Treasure hunts are lots of fun, aren’t they? The suspense of knowing that something special is hidden, prolonged by the fact that it takes effort to find!
It was with that sort of feeling that we hopped out of the car at Campbell Valley Park—our starting point for the Nature Friend Wildflower Hunt. After all, our treasure was created and hidden by God!
Soft sunshine dappled the woodland path as we entered the forest. Splashes of enchanter’s nightshade bordered our way, with the familiar faces of Robert geraniums peeking through here and there. As we soaked in the beauty of these first tiny treasures, a tall slender plant scattered with snowflake blossoms captured our attention.
“Do you know what it is?” someone asked.
“No, I don’t, but it’s very pretty!”
A bit of research informed us that our specimen was fringe cup, a fitting name!
We were only a short meander down the path when a chorus of frantic chirping in the bushes grabbed my curiosity.
“What birds could be making so much noise?” I wondered out loud as I peered into the woods.
I wasn’t seeing much when my friend looked over my shoulder.
“Oh! An owl!” she gasped.
And so it was! A beautiful Barred Owl, hiding in plain view! No wonder all the fuss!
He stayed still long enough for us all to admire him and take photos, then made a silent takeoff! We all watched breathlessly as he soared through the trees and across the path in front of us. It appeared that flowers weren’t the only treasures we would find that day!
With a new enthusiasm we continued down our trail, which we noted was now lined on one side with a tangle of delicate dewberry vines in full bloom.
“Oh, look at these orange flowers!” someone exclaimed.
“What are they?”
“They’re so beautiful!”
They were soon identified as orange honeysuckle, and I wanted to get the perfect shot! I was down on the ground, analyzing my composition, when I heard a sudden shriek from behind.
“That chickadee is dive-bombing me!”
I quickly turned around. I had never seen anything like it! There it was, swooping back and forth over my mom and her friend! What could it possibly be doing? Then suddenly I knew. I had read about things like this in Nature Friend! I held out my hand and waited. In an instant, a pair of tiny feet had latched onto my fingers, and two shiny black eyes were looking into mine! I held my breath and snapped a photo. Finding no food in my palm, Mr. Chickadee flew away, but I was thrilled!
We did not have any suitable food with us to offer, but that was okay. All we had to do was hold out our hands, and the chickadees would come, food or no food! We soon realized that we were surrounded by a group of almost equally bold squirrels, and enjoyed getting some close-up photos! We then continued on our flower hunt, with grins a little bigger than before, stopping for a moment now and then to hold a chickadee!
We were delighted when our path broke open into a tranquil meadow graced with lupines and daisies. We scattered across the field, photographing the elegant lupines, delighted to discover not only purple, but pink and white ones too! The humble daisies, and even a few wild roses, were becoming the subjects of my next photos when I heard a rustling sound in the grass.
“Right here! It’s a garter snake!”
With enthusiasm we chased it down long enough for everyone to get a glimpse before returning to our hike.
Our meadow trail was trimmed on one side with a thicket of pure white thimbleberry blossoms and the light blush of huckleberry buds. A shrub covered in clusters of ivory blossoms soon caught our attention. While I was taking a picture, my friend discovered that it was Pacific Ninebark. Another new flower for the day!
The trail led us into dense forest again, where candy flowers, Western starflowers, and cheery large-leaved avens were eagerly added to the growing list of treasures. As the path led deeper into the forest, we noticed something orange to the side of the path. Much to our delight, we discovered it to be a huge golden California poppy, hiding among the ferns!
After marching through the woods a little farther, we were happy to find the forest melt into a serene glade. We stepped onto the boardwalk and began to look over the marsh. So many things called for attention! Why, here were some delicate purple bittersweet flowers, and there were twinberries! And oh! Cedar Waxwings! I must get a photo! But wait! My brother Matthew was calling me! He had found an interesting bug! And…
Then we heard it! What bird could be making that beautiful sound? Matthew and I scrambled for our binoculars. It seems like eternity trying to get the lens caps off when you’re in a hurry! There. That tree…
“Oh! I see it! It’s amazing!”
“On the top right edge of the tree!”
I handed the binoculars to my friend.
“It’s orange and black with white spots!”
Bird names were racing through my head.
Bullocks Oriole? American Redstart? Black-headed Grosbeak? Hmmm…that seemed right!
“I think it might be a Black-headed Grosbeak!” I decided.
My friend looked it up.
“Like this?” she asked, holding up the picture.
“Yes! That’s it!” I exclaimed. Who would have thought, a lifer on a wildflower hunt! Now that certainly was a treasure!
Entering the woodland habitat again on the other side of the marsh, we were greeted by a fragile patch of bleeding hearts. As I was getting up after photographing them, my mom stopped me.
“What about those?” She pointed to the ground.
Looking down, I noticed the humble little white flowers of Western bittercress, so small I almost missed them!
We continued along, immersed in the beauty of God’s creation, when Matthew came to a sudden halt.
“A rabbit!” he whispered.
Yes, in a patch of cheerful buttercups, baby bunny was spending a quiet afternoon! Cameras were pulled out, and baby bunny let us get quite close before scampering off.
As we neared the end of our trail, one last bit of wetland opened up in front of us. It was here we found my favorite flower of the day. Growing in the reeds just off the boardwalk was a glorious wild iris waving gently in the breeze. Its fringed, bright yellow petals were breathtaking!
Only a short walk now remained through the woods, and yet even here more treasures awaited us. A carpet of wild lily-of-the-valley was a blessing to find, as I have wanted to see it for a long time!
The last treasure of the day found its humble abode in a small patch beside our picnic table where we stopped for lunch before heading home. A small cluster of salal bells, simple, yet beautiful, added a final touch to a wonderful day!
“O LORD, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.” Psalm 104:24