Wild Skies of Summer

 July 23rd
  Though it looks as if this man (my husband) is standing waist deep in a lake with a stick, he is actually in the stern of  our canoe, paddling furiously to escape the attack of these cloudy Valkyries.We'd all like a little more sun and heat right now, but I am glad for the clouds that have been enhancing the blue skies of the Pacific Northwest this summer. Blue skies just don't make very interesting photographs.
   Some of the strangest clouds I've seen so far are the cirrus uncinus (above) during a beautiful late-afternoon canoe trip on Henderson Inlet and Woodard Bay. These are high, wispy ice clouds and, from what I could tell, were forming in the eastern sky in the direction of Mt. Rainier. I couldn't see the mountain from the bay, but I could detect a distant layer of clouds from whence these strange tufts seemed to generate. Clumps of them rose from the east and "flew" across the sky, gradually dissipating as their icy tails lengthened and evaporated.   
July 29
   Here is my bike, Cloud Chaser, (above) on board the ferry to Lummi Island. Thanks to the Whatcom County Transit System, we were able to take our bikes on the bus from downtown Bellingham to the ferry terminal at Pigeon Point ($7!). Our panniers and buckets held our clothes, birthday presents, a bottle of champagne, olives, cheese, and a baguette. Once off the ferry, we biked to the north end of the island to a yurt for the weekend. 
    Oh, but the clouds.The cumulus congestus rising over my handlebars, Bellingham, and the North Cascades remained low and distant. They did not do what they might have on the East Coast: continue their convective fury and turn into dark and stormy cumulonimbus.
   At dinner one night, while we were grandly amusing our bouches, we had quite a spectacular show of altocumulus lenticularis, the lens-shaped clouds (below), over the Strait of Georgia. 

July 30
  The best show of all took place atop Mt. Rainier (below) where my father (visiting from the inferno of Washington, DC) and I planned to stroll amongst the alpine wildflowers and bask in the sun like marmots. Well, the trails at Paradise were still deep in snow and therefore closed to anyone without crampons and an ice axe. My dad and I wore sneakers just to make sure we didn't get corralled into some group summit climb.
August 2

August 2
  Happily, we strolled around in the sunny parking lot and just stared up at the mountain, looking through binoculars at the blue-ice crevasses of the Nisqually Glacier (in lower right quadrant of photo above) and watching the peak. While we were there, a distinctive cloud started appearing--a cap cloud--one most often seen on high mountaintops, especially isolated peaks. The cloud appears to be stationary, stuck on the peak like a cap on a head, but that is an illusion. Up close, you can watch the cloud forming on the windward side and dissipating on the leeward side. As air moves up the mountain flank, it cools and condenses. As it descends, it warms and evaporates. The cloud was continually "appearing" on our left and "disappearing" to our right in equal measure.  

August 4
  And to top off two weeks of partly cloudy skies was this (above), the Cloud of Freedom produced by the Blue Angels during Seattle's annual Seafair. It is an artificial cloud, called a contrail, produced by condensation of warm moist air and particulate matter from jet-airplane exhaust. Great cloud, but unfortunately it is accompanied by the nerve-jangling, ear-drum-bursting Sound of Freedom.
    Me? I like my clouds silent and tyrannical.