Friday, February 27, 2015

Greenwater Lakes Trail

There were several warm, Spring-like days in a row so in addition to the Arboretum walk we also went to the Greenwater Lakes Trail just south of Enumclaw in the southern Cascade Mountains near Mount Rainier.  It was a lovely day in an old growth forest with a tumbling river running beside the trail for most of the distance.  The pleasant sound of running, gushing water could be heard even in the places where the river was not visible through the trees and brush.  

During most years this is not a hike that could be accomplished in the winter as there would be plenty of snow.  This year, however, there is very little snow below about 4500 feet (1300 meters) elevation making the Greenwater Lakes accessible in February.

Besides the large sign these smaller trail signs give information about distances and who can use the trail.

 This rotting tree stump formed a balancing act

 The trees are huge.  Trees that fall from storms, bugs, or rot are cut into smaller logs and removed to the trail side.

 Along the trail and across the river we saw small waterfalls.

 A quiet pool near one of the waterfalls

 One of the lakes, below

 Fungi growing in a split section of a tree

 Another view of one of the two lakes

This trail is dirt covered with a thick layer of needles.  That type of surface is about my favorite for comfort as there is plenty of cushion under foot.  Yes, there were some muddy places and some rocks and roots too but it is a very good trail.  We went up to the second lake and did not try to go any farther.  People coming back down told us that the next bridge up was washed out and although it would be possible to climb around and through water that plus the time of day and the additional distance added up to the decision not to continue beyond the second lake.  The round trip to the second lake, where we had a picnic lunch sitting on the ground and leaning against rocks, was 5 miles (8 kilometers) with a vertical gain of 400 feet (120 meters).  It is classified as an easy hike.  This is a beautiful setting; the slope up is gradual with some ups and downs but mostly up making the return trip mostly down.

The river rapids created a wonderful roar all along the route

 There are four of these log bridges and one horse bridge that cross the river on the way up to the two lakes.

 We saw perhaps the first butterfly of this year, an orange and black Fritillary that returned several times to rest on the warm rocks near where we stopped for lunch.  As we began our return trip to the trail head we saw a large white bird some distance away in the lake.  Bob thought at first that it was a white goose but upon closer observation we both agreed that the long neck, black eye mask and black beak meant it must be a Trumpeter Swan.  Not a common sighting at 3,000 feet (900 meters) but the online birding news indicated that these swans have been seen in several localities in the Pacific Northwest.  Unfortunately, while we could see it well enough with our eyes neither camera had a strong enough telephoto lens to capture a good shot of the swan.

 Sunlight coming through the trees

 It was cold, 35° F (1.6° C), when we started out and warmed up to 42° F (5.5° C) by lunch.  Some of the long grass in the river shallows had frost rime on it.

We met a couple of emergency room nurses on the trail who were having a day off from work.  They took this photo of the two of us standing on the trail by the river. 

At this elevation it is still too early for flowers but we did see bunchberry leaves, rattlesnake plantain with last year’s flower remains, wild ginger, miner’s lettuce and other green shoots too small to identify.   We met a family visiting from New York State and Bob explained that this is one of those once every ten year winters in the Pacific Northwest that is warmer than usual with very little or no snow.  They were not complaining as they had plenty of snow waiting for them once they returned home. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 183

 Sørfjorden, Hardanger, Norway, 1921


I wanted to share a little more about our trip in June 2014 to Norway and Austria when I found this dark sepia toned 1921 Mittet & Company postcard sent to my grandmother, Petra Landaas Lee, from her friend Jenny.  The note on the reverse of the card sends best wishes to Petra, her husband, and daughter.  It also mentions Jenny's mother who just turned 79 years old.  The postal horn stamp is a dark pink color in the amount of 25 øre. 

 The card shows Sørfjorden in Hardanger, Norway located somewhat near the farms grandma used to visit when she was a girl.  The Landaas family lived in the city of Bergen but the children often spent the summer or parts of the summer on farms owned by relatives where they would help with the general farm work and tend the goats or sheep.  Since we did drive along this fjord on the way south from Ørsta to Hornnes it seemed a good time to combine a postcard with some pictures of the trip. 

Sørfjorden is a 24 mile or 38 kilometer long fjord arm that branches off the Hardangerfjord and runs from Kinsarvik south to Odda.  In this part of Norway the farms produce fruits such as apples and cherries.  The hillsides are very steep and the trees grow straight down or up as the case may be.  In one place we saw where the farmers had placed ladders and ropes on the hillside to tend the trees because the ground was too steep to stand on and do the work of pruning and picking.  Petra used to describe her memories of the strawberries growing on the mountainsides and how wonderful it smelled when the berries were ripe and how sweet they tasted when the sun was warm and bright in the summer. 

We stayed one night in the beautiful Ullensvang Hotel, below, located right on the fjord near Lofthus where there was a map showing the nearby communities and hiking trails.   The Norwegian composer and musician, Edvard Grieg, had a small cottage here where he would retreat to work on his compositions.  

Late afternoon on the fjord side of the Ullensvang Hotel

The small brown cabin is where Edvard Grieg would work. 

The trail map

Unlike the trails here in the U.S. that show the number of miles these distances were measured in the time it would take to make a round trip.  They must expect a lot of tourists here as the sign is in English and I really didn’t notice it was in English until much later.  Bob is pointing to Ullensvang where we were staying.

The photos above show fruit trees growing on the hillsides.  The picture just above is a view across the fjord from the hotel showing orchards.

Here are a few more photos of the fjord.  There were hundreds of waterfalls cascading down the mountainsides into the fjord all along the route we drove.  Individual farms and small communities like the ones in the pictures were found here and there.  Most of the villages had ferry service across the fjord to another community on the opposite side.  The scenery was breathtaking everywhere we looked.

Many of the houses and farms were flying flags like the one above.

The ferry pulling into the dock was typical of the ones we took, and we took many, as we crisscrossed our way down the coast on the way south from Ørsta to Hornnes.  

Many, many heartfelt thanks to my cousin and her husband for being our hosts, tour guides, drivers and everything else that was needed to make our Norway visit a dream come true.

This funny little bird with his beak full of something politely posed on the dock for me.  This was one of several birds we saw that we could not identify because we could not find a birding book for Norway in English in the regular touristy type stores and did not have time to find a more specialized book shop.  Perhaps someone will let us know what this little guy is called.

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Tusen takk! to Bjørn Arnhaug who provided a name for the little bird above.  The bird is a Wagtail or in Norwegian Linerle.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Winter walk in the Arboretum


It is hard to believe that it is still winter here in Seattle with the sun shining and temperatures hovering around 60 degrees F.   We took a walk in the Washington Park Arboretum and found many beautiful flowering trees and smaller plants in full bloom.  There is a winter garden in the Arboretum but some of those plants were past their prime bloom and had already started to fade even though it is not even the month of March yet.  The parking lots nearest the visitor center were all full so we drove a short distance down the road and found an almost empty lot next to an old footbridge, pictured above, that neither of us had ever crossed before.  By the time we finished our walk about 90 minutes later that lot was also full.  The gardens are large, however, so although we saw people it did not feel crowded.

Star Magnolias



In most parts of the United States Cyclamen is an indoor plant but here in Seattle it grows very well outdoors.



There are natural areas as well as planned and planted sections.  It all blends together.  It is pretty amazing to have this beautiful park right in the middle of a busy, large city and be able to feel like it is not in a city.

Flowering Cherry tree

 Smooth bark trees

 Toward the end of our walk we stopped at the "Lookout" before returning to the parking lot and home.  This would be a lovely spot for a picnic lunch--rain or no rain.

 Looking toward the northwest from the Lookout