Three years ago today: May Valley Trail by Leslie Seaton

 Slug. I am assuming banana.

Not every trip to the woods is a picturesque sylvan ramble. Sometimes one is instead grimly stepping around horseshit, mating slugs and corpse plants. Like this visit three years ago to the May Valley Trail. Preview below, full gallery here. NSFSW. (Not Safe for Slug Work due to graphic nature of some of the slug pictures. Probably safe for human work.) 

May Valley Trail, August 5, 2011

July encounters with flora and fauna by Leslie Seaton

I am about to post another "three years ago today..." post, and felt like I ought to just insert a quick "not three years ago" note just to break it up a little. I'll be posting more in-depth galleries of each of the below, but here are some highlights of the flora and fauna I met in July, including seals, raptors, chimps, a really aggressively affectionate elk, grizzlies (ok the bears were just via second-hand tales), peanut butter trees, berries, bees (of course).

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Three years ago today: Cascade Head Trail by Leslie Seaton

Three years ago today, I was down in Lincoln City, OR, for a weekend planned around a seaweed foraging class. The class was on Sunday, so on Saturday, I decided to do a hike in the area. I lucked out with happening upon this Cascade Head Trail, a very beautiful Nature Conservancy hike.

As I note in the full gallery (click here for that), at that time, I usually specifically avoided hikes with any elevation gain, but this time, I think I forgot to check, and by the time I figured out what was happening, I was already sucked in by the beauty and trudged on. It's really not that much elevation gain, but for me it was a stretch.

This hike was perhaps the beginning of my Slug Awareness, and although it was another year and another hike (Bridal Veil Falls) that truly kicked off a desire to challenge myself more with hikes with elevation gains, I still look back at this as yet another turning point in my relationship with the outdoors. 

It was also the first in what has become an accidental annual tradition of doing a view hike on or near my birthday. Last year, once I realized I'd done a view hike for three years in a row, I decided this will be a new tradition, the Getting Up There Annual Birthday Hike. This week, it's my birthday again, and I've got a couple hikes planned Thursday and Friday of this week, and I'll report back on that trudging later.

Click here for the full gallery.

Three years ago today: Bridle Trails Park Nature Photography Class by Leslie Seaton

Located in the Bellevue/Kirkland area, Bridle Trails State Park is big: almost 500 acres and with 28 miles of horse and hiking trails. State parks have taken a major hit financially in recent years, and a local group, the Bridle Trails Foundation, was established by some local interested citizens to help maintain this area as a public space.

As a bonus, the group puts on a lot of community activities. My very first mushroom walk in 2009 was a free one they offered, and then in July of 2011, I headed back for this free nature photography class taught by Andy Held. The class was helpful to me, as even after having my DSLR for a over a year, as I had by this point, I was still really rusty from my years away from photography. Also Jim Erckmann, who had taught my mushroom class and often leads the park nature/botany walks, was there to help me identify some plants that were new-to-me at the time. A twofer. Preview gallery below and full gallery with captions here

Check out the Bridle Trails Foundation site for their upcoming events. In August, they have a presentation on coyotes (with free hot dogs!) and a botany walk. Also keep an eye out for the fall mushroom walks. I will admit I went to a second one with a different teacher that was not as good as the 2009 one listed above, BUT it's free and so as a starting point, I think it's still worth it.

Three years ago today: Berry Picking Class with Langdon Cook by Leslie Seaton

Langdon Cook red huckleberry class on Bainbridge Island. Better Knowing a Berry circa 2011. I had met red huckleberries before this class, but this is when we really got acquainted.

This look back is giving me berry nostalgia. My berrymania burned bright and hot in the past three years but this year I have picked nary a berry. I am torn between wanting to make time for berry picking in coming weeks and NOT wanting to make time to process picked berries. I do enjoy foraging so much, but this year, feeling a bit torn about hobbies that create their own chores (a downside to wild food collection).

Recent developments at the Seaton household (a resurgence of berry-oriented smoothie-drinking) might be now creating some additional motivation for finding time for berries, but I think whatever plans I do make, I might have missed out on the stars of this slideshow: I generally have experienced that late July red hucks are especially wormy (at least from my favorite spot).

One can usually flush MOST of the worms from the fruit (keep them submerged in water until the worms all - shudder - crawl out looking for air, skim the top, discard, shudder more, repeat). But you can't flush the KNOWLEDGE of worms in your berries from your mind as easily so I'm sometimes...reluctant to risk late July red hucks.

But there's always blackberries. And mountain huckleberries. And although I keep ticking them nervously off on my fingers, there are still several (some! not enough!) summer weekends left. So there might be some berrymania, or at least berryenthusiasm to be had.

Click here for the full gallery and to learn more about red hucks and some other local (edible and not edible) berries.