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01/24/16 - Winter Salamander

The mythical salamander was a creature that lived in fire. This salamander is a real creature that lives in winter. We usually don't see salamanders active this time of the year, but sometimes a warm January day will do it.

An Olympic torrent salamander

Keywords: salamander, winter


01/14/16 - The Good Tides Return

The tides in the fall are not all that good for low tide hiking, but starting in January there are more and more daytime low tides. We took advantage of one such low tide to wander out on Dungeness Spit. The light, as usual on the spit, was spectacular. The clouds even had a touch of pink in them. The water was fairly calm and the beach surprisingly walkable.

One problem with walking the Dungeness Spit in the winter is that the beach has often lost all of its sand, so one has to scramble through fields of ocean smoothed rocks. There were plenty of rocks, but there were also lots of long, smooth sandy stretches. We'd clamber and clatter for a bit, then, usually just as we were about to call it quits, we'd reach a long easy going stretch of beach, so we went a lot farther than we had expected.

The beach changes from day to day with sand and stones washing in and out. The driftwood sojourns and departs, but it looks like the good tides and some good beach have returned for 2016.


The view heading out

A view of the water - Click to zoom and see if you can see a touch of pink in the clouds.

The view back with a low winter sun behind the mountains

Another view back with the low sun playing with the cloud shadows

Another view out

Waves and water

Some stones and some clear beach and some amazing place to be

Keywords: dungeness spit, tides, winter


12/27/15 - The Spruce Railroad Trail is Open

This was a real surprise to us. The last time we visited the trailhead a few weeks ago there was a huge pile of dirt instead of a parking area. This time the trail was open, and a lot of people were there for a hike. The trail had been closed since last July, and with so many trails closed this winter having the Spruce Railroad trail open was a real treat.

Of course, the trail is quite different this time. They've turned another half mile or so into a road, cut into the hillside and maybe 16 feet wide at points. The old intimate experience of nature just isn't possible with this kind of road cut, but they did manage to smooth the descent to the lake side. The original rail line probably looked pretty raw in its day, so we're hoping things grow back over the years.

Otherwise, the lake is as beautiful as ever, and it's great to have the trail open again.


The Spruce Railroad Trail is open.

It's pretty wide and looks pretty raw.

There are some nice lake views though, and the descent is easier.

Here the new trail meets the old one.

They haven't gotten rid of the waterfalls yet.

Here's some of the old trail, mud and all.

A view of the lake in the direction of Storm King.

More of the old trail

Twisted growth

Another little waterfall

More ferns and running water

Keywords: spruce railroad, trails, winter


12/04/15 - Seattle - City Christmas

We were in Seattle for a few days last week and walked back from Fremont to our hotel. Cities are always beautiful around this time of year. Businesses and homes put up their Christmas lights to counter the winter darkness. Since half of Seattle seems to be under construction, it's great that so many of the looming construction cranes are illuminated as well.

We tried to get into the Volunteer Park Conservatory, but it was closed for a few days.


A view from Fremont Bridge

Along the waterfront

Construction cranes alight

A view across Lake Union

The Space Needle and a bit of a crane

City lights

City sidewalks

Keywords: christmas, seattle, winter


02/11/15 - Marymere Falls

We recently went out to Marymere Falls to stretch our legs and see how our winter rains have been affecting the falls and Barnes Creek. Well, there was lots of water, but there were also a lot of downed and damaged trees. Even before we could hear the creek, we started noticing the winter's toll on the forest.

One tree split vertically, with half remaining upright while the other half had fallen across the trail. The park service had cleared the trail, cutting out a section of the fallen tree. We stopped to take a closer look, because the inner wood of the fallen tree looked particularly smooth and fine grained. It was heartwood. It has a different look, a different feel and even a different sound when struck, as opposed to the younger wood in the outer layers of the tree. We could even see the color gradient as the outer layers were paler, almost yellow, but the inner layers were increasingly dark before turning into heartwood.

There was also lots of flowing water. Marymere Falls was in full spate. Click on the picture to check out the movie. Barnes Creek was roaring. This is a great time to check out Marymere Falls.


Marymere Falls - Click the picture for a video.

Barnes Creek

The rainforest

Tree damage

The park service at work

An old stump shattered

Rain drops - They add up.

Heartwood - Note the color gradient from the outside in.

The split tree

Barnes Creek

More tree damage

Keywords: barnes creek, marymere falls, winter


02/10/15 - A Very Wet Lake Angeles Trail

We haven't had much snow this winter, but we've had lots of rain. We walked a little ways up the Lake Angeles Trail, to the little bridge, and we haven't seen the trail so wet and so much water flowing in at least ten years. Since we're still playing with slow motion video, here is some running water for your viewing enjoyment:

There was lots of white water.

There were also a lot of green things growing.

White water near the little bridge

An underground stream - bubbling visibly near the boardwalk

Downstream from the little bridge

The wet trail

A curtain of drips

More drips

Funghi

Keywords: lake angeles, winter


01/28/15 - Third Beach

Now that we are getting the good winter tides, we decided to check out Third Beach out near La Push. Our last visit out this way was to Second Beach which features a lovely forest walk from the trailhead near the highway down to a wild crescent of beach adorned with rocks, sea stacks and tide pools. Third Beach is similar, but the forest walk is longer, over a mile before the descent. There are long level stretches where the rain forest forms almost a dry bog, very wet, but all the moisture absorbed by the rampant vegetation. Then there is the 200 plus foot descent to the beach.

The trailhead is near a stream that runs out to the sea here. There are glimpses of the sea stacks and ocean as one approaches. Then comes the wall of driftwood. Usually the wood is bare and aged, but this year we've had storms so there were a few freshly fallen trees in the heap. It was an easy clamber as clambering goes, and in a few minutes we were on the gritty sand. We headed left, to the east - the beach faces south - where we could see a row sea stacks, but first we had to cross the stream. It was deep and the current was fast moving, so we waded across down towards the sea where the flow widened.

From here it was easy going. As we approached the headland, we could see a waterfall splashing down the rocks. We paused to check out the rocks and tide pools and then continued. Despite the region's reputation for grayness, the sun was brilliant. We checked the bluffs for eagles but saw none. The bluffs behind Third Beach aren't as high as those at Second Beach, and there is a headland trail that leads to beaches south for those walking to Oil City, that is, other people, not us.

Walking on sand, even relatively well packed sand is tiring. When we got back to the trailhead, we saved our energy for the climb out rather than exploring the west end of the beach. Third Beach is a bit more of a workout than Second Beach, but just as rewarding.


A glimpse of the sea stacks, artfully framed a la the Northwest School

The driftwood barricade: Take it one log at a time.

The rushing stream: We waded down by the sea.

Rocks and sea stacks

Another view: Look carefully and you might see the waterfall.

Alders on the bluffs

Here you can definitely see the waterfall.

The view west, our return

A last glimpse

A spot of mud with a thoughtfully placed plank

Brilliant rainforest

Keywords: third beach, tides, winter, waterfall, eagle


01/17/15 - Marymere Falls

We were out at Barnes Creek and checked out Marymere Falls. Often in the winter the falls are surrounded by an array of ice crystals in spectacular patterns, but we've been having a warm winter, so all we saw were the falls. We took a slow motion video with our phone camera. Click on the picture of the falls to play it.

We took the usual Marymere Falls circuit, no climb up to Storm King for us today, but we did wander a bit up Barnes Creek proper and enjoyed the views of the creek and the walk through the forest. We went as far as a little waterfall right along the trail.


A bald eagle perching en route to Barnes Creek

Click the image for a slow motion view of Marymere Falls.

Sunny day

A little waterfall

Water below

Keywords: barnes creek, marymere falls, winter, waterfall, eagle


01/11/15 - Dungeness Spit

It isn't easy hiking the Dungeness Spit in the late fall. In the day time, the low tides are almost as high as the high tides, but in January this changes. This means we have some good tides coming up this month on the 25th and 26th, then in February on the 9th, 10th, 11th and the 20th and 21st. You could even take a hike out the lighthouse.

Of course, tides aren't the only problem. Some years, the winter spit is all rocks and hard scrabble, so a ten mile round trip to the lighthouse is a bit of a challenge, but this year the winter spit is surprisingly sandy and smooth. We took a short hike out today and found it easy going. We didn't make it to the light, but we figured we'd spread the word about the good conditions.


Unprepossessing

OK, maybe it's gloomy in the photo, but it's prettier in real life.

There was no view of the mountains.

A view of the spit

The wild beach

Keywords: dungeness spit, tides, winter


01/09/15 - Short Trip to Seattle

We took yet another short trip into Seattle. The high point was our wonderful dinner at Sitka & Spruce.

To be honest, we started our meal around 4PM at Taylor Shellfish which is just down the block. We had dropped by before and checked out the oysters bubbling in their holding tanks. This time we tried some Olympias and Kumamotos, fresh and tasting of the sea. We also had some of the calamari salad with seaweed and mushrooms. It was quite good.

Then, we had dinner at Sitka & Spruce which was quite an experience. We knew we were in good hands when the sourdough bread arrived with the lightly whipped cultured butter. We were served each dish in turn, family style, and when the corned lamb with seared cabbage arrived, we knew we were in the hands of genius. The theme for the meal was crisp skin on the outside and tender meat inside. We had the pork belly with caraway seeds on toast, the porchetta with squash and rye crisps and the amazingly good rabbit. We were in heaven.

We finished off with a floating island with two types of meringue, one light and fluffy and one crisp like a cracker. It was an intense experience.


Wild water at the Ballard Locks

The winter garden at the Locks had its charms.

Contrail

Downtown evening light

More light

The sunset in close up

Sitka and Spruce

More Sitka & Spruce

The ferris wheel down by the waterfront

Keywords: oysters, seattle, winter


01/05/15 - Port Angeles Farmers' Market

This is just a reminder that the Port Angeles Farmers' Market is still operating on Saturdays from 10-2, and there are vegetables. There have been potatoes, kale, scallions, squashes and even arugula. Dungeness Seaworks has been there selling salmon and sometimes halibut, and Clark Farms is selling beef and pork. It may be winter, but the market lives.

These photos are ...

... all from ...

... Johnston Farms.

Keywords: farmers' market, johnston farm, port angeles, salmon, winter


02/21/14 - Amazing Skies at Hurricane Ridge

The snow came late this winter, but there is a fair bit of it up on Hurricane Ridge lately. Even more amazing are the webcam images. It's 17 degrees up there now, and the road is closed at the moment, but the skies and mountains are at their winter best.

Looking east, towards the sunrise

Looking to the south

Keywords: hurricane ridge, weather, winter


02/14/14 - Seattle in Winter

We were in Seattle for a wild weekend of urban excitement. It was a strange trip, with all sorts of things being a bit trickier than we had expected. Some of this is because our trip spanned not only President's Day but also Valentine's Day. On the other hand, some things were unexpected, like Salumi running out of bread.

On the other hand, we did visit one of our favorite places in Seattle, the Ballard Locks. We checked out their winter garden. The daphnes were asleep, but the hellebores and witch hazel were in bloom.


Sorry, all out of bread.

Witch hazel

The Ballard Locks

The railroad bridge at the locks

Seattle at night

Keywords: seattle, winter


02/08/14 - Winter Icicles

We took a walk along the Spruce Railroad trail during one of our recent cold snaps. There was ice on the little waterfalls and icicles on branches low by the water. We were half icicle by the time we finished our walk, but the scenery was really impressive.

Snow on the mountains

Icicles

More icicles

A frozen waterfall

More frozen water

Dangling ice formations, for the want of a thesaurus

An array of icicles

Keywords: spruce railroad, winter, waterfall


02/01/14 - Marymere Falls - Rainforest for Rainy Days

The skies this winter have been rain skies with gray clouds and a menacing air. That's perfect weather for exploring, of all places, the rainforest. We checked out Marymere Falls. It's a perfect threatening-rain hike, just 45 minutes, so one can dash back to the car if the heavens open.

The falls

A classic national park stairway

Logs in Barnes Creek

Keywords: marymere falls, weather, winter


01/23/14 - Dike and Fog

We haven't had much rain or snow this winter. We have, however, had some excellent fog. Here is the misty view from the Dungeness Dike.



Keywords: dungeness, winter


01/10/14 - Dungeness Spit

The autumn tides at Dungeness Spit are terrible for hikers. The day time low tides are often as high as the high tides which leaves just a narrow strip of rocky, gritty beach for walking. Winter, however, is different. Already, we are getting real low tides during daylight hours, and unlike some winters where most of the sand gets washed out to sea, this year there is a fair bit of sand which makes for good footing. We haven't made it all the way out to the lighthouse yet, but anything is possible in the new year.

A very clear view of Mount Baker

The tide was out and the beach was walkable

An even better view of the mountain

The Cascades to the north, beyond the San Juans

The view south, the Olympic Mountains

Keywords: autumn, dungeness spit, tides, winter


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