Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Old Sauk River Trail: Hiking through Mosslandia

Just a couple hundred years ago, the whole Northwest coast of North America was blanketed in thousands of miles of dense temperate rainforest thick with moss and ferns.  What a sight it must have been to behold.

Today remnant patches of these primeval forests that thankfully escaped
loggers' blades are scattered around the region among regrown clearcut forests. Fortunately some are out there to explore and treasure.

Along the Sauk River just outside Darrington, Washington, along the Mountain Loop Highway, the Old Sauk River Trail meanders through a mossy gem of forest. This mostly second-growth forest is interspersed with the majestic presence of some old-growth native conifers like western red cedar and Douglas fir

Recently I walked this trail for the first time. Yes, even though I was born in Seattle and have lived and hiked in the region most of my life, there are still many trails I've yet to hike. This one is now on my large list of "been there, want to do that again" trails.

A group of eight of us (seven women, a guy, plus a sweet pit bull) met at the second, larger parking lot/trailhead up the Mountain Loop Highway from Darrington for this Alpine Trails Book Club hike. (What a great Pacific Northwest concept:  read an outdoors-related book and then go for a hike together and discuss the book. Thanks to Ashley of Alpine Lily blog for organizing!)

Within a few hundred yards, the mostly flat trail reaches the Sauk River, where it then follows the river for about 3 miles through sometimes otherworldly, lush green forest.

As part of the National Wild and Scenic River system, the Sauk is a relatively pristine free-flowing river, apparently famous with local fly fishers for its hardy and elusive steelhead and salmon.

With several nature/photography bloggers in our group, there's a lot of stopping to admire and shoot the sweet early spring treasures that the forest has offered up.

My all-time favorite is the delicate trillium. These grew wild in our forested yard where I was raised east of Portland, and they hold a special place in my heart for their many Jill-historic associations.

And the moss!  I wish I knew more about the different varieties of moss in the forest, but there are obviously several. Some cover downed trees like a layer of plush shag carpet, and some hang from branches like a tangled mess of green hair.

So we ambled a few hours, stopped to gather and talk about the book (appropriately about a grandmother who solo hiked the Appalachian Trail in the 1950s), crossed a lot of blowdown from winter storms, and took a quick detour at the end of the hike down to the river's edge.

I felt so nourished by spending time in this fecund biomass of woods, fungus, shrubs, and myriad other living organisms in this complex, interwoven web of life called a temperate rainforest. To breathe deeply here is to breathe in our precious corner of the world.

Because we, just like everything else crawling and flying and swimming, are part of this rich environment. This requires our utmost care and respect.

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.    

For different perspectives on this hike and more beautiful writing and photos, check out A Day Without Rain and Tiny Pines (besides Alpine Lily).

When You Go
I read that this hike is 6 miles round trip, but it felt like much less, probably because it was so easy (very little elevation gain and loss) and beautiful. It takes about an hour and a half during off-peak traffic hours to reach the trailhead from the Seattle area. For directions and map information, check out the WTA description of the hike.  And don't forget your Northwest Forest Pass for parking. I heard there's a brewery on the river in Darrington for after-hike eats/drinks, but we needed to dash back to the city. Next time!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Northwest Images: Earlybird Gets the Sunrise

In the predawn darkness, the alarm jolts me awake on this chilly March morning. Less than a week after the switch to Daylight Savings Time, it's still a challenge to get up this early.

But the extra hour of morning darkness is welcome. For a few weeks, I don't have to get up as early to watch and shoot the sunrise.

I dress quickly, have a few bites of banana, grab the camera, and go. 

With no time to waste because the sky colors are constantly changing, my first stop is a pedestrian bridge atop a hill, the highest spot nearby.

When the sky is relatively clear, with some scattered clouds for dramatic effect, a Seattle area sunrise (or sunset) is hard to beat. The jagged Cascade peaks to the east and the equally craggy, jagged Olympic Mountains to the west across Puget Sound frame a glowing, brilliant, sometimes subtle sky.

I snap a few quick shots (above), and then dash to the car and drive down to the edge of Puget Sound at Golden Gardens. Why would I go to a west-facing location to shoot a sunrise? For the alpenglow, a reddish glow seen on mountain summits across the horizon from the rising/setting sun.

With the reflected light of the sunrise to the east, the snowy peaks are aglow with orange-pink light. And it's not just the peaks; lingering clouds are also tinged pastel pink.

Not many are out this early on a weekday morning. It's just me and the seagulls plus a few joggers. Not a bad backdrop for a morning run.

Because it's my personal ritual to always touch the sea whenever I go to the beach, I crawl over some rocks down to the water's edge and dip my hand into the salty water.

And then it's off to get ready for the work day ahead, but not before pausing to appreciate the lovely spring blossoms overhead.

Because spring has arrived here in the Pacific Northwest.

Think about getting up early to welcome spring at the cusp of morning. I guarantee it's an invigorating way to start your day.

[Add-on a day later: Another spectacular sunrise today! Didn't have the camera, but the image of neon orange, gold,  and pink layered with dark purple-blue clouds is seared in my mind.]

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.    

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Power of Community: It's Still Going in Greenwood

Just last spring I blogged about the vibrant, resurgent north Seattle neighborhood of Greenwood. Its charming, quirky "downtown" along Greenwood Avenue, full of independent small businesses, had bounced back happily from a series of devastating arson fires 7 years ago.

After a leaking natural gas line explosion on March 9 destroyed or damaged over three dozen businesses in the heart of Greenwood, you might think this neighborhood suffers from some seriously bad karma. 

But adversity often brings out the best in people, bringing them together. The Greenwood community (and beyond in Seattle) is jumping to help. I call that pretty good karma.

People as far away as Kenmore, over 20 miles north, were awakened by the 1:40 a.m. blast, although some (like me) less than a mile or even a few blocks away, slept through it. Many thought it was an earthquake.

Gas explosion fire 3/9/16. Photo credit to www.pbs.media
TV helicopters buzzing overhead finally woke me up. In the predawn darkness, I immediately thought of the morning 7 years ago when I was also awakened by helicopters and sirens from the major arson fire that destroyed several businesses

 Thanks to social media, I learned what was going on quickly. #Greenwoodexplosion was all over Twitter, then I hopped to reddit, Nextdoor, and finally old-fashioned radio and television. 

Within hours, several fundraising campaigns to support the many small businesses and employees affected were set up. A gofundme site has already raised over $44,500 (as of 3/13) through small private donations.

This morning I wandered over to check out the damage and support a few of the small cafes open, despite boarded up windows.

This stretch of Greenwood Ave and these popular businesses now look like...
This block, where the explosion occurred on the left, now looks like this...
Okay, so it's winter now. But still, sad.
First at Chocolati Cafe and then over at Coyle's Bakeshop, the lines were long, longer than normal on a weekday morning. Within an hour after the blast, the "superstar" manager of Chocolati (Darla) was onsite cleaning up the shattered windows and serving coffee to the first responders.

For about a 2-block radius, shattered windows are boarded over, but most businesses are open. 

 I strolled down Greenwood across the street from the blast and stopped to chat with a man holding a very cool bicycle. It was David Giugliano (Davey Oil) of G&O Family Cyclery, whose business next to Neptune Coffee was heavily damaged. For seeing his business shattered, he seemed surprisingly calm and upbeat. 

"People say bad things about the low-income and homeless people in the neighborhood, but they were the ones who discovered the gas leak and called it in," said David. He wants to stay in Greenwood. "It's my neighborhood."

David Guiglano of G&O Family Cyclery on Greenwood Avenue

 Glass shards were still visible scattered on the sidewalk, and I almost tripped over a bucket of debris.

So this morning I'm headed back over to Greenwood Avenue to get morning tea, and I'll probably refill at a few businesses, just to help in a small way.  A good account of the City's response and resources to help are described in this Seattle Times article.

How about you? Did you hear the explosion or know anyone affected by it? Think about joining the conversation with a comment below, and then checking out the link below for ways to support the Greenwood community and businesses. Thanks!

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.   

How to help

The Phinney Neighborhood Association’s website, phinneycenter.org, has a list of merchants that are collecting money to help the businesses impacted by the blast. A gofundme page has also been set up for donations.