Tuesday, February 23, 2010

North Creek Park Exploration

Annika on the boardwalk at North Creek Park

We've had a run of sunny weather, which is normal for this time of year, and I always need the sunshine to combat the cabin fever that sets in this month. I looked through one of my hiking books yesterday to see if there was anywhere new I could go with the kids. We've been wanting to see birds, and I had a wetland in mind, so I found a park just 20 minutes from my home that I hadn't explored yet. We arrived at North Creek Park in the mid-afternoon, so the birds were quiet except for a few red-winged blackbirds and marsh wrens. We read a bit about the history of the park on an interpretive sign at the overlook at the beginning of the trail. Then we headed down the gentle hill. A duck squawked at us from a cattail-hidden pond. Otherwise the only sounds were the wind in the dry canary reed grasses.

Shaggy cattails from last summer look a little worse for wear.

The trail through the wetland at North Creek Park is entirely on boardwalk. The walk floats on the water for parts of it, and during the wet season the water seeps through the cracks between the boards. Expect to get your sneakers wet if you go, or wear waterproof footwear. The trail is only about a half-mile long to the end, so even young children can make this trek. My kids' favorite part was finding clumps of frog eggs in the water.

Frog eggs attached to a stem under water.

They delighted in touching their fingers gently to the blobs of jelly, and keeping their eyes open to try to find more hiding under the vibrant green duckweed.

Annika got brave and touched the egg clumps.

We didn't walk the entire length of the trail, since we came upon more water than we were prepared for.

Water covers parts of the boardwalk, making it all more interesting.

We made our way back to the start, and the kids spent the rest of the afternoon playing on the fun and innovative playground equipment. There are also picnic tables and a porta-potty onsite. I recommend this park for an interesting walk. I know we'll definitely be back!

My two happy munchkins.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fragrance and Greenery

{I wrote this post two weeks ago, in the evening after we went to the Flower and Garden Show}

Each year in Seattle, organizers put on a most incredible feast for the senses - The Northwest Flower and Garden Show. Several times I have enjoyed this event with my mom, and once with my mother-in-law. It would be a girls' day out, leaving the kids at home with Daddy. But this year the moms couldn't come, and I thought Gabriel was old enough to enjoy it now. I couldn't very well leave Annika at home, so I surprised them this morning with the news that we would be going there for our field trip day today. We took the bus downtown (the SLOW bus, with the "colorful" Bus People), got our tickets, and rode up the four stories of escalators to enter the main event area. Immediately, the fragrance of multitudes of blooms filled the air, heavy and almost dripping.

We viewed the fabulous display gardens, visited the children's area, spent some time in the butterfly house, and enjoyed "window shopping" at all the booths. We came home with 2 lavender plants and some air plants for the kids. I was surprised that Gabriel was more interested in buying house plants than garden plants. There weren't really any house plant booths, which was just as well.

I'll leave you with a number of photos from the day.

Gabriel was taken with this garden full of orchids.

This was a rooftop garden, a living roof complete with solar panels for the display house.

I thought these colorful rocks were a nice addition to one of the display gardens.

A fun little spiral adding color to the garden.

This dinosaur themed garden had castings of dinosaur footprints among the prehistoric plants. Such a fun idea!

The kids got to plant some pea seeds at one of the kids' booths.

We spent about a half an hour in the butterfly exhibit. Gabriel had five or six on his hand by the end. The kids were so sweet and gentle with the butterflies.

We got to observe the butterflies feeding up close.

When we walked through this display, Gabriel commented that he felt like he was in a dream. I thought that was a pretty good compliment to the designers.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Spring Already?

January begins the year dark and damp in our neck of the woods. The lights of Christmas come down, the decorations get put away, and I breathe a sigh of relief that we made it through another holiday season. January is a time of resting, catching our breath, and dreaming of the year to come.

This year has been unusually mild, though, and it seems that spring is just around the corner.

The helebores in the front yard have a large clump of blooms.

Violets are appearing out back, underneath the clematis bush that is sprouting out already. I find myself at once cheered by the hope of spring and brighter days, and yet also resisting the change. Is winter really almost over? I was just getting used to it. The earth just keeps spinning, moving faster and faster in its orbit. At least, that's how it seems to me. Maybe I'm just getting old.

A few weeks ago we had a warm day for January, and took a drive up along the Skagit. In many years the bald eagles come down in the winter months to feast on the salmon that are spawning in local waterways, and to get a break from icier climes up north. This year the migration peaked in December, but we still were able to see a few eagles during the day, and the kids learned about the connection between eagles and salmon.

Just as important, we were able to get some fresh air and have a break from the confines of the house. Sometimes you just need a change of scenery to revitalize the mind.