Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Needling

Douglas Firs
Davis Vantage Pro2 Weather Station

We all know the basic difference between deciduous and coniferous trees.  Deciduous trees drop their leaves in the fall and grow new ones in the spring.  Conifers are evergreens that hold their leaves (or needles) year around.  But that's really not the whole story.  In fact, conifers drop needles continuously all year around.  The big Douglas Firs in my yard and the wind like to send needles into the rain collector of my weather station.  These can clog the aperture in the bottom of the collector.  To deal with this, I devised a successful strategy using a kitchen strainer to catch the needles.

View into the Rain Collector

About a year ago, Davis Instruments revised the design of their collector for the Vantage Pro2 station.  It included a debris screen that fit in the bottom of the bucket.  This looked like a good idea so I ordered one.

Unfortunately, as you can see in the photo, the slots in the new debris screen are too large to hold back the fir needles.  Three or four times this winter I have noticed the station not recording rainfall while it is pouring rain outside.  Upon inspection, I found four to six inches of water trapped in the bucket.  The needles had clogged the aperture.  This prevented the rain from passing through and tipping the switches that measure the 0.01 in/2 mm rainfall increments.  Interestingly, when the aperture is unclogged, the station reports a rainfall rate of 31 inches/79 cm per hour, quite a deluge.

Kitchen Strainer

Time to reconsider my kitchen strainer strategy.  This is the smallest plastic one I could find, about 3 inches/7.6 cm in diameter.  The handle and supports snap off easily with a wire cutter.  I filed down the broken edges to create a smooth round frame around the strainer.  I was careful not to change the round, dome shape of the wire.

Kitchen Strainer Debris Screen

I placed the strainer screen down in the rain collector.  The screen is too small to allow the fir needles to pass into the aperture, but the rain drops will flow right through it.  It is now only necessary to check it once in a while and suck out trapped needles with a portable vacuum.

I am aware that Davis doesn't approve of jury-rigging their station sensors like this.  Also, there will be purists who might question the accuracy of the data collected.  Nevertheless, my annual rainfall results have always been consistent with the National Weather Service results for this location.  Of course, preventing a clogged sensor would seem superior to no data at all.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Hoypus Point:  The Fireside Trail

Birthday Hike

The 2016 First Day Hike at Deception Pass State Park would introduce me to Hoypus Point.  This is a section of the park I had never explored.  On December 30th, I hiked the CCC Crossing Trail in the Hoypus Natural Forest Area,  My birthday was this past weekend.  To celebrate, I decided to check out another Hoypus trail called The Fireside Trail.

West Hoypus Point Trail

Hoypus Point and Hoypus Hill form the largest section of the park.  This may also be the least developed section.  Several trails form a network.  On the map, I count 16 in all with interesting names like Slug Slough, Fern Gully and Big Marsh Trail.  For my birthday, Fireside Trail sounded the most inviting.  I wanted to see why it had been given that name.  Since I also had no idea what I was getting myself into, this hike seemed a reasonably sized adventure.

Beginning at the first trailhead off Cornet Bay Road, my route would be the West Hoypus Trail to the Fireside Trail heading east.  Then I would take the East Hoypus Trail back to Cornet Bay Road to complete a loop.

West Hoypus Point Trail
West Hoypus Point Trail

At what appeared to be the summit of the West Hoypus Trail, I encountered some wetlands.  Spotting those grasses up ahead was a giveaway.  This place is probably damp year around.  There was also a lot of frost here, but the mud and puddles were not frozen.  It was possible to sidestep the puddles and avoid walking in the water.

The Fireside Trail

I reached the Fireside Trail under an opening in the canopy and headed left.  I noticed that frost would appear in the more open areas.  Where the canopy was closed, the trail would be frost free.

The Fireside Trail

The Fireside Trail

There were more wet areas on the Fireside Trail and this time I could not avoid walking in water and soft mud.

This raises the subject of waterproof hiking boots.  If you read the earlier post, you know I have been shopping for them.  I ended up selecting the Keen Targhee II's.  They had generally good reviews, especially regarding comfort.  They were reasonably priced and several review sites rated them a best buy.  The most consistent criticism was durability.  But since I am now 70, how hard on them can I be?  Time will tell.

I wore the new boots on this hike.  They were comfortable after I found a lacing technique that kept them from rubbing my ankles.  Best of all, after having to slog through mud and puddles, I came home with warm, dry feet.  That was the goal.  My sneakers would have been overtopped by the puddles, and I would have been miserable for the rest of the hike.

East Hoypus Trail Junction

I finally got past the wetlands and found the rest of the Fireside Trail mostly dry.  I encountered a long, downhill slope where I lost much of the elevation I had gained.  Then I found the junction to the East Hoypus Trail.  This would take me back to Cornet Bay Road.

Looking East over Skagit Bay

The East Hoypus Point Trail skirts a strip of private property and houses along Angler's Haven Drive.  From here, I caught glimpses of the North Cascades across Skagit Bay.  I also noticed that overcast was starting to form.  I had clear, blue skies at the beginning of the hike.

Old-Growth Windfall
Old-Growth Windfall

Several huge, old-growth trees had blown down along this stretch.  Some were fresh from this season but many were ancient.  Apparently, the east side of Hoypus is more susceptible to the fall and winter winds that can rage up Skagit Bay.

Losing these giants is not as disastrous as you may think.  When they fall, there is an opening in the canopy that lets in light.  This nurtures new growth of all sorts.  The trunk will decay, returning nutrients to the earth.  It will also become a nursery for new plants and trees.  This cycle has been repeating for millennia in our forests.  It is a story of life after death.

Liverwort, I think, and Big-leaf Maple Leaves

I found a type of moss I had never seen decorated with frost.  On closer inspection, it might be a liverwort.  They are just as difficult to ID as mosses.  As always, if you know what this is, please post it in the comments.  The diversity of plant life in these natural forests is uncountable.

Deception Pass Bridge

Back on Cornet Bay Road, I never pass up an opportunity to photograph the Deception Pass Bridge, in good lighting or bad.

Big-leaf Maple
Western Sword Fern

Salal
Frost on Branches

This is the middle of winter here.  When I started the hike, it was 32° F (0° C) and when I finished, it was still 32°.  In the shady places, I was enthralled by the beauty of the foliage decorated with frost.

Hoar Frost

Next to Cornet Bay Road, I found this amazing example of hoar frost.  At least, I believe that is what this is.  Those are not fir branches on the ground.  Those are twigs and grasses covered with long needles of ice.  These form overnight under sub-freezing temperatures, clear skies and radiative cooling.

I had a terrific time exploring new territory on my birthday.  According to the map, the hike was 3.5 miles (5.6 km) in length.  My wristband tracker indicated it was 3.6 miles.  The difference would be the distance from my car to the trailhead.  I was pleased to see how accurate the wristband was.  It recorded the hike automatically and documented my heart rate at 110 bpm, right on target.  From Cornet Bay Road at sea level, the elevation gain was about 380 feet.  The wristband gave me credit for 47 flights of stairs.  It took me 2 hours and 45 minutes, with stopping to look at things and take pictures.  Data is cool.

The mystery remains why it is called the Fireside Trail.  I only hiked the eastern two-thirds of it.  Perhaps the answer can be found in the western part.  I'll have to check that out another time.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

First Day Hike 2016:  Hoypus Point


Yesterday, New Year's Day, I attended the fifth annual First Day Hike at Deception Pass State Park.  These hikes have become a tradition in Washington State Parks and around the country.  Our destination was Hoypus Point which introduced me to a section of the park I had never explored.  The one mile trek would take us to the site of an old ferry landing that no longer exists.  Before the Deception Pass Bridge opened in 1935, the ferry shuttled vehicles and pedestrians between Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands.


We gathered at the State Park docks on Cornet Bay.  Jack Hartt, Park Manager, pictured left, and Montana Napier (.pdf), Naturalist Interpreter would be our hosts.  Under the picnic shelter, coffee, cocoa, banana bread and pumpkin bread were provided by the Deception Pass Park Foundation.


Before beginning the hike, Rick Columbo from the Foundation (with hand raised) spoke about the park and its features.  Sub-freezing overnight temperatures had left everything covered in a thick layer of rime frost.  Now, at 32° F (0° C), it was a real winter wonderland setting for our hike.


By the time we set off, we numbered more than 150 for this New Year's Day adventure.  That's the largest gathering yet for these hikes at Deception Pass.  The trail is actually the old Hoypus ferry landing road, now closed to traffic.


Hoypus Point Road offers some of the best bridge and Deception Pass viewpoints in the park.


Hikers added bright colors to the deep shade of the Hoypus forest.  Along the road, two trail heads provide access to the Hoypus Natural Forest trail system.


At the site of the old ferry landing, Mount Baker glistened in the bright sunshine.


We lingered here for quite a while enjoying the views.


To remember the day, I now have another First Day Hike button for my collection.

Here are my posts for the previous First Day Hikes:

Friday, January 1, 2016