Summer Delights

So far, this summer has been beautiful. Gentle weather, stunning skies, no drought (yet), thriving plants – not much more to ask for this small corner of our planet. In between long day trips and longer weekends of travel, I’ve been taking in the sites on my various walking routes. I thought I’d share with you some of the delights – old and new – that have come my way.

This little guy has been around for many years. My beagle used to protect me from him, until he (Pips the beagle) decided the cub presented no threat.

I found this little planter at Goodwill for $1.50. Decided a Sempervivum tectorum would fit it nicely. In the background is Astrantia major, masterwort.

This pretty much sums up summer so far.

As does my rose. I only grow species roses (and just a few) because they’re so easy to care for.

Baptisia australis. One of my favorite prairie plants (my garden).

A wild blast of color on my walking route. (Helianthemum nummularium)

Along a shady sidewalk, this gardener has planted native iris. Not sure which one but my guess is Iris douglasiana.

My Rhododendron alabamense. I grow this gorgeous azalea in a container in order to give it the large amount of water it needs. Worth all the work, in my opinion.

I hope your summer so far is just as you desire. And I wish for you blue skies, easy walks, and well-behaved wildlife.

Cowiche Canyon Trails, Yakima

Part 2 of our Yakima Summer brought us to the Cowiche Canyon trail system, maintained by Cowiche Canyon Conservancy and the BLM. In dry, windy heat we came to see the immense and unique beauty of this shrub-steppe landscape. Arid, sparse, rocky, rugged and at times disorienting – with over 30 miles of hiking trails through landscapes as varied as meadows, oak woods, and bone-dry basalt cliffs – this is 5,000 acres of truly wild beauty.

Due to the heat (and how I respond to it), we barely touched the tip of the Canyon, but what we saw was stunning. We walked along Cowiche Creek a short way. Lined with sparse, twisted willows (Salix sp.) and red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea), the sound of the creek harmonized with bird song, insect buzzing, and dry leaves moving in the wind. We crossed a small wooden bridge and the trail turned, leaving the creek behind. Before us rose sharp rocky cliffs accompanied by some of the thirstiest plant life I’ve seen since hiking Canyon de Chelly (Arizona) years ago. But life thrives here in the Canyon: black bear, cougar, coyotes, rattlesnakes and a wide variety of birds. And the variety of plant life is astounding. At this time, the University of Washington is attempting to introduce a very rare plant (found only in one place on Earth) to the Canyon – the Umtanum Desert Buckwheat, Eriogonum codium. A small population of this plant was found in 1995 in the Hanford Reach National Monument region. Because this area is so prone to wildfire, and habitat destruction by human activity, the desert buckwheat (also known as the basalt desert buckwheat) is experiencing population decline at an alarming rate. Therefore, the University of Washington’s goal is to develop of population of this plant in the Cowiche Canyon where the plant can be protected.

As I mentioned, we barely touched the surface of this wild, beautiful region of Washington state. This autumn we plan to return and hike most, if not all of, the trails. But in the meantime, these few pictures will give you an idea of what this landscape has to offer.

At the trailhead.

Surprisingly green at the trailhead.

Cowiche Creek

Leaving the creek area and entering the Canyon.

I believe these trees are black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa) but I didn’t get close enough to confirm.

I was getting lightheaded from the heat so this picture is blurry, but I think this plant is desert parsley (Lomatium dissectum).

Ahead of us, the green faded into beiges, grays, and browns. And at this point, we turned back. For more information about the Cowiche Canyon area, the site below offers good information:

I hope you will have the time to visit this most unique and wild area. And in the meantime, I wish you clear skies, cool water, and time enough to enjoy it all.

The Cookie Journal, Part 2

This morning was beautiful – an overcast thin and pale, a breeze slight and easy, warmth from the east countering cool from the west, and streets quiet and empty. Beautiful PNW morning. On early mornings such as this when I am between projects and work and chores, walking is even more appreciated than at most other times. When I encounter no one else on the roads my mind wanders to previous walks or hikes. As I passed a large, healthy stand of sedum in a hefty rockery, my mind wandered back to our first hiking trip to Canyon de Chelly. Heat surrounded us like the reflected images from mirrors front and behind – infinite shimmering heat. And dust. Duct as prevalent as rock in the canyon. I remembered that sweat evaporated as soon as it appeared. Our packs, soaked with sweat, dried as soon as we took them off our backs. Instant desiccation. And beauty. Stunning, surprising beauty. Surprising to see shots of green in such a brown/red/orange world. And then I came upon a blast of color that shocked me out of the desert and into a beautiful garden.

I found myself walking into a high-end neighborhood – north and west of my neighborhood by a couple of miles. Homes of manicured lawns, perfectly pruned old shrubs, gates locked at the driveways, and large homes with expansive views of Puget Sound. Not like my street which is filled with unique and original landscapes – few of them manicured (thank goodness). It reminded me of our long walks in England a few years ago. Soon, I passed a meditating frog which took my thoughts to Japan and the countless small shrines we passed as we walked along city streets.

Nice way to start a day.

Three miles out, my stomach growled. But that garden in the block ahead called me forward with a blast of golden yellow, and I walked on.

I don’t know the name of this rose, but it is stunning.

Time to cross the street and head back home. I thought about our next small trip coming up and the chores I need to finish before we leave. By this time, I was getting hungry. A peanut butter cookie came to mind. I thought about the coffee shop a few blocks east of my street and decided to head there. On the way, I passed one of the lovelier examples of color contrast on this street. I look forward to this garden when I take this route.

Salal and Persicaria share space.

As I turned up the street towards the coffee shop, rabbits appeared. We have many in our area these days, but these two are better behaved than most.

Soon enough I entered the coffee shop. A long line of customers (it was 9:30am after all), and this time I didn’t see cookies. My turn at the counter finally arrived, and as I ordered my coffee I asked if there were any cookies. “Yep, we have one peanut butter cookie left.” It was meant to be!

I wish you good walks, happy memories, and a treat to sweeten the road.

Yakima Area Arboretum Garden Tour

A few more pictures from a thoroughly enjoyable garden tour, sponsored by the Arboretum. A wide range of garden styles, sizes and ages were represented. One garden, in particular, filled a luxurious five acres with beds of full sun to full shade perennials, on slopes and flat areas, two very large ponds, and a unique tree house. Another garden filled almost two acres with roses, clematis, anemone, and “annual” geraniums almost six feet in height (over-wintered in an ample greenhouse).

This garden tour is held yearly in June – missing the past 2 years due to Covid – and is a beloved and well-attended event. We plan to attend again next year, and I hope you will, as well.

Owner-built tree house.

Largest Sambucus nigra, Black lace, I’ve ever seen.

This is the only variegated Ginkgo I’ve seen. Didn’t know this plant existed.

A spectacular tri-color Beech, Fagus sylvatica.

Wishing you good gardening, fine weather, and enjoyment in all you do.

A Treasure of Trees

Yakima, Washington, is home to an exceptional and surprising treasure – the Yakima Area Arboretum. I first learned of this beautiful and educational arboretum in 1976 from a co-worker, with my first visit coming in early 1977. Having only experienced arboretums in Seattle, Oregon and western Canada before this, I admit that I was a little underwhelmed at the small stature of many of the trees. Young trees, to be sure. But over the years as Bill and I have visited the arboretum (and become members), we are continually surprised and impressed with its growth, both in stature and in variety.

Home to a fantastic collection of oaks, nut-bearing trees, and stunning maples, you will find that almost all specimens are labeled, and planted with enough space to fully stretch out their canopy. The arboretum fills 46 acres with maintained lawns, perennial beds of both native and introduced plants, a Japanese-style garden, rose garden, large pond, as well as offering spaces of deep shade and full sun. The Yakima River trail (Yakima Greenway) will take you to the arboretum if you want a long, scenic walk but also offers a good-sized parking lot for those arriving by vehicle. Bill and I took the Greenway trail from our hotel to the arboretum and spent a memorable 3+ hours on a warm Sunday morning visiting as much of the grounds as time allowed. A truly memorable way to start a day.

Below are a few pictures of this quiet, lovely place. I hope you will be inspired to visit this large, welcoming arboretum.

Nice gift shop in the visitor’s center.
Fossilized ginkgo with sedum.
Into the Japanese garden.
Fed by a small waterfall.
In one of the perennial gardens.
Path into the Oak grove.
I love this bark.
Bill examining leaves.
Pinyon Pine! Really!
And its cones.
Proximity to the Yakima River supports this willow.
An expanse of beauty.
And homes for birds.
Ginkgo biloba.

Wishing you sunny days, deep shade, and time enough to enjoy it all.

Canyon Road, Yakima, WA

It’s been a while since I posted an article. Spring is overly busy here – including fighting allergies and building energy – and time to write sometimes needs to be put aside. In addition, recently we took a long weekend to the town where Bill and I met. In Yakima (central Washington) we met many years ago while attending college, and began our careers in healthcare. The hospital I worked in is long closed but the hospital Bill worked in remains, and has expanded in space, facilities, and offerings.

The drive from Seattle to Yakima can be a routine freeway affair with not much out of the ordinary to see. However, there is an 25 mile-long optional route between Ellensburg and Yakima that, in my opinion, offers some of the most beautiful scenery in the state of Washington. The Yakima River Canyon Road (mostly just called Canyon Road) cuts through a basalt landscape that offers cliffs up to 2,000 feet in height, rolling desert hills, magnificent Ponderosa Pines, and a sparse covering of rare native plants. The occasional Philadelphus, Sambucus and lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus, I think) share ample space with sagebrush and grasses. Wildlife includes hawks, eagles, osprey, falcons, beavers, and many other animals. We have taken this road many times and see something new each time. This road does not allow trucks, and those who drive this two-lane, twisting route are free to travel slowly to take in the surroundings or to pull off the road when space allows to take in this breath-taking, unique beauty.

Below are a few pictures that, I hope, will give you an idea of what this immense and ancient landscape offers.

When the clouds part, brilliant blue sky appears.
I walked up a hill a short way. Dry, dry, dry!
Cloud shadows on the hills.

To learn more about the Canyon Road, visit this link:

Wishing you safe travels, blue skies, and air conditioning!

Who are we?

Who are we? Have we changed since the last mass shooting? Are we different from the last time we heard someone insult, belittle, or mock another? Have we been changed since the last child was murdered – by gun, by neglect, by stranger or parent or relative? Since the last bystander was murdered? Have we grown kinder, colder, more compassionate or more distant? Have our hearts been broken so many times that healing is impossible? Have our hearts grown numb? Or, were they always numb?

Who are we? So many words spoken that say, ultimately, the same thing. Over and over, again and again – the same thing. Who are we to allow children to be murdered? To allow innocent people to be murdered? In a school. In a church. In a grocery store. In a parking lot. On a playground. Who are we?

Who are we to allow anyone who wants one – anyone! – to own an assault rifle? Why? Who are we to allow this country to have more guns than people? A country with more guns than people. More guns than human beings.

Maybe a better question is this: what are we?

South Sound Prairies, Western Washington Grasslands

A small area in Thurston County, western Washington, contains a treasure – a native grassland prairie. This region, maintained by many volunteers and the Center for Natural Lands Management, is being meticulously restored through prescribed burnings, planting native plants, weeding, and careful soil management. And, it is open to visitors one day each year. (A short distance away is the Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve – another beautiful prairie landscape, open year-round.)

This year all things came together for us to visit this unique part of Washington state. The following pictures will give you an idea of the immense natural beauty – and importance – of a prairie landscape. To learn more about this area and the work being done to restore prairie lands, use this site:

Castilleja levisecta, Golden Paintbrush. A very rare prairie plant that we were lucky to see.
Camassia quamash as far as the eye can see. The landscape consists of mounds.
Desert parsley, Lomatium utriculatum

Correction: this is Collinsia parviflora
Balsam root or Arrowleaf, Balsamorhiza sagittata
A very blurry Fritillaria affinis, Chocolate lily. And a very windy day!
Cladina mitia, Costal reindeer lichen
The cause of the mounds is unknown, but at this time scientists are certain that the mounds were not caused by glacial action – or giant, prehistoric gophers.
Viola sempervirens
The last of Dodecatheon pulchellum for the season. This bulb blooms early in spring. We were lucky to see it.
The prairie in all its beauty.

I hope that these pictures spike your interest in learning about our vanishing, rare, and valuable American prairies. Be sure to click on the link I provided above for additional information, and a short video provided by the Center for Natural Lands Management.

And, as always, I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Walking Towards

So this is what it means: no time like the present – do it now before you change your mind – if you stand still you’ll freeze – no time to waste. There is wisdom in each saying far beyond the obvious; available to anyone willing to think for more than a moment. Of course we know that “everything changes”; after all, change defines life on this planet, and I assume it defines all life no matter where it is found. Change for good or ill, for progress or regress, enjoyable or unpleasant. Walk towards change and savor all it brings – no matter how difficult.

These thoughts came to me as I ventured out for a long walk the other day. A beautiful (though chilly) spring morning was a good time for considering options. Very few people out, although I did encounter a friend/fellow walker and we talked for a few minutes; otherwise, a quiet time good for thinking.

And this is what I saw:

Magnolia – M. soulangeana, I think.
New tulips coming on as the old fade.
Aubrieta, Rock Cress. I love this blast of color.
Cornus florida
Magnolia grandiflora – one of the most beautiful trees on my walking route.
A young little Pinus mugo
Coming out of hibernation – the dinosaurs of summer are waking up!

No matter what comes your way, keep moving forward. After all, there is something beautiful in every moment – sometimes it just takes time to find it.