Showing posts from March, 2016

Skywatch Friday:  Into the Sun

I have seen some beautiful and interesting photos that were taken directly into the sun.  Despite several attempts, I have never been able to pull it off.  They usually end up completely blown out and not fixable.  This past Tuesday's sunrise over Skagit Bay provided another chance to "give it a shot," so to speak.  This one turned out better.  Maybe I'm starting to get the hang of it.

Windstorm Aftermath at Kukutali

Previously, I posted some photos about the March 10, 2016 windstorm.  An unusually high tide plus a storm surge had some dramatic effects on my neighbors' front lawns.  The weather has improved significantly this week.  With a nice day, I headed over to the Kukutali Preserve for a hike.

Kiket Island (in the background of the photo) is connected to the mainland by a double tombolo.  A pocket estuary or lagoon (right edge of the photo) is sheltered between them.  A road over the main tombolo serves as a causeway to the island which was once privately owned.  The road is now open only to foot traffic and park maintenance vehicles.

I discovered that storm and tidal surge had some amazing effects here as well.  There is a private home next to the preserve,  A chain link fence separated a lawn from the road and marked the park boundary.  Where there was once lawn to the left of the road is now an enlarged driftwood field.  A line of debris across the road reveals where the tidal surge …

Skywatch Friday:  Second Storm

This has been an unusual March.  It's supposed to be breezy, "comes in like a lion," and all that.  But this March has been more than breezy.  Yesterday, we had our second significant windstorm in three days.  The first one on March 10th hit at the same time as an extreme high tide.  The combination had some dramatic effects on the neighbors' front lawns.  My weather station clocked a peak wind of 42 miles per hour, 68 kph when the tide was highest.

A second storm rolled through yesterday afternoon, March 13th.  From news reports, it sounded like this one had more widespread damaging effects.  My weather station recorded peak wind speeds of 36 mph/58 kph several times during the storm.  Miraculously, my power stayed on through both of them.  I would expect this pattern of storms in November or December, but not March.

The photo above of a threatening sky over Skagit Bay was taken at 15:15 PDT as the storm was ramping up.

At 18:45 the worst of the winds had passed b…

Now Showing and Coming Attractions

It's early March, and already spring is definitely under way at Deception Pass State Park.  In the West Beach sand dunes, I found this pink Sea Blush(Plectritis congesta) in the company of Seashore Lupine (Lupinus littoralis).  Both are hugging the ground to try and escape the winds off the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  I was surprised to find this one plant already blooming.  This reveals that the dunes will be washed in pink by the end of the month.  It is well worth a trip to the park to view the spectacle.  It's better than tulips in my opinion.  It's natural and there are no traffic jams or crazy tourists to negotiate.  For a preview, you can see photos of past blooms here and here.  Sea Blush is an annual that comes up from seed every year.

Just offshore in the breaking waves near the beach, this pair of Red-breasted Mergansers(Mergus serrator) were "snorkeling" in search of breakfast.  When they spotted something they would dive for it.  I tried to get photos …

March Windstorm, 2016

According to the adage, March "comes in like a lion," and that is exactly what it did this year.  March 1 was a windy day, but nothing like the tempest that hit us this morning March 10, 2016.  A pair of low pressure systems (dubbed the "Evil Twins") came ashore over British Columbia Thursday night.  The National Weather Service predicted the worst of it would begin about midnight and peak around 06:00 a.m. PST.

For some reason, Pacific storms like to cross over Vancouver Island when they come ashore.  When this happens, the Puget Sound Basin becomes a wind tunnel.  The Olympic Mountains to the west and the Cascades to the east have a funneling effect.  This can deliver strong southeasterly and southerly winds up Saratoga Passage and Skagit Bay to Fidalgo Island.

It was still fairly quiet when I went to bed, but the noises of the wind woke me at 4 a.m.  By 06:00, there was enough twilight for me to see what was happening on the beach.  The predicted high tide her…

Skywatch Friday:  Olympic Rain Shadow

The Olympic Rain Shadow is a weather anomaly in the northwest interior of Washington State.  Weather systems off the Pacific Ocean are split by the Olympic Mountain Range.  The result is often clear skies and lower than expected rainfall in their lee.  At 06:30 last Sunday morning, it could be clearly seen as a break in the clouds over Whidbey Island.  That's it with the pinkish light of sunrise showing through.

Because we sit at the edge of the rain shadow, our precipitation on Skagit Bay is nearly half of what Seattle gets.  We experience about 21 inches or 53 cm of rainfall per year.  The windward side of the mountain range, on the other hand, can get 200 inches, 5 meters annually.  This produces the famous Olympic Rain Forest.

By 10:30 a.m. the wind had kicked up disrupting the rain shadow's break in the clouds.  But while the Seattle and Everett areas were getting periodic downpours, our weather continued dry and partly sunny for the entire day.

Hoypus Point:  Big Marsh and Slug Slough Trails

Last week, I continued exploring the Hoypus Point and Hoypus Hill sections of Deception Pass State Park.  I found two more trails on the map with interesting names, Big Marsh and Slug Slough.  These names implied wetlands which are always interesting places to visit.  I would encounter wetlands on this hike, but not where I expected.  I would also catch the little Julie Trail, Hemlock Hideaway, the Short Trail and some of the Old Hoypus Logging Road.  The photo above pretty much characterizes the entire three hour trek.  Where you see water, that is the trail.

To reach Big Marsh and Slug Slough trails, my route would follow some trails already explored as follows.  The numbers correspond to the State Park Trail Map (.pdf):
Cornet Bay Road (15)West Hoypus Trail (18)Fireside Trail west (19)Little Alder Trail (20)Fern Gully (24)Julie Trail (26)Old Hoypus Logging Road (30)A side trip on the Short Trail (29) to Ducken RoadBig Marsh Trail (28)Slug Slough (27)Hemlock Hideaway (25)Forest Gro…