Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Friday, April 25, 2014

A walk through Seaquest State Park

I am lucky enough to live within walking distance of Seaquest State Park. Actually, my road borders part of the park, but there is no easy access from my road, so I have to walk a bit further (how awful).

Seaquest is a 475-acre park offering year-round camping, including some pretty nice yurts to stay in (and you get the entertainment of saying "yurt"). The park includes a 1-mile boardwalk through the wetlands at the edge of Silver Lake where you can also visit the first of several Mt. St. Helens visitor centers. You can see the mountain (if it isn't wrapped in clouds, which it usually is) in the distance beyond the lake, but it's not exactly close to the mountain. They were a little over-zealous building visitor centers after the 1980 eruption.

Back to the park, there is a trail system of about 6 miles (according to the Washington State Parks website, though I could swear there's more) ranging far and wide through the park. It's the kind of park I like, with only a few trails and wide, untouched swaths of forest preserved for future generations. While there are many larger trees in other parks and forests, Seaquest has enough trees with a 6-9 foot diameter to make this place feel like a cathedral of nature.

The furrows in the bark of this Douglas fir are 4-6 inches deep.

The tree in the middle is at least 8 feet in diameter at the base, and towers to great heights. 

One of the things I missed most while living on the east coast were the towering evergreens.

I rarely walk the trails this early in the year, as there are sections of the trail that can be almost impassable from our months of rain, but after over a week of warm, dry days the trails were firm enough for a walk. That and I really needed to get away from the house (and the endless weeding, hey we all need a break sometimes).

Besides the behemoth trees, I am incredibly grateful to be back in the land of moss.



I forget if this was a vine maple or beaked hazelnut, both natives that assume an arching, almost vine-like appearance in shade. But would you look at those gloriously moss-covered branches?

This stump was at least 9 feet across and had rotted into 3 sections, each with red huckleberry growing from the top.

 While the east coast may boast more spring ephemerals and more diversity overall, the Pacific Northwest has some pretty cool spring flowers, too.

Trillium ovatum, Western Wake Robin, is almost indistinguishable from the eastern native Trillium grandiflorum. Seriously, even the experts (the kind who write keys on the genus) have trouble telling them apart.
 One of my favorite spring wildflowers is Calypso bulbosa, or fairy slippers. Two varieties, americana and occidentalis, occur in Washington. These delicate native orchids, related to Cypripediums, produce only one leaf per plant and have very fragile roots. These beautiful natives have a wide geographical range across Canada, the northern and western United States, Eurasia, and Japan, and can sometimes be found in large numbers, and is not listed as an endangered species, but is quickly being wiped out in populated areas due to trampling and picking. Yes, just picking the flower is potentially enough to break the fragile roots and kill the plant. And, like most orchids native to the PNW, they have only a limited ability to photosynthesize. They rely mostly on fungi living in symbiosis with the Douglas firs and other trees to gain food. Therefore, they will die if dug and transplanted to the garden. So if you are lucky enough to find these ephemeral nymphs, please take only pictures and leave the flowers for others to enjoy.

Since these are almost impossible to establish in the garden (and such attempts should  ONLY be made with plants grown by a reputable nursery that doesn't dig plants from the wild) I appreciate the fairy slipper all the more for its wild beauty.

The typical color form
The name fairy slipper comes from the shape of the pouch-like lip and the petals flaring back like fairy wings.

A beautiful amber-colored form.

This flower looked darker in real life and on my camera screen, more amber than the cream color it appears on my computer screen. 
 My camera started giving me the "low battery" warning, so I didn't take as many pictures as I would have liked. It's a good thing the park is practically next door.

8 comments:

  1. Thanks for the lovely walk! Glad you got a chance to get away from all the weeding!

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    1. It was a nice break. And when I got back I was ready to weed again with renewed energy.

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  2. It's great that you have such a beautiful place to go to get away from the pressures of gardening. The last time I went back east to visit family, I noticed how very short all the trees seemed.

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    1. One of the advantages to living in the country is having access to beautiful natural areas like this.

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  3. A good reminder to get out and enjoy the very green-ness of it all...

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    1. I missed how saturated the PNW is with green. It's good to be back in it.

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  4. I'm always surprised how tiny Calypso bulbosa really are. If you don't know to look very close to the ground you can almost miss them. Do you get to see the summer blooming Corallorhiza maculata too?

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    1. Yes, there are a few Corallorhiza along the road before I enter the park and there is one trail especially that has a lot of them. I love them. They are one of the first native orchids I learned about.

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