Tuesday, 15 August 2017

 Sea Lavender (Limonium vulgare) blooms along the salt marsh coast of north Norfolk in August. I took a walk along the coast path on Sunday from Stiffkey to Blakeney then on to Cley and saw plenty of it.
 It's an eye opener to visit a far off place like Oregon but we have some remarkable landscapes here in the UK. This shoreline is one of those areas where the high tide rolls out for miles revealing a landscape of marshes, mudflats and creeks. The horizon is a long way off and the marshes stretch into the distance under a big sky.
 Along the way drifts of Sea Lavender cast a blue haze among the tough, tufty grasses.

Monday, 14 August 2017

 Memories of Crater Lake in no particular order. As mentioned in my first entry on the subject (posted 28th. July) when I arrived I discovered the backcountry was still covered in snow after a particularly heavy winter.
 One of my favourite expressions is "Necessity is the mother of invention". I based myself at the Mazama backpackers site for a few nights and considered other possibilities. If not for this I probably wouldn't have hiked along the East Rim Drive which proved to be a classic for both views and wildflowers.
 The East and West Rim Drives form a circular route around the upper elevations of the crater (approximately 8,000 feet above sea level- enough to make the ears pop!). A complete circuit was blocked by snow but I was able to hike the East Rim Drive to Vidae Falls where I connected with a gravel track known as the Greyback Road.
 The East Rim Drive cuts through areas of rockface and shale; I imagine some serious blasting and quarrying would have been required to open parts of this route. As mentioned in my entry posted 1st. August there are many wildflowers that flourish in moist conditions but on this hike there was a varied selection of plants that find their niche in dry, rocky habitats (see below).
 Along the way a number of waterfalls cascaded down from the rocks, the most spectacular being Vidae Falls itself which must be over a hundred feet high. These cascades gave me hope that the snow was melting fast in the heat. Thick snow in July and blazing hot sun are not a combination this Englishman is accustomed to!
 And so it proved: I was able to access the backcountry to the west only a day later but I am very glad I was obliged to take this detour to the east.


Saturday, 12 August 2017

 Sifting through these memories of my trip to the States is proving to be an enjoyable postscript to my time there. Then again it's been nice to step out into the garden after a few weeks away.
 The back garden is very green but heavily shaded with surrounding trees by this time of year. Shade tolerant plants are largely spring flowering woodlanders but a few do their thing around now in spots where they get a bit of sun. Often as not these are plants that are native to other parts of the world that gardeners have sought out over the centuries to provide some colour as other plants start to wane.
 "Firetail" is a cultivar of Persicaria amplexicaulis and it is indeed a fiery crimson. In front of it the pink flowered Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) pops up cheerfully. Rubbing the leaves together does in fact produce a soapy froth, still used by the National Trust for cleaning tapestries.
 Fiery too the orange flowers of Montbretia (Crocosmia crocosimiflora), a bulbous plant that loves to multiply whether you want it too or not.
 The yellow flowers of Wild Rocket (Diplotaxix tenifolia) going to seed are beautiful in an untidy sort of way and big bumblebees love the small white or lilac flowers of Calementha nepata.
 The tall spires of the Chimney Bellflower (Campanula pyramidalis) have blue or in this case white flowers which they bear in great quantity. 
 The vivid red flowers on this variety of Honeysuckle (Lonernica periclymenum) bear out the advice always given as to where this climber should be planted: feet in the shade, head in the sun.
 Runner beans (Phaselous coccineus) were bought to this country in Tudor times as an ornamnetal plant. Later people noticed the beans and pods were good enough to eat! These are a popular old "heirloom" variety Scarlet Emperor.
 Finally, a characteristic sight at this point in the season: tall grasses illuminated by the mellow afternoon sun of late summer.
 And now my mind is wandering back to Oregon which will probably be the subject of my next entry in a day or two...

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

 Mount Shasta and Crater Lake are part of the Cascades, a volcanic region that runs through British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California. I was thrilled when someone pointed out the hazy outline of Mount Shasta on the horizon over a hundred miles away in northern California. This is where my backpack and I travelled to last year (top photo). So I was fascinated to learn that both Shasta and Crater Lake feature in the stories of the Klamath tribes.
 Crater Lake was formed by the eruption and subsequent collapse of the caldera of Mount Mazama around 7,700 years ago. Astoundingly this event is still referred to in the oral history of Native Americans in the area. In this mythology Llao is the Spirit of the Below-World and Skell is the Spirit of the Above-World.
 Llao broke through the earth at Mazama and rained down fire on the local people. Skell took pity on them and descended from the sky where he stood astride Mount Shasta. The two spirits fought a pitched battle hurling molten rocks at one another until Llao was driven back underground.
 Perhaps then this tale remembers not one but two volcanic eruptions? 

Sunday, 6 August 2017

 There are bears around Crater Lake. I didn't see them but they probably saw me. The photo above shows the front paw print of a black bear which I noticed about 30 yards from my tent. Ants make small mounds of loose soil all over the place and the paw made a particularly clear impression by padding down right on top of one such mound. It happened one night when I was asleep though I do seem to remember being woken at some point by movement outside the tent so perhaps that was a nocturnal bear. 
 Fortunately there are no brown (grizzly) bears in this neck of the woods which are far more aggressive. Black bears rarely attack people and are generally very shy of human contact. There is a sensible regulation concerning backcountry camping: pitch the tent in one spot, cook in another spot away from the tent and keep food and scented items in a bear-proof canister away from both.
 A Park Ranger I spoke to last year made an interesting point when he said that if a bear takes your food it can be a death sentence for the bear.  They become addicted to human food and get bolder and bolder in trying to obtain it which may lead to them being put down. The campsite I stayed on the first few nights had a big sign at the front entrance: "There are bears in this campsite". Ironically there was perhaps more risk of encountering an aggressive bear there than when I camped out in the woods.
 Understandably several friends I spoke to were concerned about the risks associated with camping in bear country. I should think it's more dangerous to be in San Francisco (or London) where attacks by humans are quite common; also you have to exercise extreme caution if you encounter motor vehicles in their natural habitat. Statistically speaking my advice is to head out to the backcountry and take your chances with the bears: it's probably safer.
 Actually I did almost get eaten alive- by mosquitoes. For several days after the snow melted they were intense. Basically I had to be moving or in the tent; standing still or sitting in the open was not an option. At least a bear would have eaten me quick...     

Saturday, 5 August 2017

                   To borrow a phrase from William Blake: "Heaven in a Wild Flower".

Thursday, 3 August 2017

 Scenic, spectacular Crater Lake has been the subject of my recent posts below (and there will be some more to come), but I don't want to lose track of scenic, spectacular south London.
 Buddleia (Buddleja davidii) is a shrub that lends a splash of colour to the late summer months in gardens, wasteground and especially along railway lines.
 Introduced as an ornamental from China in the nineteenth century it quickly spread beyond gardens and grows tenaciously all over the place. For that reason it is sometimes regarded as a menace- its vigour and tough root system can be a problem in the wrong spot.
 It has merit though; usefully it's in full flower when other plants are fading towards the end of the season. Sometimes called "The Butterfly Bush" few other plants attract such a variety of butterflies and bumblebees are very keen on it too. I would go so far as to say it is one of several plants that are largely responsible for sustaining butterflies and bumblebees in urban areas like London.
 Also in the front garden a patch of Greek Oregano (Origanum vulgare subsp. hirtum) is looking very pretty at ground level or rather in an old Belfast china sink I lugged back from the local junk shop a few years ago.