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)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Trees of Mystery

I have to admit that I was skeptical. After settling into camp we'd decided to load into the truck (3 adults, Tasha and the 2 dogs) and explore. We drove along the coast and ended up at a tourist place called "Trees of Mystery". The name and reference to "Ripley's Believe It Or Not" made me imagine cheesy activities with lots of bright colors and noise. They advertised that dogs were welcome everywhere and they had a sky ride so we decided to go. When we arrived there was a giant "talking" Paul Bunyan, that certainly met my first expectations.

Once we moved inside the grounds I was pleased and amazed. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest and living on the edge of the wilderness I'm used to big trees. I'm embarrassed to admit that when I first arrived at the redwoods I was unimpressed. Yep, the trees were big but I've seen mighty big trees before. Slowly it began overtake me. I've seen wide diameter trees, but not like this. The trees reach up and up and up. The space between the trees and the sunlight filtering down creates a feeling you don't get in the wet, Western Washington forests; not even in the old growth. Walking around the Trees of Mystery made me see more. There were "Cathedral Trees", where trees grow in a semi-circle from the stump of a fallen tree and "Candelabra trees, where many trunks grow off a horizontal trunk. It was more then just the trees though. Everything seemed bigger. Evergreen huckleberries that were taller then me and seemed to grow more like vine maples. I kept going on and on about the trillium. None of it was flowering, that's not what held my attention. The plants were easily twice as big as any I'd ever seen before.

I thought the name of the place was rather gimmicky at first. Without a doubt there was a tourist side to the park, but there was also a sense of awe and respect for the natural world. I am glad we went there at the beginning of our stay, because it did wake me to the mysteries of the redwood forest. What moved me the most wasn't the size of the trees and plants. It was the tenacity of life the redwoods have. Later in our camping trip, Tasha and I were looking at a snag and she asked me if it was dead. I told her, that if I was anywhere else I'd say "yes", but here I just didn't know. Sure enough, just near our campsite I found a snag, that sprouted a new trunk. Certainly, I saw many healthy, tall and straight redwoods. It is the memory of the gnarled and broken redwoods that continue to reach for the sky that I carry in my heart. People read self-help books and go to motivational speakers, but all I need to do is close my eyes and remember the redwoods.

Renae, Tasha, Chris and Abby the dog

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I went to the Redwoods!

I recently got back from a camping trip at Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park. It was great fun. I hope to have many pictures to post and stories to tell. I decided to drive part of Highway 101 on the way down. I got onto 101 in Florence, which is about midpoint in Oregon and followed it down. The ocean against the rocks was as beautiful and powerful as always.

When it started getting dark I went looking for a place to camp. I passed several places and ended up in a Forest Service campground. I can't even remember the name of it. There didn't seem to be anyone there, and I camped right next to a small pond. Since I was just looking for a place to sleep I wasn't to worried about the mosquitoes. It was a beautiful place but the experience felt somewhat eerie to me. I guess I've trusted Coal, the big cowardly mutt, more then I realized. I'm not sure he'd be any good at defense but he'd certainly warn me of any danger approaching. Now, my hearing is much better then his. Even though I could hear cars occaisionally on 101 there was a feeling of being alone in the unknown wilderness. I drifted off to sleep to the sound of frogs and woke twice when they suddenly fell silent. I wasn't really afraid but I couldn't help but wonder what was happening out there in the night.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Raccoons, flowers and other yard news

On Tuesday night, at dusk, I stuck Coal on the leash and headed down the driveway. Coal had been in the yard but apparently he hadn't noticed the raccoons. I'm not sure which of us was more surprised, but the raccoons headed up trees. My neighbor told me he'd just chased a family of raccoons out of his yard. I held the leash firmly and then dashed back in and got the camera. It was fun, until about 3 am. Then Coal kept waking me up. My timid and old and deaf dog knew the raccoons were out there and he really wanted to join the fun. I wanted to sleep. Coal is an amazing mutt. Back when I lived in Steilacoom, there was a time when he was regularly waking me up at about 2:30 am. Finally I realized something strange was going on. I didn't appreciate being woken but I was also curious. So I decided I'd let Coal out one last time so I could figure it out. He dashed to the fence and I watched in the porch light as he and a raccoon sniffed each other through the fence. There was no aggression on either side. They just seemed curious and relaxed! While Coal may have been lucky in his raccoon relationship once, I am not giving it a second chance. The next day, while sharing about my raccoons and lack of sleep, I was told there was a black bear about 2 blocks away last week. Certainly I'm being reminded that I live on the edge of wilderness.

I enjoyed seeing the raccoons. However, I've been a bit disappointed about the bumble bees. Activity has died down and now it seems there aren't any bees left in the nest. It's a bit hard for me to know for sure, since going up and poking the nest seems like a bad idea. I have been watching closely the past few days though. I hope this is some natural cycle and they didn't all die off.

My yard is certainly full of bees, life and flowers. It was taken over last year by "stinky bob". The actual name of the weed is Herb Robert, I guess I'm a local now since I just think of it as Bob. It has a strong odor if stepped on or weeded. This year I've been in a battle with Bob. This year other plants have had a chance to grow and I have a bunch of oxalis (also called sorrel). I think they are oxalis. I'm a bit confused. They have leaves just like oxalis, but they are tall and I'm not sure what species they are. Anyway, the battle against Bob is being won and my yard is filled with beautiful, white flowers. They seem to thrive in the shade (thus, I haven't got any good pictures) but I am thoroughly enjoying them.

Oxalis, or whatever it is, growing in my yard

The last bit of happy news isn't about my yard but I had to share. I got a new camera! It's a Canon Powershot and I'm still learning how to use it. Since I've had the last few days off I've had some good times wandering around taking pictures. Here's a few from my yard and a few from my walks with Coal. Enjoy.

My first picture
I have lots of ferns in my yard

My yard is mostly shaded, but I get some sunset light

It's been hot, Coal need to cool off
This guy was at the start of my walk yesterday
With my new camera I could zoom in a bit

I love the way light dances on the water