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Archive for the ‘Flowers’ Category

IMG_1481The air was cool, the sky cloudy as we drove up Mt. Hood toward Mirror Lake on June 19. While it had been a favorite hike early in our marriage, we hadn’t been there in years. At first we thought we missed the parking area, a little turnout on Highway 26. But then we realized that tight parking area had been closed in favor of a shiny new parking lot just up the road—with lots of spaces and a permanent outhouse.

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A new parking lot meant a different start to the trail, as well as new bridges along the way. The new trail was wider than the old, probably bulldozed through the woods. The hike, now a mile or so longer, eventually hooked up with the old trail, as we meandered through patches of purple rhododendrons, working our way uphill. When we reached the lake, the space opened up. Rhodies were everywhere, along with tall stalks of bear grass, huckleberry plants with tiny green berries, and other blossoming plants. Clouds hid the mountain, and wisps of fog drifted across the lake, whipped by a breeze that rippled the water. On this day Mirror Lake did not live up to its name.

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We hiked on a ways past the lake, seeing even more wildflowers and some nice views. But the fog was growing thicker, and we realized that the nearby mountain would not appear today. We reminisced about the time we hiked up to Tom, Dick, and Harry Mountain and saw swarms of hummingbirds feeding on the flowers in a meadow below the ridge. We didn’t make it that far this time, but turned back so we could eat our lunch at the lake.

 

Despite the clouds, it was a good hike. I much prefer hiking in cool weather rather than hot weather. And the flowers were wonderful. Nature has so many moods, and the quieter beauty of a cloudy day can be as lovely as the brightness of the sunshine. But it would have been nice to get a view of the mountain. I guess we will just have to return sometime and try again.IMG_1546

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fern, mossy tree, Falls Creek Falls Trail, WALast month my husband and I stayed at Paradise Creek Campground along the Wind River in SW Washington–a gorgeous place to stay and enjoy nature. I wrote this review of a hike we took, and I am now finally posting it. Better late than never!

The Falls Creek Falls Trail began quietly, through woods filled with ferns and mossy trees. Not as many flowers as the Observation Peak hike, but plenty of twin flowers, salal, and Oregon grape–the last no longer in bloom. We climbed gradually, following the splashing creek and working our way to the falls. The last third of a mile to the falls climbed more steeply before dropping a bit to a wonderful viewpoint. A refreshing breeze hit my sweaty face as we approached, and I was ready to drop onto one of many rock “chairs” to enjoy the view and rest in Creation’s beauty.Falls Creek, WA

The falls itself consisted of three cascades, but only two could be seen from the viewpoint. The upper of the two spread out with many fingers of water tumbling down the rock face. The fingers joined together into one long cascade as the lower falls crashed into a shaded, rocky pool surrounded by green moss. We ate our lunch here, joined by a cheeky chipmunk looking for handouts. We gave him a couple of nuts and a blueberry, figuring those were natural foods for a chipmunk. He ignored the berry, but stuffed the nuts into his cheek and scrambled off to eat.

Falls Creek Falls, WAAfter a rest we headed up–and I do mean up–to the Upper Falls Trail. The connecting trail was steep, but just a warm-up for the trip to the top of the falls. What a relief when we made it to the top. A nice view, but nothing comparing to Observation Peak. Still the trails around it were nice–level paths through open woods with sunlight and lots of green plants. A pleasant change from the grueling uphill to get there.Lower falls, Falls Creek Falls, WA

As we headed back down the steep, narrow trail, the squeal of brakes warned me that a mountain biker was behind us. How he made it safely down that treacherous trail I don’t know. but tracks we noticed on the way up indicated he wasn’t the only one.

The upper loop back was far from the cool stream, and the heat of the day increased until I felt my body could easily replace a room radiator, and sweat dripped off my hair. When we reached the trailhead, I collapsed into the truck and flipped on the air conditioner. Okay, I’m spoiled, I know. But it certainly felt good!

Falls Creek rapidsFalls Creek Falls Trail is a beautiful hike, but my recommendation for all but those working on stamina training: stop at the falls. It’s the highlight of the trip, and the Upper Falls Trail adds little to it. Is there a metaphor for life here? Not sure. Maybe just that effort and reward are not always equal.

 

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Lilies on the trail

Queen-cup lily

Trapper Creek Wilderness

Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington

Hubby patiently waits for me.

Hubby patiently waits for me.

We set out bright and early, bumped along rutty gravel roads, and reached the trailhead for the Observation Peak hike shortly after 8 a.m. Morning coolness still hung in the air, as we donned our packs and headed up the trail. Tall cedar and fir surrounded us, and wildflowers brightened the sides of the path–Indian paintbrush, bunchberry, anemone, queen-cup lily, vanilla leaf, and coralroot, among others. No sounds of civilization met our ears, not even an airplane. The deep silence was broken occasionally by a bird singing from some hidden branch high above us–and by the incessant buzz of flies and annoying whine of mosquitoes, who left their marks on our tender skin. Even after we applied repellent, they danced around our faces and ears, looking for spots we missed. Still, not the worst insects we’d met hiking; they were bearable.

View of Mt. Hood

View of Mt. Hood

My husband forged ahead on the trail, eager to reach the promised viewpoints. I plodded slowly up the hill, making frequent stops to enjoy the scenery and take photographs–oh, yes, and to rest. Uphill hiking and I have our differences. The tall trees and abundant flowers gave me something to admire as I rested. Beauty can sometimes be as refreshing as a good sports drink.

After some ups and down of the trail, we climbed the last 0.6 miles of steady uphill. What a relief when the trees gave way to rocks and new types of flowers–bear grass, Mariposa lilies (I think), two stately tiger lilies, and a bright purple flower that I have yet to identify. We topped the rocky ridge and the world spread out before us, the views as spectacular as the guide book suggested. Dark green, rolling hills below us and majestic mountains whichever way we looked. Rainier, St. Helens, Adams in Washington state, and Hood, Jefferson, and the tiniest glimpse of the Three Sisters in Oregon. Absolutely gorgeous!

Mt. Adams

Mt. Adams

That purple flower with Mt. Adams behind it

That purple flower with Mt. Adams behind it

We munched on PBJ sandwiches and enjoyed the cooling breeze as we took in the scenery. One thing about hiking around mountains; most trails go uphill. It can be hard work to reach the top–very hard work for some of us–but once I make it, I’m always glad I kept going. The wonderful view–and the feeling of accomplishment–makes it all worthwhile. A metaphor for life, no doubt. But I’d still love to discover a way to reach the top without working so hard!

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Pink dogwood Pink reminds me of little girls in frilly princess dresses playing with their baby dolls. Growing up as a decidedly unfeminine girl, I’ve always preferred green and blue—or red and yellow when it comes to flowers. However, this time of year, I can look out the window while I work and see our pink dogwood in full bloom, sometimes with a bright blue sky behind it for contrast. However, even on a dull, cloudy day, the bright pink blossoms light up the yard. We had a pink dogwood in our front yard when I was a kid; I loved it then and I love it now.Wild bleeding heart flowers

Other pinks decorate the spring landscape. In our woods the wild bleeding hearts bow their purple-pink heads beneath the trees, delicate and beautiful. A few brief days and they are gone—a reminder of the transitory nature of love and life.

apple blossom budsThen there are the white pinks—the subtle pink of apple blossom buds before the little white shells of petals open, fragrant with promise. And the white rhododendron whose flowers turn pinker with age before dropping off and giving way to new green leaves. Honeysuckle and columbine. Not to mention the lavish display of cherry blossoms and the azalea by our front porch that will, in a week or two, be thick in pinkness.;ink rhododendron

Spring puts forth such a display of beauty, a reminder of rebirth, of new life, of the amazing gifts that we are given to enjoy—and to share.

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The years just keep rolling along, and spring arrives, more or less on schedule, about this time every year–and about six months earlier or later in the southern hemisphere–moving around the world and never holding still for long. We get a couple of days of warm weather, and everyone is out mowing lawns, some for the first time this year. Pollen is in the air, fertilizing trees and flowers, bringing sneezes and congestion to the allergy-prone. Smiles spring up with the flowers and sunshine.

Dreams of vegetable gardens and flower beds stir in my head. Perhaps this year I will keep the garden weeded. Perhaps this year I will get everything planted on time. Perhaps this year…

In the springtime, all is possible. Soon enough reality will set in, and I will remember how hard it is to keep up with flowers and vegetables and, most of all, weeds. But for today, I prefer to hold on to my fantasies. Springtime is a time for dreaming.

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Fern garden

While in Pittsburgh, we visited a place any plant lover would enjoy: Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Located in Schenley Park, not far from my son and daughter-in-law’s house, the conservatory houses a wide variety of plants, including one whole room dedicated to ferns, another full of orchids, and a walk-through butterfly garden. Much of the garden is indoors, which was providential when a sudden thunderstorm dumped what seemed like a whole ocean of water in minutes. Fortunately, we had stepped back inside the building just before the storm hit.

just before the storm

So much rain fell that the tropical rain forest area–which apparently had open vents–had streams of water pouring down and running along the path. We ended up saving that area for last, after the rain stopped.

Orchid room

Other areas of the conservatory included a desert room, a sunken garden, an edible garden area, Palm Court, a couple of formal gardens using recycled materials, and outdoors a small Japanese garden, a children’s discovery garden, and a vegetable garden. According to the map, there is another large outdoor garden area, but we didn’t have time to see everything.

Desert room

Phipps Conservatory is an amazing place. If you ever visit Pittsburgh, I recommend checking it out.

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They should declare a holiday in western Oregon the first really sunny, warm day of spring. As it is, there are usually a number of UFO reports, citing a large glowing ball in the sky. After a winter of cold, wet days followed by a spring of slightly warmer, wet days, a truly sunny day is like a miracle, joyfully and gratefully received.

 What gifts come wrapped up in this bright day? First, the blueness of the sky. Winter skies, even when the sun does appear, are faded blue, an old, worn baby blanket color, cold and icy. Spring blue is a warm, vibrant blue that settles into the soul like a dove.

 The second gift is green—slivers of grass springing up so fast the lawnmower can’t keep up, the new opening leaves on trees in a hundred different shades of green, all lit by the morning sunshine, an amazing renewal of life that inspires me to get out and be active.

 The third gift is a rainbow of colors everywhere—all the bright flowers of spring. Every day new ones burst open, and I am drawn out to see them and try to capture their essence with my little camera. The sunlight brings out their colors, like a spotlight shining on a stage, and they parade across it in all their radiant beauty.

 I love sunny, spring days for the glorious gifts they bring. What gifts do you find in a spring day?

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