From Frogs, Logs, Dogs, Slogs, Bogs, Hogs, and Pollywogs - It's the Methow Conservancy Blog!
Occasional posts - from the quirky to the momentous - on the life and times of the Methow Conservancy.
(What you won't find in E-News)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Larix occidentalis

By Jason Paulsen, Executive Director

Here in the "Evergreen State", fall is the time of year when the high country is illuminated with the beauty of Larix occidentalis, our "not so ever green" Evergreen. 

Reportedly discovered in western Montana in 1806 and finally described and classified by Thomas Nuttal in 1834, Larix occidentalis or the western Larch is often a traffic stopper along Highway #20 near Washington Pass this time of year. And for good reason.

The bright yellow-orange coloration of the leaves (needles) of Larix occidentalis preparing to fall to the ground, set against new fallen snow and a backdrop of the blue sky is a combination worth pausing for.

Part of what makes the western Larch so unique here in the Pacific Northwest is that it is the only one of our conifers to lose ALL of its leaves (needles) EACH year.  In fact, it is reported to be one of only three conifers to do so -- the others being the Bald Cypress and Dawn Redwood.

While all conifers technically lose their needles, they do so over a cycle of 2 to 15 years, with the old needles being replaced by new green ones.   For instance, most pines keep their needles for three or four years.  Hence, their "ever green" appearance.

If you are here in the Methow Valley this week, be sure to plan a hike somewhere up high to enjoy the brilliant beauty of Larix occidentalis!

                                                     - Jason

Photos by Jason Paulsen, 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

Step Outside...

One of the great things about the Methow Valley is the fact that you can literally step outside just about anywhere and be captivated by the beauty of the landscape -- even if you have only a few minutes. 

A short walk around our downtown Winthrop office this afternoon revealed beautiful fall colors, the crystal clear water at the conflence of the Chewuch and Methow rivers, and the whistle of air under the wings of a pair of ducks headed south.

We welcome you to migrate through our Winthrop office when we are open, to say hello, and to enjoy the unique setting that provides so much inspiration for our work.  We hope to see you soon! 

                                                                                                    - Jason

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"My Favorite Time of Year..."

By Jason Paulsen, Executive Director

While not concluded by way of a scientific survey, I think that the period from mid-September through mid-October is the time of year when casual conversation here in the valley most often includes someone saying “…this is my favorite time of year.”  Or, perhaps I’m just more receptive to these remarks because the autumn season is my favorite time of year.

Regardless, I was giving some thought the other day to why I feel such a strong connection to this time of year.  Crisp mornings, clear blue sky days (at least some days!), less traffic on the trails, the beauty of the low angled light at sunrise and sunset, or the satisfaction of getting firewood secured for the coming winter…there’s no end to the list of great attributes that the autumn season brings. 

For me it is all these things, and something more.
Harvest and views on a conserved property in Mazama

While stacking firewood the other night, I concluded that it is the frequency of what I’ll call “memory triggered by scent” episodes that make this season so intense and enjoyable for me.  Those moments where a scent in the air triggers an immediate memory, transporting me back to a previous time and place, often one I haven’t thought about for years.  I seem to experience these episodes more frequently at this time of year for some reason.

Over the past couple of weeks, the smell of fresh cut alfalfa has taken me back decades to time spent on the tractor on my grandparent’s farm.  The smell of fresh snow in the mountains brought back a memory of waking up unexpectedly to a snow covered tent near Mount Rainier.  The first smell of wood smoke evoked memories of past Septembers spent smoking and canning salmon with my family.  Even the smell of the skunk who met an untimely demise on Highway 20 near Big Valley the other day triggered a humorous memory of trying to evade a one of its cousins while camping last year in British Columbia.  This list goes on…

I hope to find some time this winter to research the science behind this “scent/ memory” connection, but until then I’m already looking forward to being outside this evening after a day of rain, to see what memories come drifting by.  And I’ll look forward to hearing if any of you experience these “triggers” more often at any particular time of year? 

                                                          - Jason