Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Fuller Mountain - a mossy kind of trail overlooked by most

Yesterday dawned as a day due to be bright, sunny, and lacking rain. Like many days of this past winter! So having a chance to fit in a day on the trail to get to a needed area for future projects I loaded my gear, cameras, and border collie to enjoy a quick 3+ hour hike up Fuller Mountain in the Snoqualmie Forest lands of Hancock Timber NE of the Snoqualmie Valley.

We crossed Ten Creek just fine on the footlog that still stands after all these years. Funny now how my dog runs across it and even I have to take it easy - silly dog! She is the smartest Bauer family member and she knows it. The trail isn't as "faint" as I remember it to be, but still in 2 rocky scree crossings the trail is basically "lost" and you just have to be smart about knowing where it would come out on the other side - not a lot of places to look to find it if you are "lost" as the trail is on a steep mountainside! The mossy viewpoint at the summit area (not the actual summit but with in 5' elevation of being the top) was a great lunch, and then my wonder dog hiker buddy and me headed back out. Much to do - lunch, yard, kids, and Little League!

A great day....

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Skookum Flat Trail hiking - a great day on the trail with my dog

Yesterday brought nearly 70* temperatures to some western lowland locations and even at 2000' elevation SE of Enumclaw, the warm winds saw me hiking a stellar day in nearly 60* weather. A good portion of the day was spent along the Skookum Flats Trail that runs along the White River, and what a great day to enjoy being out sharing fresh air with my border collie!
Green mossy carpets covering the damp forest floor and actual sandy beaches down along the White River.

The river is so low this winter it was like a summer stroll to the river! Even my wonder mutt seemed to take notice of the massive groves of huge old growth trees.

Mixing in a very steep side scramble up to the base of Skookum Falls where it comes down hundreds of feet where Skookum Creek dumps off of the plateau above, and we had yet another memorable day together in the outdoors. She was content to relax while I drove around locating a few other trailheads that I need to return to this spring, and she never complained about my driving all day!

Thanks for the great day yesterday pooch - we'll get out again next week!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Western Trillium - official start of spring

White flower sighting alert! I just enjoyed spotting my first Western Trillium emerging from the forest debris on our property. Let the show begin! A lot of things will be coming sooner this spring than any other in most of your memories. We all know how soon the winter snow pack in the Cascades will be gone, no matter how much snow might fall when weather patterns change in early spring. Ticks and mosquitoes are already out with abundance at many locations in the state. But one thing that excites many of us is the “official” start to spring when the wildflowers of the lowlands begin their annual show. This year trees flowered many weeks early, desert wildflowers of the Columbia Basin were beginning to bloom by mid-March, and any day now one of the most beautiful wildflowers of our neighborhood should start to wake up: the western trillium!

While other wildflowers bloom earlier (such as skunk cabbage and palmate coltsfoot) the western trillium (Trillium ovatum) is close behind. It also is common to see it going by the name “western wake-robin” since it is one of the earlier species to bloom. I know many people who feel that spring really is here once they see their first one blooming along a local trail or on their property! We are very fortunate to have numerous places on our property where they grow much to our enjoyment. However, if you are not this lucky there are many close-by locations you are sure to see them now. Walk the Snoqualmie Valley Trail and they will be emerging along the moist hillsides and streams that you find in the semi-shaded regions. Most trails within the Tiger Mountain State Forest as well as the easy stroll to Twin Falls out east of North Bend all offer prime viewing. Likewise, they often are seen in large quantities on most semi-shaded moist slope along any hiking trail in the lower elevations of the Cascades. Very often you will see them growing along with ferns, salal, and yellow violets (which bloom at essentially the same time). You can certainly see where this flower got its name from by taking a closer look at the plant. Most of the structure of the trillium, such as leaves, pedals, flower parts, etc…) are exactly three in number. If not, they are in multiples of three. What a perfectly designed native flower! The flower grows from the top of a very sturdy stalk which rises out of the ground from the rhizome, which is the “storage root” of the plant.

I highly recommend if you already have a location within your garden which is landscaped as a native garden to consider adding the western trillium to the mix! It is available in fall as rhizomes from a number of native plant growers in the Pacific Northwest. But whether you have them in your yard or not be sure to try and sneak a peek at this triumphant signaling of “The Official Start of Spring”!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Have a smile-filled day

Everyone knows I love the outdoors. I love hiking, I like just feeling good about the world, and there is always a lot of good around us to celebrate what is right in this world. It is a very cold morning right now outside as the clear sky starts to get light in the east this early. With our mild El Nino winter, it is hard to imagine that being down in the mid-20s right now is the most cold night we've had in 2010 so far! Now that is a mild winter! The bright clear morning that is a celebration to kick off another great day. Celebrate what is right in the world around you, and you can start with a smile!
(photo: "Smiling" log along the Greg Ball Trail hiking up toward Wallace Lake)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Chorus of Spring - Pacific Tree Frogs

While we have had some great late winter weather lately spring still isn't quite here. But March is a magical month of life in nature. Plants begin to grow and our daylight hours are filled with the songs of birds. Another choir of spring also starts to warm up, but this one is at night! Ah, one of my favorite parts of spring. The longer evening hours of warmth lead to that first night where darkness brings on a riot of singing from our hidden but noisy neighbors: the Pacific Tree Frogs!
The Pacific Tree Frog (Hyla regilla) can be found almost anywhere in our region. Woodlands, meadows, pastures, shrubs, small trees, flower gardens, and smack in the middle of your lawn! They often are found even in urban areas quite far from the nearest body of water! Their toes have sticky pads which allow them to climb about on plants with great agility. However they do tend to stay much closer to ground level than most tree frog species, preferring to remain within two feet of the ground most of the time. I have always been fascinated with the care these little creatures use in selecting areas to lay their eggs. The eggs are laid in early March to May in temporary ponds. Why? These temporary ponds are key because their predators such as brown salamanders and bullfrogs do not live or lay their eggs here! These other species require permanent water for their livelihood! By choosing temporary ponds (which will dry up by summer) instead of deep permanent ponds, Pacific Tree Frogs reduce the number of predators that may eat the tadpoles!

So just why do frogs sing? There are actually a wide variety of reasons! Sometimes, frogs sing when they are trying to attract a mate ("Hey there! Come and find ME!"). Sometimes, they sing to mark their territory ("Excuse me, this is MY lily pad!"). Other times, frogs sing because they know the weather is going to change or they even squeak when they are frightened or hurt! But at this time of year what stands out the most is the males call for attracting females. The male frogs are territorial and protect their part of the pond from other males by repeating their two-toned call at night. This call can be heard from as far as a mile or more away and attracts females who hop along to find where the males are hanging out. This loud call is so famous and "perfect" in a sense that even Hollywood has taken notice. The distinctive call of the Pacific Tree Frog is widely used in films for a "tropical" background! Once the eggs have been laid in the temporary pond (attached to a branch or clump of grass) the parents hop back to open forests and other places, leaving the young to fend for themselves. Thus begins the remarkable transformation of an egg to a tadpole and eventually to the young froglet which first grows back legs, then front legs, and then loses the trail to become a froglet. This happens by autumn and young frogs are mature at about one year of age. At that point their main predators are raccoons, herons, mink, bullfrogs, snakes, and other animals.
As March passes along and we get our first warm evenings that last well past dinnertime start keeping an ear open for this spring choir to kick into full swing! While it can be very difficult to spot these little fellows (they cease calling if they feel threatened) you can always sit back and enjoy knowing they are present nearby. Having Pacific Tree Frogs (or any species of frog for that matter) nearby is one of the strongest indications that we have a healthy ecosystem! These little amphibians are one of the first indicators of when an ecosystem is starting to struggle under pressure and we need to keep them happy if the rest of the natural cycle around us is to remain healthy and happy too!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Fall City artists now featured at Eastshore Gallery

Beginning this past Sunday, February 28th, and ongoing until April 11th, the Eastshore Gallery in Bellevue is hosting "Spring in Fall City!", a dynamic variety of beautiful art work from Snoqualmie Valley local artists. Many of these stellar works are by good friends of mine who I have had the honor of getting to know through the Fall City Arts organization and I thank everyone for helping make this show happen over the course of the past year! Art work ranging from glass work, painting, drawing, jewelry, sculpture, all is featured...and yes, so is my photography. Head to the website detailing who is showing their masterpieces at the gallery HERE, and let me know what you think!