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December was generally gray with some snowfall. We really need a lot more snow especially after the New Year’s Eve rain, freezing rain and yesterday’s spring-like conditions. The forecast is showing some snow this weekend. Fingers crossed.

The girls and I had some nice walks in the hills last month and judging by these photos you can figure out (as if you didn’t know already) that two of my favorite subjects are dogs and trees. Maybe that’s why Sky likes sticks so much. Another thing I like is a spot of color on a gray day. Especially red. Even without much snow or sunshine, we enjoy our walks in the hills around the valley.

The Skyline Divide trailhead is at the end of the road where we were camped so that was our first hike. It goes about two miles steeply through the forest with occasional meadows before popping out on top of a meadow-covered ridge. I’m sure there are wondrous vistas to be seen at that point however it was pretty smoky and we could not see the mountains at all. The smoke was thick enough that I could smell it and I’m sure a vigorous hike in those conditions was not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. I was not alone. We saw several other hikers that day. We could have gone farther on the trail to find that we could not see other vistas so decided to just stay on the ridgetop and enjoy the flowers and bugs and also Black Swifts that seemed to be migrating in big flocks. This is a hike I hope to do again on a non-smoky day.

I spent part of yesterday with a high school senior who is interested in pursuing photography. Kayla already has a good eye for composition and color and hopes to go to college to learn more. She particularly likes nature photography so we started out walking to the park near the confluence of the Twisp and Methow Rivers. The weather has been dreary and gray and the ice around Twisp is treacherous for walking. Along the rivers, there is much less ice than in other years. Kayla has explored this area for years and she said normally there is enough ice to walk across the Twisp River. Every year is different and I expect these are the kinds of changes we need to get used to.

You can see more photos of Kayla here at my Reflected Light Images blog.

We were there at the beginning of the dry season. However, someone must have mis-read the calendar. We had some rain most days and quite a bit of rain on one day. And with the never-ending summer weather, plant life thrives. Any building or car that had been left alone for a while appeared to have stuff growing on, around and through it. I was impressed by the shear numbers of flowers that we saw – most of which I could not identify. There was lots of bougainvillea, many varieties of hibiscus, jasmine, morning glory, bromeliads and much more. Also much to my surprise, there were quite a few cacti species! And no, I don’t know what they are. If you know the names of any of these plants, do let me know. We were surprised by the honey bees! They were pollinating many flowers. We never saw any evidence of bee hives so maybe they were introduced and have gone feral along with the horses, dogs, cats, mongoose, etc.

According to the Olympic National Park website, the rain forests of the Olympic Peninsula are some of the most spectacular examples of primeval temperate rain forest in the lower 48 states. These rain forests once stretched from southern Oregon to southeast Alaska, but little remains outside of protected areas. The region gets 150 inches of rain every year and with moderate temperatures trees grow amazingly big. And there’s not just trees. Shrubs and ferns and fungi of all types are prolific and often seen growing out of trees and dead logs. Some logs are known as ‘nurse logs’ and support an entire group of trees and other plants. We spent part of a day in the Hoh Rain Forest and were also able to explore a bit of the rain forest near Crescent Lake and along the coast.




Maple trees



Mixed conifers



It’s a long ways up there



Alders growing close to the river



Another gnarled maple



Nurse log



We walked this trail



I don’t know if these are mosses or something else?



Moss spores



And lichens on an old fence





Ferns grow everywhere!



Out of tree trunks



Way above me



And out of a small branch



This tiny mushroom was barely an inch tall



Lots of big three-leaf clovers



Skunk cabbage grows and blooms where there is standing water






A tiny blossom – possible another berry?




Sapsucker holes



Pacific Wrens serenaded us everywhere



Have you heard of Salmon in the Trees? I found this salmon jaw under a big tree. We were nearly a mile from the river.



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