Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The 'Tween Season: Late February in the Pacific Northwest

If you live in the Pacific Northwest (or almost anywhere in North America), aren't you ready for winter to loosen its grip?

Living in a temperate climate here west of the Cascades,  we Mossbacks are spared extreme cold like the frigid polar vortex, but the wet, gray, dark days seem to stretch on too long.  Many of us jet away to warmer, tropical or desert getaways.

By mid-February, however, the days are getting noticeably longer. Hallelujah! So we've got this 'tween thing going on....it's dumping snow in the mountains and throwing major avalanches, while early spring flowers  are in bloom just an hour away in the lowlands. It's wildly diverse.

Yesterday I headed to the mountains for some skiing in the epic snowfall. Over 2 feet of fresh pow! I hoped to be doing this:

But avalanches and downed trees converged to make the day go more like this:

See that line of traffic?  We were turned around less than a mile from the Crystal Mountain turnoff. Mountain closed because a tree knocked out power to the whole mountain. We spent 5 hours driving up and back, covered 160 miles, including a 20-minute wait to use the loo at Wapiti Woolies in Greenwater, and no skiing.


So instead of moping, when I got home I took advantage of a break between storms and headed to nearby Carkeek Park. Nothing beats the frustration of hours in a car than a walk in the woods to witness early spring unfurling.

Right now the sweet, delicate snowdrops are in bloom just off the trail next to the historic Piper Orchard in the park. While these plants aren't native, these bulbs have spread in happy clumps throughout a patch of forest over the past century.

I hiked for over an hour through the lowland forest.  I heard lots of birds singing, felt a slight remnant breeze from the overnight storm, and generally enjoyed spying signs of spring, like the first shoots of this skunk cabbage beside the trail.

In a few months it will be several feet high and look like something that belongs in the tropics.

I once again appreciated our lush temperate rainforest abundance of moss and ferns, even though I couldn't enjoy the several feet of fresh snow just an hour away in the mountains. At least on this day.

While spring is charging at us, I'll head again to the snowy alpine mountains with 
my skis in a few days. Then I'll be  walking in the woods again.  Back and forth.

This proximity and diversity is one of the reasons I love living here.


Suezy Proctor said...

While not a snowbird, I love nature walks too Jill. With a month of diverse weather (a couple of weeks of bright warm sunny days, a few inches of snow that followed, then a week of sub-freezing temps, and the rain that follows now...the marsh is alive with buds popping open, false morels have pushed their way up and frogs have started to whomp! The birds, frogs, hawk shrills, and woodpecker's incessant knocking is a symphony I could listen to all day.

jill said...

Suezy, love your images, I can just see and hear the marsh. Thanks for your observant and interesting comments on my blog!

ronmitchelladventure said...

Thanks, Jill...very refreshing!

matchoo said...

Hey Jill, Nice that you went to Carkeek and welcomed the coming emergence. I was unfamiliar with the white buds, then read that they are non-native. How did you identify? Hope to hear of your future ski trips....

jill said...

You're welcome Ron!

Hey Matt! Somebody told me about the snowdrops several years ago. I think they are not uncommon, though, as an ornamental plant in people's yards. Managed to make it up to Alpental for some sking this morning, beat most of the rush, some freshies, very fun but boy am I not in the best shape! More offline.

Robert Teagardin said...

Free water and skunk cabbage, two of my favorites!

JoJo said...

Stumbled onto your blog quite by accident but I'm glad I did. I lived in Bonney Lake for 12 years before moving back to the east coast and I miss Washington so much it hurts.

jill said...

Welcome to Pacific Northwest Seasons! So happy you found my blog. Sorry you miss Washington. I felt the same way when I lived in Boston for a few years. I hope you can get some vicarious trips here through my blog. Take care!