Pacific Rhododendrons 5/5/2014

Western Starflower

Today was my scheduled return to Deception Pass State Park to check on the blooming Pacific Rhododendrons (R. macrophyllum).  I was accompanied once again by Jerry who first joined us on April 27th.  I have been tickled how this former Texan has come to enjoy hiking in the Pacific Northwest woods.  As we made the turn onto the Discovery Trail we were greeted by Western Starflower (Trientalis latifolia).

Spotted Coralroot

We made a special discovery on this trip.  Near the top of the Lower Forest Trail we found a Spotted Coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata) just beginning to bloom.  These are members of the Orchid family.  This region is home to several species of Orchid which are ideal forest shade dwellers.  They have no chlorophyll and are not dependent on photosynthesis.  Instead, they live by parasitizing fungi that grow in duff, the decaying organic material on the forest floor.  You must look carefully to find these secretive little plants:
Less than the Coral-root you know
That is content with the daylight low,
And has no leaves at all of its own;
Whose spotted flowers hang meanly down.

-From On Going Unnoticed by Robert Frost

Pacific Rhododendron

Then it was on to the Rhododendron grove.  Since I was there scoping things out yesterday, I knew what to expect.  The blooms are more numerous this year than they were last year.  They are still in various stages of opening, so the display will probably last for a couple more weeks.  The weather was better today.  It did rain again last night and this morning.  By the time we set off, however, we were getting sun breaks.  Enjoy today's photos from the the Deception Pass rhododendron grove.  Right-click the photos to view them full size:

Pacific Rhododendron

Pacific Rhododendron

Pacific Rhododendron

Pacific Rhododendron

After we finished viewing the rhododendrons, we took a different route back to the North Beach parking lot.  Instead of continuing up and over the Goose Rock summit, we decided to pick up the southern end of the Discovery Trail for our return.

Cornet Bay Retreat Center,
Deception Pass State Park

On the way, we took a short side trip to the Cornet Bay Retreat Center which is a major facility at Deception Pass State Park.  It is also referred to as the Environmental Learning Center.  There are guest cabins, a large meeting hall and a kitchen and dining hall that will accommodate up to 181 guests.  While we were there, we met and chatted with the seasonal caretakers that live on the premises.  Note that the Center is off-limits to hikers when there are guests in residence.

Canada Geese (Branta canadensis)

These are not the caretakers, but they seem to be year-around guests of the Retreat Center.  They enjoy grazing the lawns of the campus adjacent to Cornet Bay.  Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) enjoy a love/hate relationship with the park.  These graceful and majestic birds can become a nuisance when their numbers get too large.  For the moment, we can enjoy their bucolic family outings.

My next journey into the Deception Pass rhododendron grove will be Saturday, May 10th, 2014.  The rhodies should be in their prime bloom by then.  If you want to come along, we'll meet in the North Beach parking lot at 08:30 AM.  We want to get started early to avoid the weekend crowds.  Again, use the main park entrance on Whidbey Island.  After passing the entrance gate, veer right at the Y following the signs to North Beach.  The road ends at the parking lot.  Bring your Discover Pass, or pick up a day pass at the gate.