Tulips, and more Tulips

In a normal year, the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival takes place during the entire month of April.  Washington State’s Skagit Valley is the world’s second largest producer of tulips and bulbs, outside of The Netherlands.  There are a couple of large growers who open their fields for the festival; they charge for parking across the street, and tourists are allowed to walk between the rows of flowers, taking pictures and just admiring the beautiful colors of the flowers.  They also sell bulbs, cut flowers, and other festival merchandise (there is a new t-shirt design by a local artist each year, and they get to be collectors’ items).

This year of 2020, the Festival was cancelled, due to the State Shelter-in-Place Order to stop the spread of the Wuhan Coronavirus.  And to make doubly sure that no one got in their cars and drove up anyway, the farmers (probably directed by Festival officials) turned off the “Tulip Cams” that show how the fields are doing, so people can see the flowers at their best full bloom.  Double-whammy for all those who look forward to a trip to see the flowers.

Hubby and I go most years, and I try to get new photos each year.  So here are many of the photos I have taken in previous years.  I hope you enjoy them.

2015

Tulips

2017

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Tulip Fields near Mount Vernon, WA

The farmers in the Skagit also grow daffodils, and they bloom before the tulips.

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Skagit Daffodils

2019 was an exceptional year for the tulips.

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It’s a crying shame that the state government dictated that the tulip-growers of the Skagit Valley were unable to sell their crop this year.  So unnecessary, and so depressing for those of us who need those brightly-colored flowers to show us that Spring has arrived.  We fervently hope that the growers will be back next year.

 

 

 

 

Lens-Artists Challenge #105-Spring

Spring.  The first sign is the gradually, gradually, lengthening days.  Still awaking in the dark, but driving home from work in daylight.  Here in the Pacific Northwest, Spring is normally pretty rainy (yeah, the  cliche about April showers bringing May flowers that we all know and love).  But we actually love the rain here, because that means Mother Nature waters our yards instead of us doing it.

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Our Japanese Maple trees leaf out, and the grasses are green again.  The rain fills the bird-bath, and sometimes our resident squirrel comes in for a drink.

On my drive to work in the morning, I travel the roads on the perimeter of Paine Field, the Snohomish County Airport.  There are five of these flowering cherry trees, which are actually pretty old.  This year, the flowers were so heavy, the branches were dipping almost to the ground.

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This year, to spite the Government lockdown, I got in the car and drove up to the Skagit Valley in March to take a look at the tulip fields.  It was too early for tulips, but the blueberry vines were just about to start budding.

SkagitBlueberries

Last year, the tulips were in full bloom in April.  It’s a wonder, being able to get out of your car, and walk through the fields of brightly-colored flowers.  Tiptoe through the Tulips, indeed!

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A bit farther west of the tulip fields is the town of LaConner, on the Swinomish Slough.  Salmon swim up the channel, and local sculptors have captured some.

LaConner

And Life flows on, within you and without you…  George Harrison

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Lens-Artists Challenge #104-Summer

First, a little musical introduction.

For some reason, this song plays pretty often on my internal tape.

In the summer of 2010, Hubby and I took a three-week vacation, and drove from our home in Washington State to Michigan and back, for a Hillsdale Hostel.  We took the Southern Route to get there, through Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Iowa, to get to Hillsdale. and we took the Northers route home, through Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, northern Montana, and Idaho.

The trip to Hillsdale took us by some very beautiful scenery, and the weather was excellent. Well, most of the time it was excellent.  On the first day of driving, we crossed Eastern Washington, Northern Idaho, and Montana, and spent the night in Missoula.  The next day, we drove through a corner of Yellowstone National Park.

This formation is called “Devil’s Slide”, for obvious reasons!  Sometimes I wished I had a geologist along to explain how those layers of rock, which start out horizontal, got tilted to be vertical!  We do know that those rocks started out as layers of sand at the bottom of an ancient body of water.  That’s the Yellowstone River just visible in the foreground.

Next, our journey took us through Wyoming.  On another hot day, we visited another “devil”, the Devil’s Tower National Monument.

Devil’s Tower National Monument, Wyoming

Boy, that Devil sure gets around!  I have always loved that columnar basalt, created when layers of hot volcanic rock cool quickly, into lengths of hexagonal rock.  Washington State has extensive bluffs of that same rock, along the Columbia River.

Next, we drove across South Dakota.  2010 was a pretty wet year, and we saw fields of tall green grass, and cows belly-deep in it.  We stopped at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum, which has a number of old warplanes on the field outside.  I captured this pair of house-finches enjoying the sunshine.

When we crossed the Missouri River into Iowa, the weather changed.  Dramatically. We did our best to outrun a big thunderstorm across much of the state.  This picture was taken through the windshield of the car barreling down the highway.  It was pretty spectacular, and the outside temperature was in the 80s.

We made it to DesMoines just in time!

On the last day before we got to Hillsdale, we drove through Indiana, and made a pleasant stop in the town of Elkhart.  Now, some of you might know what Elkhart was famous for many years ago, and that is brass band instruments.  More than one manufacturer of horns was based in Elkhart, and we found a really fun outdoor art exhibit that celebrates that history.

My internal tape was playing 76 Trombones all afternoon!

We had a great time at Hillsdale, taking classes taught by Hillsdale faculty, meeting people from all over the country, and sightseeing around the area.

On our way home, we took the Northern Route.  We knew we were back in Eastern Washington, when we saw this.  That Devil must have been following us all the way!

Dust devil, wheat field in Eastern Washington

In the Good Old Summertime

 

 

Lens-Artists Challenge #103-Surprise

A surprise is something unexpected, exciting, thrilling.

Animals

On our Hillsdale College cruise to Hawaii in 2018, we had a few hours in Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii.  We were taking a rest in a pleasant little shopping center, deciding where to go next, when I happened to glance at a tree behind me, and saw the big snail.  I got out my camera to take his picture, when I noticed, on the opposite side of his tree, a little green lizard!  I never would have noticed him if I hadn’t been zooming in on the snail.  And I’m pretty sure neither knew the other was there!

I also got a big kick out of this sign we saw in a coffee shop right by the dock where the cruise ship’s boat let us off.  How many places do you know where kids who misbehave are offered this?

CoffeeSign

Mongoose?  Someone at that coffee-shop has a great sense of humor.

 

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Photos

I have not had nearly enough opportunity these days to get outside with my camera.  So I thought I’d go back to the archive and find some of the photos that I’m fondest of.  Here are some.

Potholes Reservoir, Eastern Washington
Potholes Reservoir, Eastern Washington-site of ancient flood

For some reason, this photo of the Potholes Reservoir has been the most popular photo I have ever posted on my blog.  In my stats, list of “views”, this one comes up the most often.  I remember taking this, when I stopped there on my way to the Tri-Cities for a Pacific Northwest Purchasing Conference.  I went by myself, and gave myself enough time for stops whenever I found something picturesque.

Thirteen Bushtits at once on the suet feeder
Thirteen Common Bushtits on our Suet Feeder, January 2012

In the “lucky break” category, I was fortunate to capture this one, out my back door during a snowy period, which is fairly rare around here.  Bushtits normally travel in flocks, and they just loved that suet.

Mount Rainier over Puget Sound

I have always loved this one, which captures the natural beauty of Puget Sound.  It was taken from the deck of a Washington State Ferry on our way back from Kingston on the Kitsap Peninsula.  I always thought that Mount Rainier looked like it was floating in the sky.

Tranquil bench, Seattle Japanese Garden
Leafy glade with bench, Seattle Japanese Garden

The Seattle Japanese Garden is nearly 100 years old now, and extremely popular all year round.  It is very peaceful, with lots of nice benches where visitors can sit and contemplate the trees and shadows.  So many different shades of green!

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Cliff, with signs of an arch forming. Zion National Park, Utah.

Just spectacular rock formations at Zion National Park.

Cactus-they look like space aliens!
A bunch of different kinds of barrel cactus.

I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.  Some of the cacti they have there look almost sinister, like they could break formation and attack you.

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Sunset above the clouds

This one speaks for itself.

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I learned recently that Rush Limbaugh’s favorite bird is the pelican, so I immediately sent him this one that I took in 2018 in San Francisco Bay from the deck of the Crystal Symphony cruise ship.  Flying in a perfect “V” formation!

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Boats at Marina, Victoria

Taken at 7AM on a Sunday morning, with the calm water, and the boats at the marina inVictoria, BC, Canada.  No two boats are alike.

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Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, when it was erupting.  We spent an hour off the coast of the Island of Hawaii, watching and listening as the lava flowed into the Pacific.  Real Fire and Brimstone-the power of Nature.

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Walls of Garden

Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island.  You can lose yourself in there.  We first went there on our honeymoon in 2003, and we try to go back as often as we can.

I think the July 4 Holiday weekend will be a good time to get out and drive around our beautiful Pacific Northwest.

Lens-Artists Challenge #102 – A Quiet Place

In this very noisy world, where you are always surrounded by man-made sounds, it can take a long search to find a really quiet place.  It also depends on how you define “quiet”. Can a quiet place have people in it, or do you have to be alone to have quiet?  Can you be indoors, or must you be outdoors?  As my friend Hank Barr says, the answer to nearly any question is, “It depends”.  It’s my opinion that the reason 20th Century music can be discordant or atonal is due in part to the increasing noise in the man-made environment, including automobiles, machinery, and recordings that can be played at ear-splitting volume.  Horse-drawn wagons and carriages didn’t make much noise, but that big cement truck sure makes a lot of noise!

Back in October of 2012, Hubby and I traveled to the East Coast, and we got to spend part of a day on the beach at Cape May, New Jersey.  Cape May is a big tourist destination, and during the summer months the beaches are crowded with throngs of vacationers taking up every square foot of sand.  In October, however, all the crowds have gone, the streets are empty (you can even find a parking place on the street!), and the beach is empty of swimmers and sunbathers.  We were fortunate to get excellent weather, too, with sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s.  It felt really weird to have the broad expanse of beach almost entirely to ourselves.

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It was almost eerily quiet, except for the sound of the Atlantic Ocean waves breaking. The constant sound of ocean waves is very calming, and contributes to the sense of quiet.

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Now, the beach wasn’t entirely empty.  We did have some avian company.

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Birds, Cape May, NJ

We enjoyed watching the mixed flock of Skimmers, Terns, and Gulls.

Back from the beach, behind the dunes, is a quiet pond, with swans and ducks swimming. Here’s a trio of Shoveler Ducks, one in a most undignified position.

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Cape May is a very popular vacation destination.  On the East Coast, there is a tradition of people taking vacation lodgings for the summer season, and the town is filled with big houses where dozens of families rent for weeks or the whole summer.  In October, those houses were mostly empty and quiet.

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The street was lined with these big, beautiful houses, which just had to be vacation rentals.  You could imagine the sounds of summer, with children running around and calling to each other, and cars going by.  But at this time, it was almost eerily quiet.

It’s almost hard to believe that this vacation destination could actually ever be this subdued, but with the people gone back to their cities, it’s a nice place to visit for some peace and quiet.  We were very lucky that we went when we did.  A few days later, Superstorm Sandy hit, and this beach wasn’t quite so peaceful or quiet.

Link to original post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Power. The Power of Nature.

Can you watch this, and not know that Nature is more powerful than you are?  This is a source of the inexpensive hydro-electric power that we in the Pacific Northwest rely on.  That river flows day and night, summer and winter, with no interruptions.  Flow is heavier when fed by Spring runoff when mountain snow melts.  This is Snoqualmie Falls in Spring.  Listen to the Power.

Lens-Artists Challenge #100-The long and winding road.

When I see a road, I usually wonder where it leads.  On our travels in the Pacific Northwest, Hubby and I pass many freeway turnoffs with roads down which we have never traveled.  On the way to Mount Vernon, there is a freeway exit marked “Starbird Road”, and I have always been intrigued by the name.  We took the exit once, and it basically led nowhere.  All that was distinctive about it was the name.  Oh, well..

This road is in Eastern Washington, on the banks of the Columbia River.  Winding?  Certainly! And fun to drive, too.

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Winding Road-Eastern Washington State

I have always loved the “shrub-steppe” terrain in East-Central Washington. even when the hills are brown, they are beautiful to me, and the roads are laid out to follow the “lay” of the land, not just up and over.

Closer to home, right across the street from the biggest factory building in the world, is the Narbeck Wetland park.  Trails through the park wind among marshes and a tiny island.  There are sights to see in any season (just wear your boots in the fall and winter when the paths can get muddy).  I especially like the boardwalk.

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Roads are not always on land.  Off the coast of Washington State are the Marine Highways of the Gulf Islands of British Columbia.  The BC Ferries ply the “sea lanes”, connecting passengers with the various islands.  When we drive up to Victoria, BC, we love to take the big car ferries. The picture below was taken from the deck of a similar ferry.  The captains toot their horns when passing each other.

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BC Ferry, making its way through the Gulf Islands

There are big islands, like Salt Spring Island, and Vancouver Island (where Victoria is), and there are many tinier islands, some uninhabited, and some even privately-owned.

The Olympic Peninsula of Washington is one of the loveliest places in the state.  Many years ago, I had a boyfriend who lived in Port Angeles, so I went there (by car, and Washington State Ferry) often.  We would often go to the Dungeness Spit National Wildlife Refuge.  We know where this path leads…

Path to the Spit

The path down to the Spit (down a steep path from the wooded bluffs above) is lined with tall evergreen trees, Douglas Fir, Hemlock, and Spruce.  The Spit is five miles long, and at its far end is a lighthouse.  You can walk the entire length, which is much more difficult than it looks, since it’s all on sand.  When you reach the end, you know you’ve been getting your exercise!  Itself, it is a long, crooked road.

Dungeness Spit

[Author’s note: this post will contain no social commentary (seen elsewhere on this blog) nor virtue signaling]  Just the link to Tina’s original post.

 

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #98-Delicate Colors

Others have mentioned that life is fragile.  This blogger begs to differ.  On our Planet Earth, not only is Life not fragile, there is no niche anywhere on Earth that is not occupied by some form of Life.  Living things have been found from the deepest deep-sea trenches under the oceans, to the volcanic craters of active volcanoes both below the seas and on islands in Hawaii and Indonesia; to the hot springs of Yellowstone, to the highest peaks of the Himalayas, to the deserts of Africa and Central Asia.

I live in the Pacific Northwest, surrounded by temperate Rain Forests.  In places like these, Life is so profuse, layers upon layers have their own kinds of living things.

NurseLog

This is a “nurse log” at the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge on the Olympic Peninsula.  The logs all have mosses growing on them.  You can see the big hole in the fallen log-inside that hole are insects.  Insects also populate the moss on the logs.  You can see other plants growing out of that log.  It’s quite remarkable how many layers of Life there are in, on, and around that fallen log.  Eventually, big trees will grow on top of that fallen log, and the insects and bacteria will consume it.  Many of these logs are found to have holes in them, made by woodpeckers hunting for the insects that live there.

Down on the beach below, even the rocks have their beautiful color variations.

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And the various grasses.  These are very hardy grasses, growing in a sometimes-harsh environment of salt water and nearly-constant wind.

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And sometimes, in the midst of these delicate colors, something very bright stands out.

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Welcome to Life on Earth.  How fortunate we are to live on this beautiful planet, with living things all around us.

Link to the original post.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #97 – Pastimes

One of my favorite things to do when I’m out and about is bird-watching.  I have a 1960s Roger Tory Peterson Field Guide to Western Birds, and I keep a “life list” in the back, checking off the birds I have seen.  I especially like traveling, and seeing birds that we don’t have here on the West Coast.  We’ve been to Alaska and Hawaii, and the East Coast of the US.  We also took a trip to Israel in 2007, and I made sure to buy a bird book so I could identify unusual birds that I saw.  But, to start with, we get some pretty interesting birds right here in our back yard in Everett, Washington.

WinterWarbler

This little bandit is a Townsend’s Warbler, and he comes by most winters, to eat at our suet feeder.

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This is a Varied Thrush, basically a Robin in different clothing.  That’s an insect in his beak-they are carnivores (remember the Robin and his worm?).

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A bit farther from home, I caught this White-crowned Sparrow at the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge on the Olympic Peninsula last year.  He sat very still for me to take his picture.

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I saw this flotilla of Pelicans off the deck of the Crystal Symphony in San Francisco before our cruise to Hawaii in 2018.  A perfect “V”.

Brazilian Cardinal

Then, when we got to Hawaii, I found this Brazilian Cardinal on the grass at Pearl Harbor.  That red cockade really attracts attention.

Egrets

Back in Honolulu, I captured this pretty pair of Egrets.

Masked Booby

This is, I think, my best “catch” on that trip to Hawaii.  On the way home, I saw this Masked Booby flying off the side of the ship, hunting for fish.  This bird is rarely found on land, and it’s a real treat to see one at sea.

BaldEagle-Juneau

And last, but definitely not least, in Juneau, Alaska in 2016, I caught this Bald Eagle, master of all he surveyed.  Actually, Bald Eagles are quite plentiful here in the Pacific Northwest, and we see them cruising over Silver Lake by our house.

Bird-watching is a valuable pastime, something you can do any time, just about anywhere.

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