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December 15, 2017

Open Thread – The Walk Back

Happy 4th!  I hope you are all enjoying yourselves in the real world, and in this virtual one.

Last night we walked down the length of my driveway, enjoying some of the beautiful things to be seen. Tonight, if you’re rested up, we’ll take the trip back. It really is the peak of the season for wildflowers in this neck of the woods. There are a few late bloomers that haven’t come out yet, and we’ve missed a few of the early alpine bloomers on the higher elevations, but for me, this time of year can’t be beat for variety, and color.

We’ll start off with the humble forget-me-not, a cheery tiny little flower with a gorgeously sweet name. Each blossom is about half an inch in diameter, with a little yellow star in the center. It also happens to be the Alaska state flower.


I think this will be an arctic daisy. Time will tell.


Behold an invader! A foreigner! An invasive species… I know. It hardly seems possible that there could be anything amiss, but this stunning Iceland poppy is not native to Alaska and so we are supposed to not like it. But I can’t help myself.



Another invader. This one from China. But even the unfortunately ubiquitous dandelion can be beautiful if you forget how tenacious they are, and how they always pop up where and when least wanted.  The good news is that if you don’t use noxious toxic stuff to try to get rid of them, the leaves are tasty in salads. And there’s always the wine.

This knot always reminds me of an eye.


The mountains are mostly above tree line here, but the little tundra plants reach almost to the top of the ridge. In a month or so, they will start to turn beautiful maroon and gold, and the low growing blueberries, crowberries and cranberries that populate the slopes will begin to ripen.


And we can’t forget the spruce. Everywhere is spruce. In the wintertime, this will be the only color around here. Other than white, and grey, and white.



The beautiful dwarf fireweed. This type of fireweed blooms earlier than the tall kind which marks the countdown to the end of summer. (See last post)


A columbine bud. There seem to be many more columbine around than there used to be. Even before they bloom, how beautiful they are.


I’ve tried to photograph these trees before, and this is the best I’ve managed to do. The one on the left has grown completely around the skeleton of the one on the right, and it always looks to me like they are locked in each others arms. I start to imagine that the one on the left is clutching its dead friend in an eternal embrace. And then I start to think that the tree on the left actually looks filled with emotion. And then I have to stop myself because getting empathetic about a pair of trees I have anthropomorphized is silly. But I do it every time. (We mop our eyes and move along)


I’m not sure what this is, but ain’t it grand?



Beautiful bark with interesting mushrooms. These are all over and they are very hard and seem to grow in rings, almost looking like wood themselves.

And now the life cycle of cow parsnip.  I have to start by saying that I have a love/hate relationship with cow parsnip. Visually, it’s quite beautiful. Scientifically, it’s quite interesting. Practically? A total pain in the ass.  Notice the little fuzzy hairs on the stem? Apparently they are coated with some mysterious substance that reacts only with the skin of some people (I raise my hand), and under the right conditions will cause angry painful blisters that can even leave scars. (My hand is still raised)

But if you can get past the agonizing and prolonged pain thing, they’re kind of cool. You can see cow parsnip in various stages of development all at the same time. The buds, like this one, almost look like you’ve caught them right in the act of exploding. The shapes and curves are unlike any other plant around.

And when they’re finished blooming, they are quite cheerful looking with big crowns of white flowers and leaves that can get prehistorically huge – some almost two feet across. In moist areas where they tend to flourish, it can be like walking through a Jurassic jungle.


And after the flowers have gone to seed, they will leave these haunting skeletal remains that catch the snow in little hats, and yet seem to be able to stay standing through the worst that winter throws at them. This is one from last year, and is just as lovely as all the ones pushing themselves through life this season.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our little walk. I like taking you with me.



29 Responses to “Open Thread – The Walk Back”
  1. Dagian says:

    What a lovely stroll!

    Okay–as this is an open thread, I thought I would cheerfully share some publishing news!

    Bristol Palin’s book ranking is #1470 in books overall, and falling fast! She’s got some way to go to catch up with her mother’s literary falling star though. ‘Heart’ is ranked at #8676, and ‘Rogue’ is still too highly ranked at #415,724.

    Hitting a compost pile (or outhouse) near you, soon! Unless they remainder them and turn them into GOOD BOOKS via recycling.

  2. Loreenwl says:

    Thank you for this nostalgia trip. I always loved Alaska summers, especially the flowers.

  3. Zyxomma says:

    Typical 4th of July (not) in so many ways. Oil spill beneath the Yellowstone River, minimized by Exxon. Faux Noize’s twitter account hacked; reports of presidential assassination. And $22 billion in treasure discovered underneath an Indian temple to Vishnu.

  4. MonaLisa (inCT) says:

    Lovely… just lovely!

  5. Zyxomma says:

    Lovely walk back, AKM. Thank you; it was gorgeous.

    I’m aware of the Alaskan appetite for Spam. Here are some things you didn’t know about how it’s made:

    The article is long, ugly, heartbreaking. I suggest you read it anyway.

  6. M. Paul says:

    The walk back?

    You know one has been into the political blog game for too long when the phrase walk back makes one wonder which repug stepped on rushe’s toes this time while waiting for slow bristol bay internet.

    M. Paul

  7. Penny Arcade says:

    Thanks for the lovely photos, AKM. They made me homesick for summer in Alaska.

  8. Man_from_Unk says:

    I just saw a little Eskimo girl use the cow parsnip skeletal remains from last year as a microphone. It made a great prompt for her. Cute.

    • Alaska Pi says:

      My ma said one of the kids was always put on bear watch when it was berry picking season when she was growing up. They often played at “long range bear sniffing” with the dried stalk of last years cow parsnip since bears do smell so terribly, horribly awful… least the browns and blacks do.
      I never figured out if it was really helpful or something to do while the others were busy and ma is not telling.
      Somewhere amongst my piles o stuff there is a photo of my son and nephew taking a wildflower walk with their grammy, Each with their own long range bear sniffers 🙂 and grammy showing them edible plants.
      I am smiling at your recently sighted cow parsnip “microphone”
      I am wildly allergic to fresh stuff but fascinated with the remains esp through the eyes of children.

  9. vyccan says:

    Happy July 4th to all Americans on board here!

    • vyccan says:

      And thank you for both walks, AKM. They were enjoyable, informative, and not as tiring as |I usually find nature walks.

  10. CO almost native says:

    Happy Independence Day, everyone. Gorgeous flowers, AKM- again.

  11. I always enjoy your photos, AKM. And what I notice about your description of the two trees is that part of the reason your photos are so good is that you see things with an artist’s eye, so you take a better picture of things than someone else might if they were standing right beside you. I noticed that in the photos our youngest daughter takes compared with photos that the rest of us were taking when we were on the same trip. It is something you can improve – how you see things before you click the shutter. But the really good photographers (like you and my daughter) still look at things in a new and fresh way.

    What a lovely way to start this Fourth of July. ♥

  12. Bretta says:

    I like the cow parsnip, too – and their delicate scent.

    I think the triad of leaves with the dewdrop may be a wild raspberry type.

  13. mike from iowa says:

    Apparently Exxon was warned of safety violations of its Montana pipeline under the Yellowstone River. The line was shutdown in May and Exxon reportedly did its own safety check,decided the risk for accidents was low and started pupmping crude through the line that ruptured Saturday. I cannot comprehend why an industry with poor safety records is allowed to make these decisions and cause these accidents. Has our guv. not learned anything about letting the skunks guard the eggs?Exxon gets to say damage is limited. I say fine the hell out of them for every damn drop of spilled oil. Put the execs in jail and clean up the industry with enforceable laws and requirements. Have a happy 4th. Dreamgirl,I am glad to have you back. I missed you.

  14. Alaska Pi says:

    Beautiful mystery plant looks like it may be in rubus family but unopened end leaflet is hiding clues
    Can we/I talk you into checking it again in a few days? Please?
    I have a fresh batch of photos of subalpine and alpine pretties from a wildflower walk a few days ago. None as photographically lovely as any of yours (darn) but adequate for flower, leaf, and plant structure identification.
    I love that whole world of tiny furiously growing plants and find at least one I’ve never noticed before every year.
    There are places the snow is coming off very late this year and one of the very first bloomers is the lil flower from my avatar.
    Wildflower walks , real or virtual , leave a smile on my face for days. Thank you so much for taking us along!

  15. G Katz says:

    Thanks for sharing your lovely stroll with us through these gorgeous photos!

  16. Cinquifoil says:

    AKM – you are good at macro photography.

    You write well about things too.

  17. mike from iowa says:

    Please to walk me back to your trees for a moment. The skeleton in front looks like it is shielding the rear tree from harm and it looks as though it has the head of an animal on it. Looks kinda like a rabbit with short ears pointed towards the it has heard a strange,unidentifiable sound. P.S. your last sentence about dandelions sounds like an epitaph for a certain former half-guv of Alaska. “There’s always the whine.”

  18. OMG says:

    On this Independence day it’s wise to look at what the founders of the country really worked toward…and it wasn’t smaller government or lower taxes.

  19. dreamgirl says:

    Being a ‘Late Bloomer’ myself- I self-identify with Geogia O’Keefe’s definition of beauty: “Beauty is the confidence in one’s own individuality.”

    AKM, your eye is so amazing for beauty- but it has nothing compared to your heart.

    • thatcrowwoman says:

      I second these emotions
      and join merrycricket on the lookout for a coffee table book by Our AKM, also, too.

      Every picture tells a story, don’t it?
      (with liner notes!)

      Forget-me-nots grew in abundance along the creek up the holler in Cherokee at my mum-in-law’s, of blessed memory. That picture holds a thousand wondrous stories of long ago and faraway in the last millennium. Quyana. Toda raba. Many thanks.

      ‘Twined trees have tales to tell, too.
      *slipping them into my Sleep-on-this-and-let-it-Simmer stash*

      Is cow parsnip related to what I know as Queen Anne’s lace, wild carrot?


      • mike from iowa says:

        TCW-after your performance on video,methinks you and Brian would be formidable additions to any Rod Stewart videos in the future. Shake that thing,girl. Even Brian has more naturally swivel hips than old Mikey.

      • mike from iowa says:

        Cow parsnip,Queen Anne’s Lace and Poison Hemlock are all related according to all the info I found. The cow-parsnip can cause a rash and make the skin phyto-sensitive. Wash with water and wear long sleeves for a few days should solve that problem.

  20. merrycricket says:

    Beautiful pictures AKM! I’m still pushing for a coffee table book of your photography and I’m planning on holding my breath until I get one!

    I wish I could coax beautiful photos like these out of my camera on my phone but it is what it is.

    Had to get up at 5am after being kept up til 2 by jerks down the street that were setting off fireworks. * Insert sleepy, cranky face here *

  21. Irishgirl says:

    Simply stunning. I’ve really enjoyed the walk on your driveway. Thank you.

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