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10/01/17 - Marmots on Hurricane Hill

We've been watching autumn end and winter arrive on the Hurricane Hill trail. It has been hard not to notice all the new snow on Mount Olympus and the other great mountains for the Olympics. The grasses have turned golden and the marmots are out taking advantage of the late harvest to fatten up for winter.

A mountain view

More snow already

The fields below

Golden marmots ...

... in golden grasses

Autumn colors

Another marmot

Yet another marmot

It was like a marmot conference.

Another mountain view

A last harebell

Keywords: autumn, hurricane hill, marmots, winter


03/01/17 - Snow in Seattle

We took a quick trip to Seattle. It was the day I-5 was blocked by an overturned propane truck. This made Seattle traffic challenging enough. There was also a lightning storm and a bit of snow. We gave up getting a ride and worked for our dinner on Capital Hill with a brisk climb in the snow.

The view from our ride

Another view

You'd hardly know that I-5 had been backed up for hours.

A bit more snow ...

... and even a bit more.

Keywords: seattle, winter


01/22/17 - Some Birds of the Season

Despite the cold winter, or perhaps because of it, we've been seeing a number of interesting birds as we make our usual rounds.

A hummingbird on a rose hip in our backyard

An eagle at the Dungeness Dike

Some Dungeness Dike scenery

Another eagle

We've been seeing a lot of these guys

The Dungeness River

Dungeness skies

Swans dropping by, interspersed with ducks

The swans just love this field

We haven't looked this guy up yet. Note the orange cheek patches.

Across the way, the Elwha River

Keywords: birds, winter


01/22/17 - Marymere Falls and Barnes Creek

So many trails are closed this winter. Most of the Elwha River trails are closed while the flood damage is repaired, and the Spruce Railroad Trail is closed for the next step in its upgrade. The loop to Marymere Falls is one of the few trails still open, so we've been getting there fairly often. For a while, the trail was covered with snow. The Barnes Valley doesn't get a lot of sun this time of year, but the snows have melted, and the snow melt and recent rains have fed the river and the falls.

Marymere Falls, a healthy roar

The steps from the lower to the upper falls observation points, in National Park Modern

They've been rebuilding the bannisters along the trail

A view of Barnes Creek

The footbridge over Barnes Creek

Another view of Barnes Creek

The forest

Another view

and yet another

Keywords: elwha, marymere falls, spruce railroad, trails, winter


01/17/17 - Dungeness Spit - The New Year

The Dungeness Spit is a five mile long sand spit that juts out into the Strait of San Juan de Fuca. It's basically a beach without anything inland. Unlike the littoral beaches of the east coast that parallel the mainland, the spit heads away from land and then turns east. Hiking the spit is always an otherworldly experience. There is salt water on either side and just a long, wild beach littered with driftwood that runs for miles. There are spectacular views of the the San Juan Islands, the Olympic Mountains and often the Cascades. Otherwise, it is sky and salt water.

The spit varies greatly with the tide. The gap between low tide and high tide is often six feet of water. At low tide the beach can be broad and easy going. At high tide it is narrow, just a bit of sand and lots of driftwood to clamber over. In the autumn, the tides make hiking the spit difficult. There are some nice low tides, but only at night, but as winter sets in, the low tides cycle into daylight. By early February there are long low tides, under three feet, right in the middle of the day, so we expect to visit the spit more often as the season progresses.


A winter sky

More winter sky and driftwood

Definitely driftwood

The Olympic Mountains as seen from the sea

Another sand and sky picture

Rocks and driftwood

The spit from the climb out

Keywords: autumn, beaches, dungeness spit, winter


01/01/17 - The Elwha in the Snow

We took a walk along the closed part of Olympic Hot Springs again. This time it had snowed, so the trees were frosted and the river almost black. We only walked out for a half an hour, but we're contemplating heading farther next time, perhaps to the bridge over the river near Altair. It has been a cold snowy winter, so we'll get out when we can.

Olympic Hot Springs Road

The frosted forest

More frost, more forest

The river

Another view of the river

Snow covered driftwood

The view upriver

Yet another view of the river ...

... and another view of the forest

Keywords: elwha, winter


12/26/16 - The Elwha River and a Bobcat

Like many, we have been waiting for Olympic Hot Springs Road to reopen so we can return to the trails out of Whiskey Bend and revisit the hot springs themselves. To see how things were going, we parked at the Madison Falls parking lot and walked along the road, now closed to motorized traffic. The river was winter beautiful with snow on the hills and a cold gray light. The new temporary one lane bridge is in place and a fair bit of work has been done on the road.

We had some wonderful views of the river itself, but then, on our way back, we saw something else, a bobcat in the open field not far from the parking lot. We had seen a bobcat here before, but only briefly as it bounded away in the distance. This bobcat was closer and calmer. We were barely 50 feet away, close enough for an excellent view. It was a real treat in the face of a snowy winter and with so many trails closed in the park.


The Elwha River

Another view of the river

The river and snowy mountains

Across the river

The new bridge

Yet another view of the Elwha

Across the bridge

Through the woods

The bobcat

A closer view

And an even closer view

Keywords: elwha, olympic hot springs, spring, trails, winter


12/22/16 - Rialto Beach Monochrome

We took a short journey out to Rialto Beach on a gray drizzly day. The winter light was fantastic, almost unreal. The sea was wild and open. The sky was full of clouds. We didn't get all that far in the wind and spray, but it was a wonderful walk.

Driftwood and seastacks

Gray water

More driftwood

Another view of the water

Sea stacks

A view south

The Pacific Ocean, not very pacific

Another almost monochrome view

Water into the ocean

Another view south

Driftwood

Keywords: rialto beach, winter


12/12/16 - Swans on Towne Road

The swans were back on Towne Road, or rather, on one of the fields next to Towne Road in Sequim. We had to stop and take a good look. They are one of the great pleasures of the winter season.

From a distance

Closer

A veritable plethora of them

It's sort of a rest stop for them.

More swans

Keywords: birds, winter


12/10/16 - Lake Angeles Trail in the Snow

We took advantage of the early snow to check out our snowshoes on the Lake Angeles Trail. We only climbed about 500' or so, but others had made it to the lake. They just wore hiking shoes. No snowshoes for them. It may be a while before we make it back up to the lake again, but as far as we are concerned, the trail is a winter wonderland.

Snow and forest

Winter forest

More winter forest

Another bit of winter

Salal

Winter wonderland

More magical winter forest

Keywords: lake angeles, winter


10/22/16 - First Snow on Hurricane Hill

Hurricane Hill was windy and cold, and the first snow has fallen. Obstruction Point Road is already closed, and it looks like we are having an early winter. The Hurricane Hill Trail started below the snow line, but we could see a lot more snow on the Olympic Mountains and snow on Mount Angeles early on. As we neared the summit, we saw the first snow by the trail. There wasn’t all that much snow, but this part of the mountain faces south. We could see a lot more snow on the north face, and the little seasonal lake has reformed after having dried out this summer.

The wintry air and clouds played tricks with the light. There were bands of crepuscular light as the sun shone through gaps in the clouds. There was even a bit of a light column glowing brightly with the sunlight reflected and concentrated by ice crystals. There wasn’t much of a view as we made our ascent, but at the summit the clouds blew past, so we had great views on our walk down. We often tell people to take the trail even when visibility is limited as things are likely to change. We were well rewarded for taking our own advice, but by the time we returned to our car, the clouds had started to close in again.


A last bit of color

Mountains and sky

The summit and the first snow

Crepuscular light

Mount Angeles snow

The north face

Snow on the trail - Doesn’t that look like winter?

Almost like autumn again

Autumn color

More shafts of light

A light column

Keywords: hurricane hill, obstruction point, winter


02/13/16 - Good Sand and Good Tides

A few posts back we noted that the good winter tides have returned at Dungeness Spit. Now the good sand is coming back. There are still a few rocky stretches but a lot more sand has been deposited which makes the spit a lot easier for walking. There are some good mid-day tides coming up on the 25th, 26th and 27th, so if you’ve been meaning to get out to the lighthouse, this may be good time to start planning.

The view out on a wintry day

The view back - Click for a better view of the mountains.

The view from above on the walkway down to the spit

Some driftwood

An eagle perched

Keywords: dungeness spit, eagle, tides, winter


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


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