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Rhododendron yakushimanum

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Rhododendron yakushimanum is a species uniquely native to the island of Yakushima in Japan.  It is one of my favorite rhododendrons and they are starting to bloom now.  They have been hybridized to produce several varieties.  Altogether, I have nine of them.  Many have a flower that begins a deep magenta pink, gradually becoming white as it opens.

Japanese Andromeda (Pieris japonica), another popular garden shrub in the Pacific Northwest, is also native to Yakushima Island.


Nicknamed "Yaks," they have a number of desirable characteristics.  They tend to be a smaller scale shrub.  I have some approaching 20 years in the garden that are still under a meter tall.  They are reliable and profuse bloomers, not fussy about weather or soil conditions.  The only care they need is removal of the spent flowers.  In my yard, they seem to be resistant to root weevil damage.  This makes them good candidates for a pesticide-free garden.  Once established, they are surprisingly drought tol…

Promising Rhododendrons

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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…