Simple Gifts

I believe I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world; the Snoqualmie Valley. I get to see amazing things everyday. It's time to celebrate that. (You can view pictures in larger format by clicking on them)

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Deception Pass

I drove up to Bethany's Friday night. We spent the night talking, but were snug in bed by midnight. Poor Bethany, she keeps much later hours than me and is not a nature nut. I woke up around 7am ready for our adventure. Bethany was sound asleep still and by the time she finally woke up I was bursting with enthusiasm (I believe I kept chanting "Beach beach beach"). We finally hit the road (much too earlier for a Saturday in her opinion) and drove to Deception Pass. We walked along the beach at the boat launch. I did roll over a few rocks but the tide was too high for finding critters. Next we stopped at Rosario Beach. It was beautiful. We agreed that we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. We walked a short path the kept us above the sound. We had tremendous views of the water. We were about 30 Ft above the water line. We found a nice place to sit and watch the water. There were some amazing kelp beds below us. It was fun talking about the kelp and the jellyfish we saw. It really is amazing stuff. The kelp acts like the trees of forest providing home for animals. And it can get so big, up to 200 Ft. Even more amazing is the fact that it can grow 2 Ft in a day. Watching it sway below us was very peaceful.

I always think of the documentaries I've seen with seal
swimming through the 'kelp forests'

The area is inspiring. The water was so clear and there are all these great rock features, including little islands. There were a lot of people on boats in the water, including kayaks. I really need to start kayaking again. There weren't a lot of birds for me to site, except at one point there was a small flock of birds alluding my sight. I only got a glimpse but their call reminded me of kinglets. I also learned Bethany isn't into birds. How bizarre! I don't recall a time when they haven't enthralled me.

Deception Pass Bridge, the larger of the 2 bridges

After walking around Rosario Beach we headed for the bridges.We parked on Pass Island, the tiny island the connects the two bridges. They are amazing structures and there were a lot of people visiting them! There were some ducks flying below, but I've never looked at ducks from 200 ft above. I haven't any idea what type they were. It was so cool to see them from that perspective. We walked across Deception Pass Bridge and then headed down a trail that would take us to a beach. The trail was wonderful taking us through cool forest. Well, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I took Bethany down a short cut, which was steep. And she only had flip-flops on. I have frequently harassed her about her impractical foot wear. Any way, she ended up going down that part of the trail sliding on her butt. But perhaps it worked out for the best, because we got to the beach and Bethany decided to clean her pants off by 'falling' in the water. It didn't take much encouragement from me, for her to actually do it. It was a warm day! Of course I couldn't be out done so I 'fell' in the water too. And there had been this lovely lab that had already visited us once. All the activity of humans splashing and laughing in the water was too much too resist, so she joined me in the water.

The Puget Sound is COLD!

After that we drove around some more. We had plans to go to another stop, but we never quite made it there. We saw more beautiful scenerey though, the Puge Sound, the North Cascades and an immature bald eagle. Another great day in the Pacific Northwest shared with a good friend.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Mixed musings

I've had a lot of stuff going on and haven't had a chance to post. It was maybe not the greatest week but there are some glorious things that I have to share.

Saturday, 7/16, I worked. It was wet and rainy. It didn't feel like a good summer day. And yet, the light caugh on a wet spider web in my carport. Here was this amazing structure glowing and golden. I would have never seen it without the rain.

Later that week I was having a rotten day at work. On my break I sat down by the lake. Here's what I wrote in an e-mail
I was just totally flustered/stressed/etc. I sat down. kept hearing the osprey. 2 of them circling the lake. Every once in a while one would start to stoop, just barely go down and pull back into a gliding circle. like when they got a better look and realized it wasn't a fish. I lay down for a moment and then I heard the chirping call really close. I sat up and looked and the osprey was lower and closer.... almost like it came to look at me. It sort of circled and then came really close and turned so it's underside was facing me. It was so close and steady that I could clearly see individual feathers. :)

And Saturday, the elk were hanging about again, in their familiar spot. Closer than the last time I tried to get pictures. This is the exact same walk I took on June 19th. It's one of my favorite walks.

And today I revisted another favorite walk, Franklin Falls. Unlike my last visit, I wasn't completely alone, but I still spent a lot of time at the falls when no one else was about. After splashing in the water, I say down in the sun and watch the water and thought about the vastness of time and poetry.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Heading towards Thorp

Alan and I planned to go bird watching on Monday. We got a late start. In some ways, our best bird (for me) was before we ever officially hit the road. We grabbed lunch and ate at the Mt Si trailhead. We sat by this beautiful woodland stream. We were down next to the water beside the foot bridge. I saw a small bird fly under the bridge and thought "Dipper!" Sure enough, it landed beside us. It stayed fairly close for a bit eying us. I think we had invaded it's turf. Then it went underneath the bridge and did it's wonderful dipping maneuver and next it wandered around in the stream briefly. After that it landed on the bridge and peered down at us. I think it decided we weren't leaving for a bit and flew off for better hunting grounds.

Our first stop, the trail is across the river

Then we headed east. We were looking for access to the John Wayne Trail. We went through Cle Elum and going towards Thorp. There was one problem, the trail was on the other side of the river. We kept driving and darn if the trail didn't stay on the other side of the river. I always enjoy going to the east side though, such different habitat from my forests. It was become clear that we weren't going to run into any bridges to connect us to the trail. Alan said stop when we were near an old train tunnel on the trail. I think that was it, but as always my attention to train stuff is not all that great. But I did pay attention to the weather. It was hot and windy. Really windy! It was neat, because I had just heard Jeff Renner (a weatherman) talk about Washington weather and he mentioned the downslope winds that come off in the mountains. In the winter they blow West and whip through my home town, but in the summer they blow east. It was so windy I wasn't able to hold my camera or myself very steady. After noticing the weather, I started taking in the beauty of the area. And there was a cool rock formation across the canyon. I took some pictures of that and then wandered down the road a bit (Coal was restless). Alan was still taking pictures and looking for trains.

I could have sworn I took a picture of the train but all you can see is tracks!

Down the road was a farm, the green a stark contrast to all the yellow, dry desert look. I saw a bird fly up. It had a white tail band and looked like a grouse. I went back for binos and noticed that there were at least 5. We were having troubles identifying them. I've done a lot of research and it suggests what we saw was a Sage Grouse. (OK, so I'm writing this entry a week after the trip, but I'm archiving it to the actual date, so I'll remember when we went). It reminded me mostly of a Blue Grouse, but of course that's what I'm familiar with from the forest setting. We also saw a Peregrine Falcon fly by. That was great! I briefly doubted what I saw because it didn't fly like a Peregrine, but then again, the winds were so strong it made me wobble as I stand so that explained why the flapping seemed odd. Somewhere in all the bird excitement a train came by. Alan was delighted. I have to admit there was something quite nice about the train snaking through the valley.

A view of the mountains at our second stop

Then we turned around and headed back. Did I mention it was hot. And the river was tantalizingly close. So we found another stopping point with a 'trail'. Well, that's what we thought at first. Alan was in the lead and we headed down the 'trail'. It's funny, because I just posted about my trail blazing experiences and here I was doing it again, because the trail completely disappeared. We hadn't gone far before I realized I was in shorts and pretty much everything had thorns. Of course the sensible thing would have been to turn back, but I am often not sensible. Poor Coal, I must be driving him nuts with all this insensible behavior. After a long and difficult bush whacking we reached the river, which was deep and fast and down an inaccessible bank. So we turned back. Alan and I got separated as I had to chase after Coal who had found some standing water to drink and cool off in. It was hot to me, and I didn't have a black fur coat on. I kept hearing Alan call through the brush. He had followed his trail when I followed. Coal had decided he had enough. It was hot and he was old and this was just plain stupid. So, I had to coax him through the brush. I thought I'd found a good way back and I got in this nice meadow for a bit but then the brush was thicker then ever. Once again Coal refused to come and Alan was calling on the otherside of the thick brush. So I had to push myself through and drag Coal through. Apparently I flushed some warblers Alan's way. By the time we reached the car we were hot and thirsty Coal was mad at me. (He went and sat by Alan and wouldn't even look at me). My legs were a mess of scratches... and yet, I had quite a lot of fun. I did mention I don't have much sense.

We ended at Lake Easton State Park where we ate and enjoyed the cool of the forest. All and all, another exciting and successful trip.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Ramble on the path less taken (long entry)

I had no plans except that it was a beautiful day, I had to get out and I might drop off Katie's grad present. I put Led Zepplin on the stereo and enjoyed the beauty and rhythm of the drive. I got to Katie's and there was Josh! What a happy surprise. They were back in town after a long trip but I had just missed Katie. Josh recommended I visit Tolt-MacDonald Park so I headed off with a grin pondering that I would soon get together with my good friends and hear about their adventures in Montana. It might have been a good if I'd also been pondering my route. I realized I was on the wrong road altogether and had almost hit Seattle suburbia. D'oh! I thought about going to the dog park at Marymoore since I was close but there would be crowds there and I've been curious about Tolt-MacDonald Park for a while. I turned around and found Tolt Road which took me back the way I should have been going. It got me out of traffic too. Summer season is here and people are coming out to my lovely valley to enjoy the beauty. I can't blame them but I like to escape the crowds. I was back into the sense of adventure, following a new, less traveled road. I climbed up Tolt Hill and then headed down the other side. I was expecting views of the valley but I got another lovely surprise. I got to see Mt. Rainier. I miss 'the Mountain'. That's what we always called it. Growing up in the shadow of the Mountain, it becomes something more than a feature of the landscape. It's a point to navigate by both spiritually and physically. As a kid, I kept my where-abouts by knowing where the mountain was. At my old synagogue we even had a blessing we would say each day that it loomed out of the clouds.

And perhaps my head was in the clouds because I did a bit more wayward driving before arriving at the park. The first thing I saw was the 50 ft suspension bridge - way cool! I knew Coal would have serious doubts about crossing it. It was quite crowded in that part of the park and I was wondering if I'd chosen the wrong place to visit. The wild areas were on the other side so we headed across the bridge. Thank goodness there was a solid strip in the middle (most of the bridge had slats with spaces between where you could see the river below) or else I never would have gotten my cowardly mutt across. As it was, it was a slow walk with him carefully sticking to the solid part. The bridge does move about a bit. Placing each paw with care, he was not happy when people came from the other direction and passed by him. He actually had to move off the solid part for a moment!

The first bridge is the suspension bridge.
The second is the Tolt road where I saw Mt Rainier
And between the bridges is the too crowded beach

After we braved the hazards of the bridge we headed down the trail away from people. Quickly enough we left the sights and sounds of people behind. Cool forest and bird song were familiar comforts. I love the enclosed feeling of the forest. Even in the shade it was hot. I avoided the first few side-trails to the river moving farther from the possibility of people. Then I began a serious search for a river path. We entered a meadow area and there was a path of beaten down plants heading in the right direction. Coal was doubtful and he often has more sense than I. I am always amused when someone wants to go running joyously through a field. I think in general that's something that only people on TV do (the opening to Little House on the Prairie) or it's something you only do once. It just isn't that easy. The ground isn't level, the plans wrap around your legs. Even with the path it was work and the path got smaller and the sun got hotter. Coal stopped walking for a moment and gave me 'the look' reminding me of my foolishness. My reward was seeing a very quick garter snake.

Coal pushing through the meadow path
that he did not enjoy!

The next few side trails had steep banks or people and we were both getting desperate for the river. It had been nicely isolated but now I was sharing the trail with others in the same predicament. I turned back, leaving the people. I remembered there was one path I skipped because it was long and narrow. That path was back a ways and I was worried about Coal and heat. One of the side trails I'd just skipped because of people was now vacant and we headed down. The bank wasn't too high but steep, muddy and slick. Still I figured that's why the other people had left so quickly and it was worth the risky climb.My old arthritic dog had no problems, I took a fall. It would have been fine except I put my

hand down to keep myself from sliding all the way down the bank. All my weight was on that hand, which had landed firmly on some thorny blackberries. (Sorry, I couldn't resist adding in a picture of my damage.) My fall had a good side because some other people came along. I told them, quite honestly, that it was steep and I'd injured myself and after they were sure I was alright they went away, leaving Coal and I to enjoy the cool river. I didn't see much but I heard a kingfisher and osprey and got the picture of the suspension bridge.

The river was too deep for Coal to really enjoy (he doesn't swim, cowardly mutt) and the steep bank meant there was no place to sit and relax so we moved on. I found that path I'd skipped initially. I headed down the dense path. (I took the picture of the trail to show just how thick the vegation was). There were points were I was pushing through thick brush. Of course, I've had all kinds of adventures on trails like that. I've come out scratched, bitten, stung, wet and muddy. But those aimless rambles tend to be some of my happiest moments. It's not about a destination, but discovery. In my small way, I'm living out my childhood dreams of being a great naturalist and journeying to exotic places. And this time there was a reward! We found a lovely beach and spent a lot of time there. Just Coal, myself and the sound of the water and the confidence that the solitude would remain. The river was more rapid there and I mostly watched the light and ripples dance. I wasn't sure what I wanted when I left that day, but I think that was what I was seeking; that magic moment when the river mesmorizing and times seems to go away.

"Water is magic"

Monday, July 11, 2005

Black Bear on the road

I took a couple volunteers on a field trip. There in the middle of the road was a Black Bear. He took off running, first down the road and then dashed into the woods. There were plenty of ripe berries out so it's easy to figure out what the bear was doing. Ralph always jokes that bears love to shit on the road. But berries love to grow in the sun that's let in by cut of the road.

Such a big creature and just like that he was gone. I always think of Coal when I see them. There the same color. That very first glance there's a similarity but then the bear moves and it's something totally different. They can run about 35mph. It doesn't seem like they should be able to move that fast. They look big and slow and then they break into this amazing gait.

Appearing to wander aimlessly, black bears are always in search of a more plentyful sourse of food, or a mate during breeding season. In June they add insects, grubs and ants to their diet, and in the fall the main source of foods are berries, mushrooms and acorns with supplimental carion when available. Fall is a critical period as far as nutrition is concerned, in that sufficient reserves of fat must be built up for the winter. This is particullarly important for those females which are going to be suckling young during the winter retreat. The Cyber ZooMobile

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Franklin Falls on a wet Sunday

I haven't been feeling well. I realized the weekend was almost gone and I hadn't gotten out in the woods. I also realized it was late on a Sunday and people would be heading home not out. Especially since today was so wet. And then the plan to go to Franklin Falls formed. Somehow I always head there in hard times. There is something spiritual for me in that place. There are trees that are massive in size. There are boulders massive in size and you can see the water shaping those rocks, another massive thing, the scale of time.

I think it's a wonderful trail and I want everyone to stay away from it so it will stay my trail.... ok, that might not be realistic. I think I go there because it's not quite touristy. It's two miles round trip and it can get crowded, but generally not. But it's not the long hike that a lot of the local falls are. So I can run up there on a Sunday evening. As I drove up, my spirit started to lift. The clouds catching in the mountains were amazing. The foxglove and daisies lining the road were brilliant. And then I parked in an empty parking lot.

I love my wet days. People stay away. I never saw another person. What I saw instead was the magic of the wet. The mist caught in the trees and wet brings out the colors of the plants. I want to keep my wet days to myself, but I wish people could feel the beauty. It's quiet and the colors are so vivid and the lighting changes moment to moment. The birds sing and the sound of water is all around. To me that is the very definition of serenity. I took some pictures but my batteries were going dead and the lighting was rotten. It was ok, I was just enjoying 'being'. I was lost in the moment.

I wasn't sure if we'd actually get to the falls. I was worried about Coal and his back but he did fine. Another part of the reason I love this walk is that you can actually walk right down to the falls. The rocks can be wickedly slippery but Coal beat me to the bottom. I have the routine now. Before descending the rocks I put my sweatshirt on and take my glasses off because the spray soaks everything.

I love that feeling of standing at the base of the falls. For years I've been saying I'm going to touch and I haven't done it yet. The power is amazing. You get close and it's not just spray but wind. The sound thunders inside you and seems to wash everything away. Coal never gets as close as I.... most people don't either. Some day though, I will touch those falls, but tonight I just stood and let the power wash over me.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

I almost killed it!

I went to Alan's. I was sitting in the back yard throwing the ball for Itchy. The neighbor's dog. Itchy is very much ball obsessed. Alan, Coal, Webster (Alan's cat) and I were just relaxing and enjoying the day. I don't think you could call Itchy relaxed... did I mention she's ball obsessed?

So she had finally managed to get my attention after nudging the ball my way several times and I picked it up and as I released I heard Alan say "Look at the Swallowtail". As the ball soared out of my hand I looked at him. My eyes followed the direction he was point and I see the ball I threw and the butterfly and then I heard a tiny thwacking sound. Alan says "You almost got it!" and before I can tell him what I heard the poor butterfly stagger-flies off to the ground. I sat there feeling horrified and Alan went to the rescue.

I was sure the poor thing would be dead but it wasn't. Alan picked it up off the ground because it had landed on the neighbors steps. It flew off his fingers back to ground and then landed on the door. He finally convinced me to come see how beautiful the poor thing was. I kept saying "I killed it". I mean, sheesh, my aim is horrible, I couldn't hit something like that if I was trying but I do throw hard and it was a big, tough plastic ball. The butterfly may have been big, but compared to other butterflies but not compared to the ball.

We let it sit for a while and then Alan decided to move it to the sun. He was trying to get it off his finger and onto the wall when suddenly it took flight. I was so relieved I was watched it climb up into the sky.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Who's that thunking on my roof?

I've been working away on my computer. I'm still amused by my earlier adventure. I was downloading pictures (or is it uploading? Hmm... who cares). Typically you don't have that many nature encounters when you're sitting in front of the computer, but I hear Coal start to bark and I hear thunk thunk on my roof. I have a metal roof, it magnifies sound but still! So, full of curiosity I get up and go outside.

I see a raven flying away. I'm delighted. I love ravens. They fascinate me, their intelligence, their myths and their size. I forget how big they are. The raven is long gone so I return to my house and hear "thunk thunk thunk". I'm thoroughly captivated. I look out the window and see another raven fly by. Nifty. They settle in the neighbors yard and then a 3rd appears. There's a folk song about 3 ravens I used to love as a kid. I'm tickled. I have 3 ravens hanging about. Fancy cat is also very excited. One of the raven settles on the shed, very close to the window. I look at Fancy and the raven and I swear there are near the same size.

So I finally remember my camera. Sheesh! It was right there. I knew if I started fussing with the camera and trying to get pictures I'd mess up the downloading (or uploading) and while I was trying to detach it the birds would fly away anyway, so instead I just enjoyed the moment. Sometimes it's good to just experience the moment.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Snoqualmie Trail near Duvall

I went for another walk on the Snoqualmie trail. I was heading to a friends in Mt Vernon and drove through the Snoquamie Valley instead of on interstate. I really enjoy the Snoqualmie trail. It's so accessible. It's crosses through some great areas. I tease Alan about his 'boring' trains, but I like finding the train remnants. This part of the trail is near Duvall and was near the river and a wetland.

First thing I noticed was the Cedar Waxwings. They are everywhere of late. Of course I am also tuned into them too. They were busy flitting about giving their whistley call. Then I noticed the post. Alan could tell you what it was, I know nature not silly old trains. I still like the look of it and the reminder of the history of the area.

There was lots of Horse Tails lining the trail. Another reminder of history in a way. It's an ancient species. It's just such an amazing plant. I look at it and I think of dinosaurs walking the earth. So much has changed from that time, but that plant has stayed the same. And it doesn't need to change, it is such a healthy plant. I tried to find a good link, but mostly I came up with sites calling it a weed. It's one of the most widespread plants in the world and the fact it's considered such a nuisance is a testament to its vitality. I think they are beautiful

It was the first vascular plant plant to send green shoots up through the debris of Mt St Helens - Plants of the Northwest Coast, Pojar and Mackinnon

Look at the lines on the stem, wonderful markings

I didn't walk far, I had a long ways to drive and poor Coal's back has been bothering him. I got down to the Weiss Creek and turned around. I love the way they are labeling the streams now. It's this whole idea of watersheds. Making people realize that this stream is a small piece in a bigger picture. Giving people a sense of place and ownership. The creek itself was a small ordinary creek. I enjoyed it of course, but sometimes we need reminders that small and ordinary is part of greater things. Or perhaps what I'm really saying, is that greatness is built from the small and ordinary.