Western Coral Root At Mount Hood

Western Coral Root At Mount Hood

Western coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata ssp. mertensiana) belongs to the Orchid family, and grows deep in the coniferous forests of the Pacific Northwest. A saprophytic plant, it does not make its own food. Coralroot derives nutrients from decaying organic matter. It likes moist soil. Where the few rays of light penetrate the tree canopy, coralroot bodies glow in luminous, near transparency. I photographed this bunch as I was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail on Mount Hood, Oregon, not far from Timberline Lodge...

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When They Are Running

When They Are Running

When they are running, everyone revels. Fisher people cast their lines from shore. Fill lakes and rivers with commercial vessels and flotillas of boats. Brag about their catch. Above, sloppy osprey drop shredded pink morsels; they are not tidy eaters. Humans are not the only mammals harvesting the catch. Sea lions greedily devour much more than their share, according to some. The inspiration for all this carnivorous exploitation is salmon—the iconic species of the Pacific Northwest...

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This Experiment of Green

This Experiment of Green

We are here. On a planet that formed an oxygen environment, thanks, in part, to its verdant scene. Plants perform so many functions—in addition to producing oxygen—that make life possible for others who share in this Earth experience. Some plants, such as lupine (Lupinus spp.)—the flower on the front of this card I photographed in the Columbia River Gorge, in Stevenson, Washington—improve environmental conditions after dramatic disturbances. In the blast zone after the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, dwarf mountain lupine (Lupinus lyallii, also known as Lupinus lepidus var. lobbii) was among the first plant species to reappear...

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The Water Wheel

The Water Wheel

As clouds travel from the Pacific through the Puget Trough, they bump into mountains and drop significant precipitation in the Cascades and foothills. The amounts vary according to location—as much as 80 to 100 inches a year in some parts. Precipitation can arrive as rain, or snow, depending on season, decade, century, as weather (the short story) and climate (the long history) are always changing...

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The Shortest Season

The Shortest Season

Wind, frost, snow, thin soils—these conditions seem impossible for plants to tolerate, let alone survive in them. Yet the subalpine meadow plants we love—lupine, huckleberry, paintbrush, to name a few—have developed strategies to live here. All the work of growing must be completed in a matter of weeks before snows return. And some plants can only grow during the cooler hours of day when the summer sun doesn’t scorch. Although able to survive natural challenges, meadow plants cannot survive under your feet. A single step kills eighteen short-season specialists. The resulting bare Earth, prone to erosion, can last for decades...

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The Long Fire

The Long Fire

It was hot, and late in the season when I went out on patrol with my mounted unit partner and our two horses on the Trabuco Ranger District in southern California’s Cleveland National Forest. Even though the forest we patrolled is an urban one—surrounded by communities on all sides—only a small number of people ever encounter it, and that day was no exception. It seemed we had the place to ourselves. Not long after entering the wilderness, I saw what fire had done. In the black and ash, I saw a man who could not have been there, who didn’t have the time and anyway, was too young to make these self-searching inquiries.

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In Crowning Glory

In Crowning Glory

Varied, variegated, various: In places, nature may be as arid as an Arabian desert, in others, as lush as a rainforest growing with absurd fecundity. It is that diversity in nature that makes things so wonderful, and complicated. Not only do different plants grow in different ecosystems, they also grow in different ways depending on site, soil, sunlight, season. A conifer may grow tall and wide on a moist, leeward aspect; trying to make it in the blustery subalpine, beaten by winds and battered by snow, it may grow twisted and stunted. Though the very same species as its milder-situated kin, krummholz trees would not give a comparable picture of height and crown size...

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Color Spectrum Sky

Color Spectrum Sky

We tend not to think about weather too much until it starts to do something dramatic—delivering downpours, encasing us in ice, turning into tornadoes—and then it grabs our attention. When we way “weather’s coming”, most of us know what that means. When the days are lazy, hot, clear and still, it seems like weather isn’t present at all...

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Another Word For Love

Another Word For Love

It brings out the joy in people. Everyone, it seems, turns into a kid. No one is glum. We first spot our fellow revelers in the doughnut shop in the town of Sandy, Oregon before we head up. You can tell who’s going there, too, by the clothes of course. Anyone headed into the winter wonderland is dressed for it...

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