September is one of our three dry months, averaging about an inch of rainfall, barely more than July or August. With this summer’s drought, alder trees began dropping leaves in August. Daylength is 3-1/2 minutes less each day. Just a few more minutes of this decrease guide migratory songbirds; many will be in Central America by month’s end. Some salmon begin swimming upstream. Sea lions are arriving from California; snowberries are in abundance (but don’t eat them!); blackberries ripen (eat them!); frosts on clear nights in the high Olympics are highlighted by meadows of huckleberry bushes turning red; dragonflies enjoy their back-and-forth sprints in defense of territories; spiders and their webs become especially visible when dew drops sparkle on calm mornings. And look for the nearly all-dark Bald Eagles, hatched this spring, and still learning to hunt; the fortunate ones will survive into a second year. Sorry, but virtually no mushrooms for a month or longer!
It’s a beautiful summer! Although the Natural History Society still isn’t leading outings, we do have some recommendations for places to go that might be new to you. We welcome suggestions for September from our readers!
Enjoy a scenic and historic hike or bike ride along the shores of Lake Crescent. The Spruce Railroad Trail is a good choice regardless of the weather, and dogs on a leash are welcome. See https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/spruce-railroad for directions to the trailhead off Hwy. 101 and East Beach Road.
There is very little elevation change on this trail, and you can easily travel five miles in each direction, if you’d like. Watch for the sign indicating the trail to Devil’s Punchbowl to hug the shore if you prefer the dirt trail instead of the paved trail. Bring your lunch and find a nice spot by the water to enjoy the views that seem more like a fjord than a lake! The trail is open year round.
Here are two hikes recommended by readers:
Clara Mason: Red Flowering Currant on trail to Mt Zion today. Elevation 3740 ft. The only one we saw, it was growing in an open area close to the trail, unshaded by trees. Saw several trilliums, mostly white, one yellow, one purple. Several wild rhodies blooming near trailhead at 2950 ft elev. As we gained altitude there were fewer blooming rhodies, then some had large buds, buds decreasing in size as altitude increased until near the top, 4360 ft rhody buds were very small. Maybe a hike in July/August will have rhody blossoms near the top of Mt Zion.
Sym Sebastian: Elbo Creek Trail #892.1 is a steep and shady 6 mile hike with rhododendron forest and numerous saprophytic plants. With long switch backs the elevation gain is 2,000 ft ascending Buck Mountain. It’s located 5 miles south of Quilcene on U.S. 101. I believe the photo is early growth of Pinesap (Monotropa hypopitys).
Spring means streams run full force and waterfalls show off. Murhut Falls does not disappoint. The trail on a converted logging road runs three quarters of a mile through second growth forests to a hidden ravine where this segmented horsetail plunges 130 feet into Murhut Creek near the confluence with the Duckabush River. The trailhead is 23 miles southwest of Quilcene. Accurate directions are available on Google Maps and hike details are in Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula, by Craig Romano. If you yearn for more, see the Olympic Peninsula Waterfall Trail at www.OlympicPeninsulaWaterfallTrail.com.
Our May newsletter includes a recommendation to try nature journaling. We also encourage everyone to notice the first blooms of Washington’s state flower, the Pacific Rhododendron, this month. Good places to find them are the Quimper Wildlife Corridor, Miller Peninsula State Park, the Lower Big Quilcene River Trail, and the two-mile, 2000-ft. elevation gain of the Mt. Walker trail. If you prefer to drive to the top, when the road is open you can walk from one viewpoint to the other. Please send us your rhododendron photo or sketch for a collage in our June newsletter.
During this pandemic, we have written in our newsletters about the physical and mental health benefits of walking in our forests. Japanese researchers found that connecting with nature through shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and boosts immunity. In Denmark, the Danish concept of friluftsliv, or living in the free air, promotes spending time in nature. Gretchen Daily, a professor of environmental science at Stanford University, says in The Wall Street Journal, “There’s an urgent need emerging in science and at the gut level to increase the nature experience. This field is just exploding.” Rather than taking 10,000 steps daily, perhaps our goal can be enjoying two hours in nature.