Sunday, March 31, 2013

Assateague Island

My parents have been in town visiting, and on learning about the famous ponies on Assateague Island, decided it was something they couldn't miss.  Michael and I have been out there before, but only by bike as part of the Seagull Century, so we hadn't really explored any of it beyond the entrance to the state park.  We spent yesterday out there, doing a bit of walking around, enjoying the beach, and seeing the ponies.  The weather wasn't too cold and it wasn't very windy, which is unusual.  Since it is the off season, the beach wasn't crowded, either.  Of course, it was far too cold to do more than dip a toe in the water, but we had a good time anyway.

Pictures (click to enlarge):
 Michael walking on the beach.
 A large clam shell.  This one was about 6 inches across.
 A bird track in the sand.
 The waves were really small yesterday, probably a result of the lack of wind.
 The boardwalk of the Forest Trail, which leads out to the Bay side of the island.
 Looking out over the bay from the Forest Trail.
 Reflections of trees in a pond on the Forest Trail.
One of the famous ponies.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Signs of Spring: Cherry Blossoms at the National Arboretum

Somehow, in eight years of living here and in spite of being a plant geek, I had never managed to get to the National Arboretum. That is a shame, because, as I discovered yesterday, it is a remarkable place.  The arboretum is located on the Anacostia River, just inside the District of Columbia. They have a large collection of cherry blossom trees, including a number of early varieties currently in full bloom in spite of the cold. A number of other early spring flowers were in bloom as well, including daffodils, hellebores, and crocuses. We mostly had the entire place to ourselves, although as the weather gets warmer, I expect more people visit.  It is definitely worth a trip and admission is free.

Pictures (click to enlarge):
 A flowering apricot.
A very pale pink flowering cherry.  Unfortunately, I didn't write down the varieties of cherry trees that we saw.
 Pretty pale pink cherries.  These are a different variety than the ones above.
A bright pink cherry.
 Hellebore or Lenten Rose
 A Japanese Magnolia blossom.
 Primroses in the Chinese Gardens.
The Capitol Columns.  The U.S. Capitol was renovated and expanded in 1958.  These columns were removed from the building and placed at the National Arboretum.
A little dwarf iris, about five inches tall.
The arboretum includes the National Bonsai Museum, which was definitely a highlight of our visit.  The tree above has been "in training" (shaped) since 1625! 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Snowy Garden Update

My parents are visiting, so we didn't get out for a hike this week. I did get a couple of cold bike rides in.  We also got a lot of work done in the garden.  Saturday was a lot like spring, but today I awoke to snow - more snow than we've had here in a couple of years.  The plants seem mostly unscathed at this point, but I guess spring will have to wait at least a few more days.

Pictures (click to enlarge):

 Daffodils blooming in the back yard.
Dwarf Irises just starting to come up.
 Radishes in the cold frame.  These have doubled in size over the last week.
The spinach in the cold frame is starting to look like spinach.
 Lavender in the herb bed.  These were starts.
 We took advantage of my parents' truck to get paving stones for a patio. Here, Michael is training for another season of carrying things on Old Rag.
 This morning, the daffodils were covered in snow.
 Broccoli sprouts in the snow.
 A mourning dove scavenging under the bird feeder.
A sparrow at the bird feeder.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Snowquester: One Last Snowshoeing Trip to West Virginia

On Wednesday, while the rainy, snowy mess that was the Snowquester in the DC area amounted to very little, it was snowing buckets in West Virginia.  While g-chatting with a friend that afternoon, we decided it would be a crying shame to let that kind of snowfall go to waste.  Within an hour, we had reserved a cabin (with real beds and heat!) and started making serious plans.  Ultimately, we rounded up a total of eight like-minded people for an overnight at Blackwater Falls State Park near Davis, West Virgnia and met at the cabin on Saturday morning.

For all of the times I have parked at Blackwater Falls State Park so I could go backpacking at Canaan Mountain immediately to the south, I had never really explored the park itself.  Four of us set out to explore the rim of the north side of Blackwater Canyon (The rest of the group went to Dolly Sods).  There were about two feet of snow on the ground and it was warm enough to snowshoe in a t-shirt.  We crossed a dam on Pendelton Creek and then left the trail to explore the little canyon formed by the same.  We crawled through and around rhododendrons and hemlocks, getting glimpses of pretty snow-covered waterfalls along the way.  Finally, we reached some cliffs that we couldn't get around, so we made our way back up to the trail.  From there, we followed the trail west to a rocky overlook where we had a great view of Blackwater Canyon.

Saturday night, we checked out the falls which the park is named and we had a proper feast, complete with WanderMindfully's awesome lasagna.  Sunday morning came way too early after a late night of games and especially after the time change.  Everyone else had to be home by a reasonable time, so WanderMindfully and I headed to Timberline Resort and up into Dolly Sods.  It was cloudy and a little chilly when we arrived, so I started snowshoeing in a long-sleeve shirt, which meant I didn't sunscreen on my arms.  I would pay for my oversight since, as soon as we started climbing, I put on a short-sleeve shirt.

We hiked up one of the ski runs into the wilderness and turned north, basically following the route I took after another freak weather event at the beginning of the season.  Like that trip, we found three feet of snow up there. Remarkably, it wasn't windy on this trip, even out on the very edge of the plateau. It was even warmer than on Saturday. We had lunch there looking down on the Canaan Valley, soaking up the sun.  In spite of the snow, the trees have buds on them.  We meandered along the western edge of the wilderness until it was time to return to the car.

This was my third trip into Dolly Sods this winter and I just have to say that it just doesn't get old:  It is such a spectacular place.  Today, I am tired and fairly sunburned, a great price to pay for an amazing trip.  What a way to finish the winter!

Pictures (click to enlarge):
Blackwater Falls at sunset Saturday.
 The trail behind our cabin at Blackwater Falls State Park.
Pendelton Creek below the dam.
Untracked snow on the Pendelton Trace Trail.
 A rhododendron bud.
Boot/Snowshoe Shot over Blackwater Canyon
Melting snow near the overlook of Blackwater Canyon.
Another view of Blackwater Falls.
Fuel for snowshoeing in the form of lasagna.
 The entrance to Dolly Sods.
 Windblown ripples in the snow on the western edge of Dolly Sods.
Buds on trees:  a sure sign that spring will be here soon.
 A massive wind-blown snow drift.  This was taller than me.
 Tracks in the snow.  I think these are bobcat, but they were not especially distinct.
 More tracks in the snow.
 Looking northeast over the northern section of Dolly Sods.
Droplets from melting snow.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Garden: Slowly Growing

I got out for a couple of windy, cold bike rides this weekend, but didn't get any pictures.  We also made some progress in getting the garden ready.  Michael laid out the area and started digging beds.  I planted more seeds.

Pictures (click to enlarge):
 The Cherokee Purple Tomatoes have started to get their secondary leaves.
A Torch Sunflower.
 This is a kale plant that I planted pretty late last fall.  It overwintered fine and is starting to grow again.
We got a couple of blueberry bushes and some raspberry canes, too.  This is a Northland Highbush Blueberry.