Rhody Recon 2015

Pacific Rhododendron

Again this year, I plan to photograph the wild Pacific Rhododendrons blooming in Deception Pass State Park.  I'll be making several visits to the grove to catch the progress of the bloom.  Anyone who wants to join me on these hikes is welcome to come along.  More on that below.

Last year, I noticed the wild plants bloom at roughly the same time as the 'Nova Zembla' rhody in my yard.  Since those buds are now starting to swell, I thought I better get over to the park to check on the wild ones.

Both my garden plants and those in natural areas around here are blooming earlier than usual this year.  Yesterday, sure enough, I did find a little color in the rhododendron grove (above).  The flower buds there are also starting to swell, but that one blossom is really trying to jump the gun.  This also happens in the garden sometimes.

Pacific Rhododendron
Pacific Rhododendron

Join the Hikes

I am planning to take several hikes into the rhododendron grove to photograph the blooming.  If you are interested in coming along, watch my Twitter stream, @DaveOnFidalgo for the latest information.  I will use the hashtag #rhodyhike.  If you wish to contact me directly, I will keep you up to date on the plans.  We will meet at the North Beach parking lot in Deception Pass State Park.  Meetup time is usually around 08:30 a.m.

I don't anticipate seeing the best blooming until late April or early May.  Things do seem to be happening earlier than usual this year.  I will be sneaking over there periodically to try and predict the best bloom times.

These hikes are not regular state park events.  This is something I do on my own every year.  If you want to come along to see the rhodies, you are welcome to do so.

Location:  Deception Pass State Park

Directions:  From Interstate 5, take the Highway 20 exit at Burlington and head towards Anacortes.  Take the left where Highway 20 turns toward the Olympic Peninsula and Deception Pass.  Continue over the Deception Pass bridge onto Whidbey Island.  The park entrance is at the Cornet Bay Road intersection.

If you come by ferry, head north through Oak Harbor on Highway 20.  The park entrance is north of Oak Harbor at the Cornet Bay Road intersection.

Once inside the park, when you come to the stop sign turn right at the Y, following the signs to North Beach.  The road ends at the parking lot.

Fees:  There are fees to enter state parks.  Bring your Discover Pass or you can purchase a day pass at the park entrance for $10.00.

Weather:  North Whidbey Island lies within the influence of the Olympic Rain Shadow.  While it might be raining in Seattle, Everett or Mount Vernon, Deception Pass can have blue skies and sunshine.  You can check the current forecasts for Anacortes and watch the regional NWS radar.

The Hike:  The terrain is hilly.  The hike to the rhododendrons is easy to moderate in difficulty.  If the group wishes to continue to the Goose Rock summit, this trail is steeper, but it's eased by switchbacks.  Keep in mind, I'm old and I stop a lot to take pictures.  We won't be sprinting up any hillsides.  The entire loop including the rhododendron grove, the Goose Rock summit and Deception Pass Bridge is about 2.3 miles or 3.7 km.  Plan on 2 to 3 hours.

Wear comfortable shoes with good traction that you won't mind getting a little muddy.  Morning temperatures can be chilly in the deep shade of the woods.  At the summit, it might be warmer than expected.


On yesterday's visit, I continued on up to the Goose Rock summit to see what was happening up there.  Again, I was surprised to find a lot of early-bloomers.  Here's a gallery of what I found:

Field Chickweed
Death Camas and Chocolate Lily

Left:  Field Chickweek (Cerastium arvense)

Right:  Death Camas (Toxicoscordion venenosum) and Chocolate Lily (Fritillaria affinis)


Does anyone know what this is?  My best guess is Queen's Cup Lily (Clintonia uniflora), but I have never seen it bloom to be sure.  The plant with lobed leaves is Northern Sanicle (Sanicula graveolens).

Woodland Strawberry
Common Camas

Naked Broomrape
Harsh Paintbrush

Upper Left:  Woodland Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) with pollinators.

Upper Right:  Common Camas (Camassia quamash)

Lower Left:  Naked or One-flowered Broomrape (Orobanche uniflora)  This flower is a true parasite.  It attaches to the roots of other plants for its nutrition, but gives nothing in return to its host.  In this case, the term "rape" comes from the Latin word for tuber, rapum, according to Wikipedia.

Lower Right:  Harsh Paintbrush (Castilleja hispida)

Chocolate Lily

Here is one more of the Chocolate Lily, Fritillaria affinis.  Also known as F. lanceolata, some consider it the only reason needed to venture to the Goose Rock summit.  According to Pojar and MacKinnon, it is considered quite rare and should be left undisturbed.

Deception Pass

Finally, here's one more classic from the Pacific Northwest.  When I got to the summit of Goose Rock, I caught this raft of logs just entering Deception Pass.