Journal archives for April 2013

April 25, 2013

Up the Big Coast

Got a chance to travel a bit along the N. American coast this spring: a fine perspective on our occidental world. Now I'm in Anacortes where it's their first fine weather and the earliest flush of spring. My first stop was a month ago in La Paz.
Down there I'd heard of earlier drenching rains. We missed the full desert efflorescence; but it was still very fine in the first real heat. We'd come for a whale cruise--which exceeded expectations-- but stopped at Santa Catalina, Isle de Spiritu Santo and all along Isla Magdelena on the Pacific side; everywhere with local naturalists in tow.
Then , last week I drove up 101 from Sonoma county north and along most of the Oregon coast before cutting in to Eugene to Portland and up to Anacortes. The last leg was to take the charming toonerville Guemes Ferry with bikes to tour that mossy island. While the locals talk of drought here, the Mexicans would be puzzled to hear it.

One main unifying theme of my trip is how uniform the urban weeds are between here and the Tropic of Cancer. Burclover, Plantain, Dandelions and various gerania dominate everywhere people gather in numbers. A nice surprise: the remarkable lushness of the english daisies and dandelions of the Northwest. A first glance, you think them separate species. As I write, the dandelions of Anacortes are strewn across the shaggy lawns like the very dreams of avarice... Naturally, the ranks of the more fastidious householders are beavering away by any means necessary to extirpate them. Here and there they achieve a limited success.

Down in Baja I saw hundreds of wild species too, and was able to post a few score. I could barely keep up with the naturalists accounts of how virtually every blooming plant had some essential medicinal or culinary virtue. While sadly a skeptic about the worth of some of those claims, I'm deeply impressed with the focus inhabitants of those badlands developed in their simpler world. Nothing there without a purpose and use.
Driving up into Mendicino the next month, I could feel at one the seasons clock turned back a few ticks. Grasses were just seeding, vetches were brilliant, and lupines were at their peak. All these fading now in Sonoma.
Veering to the coast, this is even more striking; and you're also moving north of the typical California zone to a distinctly new community. I've spent a bit of time between Big Sur to the Russian River; and here I found far too many new forms to document.
Portland now is almost oppressive with gorgeous bloom. Fruit Trees, Rhododendrons, Azaleas and Dogwood in all it's charming varieties. Up there--unlike in California--people put in cultivars of ornamental plants much more congenial to the climate. Many of these(like the Rhodies and Dogwood) are similar to wild relatives found in the woods. Thus, every plebeian block has ungroomed displays not achieved for love or money in San Francisco--let alone LA. Worth a special trip.

I'm going to have to leave Anacortes in a day or so, sadly without seeing it's full spring. Always keen for butterflies, I've had to be content with cabbage whites and a few Mourning Cloaks revived at high noon by the thin sunshine. Maybe I saw a crescent... So here's my main compensation: the lepidoptera of Sonoma are wonderful now, and improving every day.

Posted on April 25, 2013 00:10 by icosahedron icosahedron | 0 comments | Leave a comment