Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Woodland Floor in July -- On the Pacific Crest Trail

My friend Al and I took a break from the sweltering suburbs of Seattle for a hike headed north from Stevens Pass into the forest toward Yodelin Pass on a perfect, blue bird day.  Not a cloud between here and Tokyo.  This is the sort of weather that makes you feel guilty unless you maximize your enjoyment of it -- out here we grab it while we can.  At an elevation of approximately 4,000 feet the late spring snows have only in the past weeks begun to retreat, so along the trail are many small vernal drainages from snow patches that create temporary marshes where the wildflowers spring up, following the moisture.  The elevation is higher here, so that it is earlier in the season than it is below.  Our springtime harbinger, trillium, national flower of Canada, is just now fading, and the higher we go, the fresher the blossoms, as if we are traveling back in seasonal time.  It's a fine thing on a bright summer day to greet the flowers we saw last summer.  Like old friends, dropping by for a summer vacation visit.  So, I took their pictures, as you do to remember your friends and share their bright faces with other friends.

A fading trillium, in sun speckled shadows, very fragrant when fresh and still beautiful in lily symmetry of three by three by three.  She's one of the first blooming flowers of springtime, and at higher elevations, she's still quite showy in early summer.

Marsh marigold, caltha leptosepalaWhen you meet this one, you will notice your boots are getting wet; the marsh marigolds pop up in the wettest places, in standing water, right in puddles of melting snow and in places where thaw-gorged streams have overrun their banks.  So you will find yourself picking your way carefully, keeping your boots dry, but also to avoid crushing the beautiful display.

The tight volute of a fern tip unfurls as the growth  expands.  An exciting structure, filled with potential.  Of course, they are also called fiddle heads.  Friends tell me they are delicious if you like to forage for greens. 

The appearance of the columbine, aquilegia formosa, always says "no doubt about summer now."  It used to be our national flower, and the President's aircraft was called "The Columbine," but now an usurper rose has the honors.  This one is oblivious to our small ways and un-self-consciously magnificent; a good way to be.

The one who seems most wondrous, popping up in colonies along the snow's melting edges, Jeffrey's Shooting Star, dodecatheon jeffreyi, with petals so like the plumes of light shed by a falling star.  It's so tempting to have a favorite, and if I did, this one would be right up there with my most beloved.

Just because you're common and bear mediocre fruit, doesn't mean you aren't extraordinary -- here's the salmon berry, rubus spectabilus, that forms great patches of the understorey and produces a fruit most but bears ignore, because it's quite bland.  But do appreciate the magenta blossoms; there's nothing bland about that brilliant color that sparkles everywhere amongst the broad leaves, vines and short thorns.  The bees and bears don't ignore her, so why should you?

It was such a perfect day, I never got around to taking any landscape shots, being too entranced with the closeup world of flowering plants.

Next to come, the native orchids will begin blooming, right now, they're a bit subtle for my camera, when they're hiding in the grasses, disguised as something undistinguished.  That's another day trip, later on this summer.  So, don't you like my friends and don't you wish you knew them, too?

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