Twisted Fir


The Cascade Lake Loop on Orcas Island in Washington is a pleasant way to explore part of Moran State Park. Its most interesting feature is a twisted Douglas fir that seems out of place. The other evergreens all around it are straight and tall, making you wonder what traumas it withstood during its lifetime. Its shape mimics old junipers I saw in the Southwest.

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Hope Springs Eternal


Spring is my favorite season. Winter chill gives way to a time of regrowth, awakening, rejuvenation and hope. Naturally, this is the time I like to visit local gardens.

Seattle has a little treasure, not nearly as well known (if at all) as University of Washington’s Arboretum, Kubota Garden or the Bellevue Botanical Garden. At the northern end of South Seattle College is its own arboretum, entirely designed, built and maintained by students. Within its six acres, surprises are at every turn. I saw signs of spring all around: azaleas and rhododendrons, flowering ground cover, bulb plants, new growth on evergreens, fully leafed Japanese maples. Admission is free. Spring is here at last!

Japanese maples

Rhododendrons, heather

Light and shadow (woodruff)

Crossing the border

New buds (fir)

Columbine

Pine pollen cones

South Seattle College Arboretum
6000 16th Ave SW
Seattle, WA 98106

Great Blue Heron


This is as close as I’ve ever gotten to a great blue heron. I also had a little help from a telephoto lens.  The snapshot was taken at the estuarine reserve called the Skagit Wildlife Area north of Seattle where on luckier days I might’ve seen thousands of snow geese resting or flying overhead.

What’s in a Tulip?


Washington’s Skagit Valley has some of the world’s great tulip fields. In April, hordes of visitors descend on Mount Vernon to take in the brilliant displays, a spectacle well worth the hour and a half’s drive north from Seattle. Admirers take plenty of pictures because the swaths of color never cease to amaze. The tendency is to take snapshots and move along.

But take a look inside the tulip. When the sun strikes the petals, the interior glows to reveal the most beautiful colors and patterns, another of Mother Nature’s wonders.

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Beast or Alien?


My 9-year-old grandson loves reptiles. He’s fascinated so much he takes pictures of all of them at the Los Angeles Zoo, every single time he visits, to the exasperation of his younger sister. It’s no surprise then that he wanted to go through the reptile (and amphibian) exhibit when my wife and I took both our grandkids to the San Diego Zoo recently. I find frogs more interesting if for no other reason than their extraterrestrial appearance. I saw this pair that look straight out of a sci-fi movie. I failed to note what they were called.

Update: the San Diego Zoo was kind enough to answer by email inquiry. This frog is commonly known as White’s Tree Frog, otherwise known as Litoria caerulea.

Icy Beauties


The Northwest experienced its first snowstorm of the year this week. Another is on the way. Despite being a headache for everyone, there are moments of beauty that take your breath away. These icicles formed under one of the eaves of my roof as temperatures went slightly above freezing during the day and the relentless drip of water created these spectacles.

Parting Shots at Portland’s Japanese Garden


My wife and I have never driven I-5 through the Northwest in October. This year we did, en route to Southern California. The autumn leaves were gorgeous all along the interstate, mostly yellow with occasional spots of orange and red. They helped break up the monotony of having gone this route many times before.

Randolph E. Collier rest area (California), Interstate 5, just south of the Oregon state line

When I was in Southern California it dawned on me that we’d be passing through Portland later in the month on the way home. I tried to keep a close tab on the fall colors as they were developing in the Japanese Garden.

Trying to find out the current status of the maples wasn’t easy. The website japanesegarden.org didn’t do frequent enough updates to be helpful. So fortune would have to shine on us and it wouldn’t be too late by the time we got to Rose City. As it turned out this year, for best color, the third week was probably best. Yet when we arrived the following week, fortunately there was plenty to admire, in particular the stunning lace leaf maple whose glory I was able to capture on camera. Here is a view from a slightly different angle.

Portland’s Japanese garden is recognized as being the finest outside Japan. I’ve seen it grow and mature over the years, infrequent though my visits have been, and become the breathtaking ambassador it is today. My last time here was in early October 2013, a bit early for best fall color. So it was with great anticipation and fingers crossed that my wife and I arrived on Sunday (October 28). Because it was two hours before closing, we had to keep up a faster pace than we wanted, but we were still rewarded with splendor. The forecasts for thundershowers didn’t materialize; there was only an occasional sprinkle.

After leaving, we headed straight to Ataula, one of our favorite restaurants in Portland. Not wishing to get stuck in Portland’s awful rush hour traffic on Monday morning, we got a room for the night in Vancouver, Washington, just across the Columbia River.