Sleepless at the Hotel California

Light at darkest night leaking around my California hotel room’s door

And still those voices are calling from far away, wake you up in the middle of the night …

I awoke at 4:30 am, and there were voices down the corridor, I thought I heard them say “Welcome to the Hotel California.”  Such a lovely place, with plenty of room any time of year.

Here I am in San Francisco, with random lines from my favorite Eagles song running through my head, as I struggle to understand a place where ordinary houses go for a cool million dollars even in a deep recession and people often seem trapped by lives of ostentatious excess (Her mind is tiffany-twisted, she got the mercedes bends …).  At least my room doesn’t have mirrors on the ceiling or pink champagne on ice … But the beautiful city is looking tired these days, as if all the partying has caught up with her.  I guess it’s time for a California-style facelift to go with the great tan, but hey, the money is running out fast.

In my nightmare, I tried to check out, but the night manager said “You can check out any time you like but you can never leave.”  Last thing I remember I was running for the door.  I had to find the passage back to the place I was before.

Thank you, Eagles, for all those great lyrics from the late 1970s and the indelible images they left.  Images of excess in California that are even more relevant today, in the Great Recession, when the great state of California has a heavy hangover from decades of excess, when the people wanted everything, but only wanted to pay on credit.  The bill has come due in this place that could be heaven or hell. Such a lovely place, such a lovely face …

My dream wouldn’t let go, so I got up and took a picture toward the door, then drifted back to sleep as my head grew heavy and my sight grew dim.


Thank you Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and Don Felder for those wonderful words and tune (lyrics incorporated into my story above are in italics).

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Magnolia ‘Caerhays Belle’

Spring continues in the Puget Sound region, with wave after wave of blooming flowers coloring the warming days.  Lately, the wind-pollinated tree flowers of alder are spreading their evil fairy dust over the region, causing congestion in me and many others.  At night, the Pacific Treefrogs tweet from the wetlands across our lake, sending brief messages of love using the broadband of damp air.  Indian Plum and the gorgeous Red-flowering Current are the natives now blooming on our property.  The first pair of Wood Ducks in love showed up for their rite of spring today, and in a couple of months we should see their babies jumping from a nest box along the lake.

Home is where my heart is, but Seattle’s Washington Park Arboretum is where most of the flowers are, so I journeyed there on a recent warm spring day.  I’ll let the pictures speak for the plants, but I should say that this was the day of the magnolias for me, with magnolia buds and blossoms and fallen petals creating a beautiful backdrop of pink so achingly lovely that it almost made me question my masculinity.  But not quite.

Fallen Camellia Petals

A rustic staircase ascends a ferny hill

Fallen Pink Magnolia blossoms, Magnolia mollicomata X M. Campbellii

Magnolia ‘Caerhays Belle’

Magnolia ‘Caerhays Belle’

Fallen petal of Pink Magnolia (Magnolia mollicomata X M. Campbellii)

Magnolia Flower Bud (variety unknown)

Lookout Gazebo at the Washington Park Arboretum

Looking out of the Lookout Gazebo

Bark of Paperbark Cherry, Prunus serrula

Emerging fern fiddleheads

Burls on an ancient tree

Redwood Sorrel, Oxalis oregana

Opening leaf buds of Tibetan Peony, Paeonia lutea var. ludlowii

And now for a special surprise:  an orange traffic cone reflected in wet pavement within the Washington Park Arboretum

Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’

Magnolia ‘Raspberry Ice’ flower bud

Fern Fiddlehead

Indian Plum, Oemieria cerasiformis, a native shrub of the Pacific Coast

Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick with Royal Star Magnolia

Skeletal remains of a leaf of Pink Magnolia (Magnolia mollicomata X M. Campbellii)

Lenten Rose, Helleborus x hybridus

Cherry blossoms and buds

Graceful shapes in the bark of Snow Gum, Eucalyptus pauciflora, an Australian native

Camellia (Camellia sp.) blooming

For more information about Seattle’s Washington Park Arboretum, go to: I also have an earlier story about the Arboretum at

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LAKE CRESCENT: Reflecting Olympic Storms

A rainbow illuminates cottages along the northwest end of Lake Crescent

Winter storms batter the Olympic Peninsula, lashing the mountains and lowlands with high winds, snow, and heavy rains.  Aside from the Pacific Coastal strip of Olympic National Park, my favorite place to view these storms is Lake Crescent, a deep body of water located on the north side of the Olympic Peninsula, and contained within the national park.  Lake Crescent is really deep.  Though the maximum depth has never been accurately measured, when cables were being laid across it, the depth appeared to be over 1,000 feet.

The days I most enjoy visiting Lake Crescent are when it is still, with clearing clouds from the last storm and waiting for the next storm.  Late in the day, when the atmosphere takes on a twilight blue color, the place possesses magic.

These photographs are from two winter trips to Lake Crescent, separated by 18 years.

Still waters, a photograph I took at the Lake Crescent Lodge circa 1992

A rainbow behind Red Alder branches and catkins along Lake Crescent

Dramatic and intense rainbow

Tattered clouds at twilight hang over the mountains around Lake Crescent

Rainbow’s End

The flanks of Mount Storm King with some namesake clouds

The same area where, earlier in the day, I photographed the rainbow

Looking down the lake to the end of the rainbow

Red Alder branches and raindrops, with rainbow behind

For more information about Olympic National Park, go to:

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SOL DUC: A Green and Dripping Place

Moss-covered Bigleaf Maple in the Sol Duc Valley

Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, where I live, is a moist and enchanted place where plants grow with vigor and frequent strangeness.  Looking into the forest from the windows of my study, I see a Bigleaf Maple trunk covered with creeping bright green moss, and with Licorice Ferns emerging from the overwhelming moss.  The canopy of Douglas Firs and Western Red Cedars casts a dark and depressing shade from November through February, and bits of lichen and moss blow down onto my mossy lawn whenever a strong wind blasts through the forest.

We decided to drive to an even wetter place in mid-February:  the Sol Duc Valley of Olympic National Park, where there is even more rain than in our little town.  Sol Duc is on the north side of the Olympic Peninsula, and is close to the famous Hoh Rain Forest, which is drenched with over twelve feet of rain in a year–most of it from November through April.  These temperate rain forests are lovely, if you REALLY like rain and have a sunny disposition that can withstand day after day of steady downpours.  Some people have adapted well; such as the loggers and vampires in the remote town of Forks who spend their days outdoors no matter the weather.  I envy their webbed feet … but I like my dry days too much to spend my life in the heart of the rain forest.

Our temperate rain forests catch the wet, low clouds sailing in from the Pacific Ocean.  The Olympic Mountains force the clouds to dump most of their water load on the west side of the Olympic Peninsula, leaving the east side, where I live, with just 65″ or so each year.  Still wet.

Anyway, back to Sol Duc.  This valley is famous for its hot springs, which have their origins in the active geology of the Olympic Mountains, where collision of two of the earth’s plates causes earthquakes and rising mountains and naturally hot water.  Alas, the hot springs are closed in winter.  But we knew that; our destination was Sol Duc Falls, which is a 0.8 mile trail from the end of the road.  It is an easy trail, with some gentle ups and downs, and the falls at the end are spectacular and thundering after a week of winter rains.

What struck me, and what I concentrated on photographing, was the mosses and lichens and green plants draping rocks and tree trunks.  I felt that if I stood still too long, my skin would take on a green cast and I would have moss growing out of my ears and nostrils (picture that, if you will!).  I was reading a novel just before this hike, in which a band of hikers encounters a conscious, hungry vine in the jungles of Mexico.  If you have a vivid imagination, and want to think forever differently about plants, read The Ruins, by Scott Smith.  Then take a hike on the Olympic Peninsula and pray that you’ll come out of the rain forest alive!

A Western Hemlock with a humanoid form clasps an elder hemlock

Sword Ferns arc spiderlike over the forest floor

Oregon Lungwort (Lobaria oregana), a strange and large lichen

Tall conifers in the fog, with young Western Hemlocks

The trees reach high for the sky in this wet landscape

Moss dripping from a Vine Maple

Sol Duc Falls roaring after a winter rain

Licorice Fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza) and mosses on a Bigleaf Maple

A trail shelter built by the CCC toward the end of the Great Depression

Moss covers every limb of a Bigleaf Maple

A rustic log bench waiting for a Hobbit

Moss thrives on the roofs of most buildings on the Olympic Peninsula

A small tributary of the Sol Duc River tumbles through mossy boulders

Sol Duc Falls viewed from a cliff downstream

Mossy Vine Maples twist their way through the forest

More mossy limbs of Bigleaf Maple

Giant trees catch a ray of sunshine through the mist

Sudden inspiration at the end of the day

For more information about Olympic National Park, go to:

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