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Showing posts from May, 2013

Skagit River Bridge Collapse

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By now, everyone has heard about the collapse of the Interstate 5 Bridge over the Skagit River. As the crow flies, the bridge is about 12 miles/19 km from where I live.  I found it interesting that Google is right on top of it.  In less than 24 hours, the Google map is already showing the gap in the freeway where the bridge used to be (above).

There is something else I always find interesting.  Whenever the news media covers stories on subjects where I have specific knowledge, they always seem to be full of errors.  For example, this article at Think Progress originally put the bridge in Seattle.  They have now replace the word "Seattle" with "Washington" in the text.  I wondered if they thought everything out here was Seattle, which is actually about 60 miles from the bridge.  They get an F in geography and another F for lazy reporting.  These mistakes make me wonder about the accuracy of all the rest of the news.

Then, there is the pronunciation of "Skagit.…

Mount St. Helens Day

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On May 18, 1980, I was living in Sedro-Wolley, Washington.  From Duke's Hill on the northern edge of town, I had a nice view of the valley below and points beyond.  I remember the morning began with blue skies, sunshine and warming temperatures.

At 8:32 AM I was on my deck in the backyard when I heard multiple explosions, boom-boom-boom-boom in rapid succession.  The house and deck shook and I felt a shock wave in the air.  Something in town must have blown up, and it was major.  I wondered if it was the plant that manufactured logging equipment.

That spring, the leading local news story had been the apparent awakening of Mount St. Helens in southwest Washington.  She was one of several dormant volcanoes spawned in the Cascadia Subduction Zone.  We were getting nightly news reports about small ash plumes and earthquakes.  We were learning the anatomy and physiology of volcanoes.  The term "harmonic tremor" entered our vocabulary.  These are long, low level vibrations as…

My Wild Rhododendron Adventure

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If you have been following the posts here over the last ten days or so, you know I have been on a quest.  For almost forty years, I have been growing rhododendrons in the garden.  You might call me a rhodie aficionado.  I have gotten to know this "king of shrubs" pretty well.  But in all those years, I had never seen our native Pacific Rhododendron(R. macrophyllum) growing in the wild.

Thanks to a little help from some friends at Washington State Parks, I found this grove in the Goose Rock forest in Deception Pass State Park.  It is located about midway along the Lower Forest Trail.  On my first visit, I spotted some flower buds just starting to open.  I have been returning at regular intervals to check on the progress of the blossoms.  I was back in the grove again this morning, and this time I was rewarded with a single shrub in full bloom.

This kind of floral display is unexpected deep in the forest.  At the same time, I am amazed how beautifully these shrubs fit into th…

Madronas in Bloom

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This is one of the native Madrona trees(Arbutus menziesii) in my yard and it is blooming like crazy.  I don't recall ever seeing this tree bloom before.  As I drive around the area, I am seeing Madronas blooming profusely everywhere.  Along the Highway 20 corridor into Anacortes, the trees are revealed as giant clouds of white blossoms all along the roadway.  I had never realized how many Madronas were growing there.

These are special trees to Pacific Northwesterners, and this year, they are really putting on a show for us.  The Madrona (also called Madrone and Arbutus) has been correctly described as one of Nature's works of art.  The 'Lem's Cameo' Rhododendron in the foreground of the photo is a Madrona relative.


The flowers are urn-shaped, very similar those on the Madrona's Heath family cousins Salal and Kinnikinnick.  On the Madrona, the flowers are arranged on a Christmas tree-like structure at the branch tips.  The flowers will produce sprays of berry-l…

Rhododendron Progress Report

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I was back at Goose Rock in Deception Pass State Park this morning to check on the progress of the rhododendron blooms.  I can see five blossoms now, but they are not quite fully open yet.  I will check back on Monday.  Meanwhile, here is a gallery of some of the rhodies currently blooming in my garden: