridge parking lot and were soon on the top of the world. The Olympic Range was gloriously visible across the valley, there were still a few patches of snow, and there were flowers in bloom. The air was dry and thin, but it was great to see the seasonal lakes, some already vanishing, and enjoy the tapestry of alpine plants and flowers.


Some of the tapestry with some mountains

Lingering snow

A pine cone

A seasonal lake, drying quickly

A last glacier lily

Another seasonal lake, also drying

More mountains

The Olympic Range in the distance

Phlox and wall flowers

Another seasonal lake

Less snow, more lakes

Keywords: flowers, obstruction point


06/08/15 - Hurricane Hill

The road to Hurricane Hill has been open for over a month now. We finally made our first climb of the not so new year. With the ongoing lack of rain, we were worried about the alpine flowers. We expected a few bedraggled lupines and not much else. We were pleasantly surprised. This year is not anything like last year when it seemed every flower was in abundant bloom, but it was not the misery we had anticipated.

There were plenty of flowers in bloom. There were lupines and avalanche lilies, richly scented phlox, larkspur, paintbrush and wall flowers. Even the corn lilies were well along, though not blooming yet. There was no lingering snow, even at the lingering snow sign. There is a good chance that this is the peak of the season. There is no rain in sight, and the snows are long gone.


Yet another photo of the Olympic Mountains

We should look this one up.

A marmot

The little pond is usually much bigger this early in the season and surrounded by melting snow.

Phlox and a wall flower

Another marmot, digging

One of the butterflies

The corn lilies have yet to bloom

Avalanche lilies

Larkspur

Lupines

Keywords: flowers, hurricane hill


06/01/15 - Quick Trip to Seattle

These are photos from the Conservatory in Volunteer Park. We arrived at 3:55, five minutes before closing time so we had to make lightning tour. On our way to dinner, we stopped at Agora on 15th Avenue. It's chock full of Greek food, wine and spices. They have a good looking selection of Greek wines and a wine bar, so we'll have to come back and try a few.

The conservatory

Flowers

More flowers

Keywords: flowers, seattle


05/08/15 - Sunny Day on the Spruce Railroad Trail

While we are fervently hoping for rain, we are enjoying the sunshine. We were out on the Spruce Railroad Trail enjoying the sparkling views of the lake and all the flowers coming into bloom. So far, it looks like a great summer, albeit an early one.

A classic shot or the bridge at the Devil's Punchbowl

Mount Storm King

Towards the west horn of Lake Crescent

One of the sedums

Lots of paintbrush

One of many trilliums

Another trillium

Keywords: flowers, spring, spruce railroad


04/07/15 - Mill Creek and Bennington Lake

We were out in Walla Walla to celebrate the Cayuse spring release and a friend's birthday. With all the good food and wine, we really needed a bit of stretch. So, we drove out to Mill Creek and Bennington Lake at the eastern edge of town and explored a landscape we found quite exotic. For one thing, it is much drier out here than back home in the North Olympic Peninsula, and the mountains are much farther away.

Mill Creek and Bennington Lake is an Army Corps of Engineers site, much like the Ballard Locks. The primary purpose of the site was water management, but there were picnic tables, bathrooms and lots of hiking trails. There was also the Mill Creek diversion dam, Mill Creek itself, and the Mill Creek storage dam itself, a large earthwork near the parking lot.

This may sound awfully industrial what with all the dams, but like the Ballard Locks, it has a lot of charm. A short walk gave us a good sense of the prairie and at a high point across the diversion dam there some wonderful views of the distant snow capped mountains. So much of the area is agricultural and off limits. Either that, or it is a vineyard. It was nice to have a place to go and just wander.


A dry country

Coneflowers

Lake Bennington

Public works

More public works and more trails

The view from a high point

These flowers had an amazingly sweet scent.

Looking down at the diversion channel crossing

Another view - Those are big concrete blocks.

Keywords: flowers, spring, trails, walla walla


02/05/15 - Salmonberries

Salmonberry flowers are one of the first signs of spring out here. This is about as early as we've ever seen them.

Salmonberry flowers

More February flowers

Is it spring already?

Keywords: flowers, spring


09/15/14 - To The Lighthouse

The walk out to the the Dungeness Light is one of the amazing hikes of the North Olympic Peninsula. It's not completely obvious from the pictures, but it's a walk out to sea along a narrow strip of land. There is salt water on either side, but one walks for miles along the outer beach as it curves away from the mountains and out into the Strait of San Juan de Fuca.

We've been watching the tides at Dungeness Spit. There is usually a period from mid-autumn into mid-winter when the tides are just too high during the day to hike all the way out to the lighthouse without pulling oneself across soft sand and clambering over driftwood. Worse, during the winter, the sand washes away leaving a rocky beach behind. We decided to take advantage of this prime hiking time for our hike.

As you can see in the photos, we made it to the light. We did the full ten mile round trip in excellent time, well under four hours, thanks to a sandy beach and beautiful weather. We kept an eye on the sea and saw seals, seagulls, plovers, and sea ducks. The sky really was as blue as in the photos. Our next chance is not until February, and then only if the spit has some sand. Otherwise, it might not be until next summer.


The Dungeness Light

The curving spit

Our first view of the light

Beach flowers

A common flower

On the way back, mountains

A plover

More mountains and sea

Driftwood fashioned into a shelter

Keywords: autumn, ducks, dungeness spit, flowers, tides


09/10/14 - Elderberries

We forgot to mention that we saw some elderberries on the drive down from Hurricane Hill. There are two trees right near the road. We've been watching them. First there were the flowers. Now, the berries are ripe.

Elderberries

Keywords: flowers, hurricane hill


08/29/14 - Hurricane Hill

We were up at Hurricane Hill, and already we can see the end of summer. Most of the flowers have passed, though there are still some harebells and yarrow. The grasses are turning brown and gold, sometimes with a bit of red. The light is different, more muted.

Late summer colors

A golden marmot

A resting deer

More gold in the grasses

The green valley

More late summer color

Even more late summer color

The side spur path

More grasses

Butterflies

Clouds and mountains

Keywords: flowers, hurricane hill, summer


07/24/14 - Obstruction Point, Just the Flowers

The glacier lilies and phlox may be passing, and the lupine a bit off their peak, but otherwise, this has been the most amazing year for high country flowers. We won't even bother with captions; we don't even know the names of most of these. They're just beautiful. We'll let the pictures do the talking.











Keywords: flowers, high country, obstruction point


07/23/14 - Obstruction Point Revisited

Obstruction Point Road opened a bit over a week ago, so we ventured out from Hurricane Ridge. It's a one and a half lane unpaved road, so we drove carefully to the parking lot at the edge of the high wilderness. Most of the snow on the trail had melted, so we made it all the way to where the trail drops off for the descent towards Grand Lake. Here, there was some snow on the trail, but otherwise, it was easy going.

The high country here is wild and austere with dusty trails, cracked rocks and a profusion of wild flowers. There was some phlox and a few glacier lilies left, but there were so many flowers that we'll have to have a separate post just for them. Some years, the alpine lakes in the valleys below are covered with snow, but this year, the snows have melted early, so they are all full of water and almost like distant mirrors.


The view down the staircase

The last few glacier lilies

A last bit of phlox

One of the seasonal lakes

More lakes - the one on the left with icebergs



The mountains

More mountains

Melting snow

The trail

Keywords: flowers, high country, obstruction point, trails


07/15/14 - Klahane Ridge

The theme of our last climb was critters. This week it is flowers. To be honest, we didn't really see many critters this trip. The sky was crystalline, and the day was warm. The marmots, and even the chipmunks, were most likely avoiding the heat of the day. The flowers have no such desire or option, so they were out in full force. We have never seen so much larkspur out on the hillside. The paintbrush was glorious in shades of red and orange. There were shooting stars, turks cap lilies and bog orchids about. Maybe the lupines were a bit disappointing, but the full profusion more than compensated for it.

Crystalline sky and just a bit of snow left, looking north

We really need to get a flower identification book. You'd think someone would write an app.

The view south with even more crystalline sky

Paintbrush

Another mystery plant

Larkspur

Mixing it up

Shooting stars

This one blooms in the understory

Bog orchids

A slender bog orchid - It's a whole other type.

Keywords: flowers, klahane ridge


07/01/14 - Klahane Ridge Again

We panted and wheezed, but we made it up to Klahane Ridge again. The phlox and glaicer lilies are passing, but the next round of flowers is just coming out. Our theme this post is critters. It wasn't as busy as Hurricane Hill, but there were four, or perhaps five, mountain goats on the crags above us, and at least one marmot about on the ridge itself. The young stag we saw on our last climb was still enjoying the local vegetation, but the real surprise was the black bear we saw. We only saw it because a fellow climber pointed it out, just a black dot below us on the hillside. This is the kind of luck we plan for, so we had or binoculars and modestly priced ultrazoom point and shoot camera handy.

Mountain goats on a misty ridge

The land is green.

Mist at the ridge

But, great visibility - That's Mount Baker.

Looking down to the north

Our marmot friend

Looking up

The young stag

The violets are brilliant this year.

A black bear at a safe distance

Toad lilies

Keywords: flowers, animals, klahane ridge, mountain goats


06/26/14 - The Critters of Hurricane Hill

The flowers are near their peak on Hurricane Hill. The phlox may even be a touch past its peak, though its scent lingers. The lupines are blooming, as are the western wallflowers, glacier lilies, rock larkspur, avalanche lilies and yarrows. The marmots are out and active, as are the deer. There was also a mountain goat wandering about. The park service seems to have fitted this one with a collar. These can be dangerous animals, so we kept our distance.

While we were exploring, clouds and mist were rising in the north, and by the time we were heading back, they had engulfed the top of Hurricane Hill. Through the mists we could see a blue lake forming from the melted snow and a golden marmot cooling him or herself on the snow.

This was a great day for the flowers and for critter spotting on Hurricane Hill, but our real surprise was on the drive out. Driving through the parking lot, we saw a mother bear with two cubs scampering along Sunrise Ridge. We didn't have time to take a photograph, but those were the first bears of the season.


The scenery

One of the many golden marmots

Western Wallflower and some phlox

Phlox and the mists

Marmot of the mist

Clouds from the north

Another view

A mountain goat

Even closer

Glacier lilies

Larkspur and paintbrush

Keywords: animals, flowers, hurricane hill, marmots


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