Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ginko Petrified Forest State Park

In the course of our numerous trips to eastern Washington and Spokane, we sometimes stop at this state park on the Columbia River.  It is on the west side of the river right at the place where Highway 90 crosses the Columbia, and near the town of Vantage, Washington.

The park is known for its vast amount of petrified wood, including whole logs, and for the many different kinds of trees that are found in a petrified state, around fifty different species, including the Ginko.  There are hikes near the visitors center and along the Columbia that enable one to see these wonders in situ.

The living Ginkos at the park provide a beautiful touch of autumn color, but they are no longer native to the area.  Those that are found near the visitor center have been reintroduced there.  In fact, away from the visitor center the area is very open and dry with few trees growing.

The Columbia River here has been dammed and the water has covered the area, the cliffs, where many old Indian petroglyphs were found.  Some of these petroglyphs have been rescued and are now in place at the visitor's center, not the way I would like to see them, but the only way.

Just across the river and barely visible from the state park is Wild Horse Monument, a series of full-size metal sculptures of wild horses which appear to be running across the bluff.  These are near a small parking area from which one can climb the bluff and see the sculptures up close.

Some of these photos were taken last week on our way to Spokane, but others were taken on different occasions and at different times of the year and some of them by my wife and son.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fragrance Lake


The weather here has been rotten - cold and rainy with a lot of snow in the mountains (Mount Baker got eight feet of snow in eight days last week).  Not good weather for hiking and not much to see when hiking, but today was partly sunny and reasonably warm, so Nancy and I took the morning off and drove to the Chuckanuts, just south of Bellingham, about 30 minutes from our house, for a short hike to Fragrance Lake.

The hike is between 5 and 6 miles round trip, including a walk around the lake.  It includes an elevation gain of about 1000 feet.  We were on the trail before 8:00 and saw only one other car in small parking area and only a couple of people on the trail. We were back home by 1:00 after stopping for coffee and a bite to eat - a nice leisurely start to the hiking season.

Very little was growing yet and there was not much in bloom, in fact we saw only one shrubby plant with flowers, the Indian Plum, Oelmeria cerasiformis, though nearer the lake Skunk Cabbage was starting in the swampy areas.  The woods, however, were beautiful, full of moss and mist and sunlight and we look a lot of pictures along the way.

About halfway to the lake there is a short side trail to a lookout point and there we caught some pictures of the rising sun on the San Juan Islands and on the straits before heading on.  Most of the trail was still shaded, since we were on the west side of the Chuckanuts, but by the time we got to the Lake the sun was coming over the trees and the lake was like a jewel in the sunlight.

I walked around the lake twice since my wife takes a lot more time than I do with her pictures and she has a new camera besides which she is learning, a Canon 450xsi.  Others were starting to arrive at the lake by the time we left and we met quite a few others including a group of senior citizens on their way to the lake.  The parking area was full when we arrived back to the car.

We took an old Forest Service road back and stopped along the way for pictures of a beautiful but unnamed cascade by the road.  Nancy learned about taking time exposures while we were stopped there and ended up with better pictures than I did.  The forest service road is not open to vehicles anymore, so we meandered back without having to dodge vehicles of any kind.

We saw a few birds, Robins, some Varied Thrushes, Eagles, and a few Fox Sparrows, but did not have opportunity to get pictures of any of them.  We saw a few different fungi, too, but everything is late this year, several weeks later than last year, and so there was not as much opportunity for macro or close-up shots as usual.