Promising Rhododendrons

The arrival of spring means it's time to start planning for rhododendron season.  Again this year, I will be photographing the native Pacific Rhododendrons in Deception Pass State Park.  Also known as the Coast Rhododendron, and California Rhododendron (R. macrophyllum), this is the official Washington State Flower.  Yesterday, I went over to hike the "Rhododendron Trail" to see how things look.  I saw several buds swelling, even on this small bush right next to the trail.

The trails are also looking good, although some spots are a bit muddy right now.  What I have dubbed the "Rhododendron Trail" is actually a network of Deception Pass trails.  There are two large groves, one at Goose Rock and a second in the Hoypus Forest.  I visited the Goose Rock grove yesterday.  I plan to check out the Hoypus grove next week.

This year, I will be adding the Park Office Trail and the Bob Matchett bog bridge wetlands to the Goose Rock hikes.  This will introduce a very dif…

Skywatch Friday: Whidbey Island Wildlife

In early March, I was at West Beach in Deception Pass State Park.  It was a cold, windy, overcast day with occasional, brief sun breaks.  I had the camera set up for wildlife, a 7D II with the 100-400L II lens mounted.   Chances are good for spotting a Bald Eagle or two in the trees here.  Black Oystercatchers also hang out here this time of year.

That morning, there were no eagles, but a lot of naval aircraft were in the air.  Naval Air Station Whidbey Island is just south of the park.  On the spur of the moment, I turned the camera up and took a few shots as some passed overhead.  I was surprised these turned out to be fairly decent.  They usually don't; moving objects, bright sky, no time for settings, all the things that conspire against me were in play.

This is a Lockheed P-3C Orion Long Range Anti-submarine Warfare Aircraft.  Its mission is maritime patrol and surveillance.  That "stinger" on the tail contains instruments for detecting submarines under water.

I e…

New Look for the Old Blog

The old blog has a new look, thanks to some up-to-date templates just made available by Blogger.  Admittedly, the old theme I was using had gotten pretty stale.  A freshening up was overdue.

Blogger's new themes are designed to work on any platform, PC, tablet or phone.  So far, the only failure I found in this regard was my antique iPod Touch.  Under iOS 5.5 (we're at 10.2 now), that was probably asking too much.  I don't use it anymore anyway.  It works great on the iPad Mini.

I still have some work to do.  Some of the formatting didn't come across correctly, so I will be cleaning up and redesigning some of the pages.  Block quotes are handled very differently now.  I also removed some pages that had become stale, and probably were not serving any useful purpose.

After some trial and error, I determined that a 3:1 aspect ratio worked best for the background image.  I chose one to reflect the season with a plan to update them through the year.  They will represent we…

Winter Hike

Winter here, in the classic sense, begins in December and runs through early to mid January.  This is when temperatures at or below freezing occur.  Since Christmas, we have been experiencing temperatures well below freezing accompanied by sunny, blue skies. That's about to come to an end now with rain forecast for this weekend.  I decided I better get one more hike in before this happens.

Early yesterday morning I headed for Bowman Bay in Deception Pass State Park to hike the Bowman-Rosario Trail.  This is always a good choice for beautiful scenery. interesting nature and frequent wildlife encounters.  It also provides a little terrain for a bit of exercise.  It begins at sea level, rises to skirt the cliff edge over Bowman Bay, then returns to sea level at Rosario Bay.

I love hiking in the winter.  I am not really a hot weather person.  Dressing for cold weather is easy, but undressing for hot weather can only be taken so far.  For me, cold weather hiking is invigorating, while…

First Day Hike 2017:  The Pacific Northwest Trail

The theme for this year's First Day Hike at Deception Pass State Park was the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail.  This is a 1,200 mile/1,931 km trail system that connects the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park, Montana to Cape Alava on Washington's Pacific coast.  We completed a portion of that trail on yesterday's hike.

First Day hikers gathered in the dining hall at the Cornet Bay Retreat Center.  Here, we fueled up with hot drinks and pastries provided by the Deception Pass Park Foundation.  Hikers ranged in age from toddlers to seniors with everything in between.

The first leg of the hike took as to the Deception Pass Bridge via the Goose Rock Perimeter Trail, about 1.5 miles/2.4 km.  The trail went from sea level to high on the cliff overlooking Cornet Bay.  It descended back to sea level skirting along Deception Pass.  It ends at the bridge where we took a rest stop.  We had just completed a piece of the Pacific Northwest Trail (in section 08-05 on th…

Cairns at Lighthouse Point

Back in March of 2015, I found these beautifully constructed cairns on the beach at Lighthouse Point in Deception Pass State Park.  Lighthouse and Lotte Points are the grassy stone outcrops that can be seen from the Deception Pass Bridge looking west.  The Lighthouse Point Trail runs from Bowman Bay to the shore of Deception Pass.  As I always say, when you go hiking, you never know what you might find.

Humans have been piling stones for various reasons since prehistory.  The Vikings built stone altars called Hörgar.  The word cairn comes from Scots Gaelic càrn (plural càirn).  The ancient Celts built cairns to mark important places or events or to commemorate the graves of loved ones and important people.  The Arabic word rujm (رجم) appears in place names and refers to piles of stones.  In the Sinai Desert, stone piles or altars are thought by some to mark the path of the ancient Israelites in their exodus from Egypt.

In North America and Greenland, native peoples built cairns as la…

Previewing the First Day Hike 2017 at Deception Pass

The route for this year's First Day Hike at Deception Pass State Park has been announced.  Starting at the Cornet Bay Retreat Center (above), the route will take us around the Goose Rock Perimeter Trail, up and over the summit, then back to the Retreat Center.  At the end of the hike, Jeff Kish from the Pacific Northwest Trail Association will present "Experience the Pacific Northwest Trail."  This 1,200 mile scenic hiking trail extends from Glacier National Park in Montana to the Pacific Coast of Washington's Olympic Peninsula.  The First Day Hike will include a part of it which passes through Deception Pass State Park.

After being shut up in the house for more than a week by the weather, I was itching to get outside.  Christmas Day delivered clear skies and sunshine, so I decided to preview the route for this year's hike.

The Goose Rock Perimeter Trail begins with a walk in the woods along the shore of Cornet Bay.  Here, I was serenaded by the calls of Ravens …