While walking around on the grounds of Bloedel Reserve, we came across these ferns. The shape of most ferns is pretty familiar. These were unlike anything I had seen before. The ends of the ferns split out into multiple mini fronds. They looked like some sort of lace work that people would have created. Maybe this is nothing new to some of you but I was quite taken but the ornamental nature of these fronds compared to what I have seen previously.
The Grand Coulee Dam was one of my planned stops on my trip. I had been interested to see it for a while having read a little about its history. It is a bit of a trek from home so a specific trip was not something I had planned but, since I was going to be only an hour away, I seemed like the perfect time to visit. I drove across from Brewster and the route brought me in over the hills overlooking the town and the dam. Crown Point park is situated up on the hills so I made that my first stop.
The dam is enormous. The problem with structures that large is that it is hard to appreciate their scale. You tend to see them from a distance so you can’t judge them very well. Even so, from up on the hills, you weren’t left in any doubt that this is a big structure. I was the only one up in the park aside from a guy looking to go off-roading but, since it was a Friday in Grand Coulee during a pandemic, maybe that isn’t such a shock.
Dropping down in to the dam takes you on a road that crosses the edge of the structure itself. From the road you get a view across the top of one section of the dam. Then you drop down the hill to the visitors center. A nice park area sits below the dam and this was the spot I chose for my lunch break. Looking up at the two sections of the dam, you really couldn’t get the scale. I felt like Father Ted needed to explain to Dougal about scale (reference for a few people there I’m afraid).
I had seen some images of tour buses (when tours were being run) on top of the arches at the top of the dam. The buses looked small compared to these arches and, from where I was observing, the arches looked tiny. That was the only way I could get some comprehension of the size of things. There was a little water running down the face of the dam but there wasn’t much overflowing at this time of year so no great falls of water to watch. I guess the majority of the water was going through the power generation side of things. The dam is the largest capacity generator in the US!
When things are more normal, there are light shows projected on to the face of the dam. People gather in the park and surrounding areas to watch the light show after dark. I assume this is not happening at the moment. However, the lighting rigs are down on the shoreline in the park. I imagine it might be quite a fun thing to see.
In the parts of Washington where there is heavy tree cover and plenty of rain, you can get some serious growth of moss on the branches of the trees. Go to the rainforest out on the Olympic peninsula and there are plenty of examples of this but even in the hills around Snoqualmie, you can see such trees. The softer light during the winter helps show up the moss well with it almost appearing to glow in the shaded areas.
I saw one tree across the river from us and in direct light and it really stood out from the surrounding trees so I figured a shot had to be taken. On our side of the river there was plenty of moss too so here you have a single tree and then some close ups of other trees to show just how the moss dominates the trees. Of course, it isn’t very dense so doesn’t overwhelm the tree but it really makes the structure seem much beefier!
The Dearborn factory required a large power generation facility and, in days gone by, this was provided by a large steam engine driving generators. This machine is now nicely preserved. The scale of it is a bit hard to represent. The cylinders are huge and the controls are substantial. You can climb up on top of the whole thing to see how it went together. Surprisingly, this is not a place that was getting too many visitors which meant I was able to nose around in relative peace. It is hard to imagine what it would have been like when this enormous piece of engineering was in use and was generating the power for the plant. Now it is idle but it still looks imposing.
Some plants bloom frequently. Others bloom once a year. What is slightly more unusual is a plant that only blooms once every 7-10 years. The Titan Arum is one such plant and an example lives in the Amazon Spheres in Seattle. Purely by coincidence, we happened to visit the Spheres when it was blooming. We had actually missed the peak opening by a day and it was starting to close up again. It had also had a hole cut into the side to allow pollination artificially. But this was a small price to pay for seeing something so unusual.
One feature the plant is known for is a smell of rotting flesh when it is blooming. This is supposed to attract insects that then assist with pollination. There was a bit of an odor but, to be honest, I wasn’t conscious of it being too bad. Maybe there is a peak period of stinkiness and we missed it or maybe the story has been slightly overblown. Either way, it was very lucky that we happened to be there during the blooming process and now we might have to wait a few years before it happens again.
I thought tulips came in one shape. I was wrong. Walking around the gardens at RoozenGaarde in Mt Vernon, I got to see so many varieties of tulip and I was amazed at the different shapes and sizes. Color varieties was something I expected but I didn’t realize just how large some blooms were and I was even more surprised at some plants that, had I not been told that they were tulips, I would never have known. Fringing of the petals, curvatures that were totally different to the norm and all sorts of variations in between were eye opening. I guess tulips are a complex subject!
Rain forest conditions do tend to mean lots of moisture in the air. That much moisture means perfect conditions for the growth of lichen. The lichen do a great job of collecting the moisture from the air to keep them well watered. The way the water drops form on the surface of the plant can be really interesting. Just a small vibration would send them dropping to the plant life below but, for now, they were safe.
The Botanic Garden in Balboa Park is apparently one of the most popular visitor locations in the city. It isn’t hard to see why since it is densely packed with all manner of vegetation, much of which is beautiful to look at. From tiny plants and delicate orchids to great ferns and palms, there is plenty for the visitor to see. And, there are plenty of visitors! The place has never been quiet whenever I have been there and this visit was certainly no exception.
Not only is it a popular place for people, the local wildlife also seems to like what it has to offer. Birds are flying around at the entrance all the time. I also saw a pretty cool looking caterpillar on a plant just outside the door. I don’t know whether it considered the plant life inside to be tastier and couldn’t get in or whether it was happy munching on what it had. It certainly seemed to be well fed, though.
The garden is not huge so, with everyone squeezed in, it feels pretty busy. Some people are looking at everything, others seem to be just enjoying the overall ambience. For many of the children it seemed to be a chance to see how many of the signs they could ignore by standing on things that weren’t to be stood on or touching things that were not supposed to be touched! I enjoyed the shape and style of the building as much as the plants. It calls out for playing with either a really wide angle lens or a longer lens to compress features. I had to make do with what I had with me.
We took a trip to the University of California Botanic Gardens at Berkeley to see what the collection included. I will share a bit more about the place in due course but one early stop was in a glasshouse that had a collection of carnivorous plants. They had the obvious Venus fly traps but they had far more of the pitcher plants. Some were in cases but there were a few out in the open and close to your head. I think these things are fascinating plants and they look rather cool. Maybe you won’t agree but here are some for you to judge.