2020 isn’t over yet as we we have one last month, and a stressful for many holiday season to go.
Meanwhile, I have the perfect place to wind down for those in the Seattle area, to decompress outside and away, socially distant and pandemic-mindful. That is the Kubota Garden park in the Rainer Beach area.
The Kubota Garden is one of the few curated Japanese gardens, with much greenery and sights reminiscent of the timeless natural scenic beauty of Japan. It’s free to enter, but with current pandemic restrictions (no big gatherings!).
Summer 2020 was a little weird but full of beautiful moments.
I was a bit worried on its end after a week of nasty fires in the Pacific Northwest, bringing darkened skies of smoke and ash throughout. That’s so very 2020, pushing me back into home isolation.
But yet, I felt great times during the season under the troubling, continual circumstances of the year. Such are the pandemic and continual dread for the future of my world, with social unrest and shared economic stress. What does one do, for feeling the necessity of the news, yet not ignore the constant frustration and trouble that the headlines bring?
One great answer is to reach out, accept the reaching out of peers to make the best of what’s out there. The weather was great most of this season, at least for the Pacific Northwest (sorry friends in California who endured over 100 F). I feel blessed with good friends that shared my hunger for adventure, and that we did.
We shared many weekends all over midwestern Washington in Tacoma, Bellingham, Anacortes, Issaquah, and the Seattle area. We hiked, we ruminated, we explored, we eat, we enjoyed nature and the somewhat the surroundings while being pandemic-minded and safe.
I had a great time throughout but also unplugged much from the social media and pleasures of modern digital technology. But, I am also terribly sorry for not sharing such beautiful experiences in a timely fashion. Much of it was also for me talking, helping, discussing life, and current happenings with friends in between. Personal time was my priority.
But, I will share on memories recent and fresh when I can, especially as the new Fall season sets in. I have the feeling it’s going to be a longer, colder, darker time ahead. With that, more time to share but in a different way.
– Orion T
The above pic is facing Mount Rainier, from the top of Mount Burroughs, taken from one of the many trails from the Sunrise Visitor Center deep within and high above. It’s closed to the majestic peak, the best view I think one can get by hiking after a lengthy two-hour drive deep within the Mount Rainier National Park. The entirety spent with friends, very worthwhile.
Did you know that frogs don’t drink water? They soak it through their skin.
Or know that a frog can shred a layer of skin about once a week? The old dead skin is not wasted. The frog usually eats it.
Did you know that most frogs have teeth? Frog teeth are located in the upper jaw, which are used to hold its prey before swallowing it whole. Prey depends on the size of the frog, from insects to pocket-sized animals.
There are over 5,000 species of frog. The study of frogs is called Herpetologists.
A group of frogs is called an army.
Ranidaphobia is the fear of frogs.
Some people also have frogs as pets!
Frogs are a huge part of pop culture for every generation. Frogs are very everywhere in books, games, movies; as princes, mascots, obscure B movies, lots of mythological references. I love Kermit the Frog, who I see as the best frog.
I would love to know what your favorite frog is, fictional or not!
Top picture is taken off the Shadow Lake (not to be confused with Shadow Lake in King county, WA) trail near Sunrise Point very high up at about 6400 feet in the Mount Rainer National Park, Washington State. I recently did some hiking there, and will share more on that soon.
Haematopus bachmani, aka the Black Oystercatcher doesn’t really catch oysters. It’s catches mussels, limpets, barnacles, and various shellfish, all do well for their natural diet.
The Black Oystercatcher loves rocky shorelines, and often seen along the North American Pacific Coast. They don’t like human development or high industrialization where pollution and disturbances to their nesting areas disrupt their delicate existence.
I took the above picture a few months ago from the Seattle Aquarium, which this little bit of info from its seattleaquarium.org site:
“Oystercatchers nest and spend winters in the same basic area. They’remonogamous—the same two birds will return to the nest they create together, season after season. They make nests near rocky tidal areas wherefood abounds. By flipping their bills sideways and backwards, the birds toss rock flakes, pebbles and shell fragments to create a nest that resembles a bowl. Each pair will raise a clutch of eggs (one to three eggs) at a time. If anything happens to a clutch, pairs will raise two or more clutches until they have a successful brood.”
Black Oystercatchers are often very noisy, for reasons I could not uncover. Those noises are a little silly and cute, different from other avians. I love them for that…
That’s why I am sharing this joy of nature now. Maybe this will cheer you and others in this long, difficult pandemic time, for at least a moment. Then, feel free to make a little silly noise of your own.
That clownfish, also known as anemonefish, are born male, But, the dominant adult one of its group becomes female when the previous one dies. It’s an irreversible change, where it can then reproduce with another male, for the next generation of hermaphroditic organisms.
Clownfish are mostly found in coral reefs in south Asia, and Australia, feeding on a diet of plants and very small organisms (algae, zooplankton, tiny crustaceans). Clownfish live in harmony with sea anemones, sharing in food scraps and immune to their tentacle released toxins meant for prey. Those anemones also cover as shelter from larger predators. The clownfish pays their kindness back by removing parasites, and sometimes standing guard.
These strange factoids are just morsels of the countless grand wonders that make up of our complex planet, and build ecosystems meant to naturally create a long-lasting system of life coexistence.
I learned of such and more in a recent visit to the Seattle Aquarium on Pier 59, where I took the above pictures. Such wonderful things, I will share of more in later postings, spread out over future times. I hope you will enjoy, and be as fascinated as I was in observing, learning of these lively occurrences.
Yes, appreciate those rodents, all 280 different species of them. Appreciate their bushy tails, large eyes, cute smiles, quick tree-climbing ability. Appreciate the joy a squirrel brings to our local public parks and many gardens. Sometimes, they act as pest control agents at no charge, devouring insects. They can also tackle waste, by grabbing small food scraps left by stupid humans. They eat mushrooms, resulting in their waste from digestion resulting in new, much needed spores that help the ecosystem. They are also cute, and inspire resourcefulness and quite clever. Here is one in action…
But perhaps, the best reason to appreciate is their nut-burying behavior. They bury nuts, then often forget (or do they?!). The results are many more trees grown from those seeds within, which helps the world of humans in many ways.
So appreciate the squirrels of the world, give back and spread cheer to the little critters. Feed some natural nuts or seeds, if you can spare (avoid processed food). If you have a yard or a porch, add a squirrel feeder. Also, place a small tub of clean water nearby. And overall, let the squirrels be their natural, adorable selves.
– Orion T
The above pictures were taken deepen with Stanley Park, Vancouver BC, Canada. You are likely to cross path with some scavenging squirrels on Squirrel Trail, and Beaver Lake. You might even find some rare red or black ones.
“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” ― Albert Camus, French philosopher, author, and journalist
Here are some wet, wonderful leaves from within Licton Springs Park, a small park in North Seattle. This cozy spot I recommend to wanderers, to take in deep, exciting colors after a long autumn rain. The leaves are now scattered everywhere, many still strong on the trees while others cling to the muddy ground. All are plenty across bridges and steams, connected by damp pathways through a lush mini-forest in the middle of an old neighborhood. This is a little, wondrous place worthy of adventuring for a small time.
“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”- John Muir
The picture above is from early this year, on a day hike through Bowen Island in Vancouver, Canada. Meanwhile, Happy Earth Day! Though much of the day is gone, continue to appreciate this planet we live on, with support and protection to its natural environments.
There are fresh blooms to behold through this wet season this April. Such is welcome, and natural for this time in the Pacific Northwest, as fresh color is added to an otherwise grey week.
Throughout this Seattle area, some trees once again blossom with silkiness and lively character. If in the Downtown area, I recommend walking Freeway Park, located next to the Washington State Convention Center, and partially over the Interstate 5 freeway. You will find a nice variety of colors and textures now…
“A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.” – Henry David Thoreau
The picture was at Killarney Lake, in the middle of Bowen Island. This was during my stay in Vancouver, Canada in middle of a nice group hike. It’s a nice, short walk for those who can spare an hour or two (the extra hour for the trail that goes around the lake).
But right now, I wish there was a calm lake easily accessible to my current situation, living in a noisy city. Staring at this picture will have to do, for now.
A beaver is a hard-working, very intelligent mammal engineer.
When beavers work, they produce noticeable results. There is a grand notice on the materials they use, mainly wood from trees. The environment used, is forever changed.
The above picture is from my group hike on Bowen Island in Vancouver, Canada. This is one forest section well-stripped by beavers, using their powerful front-teeth (unsure of how many beavers, but do work in small numbers). Much of that wood is used to create a lodge; a dome-like house made from sticks, grasses and moss-plastered with mud. One lodge is sufficient for a whole family of beavers, to live comfortably and produce/raise their offspring. Such lodges are built slightly above water level along river and pond banks, like the one seen here.
Beavers also use that wood to build dams, to better manage and trap water to create large ponds. Beavers also feed off the trees for food, eating the leaves, roots, and bark. They also digest some surrounding aquatic plants. Nothing seems wasted in a beavers world.
I did a little research and reading on the conflict between the tree-raiding troublemakers and the human settlers of Bowen Island. The dam work of beavers has in the past, disrupted homes and yards of private areas, with flooding. The early actions by locals were to trap and kill the little critters. But in the last decade, a more humane solution popularized, to build special fences to prevent the beaver-building of dams in needed areas for water to flow.
That protection, and other solutions to help the island’s natural habitat creatures have been put forth by the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals, or Fur-Bearers. For more on beaver fences and the volunteer work of the Fur-Bearers, visit thefurbearers.com.
Meanwhile, here is a fascinating BBC video on the hard work and rewarding results of those busy beavers.
“Complexity is the property of a real-world system that is manifest in the inability of any one formalism being adequate to capture all its properties. It requires that we find distinctly different ways of interacting with systems. … Therefore complex systems are not fragmentable”
– D. C. Mikulecky, Professor of Physiology at the Medical College of Virginia Commonwealth University, THE COMPLEXITY OF NATURE
The picture above is from an awesome little hike on Bowen Island, in Vancouver, Canada. Bowen Island is a peaceful area of tranquility, roughly an hour away from the big metro area, by road then ferry. Deep within, is a complex ecosystem to observe and study. I will share more on this and other notes of the trip soon.
It’s been six years since I last visited Rattlesnake Lake, a wonderful little body of water by North Bend, Washington. There were, and still no actual rattlesnakes there. The origin of its name is said to be from the sound of the seed pods of the local camas flower, drying out in the wind.
There is something much more interesting than its name. Here, was a small town over 100 years ago here, named Moncton in 1907 (formally Cedar Falls). The town did not last long, as it was built near a reservoir, taking in water through a very faulty dam. The floodwaters took over the town, as the settlers evacuated. Until 1915, the town was officially no more. Rattlesnake Lake took over.
Much later, and more recently of last weekend, I visited Rattlesnake Lake. I was hoping for some peace and quiet on perhaps maybe the last sunny day of the year. To my surprise, I found the lake to have lost much of its water. A local told me it’s been ongoing, from the current changing climate, bringing in dryer days.
The view of the lake revealed a dramatic change, as a result.
Now shown, are many tree stumps and tree remnants from its days of heavy logging for the nearby former town. It’s an awesome, fresh site to see so many scattered about. Stop and study the area, you’ll find some odd formations. One can easily imagine this alien landscape, perhaps inspire new tales of fantasy and maybe new spooky tales.
I trampled through some fresh mud to get a closer look, explore for different angles to its fantastic revelations. I took pictures, some presented below…
I highly recommend a visit to those around the Seattle area. There is a nice hourly scenic hike, a pleasant nearby park, and other interesting things to check out. It’s close to North Bend, where the cult TV show Twin Peaks was filmed. Also nearby, are many more points of interest around here. I may share in the near future on some favorites, as I will definitely return to North Bend in the future.
For more on Rattlesnake Lake, including visiting info, click here.
Continued from my last post, here are some closer views below of Abalone Cove Shoreline Park and Ecological Preserve, off the coast of Southern California in Rancho Palos Verde. I explored near the Sacred Cave with longtime friends, during my very short stay in the South Los Angeles region. I wanted something different, and here we are…
Overall, a sweet and peaceful place for shore explorers and tide-pool enthusiasts. I remained wet, and glad I had the right shoes for stepping over the many rocks and watery holes. The tide was low, enough..
If interested, check out the official www.rpvca.gov page for more info, warnings, and area closures.
I’ve been a little late in my postings lately, as this summer is busy and full of unexpected happenings.
But, I did take some time out for a few little adventures, while i stayed for week in Southern California in late July. One place there in particular, had my attention for a half day, Abalone Cove Shoreline Park, a wonderful stretch of coastal preserve north of Long Beach, close to San Pedro. Once there, much of the area is easy to miss with the road access high and paralleling the clifftops, with small parking lots and vista points. The trails down to the waters are not obvious.
Yet, with a little exploring and walking further from the parking area and picnic tables, there are signs of access and danger. One just needs to needs to heed the warnings and find the right access point, and continue to heed the warnings…
I did go with a few friends, of which some were familiar and knowledgeable of the area. The whole time, very worthwhile and lots of fun. Most of the danger was just being careful and being very aware of the your surroundings, weather and tides. I shall post more on this, sometime this week.
I recently posted about my hike to Annette Lake, a serene lake high in the mountainous region of the Mt.Baker-Snoqualmie forest.
The lake being serene and amazing, was enough to behold for its own posting. Now, I would like to share a bit more on its trail to and back. It’s a path as awesome as its destination.
The 7.5-mile round trip Annette Lake trail has wonderous sights, rich in the best of the Pacific Northwest nature land preservations, and another reason I love the Washington State. Here, dedicated hikers will step across towering huddled trees, fallen trees with new life taking upon, rocks of all ages, countless waterfalls, old wooden bridges, and patches of snow along the top in this late spring.
The sunlight through the blue sky intensified the green, illuminated darker pathways partially covered full-grown branches, and gave sparkles to the streams of water running down. You can also enjoy the sounds of the trail varied from noisy waterfalls, chirping birds up high, and peaceful void of preserved stillness.
Here are some choice pics along the path…
Overall, the Lake Annette Trail is a good hike I highly recommend for those physically able to withstand a moderate uphill exercise binge, with a worthwhile destination of the lake itself to rest for a bit.
My tips for the trail: go early, so you’ll have time to rest and enjoy some views. Bring a water bottle or two, with snacks of nuts and dried fruit. Go in a group, and maybe bring your dog (allowed on the trail). Wear good hiking shoes fit for stepping over small rocky pathways and snow patches. Don’t rush, as parts of the path are narrow, and other hikers will be frequently passing on the good days. Much of the path is upon step hillsides, with an easy fall into deadly grounds. Rest easy at the lake for a good time before heading back.
Recently, I set upon a long hike in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie Regional Forest with a group, to Annette Lake.
The sight itself deserves my special posting as an amazing visual spot, high up in the mountainous regions of the middle Washington State. The lake is medium size, with much of its surrounding area closed off to visitors. There is no man-made developed shore area or plank, just some natural spots for viewers to appreciate the still serene beauty and untouched landscape. Stepping in the water at this time felt icey, as we heeded warnings to not proceed further in.
Here is a low-grade panoramic shot from my phone:
The only way to reach Annette Lake is through a 7.5-mile round trip trail. Half the hike is uphill through a deep forest mountainside over switchbacks, small waterfalls, and a little snow up high. The elevation gain is about 1800 ft, where the lake signals the peak and destination of the trail.
I advise good hiking boots for the path, and for the current time while the snow sits up high..bring trekking poles. The trail is well maintained and easy to follow, though one should take it slow with its rocky parts and slippy elevation. Dogs are welcome on the trail, as many brought their canine companions.
My friend’s dog Ruby joined our group, who enjoyed the snow part very much.
The Annette Lake trail itself offers more interesting distant views, of which I will share in another posting, soon.
I recently visited the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in Northern Washington State on a gray day this April. Some of that was detailed in my previous post, Colorful Views…). As amazing as the tulip fields were, I was also impressed by the Roozengaarde display garden area. Here, there are “90+ varieties of tulips and over 150 flower bulb varieties in total. Included are tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus, muscari and other specialty flowers.”
The colors this time of year stand out, and a worthwhile attraction for tourists and locals in the Pacific Northwest. According to its website at tulips.com, the display garden is open all year round. Seeing these with the fields during the festival, is just an added bonus.
I now share some pics of the wonderful display garden below (click on each for the bigger picture):
The admiration and picture-taking was a joy, but personally seeing this for yourself is the best experience, especially with friends or family. For more info, click here and check out the Roozengaarde official site at Tulips.com for more info about tulips and purchase options
The cold winter can only last so long, and there is still more than a month of that to go. In wait, I will enjoy the naked trees, the grey moody skies, the wetter streets after a quiet rain. I love the new days as the dawn steadily rises a little earlier, and the set is bit more patient.
Meanwhile, I notice to the side as I walk. Some of the buds are peeking out, getting ready. No rush for the year to move forward, but I shall welcome this next Spring.
For those dwelling around in the Pacific Northwest, there is a medium-sized park, open to the public in Seattle, to view the best seasonal colors in nature. You should go there now, while the scenery is very Fall-tastic.
This place is the Kubota Garden, a 20-acre Japanese garden in the Rainier Beach neighborhood. The park is named after Fujitaro Kubota, a Japanese emigrant and horticultural pioneer who blended his Japanese design techniques with North American materials here, starting off in 1927. Fujitaro died in 1973 at age 94, hoping the land would eventually become public. In 1981, the land became a historic landmark. In 1987, the land became public, and since became an attraction for visitors. In late 2017, it was my turn.
Kubota Garden is beautiful with every step inside. The walkways are crooked and intertwined, leading to little sights worth a long gaze. Such are small ponds, little structures of wood and rock, bridges, waterfalls, with a variety of uncommon trees and shrubbery. All quiet and peaceful, leaving the noise of the world to the distance.
I came here on the advice of a friend, who suggested this as a place to relax, and avoid the troubles of the world for at least an hour. By public transport, this was an easy destination (about an hour if taking the rail from downtown, then a short bus transfer). I arrived, not considering the grandness of the place, or a map.
This brought me much joy in the heart, to explore, and not finding any particular pattern or sense to the pathways of the place. I felt lost and didn’t want to be found for a while. I found many little partially mossed benches, shadowy coverings by spidery trees, and open grassy spots perfect for a picnic. I would stop here and there, sitting down and watching birds and dogs being walked by. And perfect for this day, was the amazing colors of the Fall season, with an awesome variety in every view.
The only regret here is my arrival so very late in the day. The evening was close, and I had to leave for a meeting. I did take some pictures, showing the amazing Fall-ness of it all. Click on each for a full look:
I shall come back here again, for a longer visit and for every season.
I looked up during my lunch break and noticed a very large surprise in the sky….
A 22° Halo, also known as an ice halo, or solar halo, or just a halo. Whatever you call it, the sight is still special to behold with the slight grayness trapped within, and the rainbow tint on the outer edge. Such was hard to capture with my phone and bright, direct sun.
“A 22° halo is an optical phenomenon that belongs to the family of ice crystal halos, in the form of a ring with a radius of approximately 22° around the Sun or Moon (in which case it is also called a moon ring or winter halo). It forms as the sun- or moonlight is refracted in millions of hexagonal ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere. The halo is large; the radius is roughly the size of an outstretched hand at arm’s length. A 22° halo may be visible on as many as 100 days per year—much more frequently than rainbows.”
This phenom is the second one witnessed in my life which I have blogged about back in 2015. This time, being the first I have seen this directly above and uninterrupted by nearby structures. Such was a glorious, welcome surprise for an otherwise routine day.
Above is a time last week, between the sunshine and gloom. The morning brought some Spring rain, gentle and calming for an otherwise busy week.
I passed a tree with fresh pink blooms, a casual wonder to behold. Upon the ground, were freshly fallen blooms still wet from their recent shower….
The location is within Freeway Park in downtown Seattle, by the Cultural Landscape Fountain. You may find me there on the weekdays, walking through on the morning or evening. Sometimes there, I sit down on a nearby bench and ruminate.
“The significance of the cherry blossom tree in Japanese culture goes back hundreds of years. In their country, the cherry blossom represents the fragility and the beauty of life. It’s a reminder that life is almost overwhelmingly beautiful but that it is also tragically short.”
According to a recent article in the Seattle Times, there were only three full sunny days in Seattle, with mild temperature since October start.
The last of them was a month ago on February 13th, a month ago. The other days have been a mix of gloom and rain. And compared to the prior years, the trees have shown barely any sign of bloom and leafing. I personally miss the cherry blossoms, which would normally bloom in the pics above. But not all is melancholy, for the days here are what you make of them.
There is a feeling of just another natural cycle taking place. Perhaps, the spirit of nature or whatever you believe is in control, making up for the prior warmer years. I feel the need to enjoy whatever is offered. And there is plenty of natural beauty. You just have to look up and around.
But, I really hope the cherry blossoms come around soon.
I now share some pics, a little later in Kobe Terrace Park after a grand snowy morning in Seattle, earlier this week (see last post).
Here, are pics from an afternoon walk, just as the sudden rains began to wash away the snowfall. There was a special beauty to the surroundings, revealing a momentary awesomeness to an otherwise dull afternoon.
– Orion T
Pictures and notes by Traveling Orion, (Orion Tippens). For external use for public use, please contact and obtain permission first.
Seattle morning just last Monday, I awoke to witness the beautiful snow blanketing the city. I walked towards work, with a detour to one particular small park upon a hill, where the overnight snowfall revealed a new world.
That park is Kobe Terrace (in Seattle’s International District), a small enclosed area with a community garden upon a hill, all overlooking to the southwest distance of Seattle. Anytime is a good time to visit throughout the year. Though some particular times are better than others.
This time was short and quite wonderful, being a winter wonderland surrounded by cherry trees, small garden pots, and Japanese style deco wooden structures. Even with the noisy freeway nearby, one can feel the serenity brought in by the fresh overnight snow (about one inch, I was told). I could easily imagine traveling through the country town of Hokkaido, Japan; for at least the 30 minutes to myself, before arriving at nearby work thereafter.
Snow in this area is rare, as the Seattle central area is low and distant from the mountain regions. Such occurs once or twice a year, if lucky. For this time, the snow continued to fall until the noontime. Shortly after, the rain washed much of away, leaving a different beautiful setting (of which I will share in my next post).
These pictures below and the memory with them, are very worthwhile to share for this wonderful little moment away…
– Orion T
Pictures and notes by Traveling Orion, (Orion Tippens). For external use for public use, please contact and obtain permission first.