Flowers, wildlife abound at Point Bridget meadows

Posted: Sunday, July 06, 2008

When I woke up that morning, it was pouring: raindrops in such a hurry to reach the ground, they ran into each other. The wind lashed the tree branches in a way that seldom happens at my house. What a day for a hike!

But I loaded my pack with lunch and rain gear, pulled on my boots with a big sigh, and caught my ride Out the Road. I didn't want to miss the Department of Parks and Recreation's annual visit to Point Bridget meadows along Cowee Creek. Every year we try to hike this trail when the wildflowers are putting on their show. And this year, the timing was just about perfect.

Furthermore, as so often happens, as we drove out the road, the rain stopped, and the road was almost dry. A baker's dozen hikers set off down the trail. The upper boardwalk is in decent condition, but the forest trail from the bottom of the hill to the major meadow is full of mudholes, broken boards, and missing bridgelets. This part of the trail really needs some work.

The first small meadow showed signs of spring, with a few bog rosemary and bog cranberry blooms beside the boardwalk. An assortment of pesty insects assailed us on the way down through the forest, but this nuisance disappeared as we entered the big meadows and caught a breeze. Here's where the flower show began - and it got better and better as we moved farther into the meadow.

Yellow pond lilies decorated the freshwater sloughs and beaver pond. Shooting stars were mostly passé, but there were still some patches in full bloom. Northern geranium and chocolate lilies peeked through the tall sedges here and there. My top choice, the wild iris, showed off its purple "flags" on every side. Huge white flowering heads of wild parsnip (a.k.a. Indian rhubarb) towered over other plants in some places. And buttercups added swathes of brilliant yellow.

Closer to the tidal slough, tiny sea milkwort was common. Near the top of the gravel beaches were starwort, sandwort, and sea bluebells (or oysterleaf). Aromatic rein (or bog) orchids adorned a grassy point at a turn in the trail.

All through the meadow, bears had left clear evidence of their passage. Narrow partings of the sedges led up into the woods or out toward the creek. The bruins had left numerous scats along the trail and a bear-sized patch of matted-down flowers indicated a cushion for a post-prandial nap. In many spots, we found small pits where bears had dug up roots; in one of these there remained uneaten rice-roots of the chocolate lily. The white bulbs, which look a little like tightly packed clumps of rice, are edible to both bears and humans. Humans, however, usually cook them first.

Lunch at the picnic table on the cliff brought us a foraging humpbacked whale and three lazy Steller sea lions, an eagle on a reef, and a pack of curious harbor seals. The lunch table was surrounded by a carpet of false lily of the valley and dwarf dogwood in full, white flower.

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