Yesterday, I hiked the "Rhododendron Trail" at Deception Pass State Park to see how things were shaping up. The rhodies are far from close to blooming yet, but my favorite tree is more spectacular than usual this year. Everywhere I looked, the Pacific Madronas (Arbutus menziesii), a rhododendron cousin, were blooming more profusely than I have ever witnessed. Above, from the Goose Rock Summit Trail, I was stunned by the display of this old giant Madrona below me.
The trees I saw coming up the trail were not flukes. Those at the summit also blew me away. Just driving to the park on Highway 20 I saw dozens more blooming along the road. Even this was an amazing sight.
At the summit, this Madrona next to the trail was more rambling and shrub-like. Madronas have adapted to harsh conditions produced by drought, wind and poor soil. They will grow where other trees cannot. The Goose Rock summit is pure stone, but this tree thrives here.
Goose Rock appears to be a volcanic pluton, a mass of underground magma that was thrust up and exposed by glacial action. Visitors will notice the striations in the smooth stone revealing the paths of ancient ice sheets. Mere inches of soil has accumulated, yet the Madronas find enough to support them.
Back home, even the Madronas in my yard are blooming (left). Whatever conditions allowed this spectacular bloom may be affecting the rhododendrons as well. My 'Lem's Cameo' (right) is poised for an extra special bloom this year. My perpetually stubborn bloomer 'Hotei' even has swelling buds. I am more eager than usual to see how the wild rhodies at Deception Pass will fare this year.