Three Things Thursday: Northwest Trek

Thanks to Nerd in the Brain for the weekly challenge Three Things Thursday:

three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy

three-things-thursday-badge-new

Trip to Northwest Trek

Earlier this week we took a trip out to Northwest Trek near Eatonville, WA, USA. A facility of Metro Parks Tacoma, Northwest Trek focuses on both flora and fauna native to the Pacific Northwest. Its main feature is a 450-acre free-roaming area, containing meadows, forest, and wetlands, where many non-predatory animals live with only minimal human intervention. Visitors ride trams around the area to view the animals in their natural habitat.

I usually concentrate on the animals, but this time I decided to look at some of the plants as well. Here are three of my favorite things from this visit.

(Click on any photo to see a larger version.)

(1) Salmonberry

(2) Roosevelt Elk Bucks

Elk bucks

Look at these six big guys lounging around. Right now their antlers are growing to make them attractive to the females come mating season. Antlers are covered with a substance called velvet. If you were to touch the antlers now, they would feel like soft velvet rather than the harder substance they will later become. But please don’t touch these growing antlers! They can grow as much as one-half inch per day and are suffused with blood vessels. If you were to touch them, you could feel the animal’s pulse as blood feeds the growing velvet. Because of the large blood supply, even a small tear in the velvet could cause the bull elk to bleed to death. That’s probably why these bulls are content to sit around instead of risking a possibly fatal nick to their antlers.

However, this bromance will end at about the end of July, when hormones begin to surge at the beginning of the rutting season. Then there will be fierce competition among the guys to attract the females. After mating season ends, the antlers will fall off. Then next spring the whole process will start again.

My thanks to my husband, who happened to be on the correct side of the tram, for letting me use this great photo.

(3) Red Elderberry

red elderberry

Red elderberry bushes grow along stream banks, in swampy thickets, in moist clearings, and in open forests. These bushes are common along the coast of the Pacific Northwest. The small red berries are not palatable and can cause nausea when raw. However, the cooked berries were an important food source for native coastal peoples. The berries are still used to make elderberry jelly or elderberry wine.

 

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Hoh Rain Forest

We drove through the rain for the last hour or so of the trip yesterday. Since we had rain for the whole week we were here last year, I expected that the rain would continue, but we awoke this morning to bright sun.

We decided to take advantage of the good weather by visiting nearby Hoh Rain Forest. We had hoped to go last year, but Mother Nature didn’t cooperate. It’s about a 30-mile drive from the lodge to the visitors’ center. (See the map in yesterday’s post.)

(Click on any photo to see a larger version.)

Located 30 miles from the coast on the west side of Olympic National Park, Hoh Rain Forest receives about 140 inches of rainfall annually. Some of the largest trees in the world grow here. Western red cedar and western hemlock grow up to 200 feet tall, while Sitka spruce and Douglas firs can reach 300 feet.

Types of trees in Hoh Rain Forest
Types of trees in Hoh Rain Forest

The rain forest environment is also perfect for ferns:

Ferns love the rain forest
Ferns love the rain forest

We took the trail called the Hall of Mosses. Mosses cover the trees, making trunks and branches look like green fuzz.

The heavy moisture in the air muffles sounds. If you look up, you’re likely to see the tops of the evergreens swaying in a breeze that you neither hear nor feel.

Elk scat
Elk scat

Roosevelt elk live here, where they find a rich food source of all the plants that grow on the forest floor. Elk are especially fond of salmonberry bushes, which they keep trimmed well below their growth potential of 15 feet. We didn’t see any elk, but we did see evidence of their presence: