Spring Comes to the Lodge

For 2017, Wallowa Lake Lodge will get some updates and improvements,

For 2017, Wallowa Lake Lodge will get some updates and improvements,

It’s been a long cold winter.  But with spring just around the corner, historic Wallowa Lake Lodge’s new owners are preparing enthusiastically for their Friday, April 28th opening—one of the earliest opening dates in the Lodge’s century-long history.  

This year brings a revitalized staff and improved amenities.  The Lodge has a new General Manager, Jeri Riggs, who has logged more than 20 years in hotel management in the Portland area. June Newsome, a veteran of 10 years at the Lodge front deskand operations returns as Hotel Manager.

Mosses celebrate the wet and cool conditions of early Spring.

Mosses celebrate the wet and cool conditions of early Spring.

Soon, the restaurant will boast a new chef and a menu that features local, farm to table specials. These are among many updates that the Lodge’s new owners plan for their first season.

The Lodge’s grounds are also on the brink of their spring opening.  Yesterday I spent a captivating hour prowling the Lodge’s 10 acres of meadows, stream-banks, and wetlands–-often on hands and knees--in search of the first blooms. But like the Lodge itself, Nature was still making ambitious plans, and is not quite ready to open. 

There are subtle signs of a great and glorious future out there. Moss, fungi and lichen, welcome harbingers of warmer weather, color the early spring landscape. Under a hand lens or macro camera lens, their hues and patterns are exquisite. Spring is the season when they strut their stuff.

After recent rains, exuberant branching fruticose lichens flaunt gaudy green branches, dispersing spores before summer heat sets in. Witch’s Hair dangles from tree limbs, and staghorn lichens sprout from tree trunks. Mosses are exuberant.

Look closely and you’ll find bright orange-yellow bulges that look like a gob of half-dissolvedjelly-beans emerging from winter gray. (in picture!)  These are edible fungi known as jelly fungus --  more specifically, Orange Witches Butter, (Dacrymyces palmatus).  They grow on dead conifer logs and trunks, providing food for newly-awakened hibernating mammals, which in turn will feed hawks and eagles. 

Orange Witches Butter is an early Spring fungus that grows on conifer wood.

Orange Witches Butter is an early Spring fungus that grows on conifer wood.

The frilly dark orange buttons are a fungus (Cheilymenia stercorea) that I found in the Lodge’s wetlands. It’s a deer-scat specialist, growing on a late-fall or winter “deposit”.  Dubbed an “eyelash” fungus, the delicate “hairs” around their rounded edges help hold moisture on the fruiting surface.

(Cheilymenia stercorea) specializes in growing on Mule Deer scat.  

(Cheilymenia stercorea) specializes in growing on Mule Deer scat.

 

The advent of spring is more than riotous fungi and lichen. Leaves emerge, elderberries begin to bud, and willows celebrate with “pussy-willow” softness. Farther away, at the edge of the lake, the bald eagles tend their massive nest, keeping their eggs warm during cold spring nights.

In less than a month, flowers will be blooming, leaves will mature , and green will rule the Lodge’s grounds.  The eagles will have a new brood to rear.

Even better, the newly-improved, century-old Lodge will be open.  Come celebrate spring with us on opening day, Friday, April 28th and beyond.  Try our new local farm to table specials, enjoy the updated lobby and spacious deck. Book a room and relax in the Lodge’s peaceful surroundings. Visit us at http://wallowalakelodge.com/. The eagles, spring flowers, and the Lodge’s friendly, knowledgeable staff are waiting to welcome you.