Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A flowery day along Ingalls Creek

I used to make an annual May trip to hike the Ingalls Creek Trail. I remember the wildflowers to be one of the best shows I could find in the Cascades early in the year. As the long wilderness valley climbs from 2000' toward 4000' it allows you to see flowers of all seasons. When balsamroot and lupines are blooming in late May at the lower elevations, you reach far into the valley and find Glacier Lilies, Western Trillium, and many other early blooming species where spring is just waking up. And all of this along the thundering roar of Ingalls Creek which drains massive mountain ranges on both the north and south sides. Birds fill the trees along the valley bottom, but you can't hear them - the creek is too loud! But pausing and watching for a moment reveals all of the grosbeaks, tanagers, chickadees, and the list goes on. But the real show is at your feet.

(above: Glacier lily; flowering Kinnickinick; Hooker fairy-bells; Fern-leaf desert parsley; False Solomon seal)
For whatever reason, I had not hiked this trail for likely 12-13 years after having hiked it annually for at least five years in a row. A recent return visit, hiking 5+ miles up the valley, has me now knowing I'll never let that happen again! What a show...flowering serviceberry and chokecherry bushes/trees, deerbrush ready to blow out its fragrant flowers, lupines, red and yellow paintbrush (yellow ones I sure don't see very often around here), arrowleaf balsamroot, prairie-star flower, hooker's fairy bells, calypso orchids, larkspur, western trillium, glacier lilies, false solomon seal, vanilla leaf, three species of desert parsley including lovely areas of fern-leaf desert parsley, yellow violets, and more...all blooming at once! It was a fiesta of color and fragrance. Oh, and a brief hailshower, some rain, and one lovely female common merganser flying up the creek, all made for a wonderful day with a friend.

(above: Ballhead waterleaf; Ingalls Creek at creek-side and a fun rock art by previous bored hikers :) )
It has been a long cold spring, but even nature will push through and let spring and summer get here eventually!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Presentation in Bellevue today @ 2:00PM

It's a dark and stormy March morning and....oh, wait, it's almost June? Sigh - spring has been a stinker here in the Pacific Northwest! It's 45* and wet outside, so why don't you come on down to the Bellevue Main Library branch of the King County Library System at 2:00PM this afternoon and join me for an enjoyable hour of stories and adventure sharing hiking the many trails covered in the Day Hiking guidebooks series I'm a part of! At least you can be thinking about hitting the trails that way if you don't like today's weather for hiking in!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Boring Beetles aren't so boring: The Banded Alder Borer

Beetles aren't necessarily the most exciting critter to many people. In fact they can give some people the absolute creeps! But some play a positive role in nature and are downright beautiful. Mention the phrase "borer beetles" and usually the reaction isn’t going to be a positive one. Most species of this “long-horned borer” beetle family can cause extensive damage to nature as they bore into live wood. Some of you may recall hearing about the dangerous imported Asian Long-horned Beetle, which devastated mature trees in several Eastern US cities during 1999 and 2000. This caused thousands of trees to be destroyed in Chicago and New York in particular! Harmful boring beetles will attack forest trees including maple, poplar, and alder. They kill the trees by boring large holes through the heartwood of the tree. This in turn causes serious damage to the live tree. Most of these long-horned beetle species which are harmful to trees have the long antennae and long bodies which are characteristic of this family. However, we are fortunate to have a native beetle to our area in this family which actually is beneficial to nature! Introducing: the Banded Alder Borer.
The Banded Alder Borer is very striking as it is 1-1.5 inches long with large black and white striped ("banded") antennae and black and white markings on the body. The antennae are longer than the body! It feeds on alder, ash and other hardwood trees. However, it feeds on the dead or decaying wood of these trees. This in turn is helping with the promotion of the decay of the dead wood in the ecosystem. They lay their eggs on the surface of the tree bark. As the larvae develop they then tunnel inward and later prepare pupal chambers which will be home until the beetle is "born" to life.
Typically you will only see single individuals of them during the summer. Occasionally, however, they are strangely attracted in groups to fresh paint on the sides of buildings during warm/hot weather! Speculation is that a volatile chemical in paint can mimic a certain attracting scent ("pheromone") which draws the beetles to each other. Some painters have returned from a lunch break only to find a number of them unfortunately dead in their open cans of paint. The Banded Alder Borer is the only known beetle that seems to display this potential attraction to freshly painted areas.
Don't expect to come across these lovely beetles very often as they actually are quite uncommon to see. But if you should be lucky enough to see one take a moment to get close and watch it. They do not bite and are not a pest in any way---there is no need for taking any actions to control them!

Monday, May 3, 2010

There's moss in that there forest...and waterfalls...and good friends

What a joy it was recently the past few days to escape for a much needed mental break from stressful recent times and not only get outdoors, but have it turn out to be a new trail for me which was one of the best new additions for me in some time, all while shared with great friends. Karen Sykes, Bob, and myself headed SE down SR-410 from Enumclaw into the White River Valley and thoroughly enjoyed hours of hiking up the Palisades Trail. Moss covering every rock, maple tree branch, even cliffs covered with moss alongside of waterfalls. Huge old growth trees, calypso orchids growing out of the forest floor moss, western trilliums, yellow violets, spooky views from atop the palisade cliffs,

even getting into a dusting of snow still on the ground once above 4000' elevation.

This area is such prime early season hiking as it never has as much snow as the areas in the Central Cascades, and the southern exposure always melts the snowpack off sooner. Karen, Bob, and myself shared hours of stories and ideas all while we strolled the 9 miles of hiking we did and dozens of photos we took. What a great day! A sure thing bet this trail is in the next edition of the Day Hiking books as well as other projects I'm working on.

Thanks for a great day in the mountains, Karen & Bob!

Let's talk hiking and photography this Saturday!

A quick note that the lovely new (well, it was new 10 years ago or so but still is a beautiful building) library in Sammamish will host me this coming Saturday afternoon, May 8 @ 2:00pm to present a talk and show sharing my adventures and stories working on the Day Hiking book series, published by The Mountaineers Books. Get a great start to your Mother's Day weekend and get excited for a great 2010 hiking summer ahead! See you there I hope.