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.)
A Look Back
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.
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.
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.
Organizing all my stuff into this website has been satisfying just from the tidiness perspective alone. A place for everything and everything in its place.
But an added bonus has been seeing - through uploading the galleries of various plant walks, classes, and hikes I've been going on for the past several years - how far I've come in learning about wild food and botany.
This is gratifying for its own sake, but also just because I've always been such a flibbertigibbet, I've never actually applied myself to the careful study of any particular subject. I'm more of a fleeting-obsessions kind of person. But for whatever reason, wild food and botany grabbed a hold and I focused enough to well and truly learn something about it.
Anyway, here's a slideshow from 2011, when I was definitely on my way, but still meeting and greeting a lot of new-to-me plants. This Native People & Native Plant Walk from July 3, 2011 was one of the Washington Park Arboretum's free weekend walks, which, by the way, are excellent and, again, FREE! Check out their calendar to see when the next ones are scheduled and what the theme is.
Bonus slideshow from even further back in the archives: another Washington Park Arboretum walk, this one from November 2010, focused on identifying fruits, nuts and seeds with local plant expert Arthur Lee Jacobson. He, too, offers plant identification walks, usually costing about $10.