Monday, August 13th, was the first day of the Northwest Washington Fair, held here in our town, and a good day to be out of town. My wife was babysitting the children of a friend who was working at the fair, and so I made the day's excursion on my own.
I went first to Larrabee State Park south of Bellingham in the Chuckanut Mountains and walked the Clayton Beach trail looking for the Broad-leaved Helleborine (Epipactis helleborine) which grows there along the railroad tracks that run through the park
This orchid is interesting in that it is not native to the United States or Canada but has established itself across the northern USA and southern Canada. I've seen it on the east coast and in the sand dunes in western Michigan along Lake Michgan.
In Larrabee it would appear that the orchid has been distributed by the railway since it grows in the brush along the tracks and along the trail leading from the tracks. How it could have been distributed by rail, I have no idea, but that is the only place it can be found.
I found both a very pale pink and green and a dark purple version, though the darker flowers were all past their prime. There were also some, not yet open, that had no hint of coloring at all and I would like to check them later to see if they are the alba variety.
Some of the plants were short, less than 30 cm but others were quite tall, up to 120 cm. Most were single stems though the plant can form large clumps. I spent several hours photographing them before continuing to the beach where I took more photos, including some of a dead shark.
I also spent some time taking pictures of the Madrona trees (Arbutusa menziesii). I am fascinated by their peeling bark (this is normal), colorful wood, and beautiful forms. This tree is native to the west coast from British Columbia to Mexico, primarily in the northern parts of this area.
Leaving Clayton beach, I headed back north to Deception Pass, the narrow strait that separates Whidbey Island from Fidalgo Island and which is crossed by a high bridge. Parking at the pass I hiked to the top of Goose Rock at the northern end of Whidbey Island.
Goose Rock is a wonderful place for native wildflowers and orchids with its granite balds, areas of exposed rock that support a unique and wonderful flora. It is 484 feet and provides great view of the Straits of San Juan de Fuca, of the San Juan Islands, and of the Cascades.
The hike to the top is less than a mile but steep. I found three native orchids, the Long-Spurred and Flat-spurred Piperias (only a few of the former) and huge clumps of the Giant Rattlesnake Orchis, a plant so common in this area that I usually do not bother to take pictures.
Giant Rattlesnake Orchis
I also found a lot of Indian Pipes, a ghostly white saprophyte that grows on the forest floors, in one case the largest clump of these I had ever seen, and a very unusual fungus or mushroom that looked a bit like bakery rolls. Finished, I headed back home and back to work.