The Rambling Writer Scouts out Native Plants on the Ridge Trail

Join Thor, Bear dog, and me as we hike the Ridge Trail off Chuckanut Drive and enjoy the diversity of Pacific Northwest native ground covers.

When we’re off on our forest rambles, we always stop to smell the roses — sometimes literally the wonderfully spicy pink wild roses — but on this particular hike we were really focused on the sweet ground-cover plants. We’ve been doing some weed-whacking and native-plant replacing in our own “wild area” down by the creek, so were really appreciating the specimens we spotted along this trail. Off the Cleator Road from Chuckanut Drive just south of Bellingham, this quiet trail straddles a steep ridge, with views to the east (above photo) toward the mountains mostly hidden in cloud that day, and to the west over the bay and San Juan Islands. Once more, we thank our lucky stars for living in such a beautiful place!

Bear dog was very excited as we headed up the trail toward the first lookout over the bay, past ubiquitous sword ferns and some low Oregon grape and salal.

He helped us by sniffing out the most appealing plants:

One of my favorites is the delicate bleeding-heart, which was also special to my Grandma Sara:

Our new mission when we’re hiking the forests or walking in local parks is to pull out a nasty, invasive weed that has been quickly spreading everywhere, it seems. Herb Robert, with its lacy leaves and bright pink flowers, can be mistaken for bleeding-heart. It’s our sworn enemy, lurking along trails and hiding in corners of our garden.  We always take time to pull up at least some that we see (an effort encouraged by parks and forestry personnel).

Sometimes such invasive species are imported in animal feed like hay, and sometimes deliberately introduced by gardeners. Like the starlings brought to the New World by people who wanted to establish every bird mentioned by Shakespeare, these imports often lack natural checks and balances. Luckily, the evil plant is easily pulled. Easiest practice is to throw it onto the trail to dry out and be stomped on. “Begone, foul Dwimmerlaik!”

Moving on to the shy natural beauties like this Trillium:

Stonecrop sedums:

And a few delicate flowers that I haven’t yet identified, though we often encounter them. I’m consulting with a local native-plant purveyor where I’ve already purchased other species, but meanwhile if anyone recognizes these, please feel free to comment:

Another peek-a-boo view to the northeast revealed how close were to the fringes of town below, even as we felt a world away,  the quiet broken only by the cries of young hawks calling to their parents for a handout.

And home again to our ongoing project in the creek ravine! (Quick, can you identify the ground cover beneath the sword ferns at bottom right?) Next week, I’ll report on our progress with clearing and planting, and my second consultation with “Plantas Nativas.”


You will now find The Rambling Writer’s blog posts here every Saturday. Sara’s latest novel from Book View Cafe is available in print and ebook: The Ariadne Connection.  It’s a near-future thriller set in the Greek islands. “Technology triggers a deadly new plague. Can a healer find the cure?”  The novel has received the Chanticleer Global Thriller Grand Prize and the Cygnus Award for Speculative Fiction. Sara has recently returned from a research trip in Greece and is back at work on the sequel, The Ariadne Disconnect. Sign up for her quarterly email newsletter at





The Rambling Writer Scouts out Native Plants on the Ridge Trail — 6 Comments

  1. One of the advantages of aging (maybe the only one) is slowing down and appreciating the things you used to race past. Also appreciating a good place to sit (as in the last photo of our backyard).

  2. Oh, how gorgeous! A couple of those shots would make splendid screen savers, especially with summer’s five months of heavy heat looming ahead.

    • Thanks, Sherwood! If you’d like a higher resolution version of any of these photos, just let me know, and I’ll email it as an attachment. We, too, might be facing another summer drought, as we had record high heat and low rainfall for May, with June predicted to be the same. Our garden needs to tank up with some decent rain!

  3. I love walking through the local state park and monitoring the waves of wildflowers. A few spring ephemerals have shown up in the shady areas of my yard, trout lilies and wood anemone, but have already faded. But I’m seeing more every year, which makes me happy.

    Our trillium opened last month. They’re deep, deep red. I like your white ones.

    • I know, spring and early summer is such a magical time — a sort of bittersweet joy in the beauty of the flowers and how quickly they pass on to that steady summer tone. Sometimes we have purple trillium, but I’ve never seen red! (Remind me what part of the country you inhabit? My brain can’t seem to hold enough….)