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Jun 11 2012

Green Invasion

I’m still not used to this. Arizona has plants, yes, and there are times of the year when there are more of them than at other times, but most places don’t get completely overwhelmed. In the Pacific Northwest, it very nearly gets menacing. I remember coming back here from the long Arizona trip we took in 2009, and feeling actually claustrophobic driving down my little road. Green growing shit pressed in on all sides, rather seeming as though it would pounce. It frightened me.

And then winter comes, and it dies back. It’s never really brown here. There’s always a wide selection of evergreens justifying Seattle’s nickname. It really is the Emerald City. But you can sometimes see patches of ground, the woods aren’t impenetrable, and you can walk through a wetland and see further than a foot.

I’ve done North Creek Park twice this year: once in April, and again just yesterday. The difference two months makes is rather astonishing.

For one thing, you can see the boardwalks in April.

Boardwalk in April

Not so much in June.

Boardwalk in June

Stuff’s taller than I am. I hear they cut it back several times a year, and really, they’d have to. Otherwise, people would get lost until November. And yeah, you could probably live on frogs and garter snakes and muskrats, but you couldn’t burn anything, so they’d be all raw.

At least you’d have plenty of water.

Speaking of water, there’s a peat bog pond. It’s quite the little draw, has its own path and everything.

Peat Bog Pond in April

So what happens when you press through the thick grass choking the trail and come to the end in June?

Peat Bog Pond in June

Yeah, well, it’s out there somewhere. One of the folks who was sharing the park with us said they’d cut back the vegetation recently so people could see the pond. The vegetation was not impressed with their efforts.

There are all sorts of streams and ponds in the wetlands. You can see them clearly in April.

Stream along Peat Bog Pond trail in April

By June, only the largest are visible, and even then, not very.

Stream along Peat Bog Pond trail in June

There’s another side trail that goes off to a beaver dam thingy. In April, you can just about see it.

End of Beaver Dam trail in April

In June, Nature says, “Ha ha ha – no.”

End of Beaver Dam trail in June

The vegetation does get vigorous round here.

It’s utterly lovely, though. There are flowers twining through the marsh grasses, and birds singing absolutely everywhere, and the rustle of wind through reeds. In April, things still felt a bit bleh, what with all the patches of dead vegetation. It wasn’t exactly depressing, but it was a bit somber. In June, everything’s bursting with joie de vivre. It’s cheerful and charming, and probably other things beginning with c that lead one to grin madly for no reason.

But there’s another c word associated with the wetlands, and that is: caution. If you’ve got snake phobias, you probably shouldn’t go. We saw two garter snakes on the boardwalks, and considering you can’t see them very far in advance, I imagine it could get a little nerve-wracking for those who don’t like crawly things. Still. Wonderful, wet, wild, and other words beginning with the letter w, snakes aside. Besides, there’s an important p word missing there. Garters aren’t poisonous. So if you’re phobic about snakes, but only the poisonous ones, do not let snakes hold you back.

When the grasses threaten to swallow you completely, just remind them the mower man cometh. Eventually. Have fun looking for Dr. Livingstone in the meantime. He’s probably hidden in there somewhere…

6 comments

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  1. 1
    george.w

    Besides, there’s an important p word missing there. Garters aren’t poisonous. So if you’re phobic about snakes, but only the poisonous ones, do not let snakes hold you back.

    Even rattlesnakes are not really that dangerous. People have seen too many Western movies. You see a four-foot snake, you step back three feet, you’re safe; a rattler can only strike about half its length. Not that you want to go out of your way to get bitten.

    One time I was climbing at Vantage (which unlike Seattle is not verdant) and pulled up over a ledge to find myself looking at a rattlesnake. He was snoozing so I just eased back down and moved sideways to continue my ascent. Panic plus gravity is way more dangerous than a snake.

    1. 1.1
      F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

      Your average person with a gun who thinks they can shoot a rattlesnake is also probably more dangerous than the snake. (Too many movies probably fits in here as well.)

  2. 2
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    One of the folks who was sharing the park with us said they’d cut back the vegetation recently so people could see the pond.

    Because people seeing it is more important than preserving it. (Well, I don’t know how much vegetation was actually cut back, if any, but humans have a history of doing things like building highways through the wilderness just so people could see the wilderness. At 70 mph. So forgive me if I sound harshly over-reactive.)

    The Metroparks in Ohio just started restoring a lot of the natural environments in the park when I was young, which had been drained or otherwise altered significantly for the “enjoyment” of people. Now I can look into a valley from a main road and see bog. More recently (relatively), they also stopped mowing all the fields which had been originally cleared for human use. Removing invasive plants seems to be an ongoing task with plenty of volunteers. Hooray for parks that don’t destroy what they supposedly intend to preserve or make accessible to people.

  3. 3
    Buford

    In the Seattle area, blackberry vines grow 30 feet each year. You can almost see them grow. They are commonly as large as houses where they are not cut back regulary. But, they provide blackberries in large quantities in late summer and early fall- almost everywhere that is isn’t paved.

  4. 4
    Lockwood

    I know, right!? And even with the broad-leaf trees, when the leaves fall off in the winter, it just lets you see all the moss, ferns and other epiphytes growing on the trunks and branches.

  5. 5
    cope

    I suffered the same disconnect, moving from Colorado to Florida. The green can be unrelenting and long-distance drives, even on the interstate, are oppressively green. It’s even worse here given our 0′ to 345′ range of elevation for the WHOLE STATE.

    I eventually learned to accept living in America’s wang by buying into the natural things there are to do here…kayaking (even though it is not always possible to tell which way the water is flowing by looking at it), snorkeling in the multitude of springs, beachcombing and the birds. I can remember how shocked I was to see ibises pecking at this and that along the verge of busy highways.

    We discovered Sanibel Island in the gulf and now go there as often as finances allow. I shoot birds more than any other target, having started with ospreys and shore birds and since moving on to more difficult targets such as roseate spoonbills. I have also photographed dolphins, sea urchins, star fish, a single octopus and all manner of beautiful sunrises/sunsets/storm clouds/water spouts and such.

    However, I still miss the actual change of seasons (noted down here only by which types of pollen are currently affecting the afflicted).

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