Getting Kids Out Into Nature

Wildflowers at Wild Horse – Trip Report, 5/10 – 5/11, 2013

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WIld Horse Renewable Energy Center

We wanted to attend the Wildflower Weekend at the Wild Horse Renewable Energy Center last Saturday.  Since it’s such a long drive and the weather was nice, we decided to break up the drive by finding a place to camp along the way.  Unfortunately, the Forest Service campgrounds up in that area are all closed still.  That left dispersed camping and one state park.  We thought we’d try Lake Easton State Park, and if that didn’t look good, we’d drive out north of Cle Elum and find a dispersed site to pitch our tent for the night.

Aaron worked from home Friday, so he helped me get packed.  Even so, we weren’t able to leave until the height of rush hour.  Even with our new roof rack and Thule box, we still were cramped in our car, but it was much easier to fit stuff in than before we had the roof box.

It has been several weeks since we’ve been over Snoqualmie Pass, and I was encouraged by how much snow has melted.  New growth is starting to show, and seasonal waterfalls plunge down rock faces.  We made it to Lake Easton State Park in fairly good time.  We were surprised by how few people were camped there, and for how pretty and uncrowded it was.  The sites are in forest, spaced nicely, and have a lush feel.  We were able to get a spot far away from other campers.  We quickly set up our tent and started hot water for rehydrating dinner.  The kids ran around and explored, enjoying their freedom to roam.

Lake Easton state park, I 90 camping, camping with children
Our camp site, Lake Easton State Park
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Happy Campers

The only downside of this campground is the proximity to the freeway and the noise from the nearby dam and spillway.  But the flowers are in bloom and the forest is  pretty.

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Funky fungus
washington native wildflowers, lake easton state park
Trillium
washington native wildflowers, lake easton state park
Chocolate lily
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Western anemone, Anemone oregana
washington native wildflowers, lake easton state park
Fairy slipper, Calypso bulbosa

We had a good dinner, a good sleep, and were up at the crack of dawn to get packed back up and on the road to Wild Horse REC.  The weather was kind of grey, but warm enough.  We enjoyed the drive to Kittitas and up to the REC.  We arrived around 9:30, so we missed the first part of the talk from a local Native American woman.  She was telling how she’s been relearning where to find different bulbs and foods in the area, how they ate mostly roots in the past, and other aspects of the Native ways of life.

Then it was time for everyone to hop into their cars and caravan beyond the gates (normally closed and locked to the public) deeper into the hills of the wind farm to see some wildflowers.

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Elk in the desert

We spotted one of the herds of elk that frequent the area off in the distance.  When we got out, we were walking through the open land of sagebrush and rocks.

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Desert fleabane?
desert wildflowers, washington native plants
Douglas’ buckwheat, Eriogonum douglasii

But the flowers were blooming everywhere – Douglas’ buckwheat, thyme-leaf buckwheat, big-head clover, golden currant, lomatium, Erigeron sp., lupine, Douglas’ onion, common camas, Thompson’s paintbrush, phlox, and pussytoes, and others.

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Lupine
washington native plants, wildflowers, desert
Thompson’s paintbrush
Washington native plants, wildflowers, desert
Looks like bonsai
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Common camas, Camassia quamash
Washington native plants, wildflowers desert
Narrowleaf pussytoes, Antennaria stenophylla
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Hooker’s balsamroot, Balsamorhiza hookeri
washington native wildflowers, desert plants
Big-head clover, Trifolium macrocephalum

The bitterroot were just starting to send up buds, and the hedgehog cacti were blooming along the rock ledges.

Washington native plants, desert wildflowers
Bitter-root, Lewisia rediviva
Washington native wildflowers, desert cactus
Hedgehog cactus, Pediocactus nigrispinus

We visited a special spot where a vernal pool forms after the snowmelt.  It is covered with onion and big-headed clovers, looking like a pink pool of water under the turbines in the desert.

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Flowers and turbines
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Big-headed clover and wild onion

We saw elk tracks all over and found a bleached skeleton among the sage.  Gabe found a snake that he thinks might have been a night snake.  Annika and I almost stepped on a pygmy horned lizard.  It blended in perfectly with the reddish-brown soil.

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Pygmy horned lizard

 

After we were filled up with plant geekiness, we returned to the REC and had lunch.  Then we got to go on a tour of a wind turbine.  We learned about the solar array on site – it helps provide supplemental electricity to the building and the turbine computers during daylight hours.

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Taking the tour

We got to hear all kinds of interesting facts about the turbines and how they were built and how they operate.  We got to go inside one of the turbines – it is big enough for many people, and there is a special ladder that goes all the way up to the top.

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Lining up to enter
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Looking up the ladder inside
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Looking up at the naselle

We didn’t climb it!  It’s pretty amazing being up close to those huge machines.  The blades look like they are slowly turning in the breeze, but they are actually rotating very fast.  This was Gabe’s favorite part of the day, I think.

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Annika and the display blade
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More wind turbines

It was getting really warm and we were losing energy after our early wake-up, so we sat in the cool REC building and had some coffee and rested before hitting the road for the 3-hour drive home.  I wish we could have stayed for the geology talk and the second wildflower walk (it was to a different area) but we had all had enough for one day.

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The Wild Horse REC

 

I’m really glad we made the effort to go out to this event.  It was so helpful to have Daddy with us, too, to help share the work and to share the experience.  It was a quick trip, but worth it to see unique plants during their brief spring flowering time.

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Annika in the desert
wild horse wind farm, kids in nature, desert walks, washington wildflowers
Gabe

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