Spring is here

Iris reticulata

It finally feels like winter is coming to a close. I know there is a good chance still for some frost in March but the days are getting longer and more sunny days.

We have had a winter of heavy rain. No snow and no serious frosts although it did get down in the low teens once. But the rain! December and February have been deluges.

Everything seems to be right on time or a little early. The blooms have gone fast due to either a couple of warm days (almost 60!) or heavy rains. I thought I would layout a timeline of what has been in bloom.

January 2016

The month started out frosty and cold. We visited the Washington Park Arboretum on 9th of January and it was too early. The witchhazel was just starting to bloom but much was still in bud. A few hellebores. The star was Daphne bholua.

We made our second visit about three weeks later on 31st of January and the arboretum was in its prime. The witchhazel bushes were lovely scented clouds of yellow, the cyclamen coum was bright pink under the Stewartia and fields of hellebore.

February 2016

The month started with our small bulbs buds starting to color. The crocus and snowdrops reacted to a few warm days and by second week and Valentine’s day they were in full bloom in the backyard and in our front window box. The iris reticulata really did well over the winter and we had a great bloom. But the heavy rains mid month flattened them and bloom was over by the 3rd weekend (22nd). We also visited the arboretum a 3rd time on 20th and witchhazel was completely done as were the bulbs. Surprising their “Christmas Snow” hellebores did terrible. They may have had too much rain. They are stunted and not a lot of blooms.

This week we have had a whole new set of spring blooms in the neighborhood. Daffodils are starting to open and brighten the days. The flowering blooms are just starting to open and create fluffy pink clouds of color. The pieris is starting to open and so is the forsythia. A few azaleas are opening in the warmer microclimates.

There is also a lot of signs of growth. The crocosmias are coming up. The delphiniums are up at about 6 inches with several leaves. We had to prune our roses yesterday and the growth buds had already started to grow. The maples are starting to color with their leaf and flower buds. Indian Plum is starting to bloom.

I also love how the sun is up by 7:00am and it is still light at 6pm. Just two more weeks to daylight saving time and then the equinox.

Madagascar

We have been planning for over a year for this trip. It all started with a brochure that G received from the publisher of nature books – specifically nepenthes. They were leading a trip to Madagascar. It has long been on our bucket list but it is so far away. We are not getting any younger so it was time to go. We sent off our deposit.

It will be an active trip so I started walking in January. I have been doing 2-3 miles 3 days a week. Later I started jogging and the past couple of months we have also been doing hikes. I am ready.

The past couple of weeks we have been finalizing all our gear and clothes. We have verified our plane seats, notified everyone who needs to know and are now just counting the days.

We will fly direct to Paris which is a 10 hour flight. We have a 3 hour layover in Paris. Then it is 10 and half hours to Antananarivo. We will be traveling for just about 24 hours by this time. We get in late at night around 11pm and we will be picked up by our hotel. We have a day to recover before we meet up with the group.

This will be an amazing trip. You can see the places we will visit on the map – click the 3 bar icon on the upper left to see each place we will be visiting or traveling through. I don’t know if I will be updating on the road but do check back in a couple of weeks and we will have many tales to tell.

Penrose Point

Penrose Point State Park

The countdown has begun. We are under three weeks for our departure to Madagascar. We continue to do the stairs at Richmond Beach. Our goal right now is doing the flights 5 times which are about 1,000 stairs.

We needed to try out our new sleeping bags. We bought them several months ago because we needed bags that were filled with synthetics instead of down feathers. The added bonus is they are really lightweight which will help to keep the weight down in our packs.

We were thinking about where to go and I checked the Washington State Park website. We wanted something close by so we wouldn’t have to drive far. The site has the ability to search by region. Surprise! There was one site available at Penrose Point State Park for Saturday night. Sunset Magazine had rated as one of the best camping sites. We drove through it after our stay in Hood Canal two years ago. Sold!

We couldn’t check in until 2:30 on Saturday so we lingered around the house. The traffic was a bear as usual plus it was complicated because the Express Lanes were closed until 11:30pm. The traffic was stop and go for a while but we timed it just right and the lanes opened just as we got to the entrance.

We stopped for lunch at Engine House Number 9 in Tacoma. They have been brewing their own beers and specializing in unusual beers. Their menu looked vegetarian friendly. Service was quick – beer was good. G had a Belgium Pale Ale and I had a Wit. G had fish and chips and I had a burger and tater-tots. Very northwest. I saw they had a few specialty beers bottled so I got a bottle of the Ferme Agrume #1 a saison (farmhouse) style beer with tangelo citrus.

It was just under an hour from Tacoma to the campground. We set up the tent. Weather had changed and we hoped it would not rain. This weekend was one of the most reliable weekends for sun and there was a chance of showers! Strange.

G relaxed and I went for a walk. Neither of us were hungry after our lunch so we snacked and played backgammon. It was an early to bed night for us. The sleeping bags were very warm.

We were both up early. We had coffee and cereal before taking a hike in the park. There is a nice 2 mile loop hike through the forest to Penrose Point. It was a quiet peaceful hike that took about hour and half. We broke camp and headed back home. We thought we would head straight home but we were both hungry so we stopped at Park Way Tavern for a couple of burgers and beers and were home by 3pm.

Engine House No Nine
Lunch at Engine House No 9

Penrose Point
Setting up the tent

Penrose Point

Penrose Point<
Moorage at Lakebay

Penrose Point
Pier

Penrose Point State Park
Foot shot

Penrose Point State Park

Penrose Point State Park
Morning hike to the point

Penrose Point State Park

Penrose Point State Park

Comet Falls and Van Trump Park

Mt Rainier from Van Trump Park
Mt Rainier from Van Trump Park

Another great hike that we have not done in over 20 years. It is a great hike and a beautiful waterfall. I think we haven’t done it mainly because there are so few vistas of Mt. Rainier. But it was a good training hike. We decided to hike on to Van Trump Park. Lots of great wildflowers and vistas to the south. I was a little disappointed in the actual park. The hikes around Paradise definitely deliver.

To Comet Falls – ~2 miles 1200ft gain
Additional to Van Trump – 1 more mile – ~1000 ft more
Total to Van Trump – 6 miles RT, 2200 Ft

Comet Falls - Mt Rainier
Van Trump Creek rapids from a bridge at the start of the trail – right before Christine Falls

Comet Falls - Mt Rainier
Crib Ladder to go around a 2012 slide

Comet Falls - Mt Rainier
Okay – it was a little steep

Comet Falls - Mt Rainier

Comet Falls - Mt Rainier

Comet Falls - Mt Rainier

Comet Falls - Mt Rainier

View from Van Trump Trail - Mt Rainier
Views to the south – you could barely make out Mt. St Helens in the high clouds

Avalanche Lilies
Avalanche Lilies – some of the beautiful wildflowers in the park

Mt Townsend redux

Mount Townsend

We have trying to do a hike every weekend to keep up our conditioning. Last weekend we hiked to Perry Creek. It was not steep compared to Mt. Pilchuck, but the rocky terrain made it tiring. We only went to the falls where you cross Perry Creek to start up the steep switch backs to Mt. Forgotten. It was about 4 miles to the falls and it took us about 3 hours. We had a lunch before heading back. What is also nice about Perry Creek is how close it is to our house. We left about 7:30am and we were on the trail by 9am. We were down by 2:30 and home by 4pm.

This weekend we decided to take a trip over to the peninsula and hike Mt. Townsend. It has been many years since we hiked Mt. Townsend – in fact 11 years! I had taken Monday off so G suggested spending the night in Pt Townsend and making it more of a mini-vacation.

We caught the 7:55am ferry. We got behind a slow car so we didn’t get to the trailhead until 9:30. The parking lot was already full! Very popular but everyone spread out so it wasn’t too busy on the trail.

The first mile or so switch backs up through Rhododendron filled forest. We hit it just right for the blooms.

Mount Townsend Mount Townsend

After about a mile or so, the trail breaks out into the open and switch backs up tall wildflower slopes to Windy Camp and then up to the shorter rock gardens and vistas as you climb the last 1000 ft. Glorious views of Hood Canal and the Cascades.

Once you reach a saddle and you then have views off to Vancouver Island, Olympic Mountains and the actual summit is still a short climb. We choose to stay at the saddle which was almost 6,000 feet. We reached here about 12:30 and stayed about an hour before starting back down. It was a long hike down – it took about 2 hours but my legs were pretty tired. Roundtrip 8 miles and 2800ft gain.

We drove on out to Port Townsend where we stayed the night – more on that in the next post

Mount Townsend

Mount Townsend

Mount Townsend

Mount Townsend

Mount Townsend

Mount Townsend

Mount Townsend

Mount Townsend

Mount Townsend
Olympics from the top of Mt. Townsend

Mount Townsend
The actual top – we enjoyed it at the bottom.

Mount Townsend
Mt Rainier from Mt. Townsend

Some flowers seen along the trail

Mount Townsend Mount Townsend
Mount Townsend Mount Townsend
Mount Townsend Mount Townsend
Mount Townsend Mount Townsend

Mount Pilchuck

Mt Pilchuck
Lookout on top of Mt. Pilchuck

I have been training for our trip to Madagascar. I started in January with 20-40 minute walks and have slowly increased to jogging. We are also doing the stairs at Richmond Beach Saltwater park once or twice a week.

We are now trying to get out on the trail to strengthen and use different muscles. Tiger Mountain 3 is one of the main training hikes and we did it on May 3rd (5 miles, 2000ft, ~1:20 up). We did Easton Ridge on May 18th (4.5 miles, ~1700ft). Last weekend we did Mt. Pilchuck. Now that was a lot harder, not so much the length or elevation gain but more the condition of the trail. Over half of the trail is on rock talus which makes it harder to hike plus the typical roots in the forested part. But I made it up. It was 5.4 miles, 2400ft, 2:25 up. It definitely was a workout and I’ve been sore this week.

Mt Pilchuck
Lots of Skunk Cabbage at start of trail

Mt Pilchuck

Mt Pilchuck

Mt Pilchuck
Lots roots and rocks in the forest

Mt Pilchuck
Views of the Cascade crest

Mt Pilchuck

Mt Pilchuck
Trail signs in the rocky area approaching the top

Mt Pilchuck
Remnants of the old rope tow when there was a ski area on Mt. Pilchuck.

Mt Pilchuck
Strange Rocks along the trail

Mt Pilchuck
Cairn and vista out west and the Puget Sound

Lakewold Garden

Lakewold Gardens

We did our annual visit to Lakewold Garden today. I was expecting the rhododendrons to be in full bloom but was surprised to see that they are just starting. They were wonderful but will reach their peak in another week just in time for Mother’s Day.

Everything was beautiful as usual. We were able to skip out without any plant purchases although G was so tempted at trying a Chilean Fire Bush again (Embothrium coccineum). He has lost 3 of them already. Fortunately he took a pass.
Lakewold visit 2013
Lakewold visit 2010
Lakewold visit 2007

Lakewold Gardens

Lakewold Gardens
Their new perennial beds

Lakewold Gardens
Lovely Exbury Azaleas

Lakewold Gardens

Lakewold Gardens
One of the older statues in the garden

Lakewold Gardens

Lakewold Gardens

Lakewold Gardens
The unique and lovely swimming pool

Lakewold Gardens

Lakewold Gardens

Rhododendron 'Lem's Cameo'

Polygonatum multiflorum

Lakewold Gardens

Lakewold Gardens

Lakewold Gardens

Lakewold Gardens

Tetrapanax papyrifer

Meconopsis 'Lingholm'

Red Azalea

Lakewold Gardens

Portrait at Lakewold

Catherine Creek – Columbia Gorge

Rowland Lake, Columbia River and Rainbow
Rowland Lake and Columbia River from Catherine Creek trail

March 21, 2015

The Columbia Gorge is a mecca for wildflower lovers – especially the Eastern end. Many years ago, we hiked Dog Mountain mid-May and we were astounded at meadows thick with golden balsamroot and purple lupine. Combine this with beautiful vistas up and down the Columbia Gorge and it is always a winner.

The bloom season is running about two weeks early this year. We decided to drive down on a Friday night and stay the weekend. It is about a 4 hour drive to Hood River in good traffic. Well, it was not good traffic and it ended up taking us 5 1/2 hours to drive. It was just 2 1/2 hours to get out of the Puget Sound.

The sun peaked out of the clouds on Saturday morning and it looked like a great day. We took advantage of the included breakfast at the Best Western and made it to the trailhead by 9am. The meadow was already in bloom with lots of death camas and purple shooting starts.

The trail meanders up through oaks. Many vernal pools and small streams created small mossy gardens. We were right on the edge of the rain and the day was misty. It made it very difficult to take photographs especially with a bit of west wind. But it did give us lots of rainbows.

You reach a ridge overlooking Rowland Lake. The rocky basalt is filled with small little gems and also lots of poison oak so it kept G on the trail. The trail continues to climb along the rim and then crosses a grassy hilltop underneath power lines before coming to the ridge crest. At this point, we headed right and into the forest. The trail steadily descends before turning east and dropping into the Catherine Creek Basin. Views of the rocky basalt cliffs on the eastern side of Catherine Creek and the rocky arch. The hike took about 2-3 hours with a lot of stops for photos and wildflowers.

We drove back over the river and headed east on the Oregon side to the Rowena Vista. We had our sandwiches and decided to walk a short ways out on the Rowena Plateau. The flowers were very similar and the weather was cloudy so we only hiked a short while before deciding to return to Hood River.

We stopped at Pfriem for an excellent pint – IPA for G and a Belgium sour for me. We went back to the hotel for a rest before heading out to Double Mountain Brewery for Pizza – it took us a while to be seated and even long for the pizza – it was very good but it did seem a long time.

Sun was just setting so we took a walk around the main part of Hood River looking in the windows before returning back to our hotel.

Sunrise over Columbia River - Hood River
Sunrise over Columbia River

Catherine Creek Trailhead Meadow
Meadows at Catherine Creek Trailhead

Rowland Lake from Catherine Creek West
View west – Columbia River and Rowland Lake

Looking East from Catherine Creek
View east – Columbia River

Olsynium douglasii - Grass Widow Orobanche uniflora - Naked Broomrape
Zigadenus venenosus - Death Camas Lomatium columbianum
Fritillaria pudica Dodecatheon poeticum

Catherine Creek Woodland

Dicentra cucullaria - Dutchman's breeches

Cynoglossum grande

Arch at Catherine Creek

Pfriem Brewery

Stairclimb – Blaine and Howe

Streissguth Gardens
Streissguth Gardens

We went to REI today to buy new sleeping bags for our Madagascar Expedition. Today was the 20% off members so we used our coupon to save some money on our new bags. These will be nice since we both have old down bags. I bought my bag in high school which makes it over 40 years old – hey! – it still keeps me warm and we bough G’s probably in the late 70’s which makes it over 30 years old.

We bought two lighter synthetic bags. This will do well great in the summer also. They are both mummy style which will be different. We’re also looking at boots and packs so we are watching the sales.

I suggested doing the stairs at Blaine and Howe Streets. I used these stairs for conditioning when I worked at WRQ. I realized that was over 20 years ago (circa early 1990’s). Very easy drive up from REI Seattle,

We started by climbing up the Blaine street stairs. At the Broadway, we took a moment to walk through the Streissguth Gardens. Absolutely lovely! Tulips, bluebells, azaleas, primroses, red currents, maples, magnolias – and other spring beauties in bloom. And the views! Several excellent views over Lake Union to Space Needle, Queen Anne and north. At the top, we walked a block over to Howe Street and down and up the stairs on Howe Street before returning back down Blaine Stairs.
Fun 30 minutes. I’m a little sore but it was worth it!

Bottom of Blaine Street Stairs - 293 to the top
Bottom of Blaine Street Stairs

Streissguth Gardens
Streissguth Gardens

Crane stepping stone at Streissguth Gardens

Streissguth Gardens

Tulips at Streissguth Gardens

Fothergilla blooms at Streissguth Gardens

Lake Union and Queen Anne Hill from Streissguth Gardens
Lake Union and Queen Anne Hill from Streissguth Gardens

View of Space Needle and South Lake Union from Streissguth Gardens
View of Space Needle and South Lake Union from Streissguth Gardens

Looking north from Streissguth Gardens
Looking north from Streissguth Gardens

View over Lake Union towards Olympic Mountains from top of Blaine Stree stairs

Looking down Howe street stairs
Going down.. Howe Street Stairs

Spring Nursery Hopping – Flower World

Flower World

The last nursery that we visited was Flower World. This has become a mecca for many gardeners. They grow a lot of one type of plant and the prices are low. If they have what you want and you are knowledgeable, you can find some tremendous bargains. Their selection of house plants is excellent. I am not as enthusiastic since it seems to always be the same and don’t expect to find the latest hot variety.

We had a couple of items – in particular a Spiraea for the front bed so we definitely found several items for our car hatch.

Flower World
Bunnies for Easter!

Flower World

Flower World

Flower World
Brugmansias by the table and good priced. But we didn’t need any.

Flower World

Flower World
Colorful tropical house plants

Flower World
Flower World

Flower World
Heather

Flower World
Forsythia

Flower World
Someday we’ll explore the park-like grounds and exotic birds but not today