Thursday, August 23, 2012

Lake Elizabeth

On our way to Spokane a few days ago (one of our many trips there to see our handicapped son), we drove through Stevens Pass (Highway 2) and went up to Lake Elizabeth near Skykomish in the North Cascades.  This little mountain lake is a wildflower paradise, but the forest service road to the lake has been washed out for several years requiring a hike of six or seven miles each way.  The road is now repaired and the lake more easily accessible.

Driving up to the lake we found several wildflowers including the Great Hedge Nettle and a Swallowtail Butterfly which we followed around for photos before he finally flew away.  There was no one about at the lake, though there was a folding chair out by the lake and we did about two-thirds of the trail around the lake up to the north and northwest ends of the lake where the trail runs out in a tangle of fallen trees and very wet and muddy seeps before heading back.

Great Hedge Nettle

Bunchberry and Columbia Windflower

Western Tiger Swallowtail

We also explored the sedge mat at the edge of the lake, looking for a very rare and tiny orchid, Chamisso's Orchid, that has been reported from the area but which we have never found.  We did not find it this time either, but did find four other orchids, two tiny Twayblades, the Northwestern and Heart-leaved Twayblades, one Coralroot, the Western, and one Bog Orchid, the Northern Green Bog Orchis.  The first two were everywhere, the others not as abundant as at other times.

Unidentified Mushroom

Unidentified Sedge

Northwestern Twayblade

Northern Green Bog Orchis

Western Coralroot

Western Heart-leaved Twayblade

We also found both at the lake and along the road, growing with the Bog Orchid, one of our favorite wildflowers, the Elephant-head Lousewort.  This was near the end of its blooming season but we still managed to get some photographs of its unusual purple flowers before heading back down the road and on to our final destination, having enjoyed a wonderful break from what can otherwise be a rather long and tedious journey.

Elephant-head Lousewort

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