Simple Gifts

I believe I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world; the Snoqualmie Valley. I get to see amazing things everyday. It's time to celebrate that. (You can view pictures in larger format by clicking on them)

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Twin Falls Hike and ordinary beauty

This afternoon I went to Twin Falls. It's a simple hike and close to home. Mostly I save it for the winter when there are few people. And when I first started out there were too many people, I thought I had made a mistake. But once I started climbing above the water it got quiet and peaceful. I've been wanting the feel of old growth and waterfalls you get both of those on this walk. You also move through some lovely deciduous aspen and maple areas. You see and hear the river and come upon these amazing boulders that are covered with moss and almost the size of my house. It's magical, walking on the trail and suddenly there is a massive boulder or tree. I guess I'd forgotten how much I love this hike.

Coal was moving slow which annoyed me at first but then I moved back into naturalist mode. I was looking and listening and really noticing things. Nothing spectacular happened. No wildlife sightings. But it doesn't matter. Sometimes the beauty is right there. It's hidden in the ordinary. Moss wrapping around trees. Tree roots wrapping around stumps. Sometimes I'm a little girl again, looking for Ents

I like feeling small. I like being reminded of the time scale.

The Big Leaf Maple, bending over the trail as it reaches for light, feels like it has fur, it's so moss covered. In the picture Coal looks tiny and he's a big mutt. It gives a sense of scale

The old growth tree is massive. I knew I couldn't capture it in a picture. I can't show the size you have to be there. It's more than size, it's the stillness and lighting. The darkness of the forest comforts me too. It feels like home.

And the power of water is something undeniable and awe inspiring. It's summer, there is barely a trickle of water over the falls, but it was enough to create a cool breeze. It's enough to draw people to gaze at it's hypnotizing flow. It's enough to sooth. And then you look at the rocks. You see what the water has done over time. How it's worn groves and traced paths. The water has even created a cave at the bottom of the falls. I always think "How long did it take" and then imagine the the rock being worn away, one grain of sand at a time.

It's felt like Fall for a few weeks to me; just the beginning. I've been noticing the cool mornings, leaves starting to change and shorter days. There were leaves along the trail and more raining down as I walked. Dim and brown they probably have as much to do with the dry winter and summer as the season, but there was one leaf that caught my eye. I carried it back with me and it will sit on my dashboard and remind me of ordinary beauty and that all living things cope with loss.

Autumn leaves whisper
Change is inevitable
A bright swirl

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Appreciating insects

I wish people appreciated insects more. Such amazing creatures and they do have beauty. Yesterday by my house the dragonflies were so active. They had these fantastic black and white stripes. Certainly as striking as a zebra. And they are such complex creatures.

The bald eagle sighting the other day was an amazing experience, but the day I let the slug lick me and I could feel it's tongue rasp against my finger was just as amazing. That slug was curious about me. That slug licked me and it's tongue wasn't slimy

It was the picture of the bee that got me waxing philosophical about insects. I mean look at those wings. Stained glass windows that are use for dancing and flight and keeping the hive cool.

And this is a terrible picture of a water strider (although, I do enjoy the look of the water) but I've always envied their ability to skate on water. I tried so hard to get a good picture but they had there own plans.

Beauty in my back yard

I spent the day at the lake on 8/9 and then I got sick and then sick again. I finally looked at the pictures I took. It reminded me how fortunate I am

Friday, August 19, 2005

Bald Eagle

Last Sunday (I think) I was walking at my usual spot on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail. I wasn't feeling very well and went there because I can keep the walk short. It was hot and when Coal and I got by the river I sat down. As the sun baked into me and the river soothed me I lay down. I was tempted to just go to sleep (but I'd get a wicked sunburn and who knows what Coal would get in to). Coal came over and hovered telling me it was time to go.

So I stood up and started to turn away from the river and caught site of a mature Bald Eagle. It was amazing, she was about to hit the water about 25 yards from me. I could see her talons stretched out and then I heard and saw the splash of water. It was so close! Then she came up and her talons were empty. She flew between the woods and me only about 12 feet in the air. She looked closely at both Coal and I. Seeing her so close made her large size really evident.

When she passed us, she turned heading back down, directly over the river. When she got to the spot where she had hunted before she dipped down examining the water below. This time she didn't time to grab anything. Then she flew across the river and landed on a tree. A bit later I looked for her and couldn't see her at all. I know she hadn't left, she had just blended in.

... oh, and if you are wondering how I know it's a 'she'. I don't. But she was BIG and females are larger than males and I decided to call her a she.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Mule Deer

The Mule Deer weren't in the groups like the Big Horn Sheep. It was neat to notice the contrast. I got the pictures of the Big Horn Sheep and there was one lone deer right near by. AT one point we could see them all, the sheep and the deer. I couldn't get a picture of them all together. This guy was cooperative with picture taking.

Did I mention today was absolutely fantastic :)

Big Horn Sheep

It was just so wonderful. What makes me happiest is to just watch animals. To really see them and their behaviors. Today I got to do that. I watched the adults lead the way across rocky slopes and the young picking their path carefully behind. I saw them run. I saw them group together in a classic herd behavior.

Yakima Canyon

Today was so wonderful, I barely have words!

Alan and I drove through the Yakima Canyon. This is true desert country and yet we are following a rich riparian area. Early in our trip we saw a raptor; some sort of large hawk that looked like it might be going through a molt. I was driving so I couldn't look too closely. But then the size and scale of the canyon took over for a while. Amazing rock formation and steep hills were astoundingly beautiful. It's amazing what wind and water can do to the land. Thousands of years ago, lava from Oregon covered the area. Now there is this deep, rich canyon. Some areas were softer, rounded, and covered with scrub but then there were sharp, jutting volcanic rock formations. I had to stop and take pictures. Alan also captured the scene at our first stop. My picture was taken when I remembered to look back behind us.

After that first stop we went to Umtanum Creek Canyon. We crossed a cool suspension bridge and headed down a trail that paralleled the creek at first. As we got under way I said I wanted to see Bighorn Sheep and a Rattlesnake. I was delighted to find cacti and a way cool bug. I was very curious about the insect, since I'd never seen one like that in real life. I picked it up but then it flew off. I knew I'd seen a picture and after walking for a bit I realized I'd been handling a Stink Bug! I guess I wasn't scary because I didn't smell the infamous stink. It just flew off. Then we moved into deeper brush. We heard the sound of crashing through the underbrush. Out popped some deer! This was how much of our trip went except the large animals were mostly Big Horn Sheep. It was just amazing how many creatures we scared out of the brush and onto the more open slopes of the canyons. And I did get to see a snake! It was a young gopher snake instead of the Rattlesnake but I was quite pleased. I was too slow to get a picture of course, but really I was just enjoying the beauty. It was so small compared to other Gopher Snakes I've seen, almost dainty.

We saw so much wildlife that I was literally bouncing with joy. When there were no animals was saw prints and scat. I could identify the scat of coyote and deer but there was some mystery scat. And yes, I'm now researching shit, because my curiosity is killing me. There were digging insects and the sounds of birds. We saw beaver dams, a lodge and chewed trees. Even without the animals there was so much to take in. I really enjoyed the bright lichen and rock formations. It was just so much beauty. I had troubles keeping up with Alan because I was so busy trying to experience everything. It's amazing I didn't fall down because I was not paying attention to my feet.

We only saw the cactus at the beginning of the trail

I'm so used to forest habitat. You may get to see an animal briefly but that it's lost in the lush growth. Here we could just watch the animals. And the deer stopped and watched us for a bit. So did the Big Horn Sheep. That was really great. We saw young following the adults across the steep, rocky slopes. I even heard them 'baahing'. We saw an even larger herd when we got back on the road. We stopped and watched them for a bit. Both on the road and on the trail we saw some incredible examples of camouflage.

It was just delightful viewing, it was so quiet too. Long periods would pass when the only human made sound was Alan and I walking. No cars or planes or other people to be heard. You could hear the insects chirring and the magpies cackling. You could hear the deer and sheep run across the rocks. We saw remanants of an old homestead with fruit trees. That's where we found much of the wildlife. Life on that homestead would have been harsh. The quiet made me think how lonely life would have been there. The fruit tress were still alive and squirrels fed happily on the pears and apples.

This picture gives no sense of the scale of the canyon

I wish I had the words to adequately describe my joy and the beauty but I really don't. I'm going to blog some more pictures but other than that I'll just list my sightings. I can't capture in words something so grand

  • Hawk (unidentified) - just before entering the canyon
  • Gopher Snake
  • Dragonflies-lots
  • Grasshoppers
  • Stink Bug
  • Butterflies (Swallowtails and others)
  • Mule deer
  • Big Horn Sheep
  • Columbian Ground Squirrel
  • Prairie Falcon
  • Goldfinch
  • California Quail
  • Kingfisher
  • Magpies (lots!)
  • Stellar Jays
  • LBB's
  • Spotted Towhee (heard not seen)
  • House Finch
  • Chickadees (heard not seen)
  • Turkey Vulture (seen while driving)
  • Osprey with fish being harassed by small bird (seen while driving)
I think I'm probably forgetting some things. And of course I haven't listed all the amazing scenic sights.