Trees seem to be gregarious as most tend to live and thrive in communities that we call forests. Some forests are mostly of a single species while others are mixed with a variety of species. In either case, they tend to live in various partnerships interacting and supporting one another on many levels.
Whatcom County, WA
There is a 700 acre stand of old growth forest sequestered in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains about 25 miles east of Bellingham WA, and about 10 miles west of Mt. Baker at the edge of the Mt. Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest. I had long wanted to see and experience this ancient forest as it is one of the two largest such stands in the Pacific Northwest – the other being Grove of the Patriarchs in the Mt. Rainier National Park. Around here old growth forest is revered as an endangered vestige of our natural world as it once was in the same way that other revered PNW icons, the Orca and the salmon are endangered. And maybe for that reason, it is a good thing that this forest is not readily accessible to the public.
An October family gathering at Deer Harbor on Orcas Island was met with three days of rain and about a half an hour of glorious sun on Saturday. For the most part, the heavy cloud cover muted the usually brighter fall colors but they were great anyway.
Getting to Orcas Island is always a pleasant trip. The ferry leaves from Anacortes and stops as Lopez and Shaw Islands before depositing us on Orcas. The ride is about one hour total.
Although most of the color was the Big Leaf Maples, I was particularly attracted to the Madrone/Madrona (Arbutus menziesii) as they were shedding their red bark and exposing their yellow for the winter. Also they appeared to having a bumper crop of red berries this year.
Big Leaf Maples at Orcas Landing
The sun appeared briefly just before it went down and I grabbed my camera and took off
to catch some of it on the trees. I was richly rewarded with the following series
of photos taken along a path that overlooks Deer Harbor from a bluff above.
Madrona along bluff above Deer Harbor
Piece of peeled red Madrona bark.
More Madrona showing their skin colors
As I noted above, most of the time there was cloudy and wet. But this makes for some interest as well.
I think it shows the tree structure better against the grey sky.
Madrona against a grey drizzly sky
View of Deer Harbor from our cabin deck. San Juan Island sits across the water on the left.
I did say there were seals
A seal was out fishing and came by to check us out on the docks. This photo looks backs across the harbor to the bluff with the Madrona stand.
This seal was successful having come up with a fish. The gulls were hoping for a free lunch but no such luck for them.
The view from atop Mt. Constitution. Compare this to what it looks like from there when clear
Color and clouds in East Sound
A bumper crop of red Madrona berries., The tree was full of birds.
Last are a few photos of the ferry ride home
Leaving Orcas island at Orcas Landing
Shaw Island terminal with a bit of color
Some pelagic Cormorants at the Shaw Is. dock.
Lopez Island terminal
More Madronas from Lopez Is. to the right of the terminal.
So thanks for coming along on my little tour of the San Juan Islands on a wet October weekend. It was a good trip and we enjoyed the short excursion and the few minutes of sunlight.
A rainy Earth Day 2019 found me and my trusty salmon creek restoration partner, granddaughter Ava, assisting a class of 2nd graders to plant willows along some wetlands from an overflowing Kendall Creek. This creek is a Nooksack River tributary and is a prime spawning stream for several species of Pacific Salmon. We had been there just a month earlier in March on a work party planting Sitka Willows and Red-Osier dogwood in frozen ground. A month later by Earth Day in April, it was wet and soggy, just right for sticking cuttings into the muck.
In parts 1 and 2, of this series I described the Nooksack River and how it’s three forks joined from the glaciers and water sheds surrounding the Mount Baker National Forest and wilderness area. The river that used to be prime spawning waters teemed with salmon that fed the local Indians for thousands of years. About 150 years ago, these waters were dramatically changed with the arrival of settlers from the east who logged the hillsides and plowed the prairie lands. These typical settler activities deprived the waters of the cooling effects of the shoreline trees and degraded the water quality with flooding silt. The natural processes that sustained the waters historically became seriously disturbed. The waters and the fish suffered as a result in proportion to their proximity to the settlements. The upper reaches are less polluted that those closer to the farming and populations centers.
My brother who belongs to a time share condo-resort group treated us to a week at Deer Harbor Resort on Orcas Island in mid January. As some of you might know, this is not far from our home in Bellingham, less than 20 miles as the crow flies. However, after an hour’s drive along the coast and another hour’s ferry ride through scenic islands, we could have been a thousand miles away.
And we really lucked out on the weather for mid January – mostly sunny with just a bit of rain at night.
The San Juan Islands are an archipelago that lies between the north western coast of WA state and Vancouver Island within the Salish Sea. On the map below Orcas Island is the horseshoe shaped one in the upper center of the map. You can see part of Vancouver Island with Victoria in the lower left side. Bellingham and Bellingham Bay where we live are on the upper right.
Deer Harbor where we stayed is the smallish inlet on the lower left side of the island, just west of West Sound
Spawning Salmon in tributary creek to the Nooksack
In Part 1 of this series I described the Nooksack River from its headwaters in the North Cascade Mountains through its course to the Salish Sea. I made the case that this river, along with others like it, were critically important to sustaining our icons of the Salish Sea – salmon and orcas. Sustaining these icons is dependent in part on the health of these rivers that grow the fish which in turn feed our resident orca. That is, healthy rivers are a necessary but not a sufficient condition for saving these critters. In this part I relate the history of the river, what has happened to it and why it is important today that it is restored to health and maintained.
I’ve written of conservation efforts to preserve our local PNW waters and the salmonids that spawn and live in these streams. In these posts I have periodically mentioned the Nooksack but I have not featured this marvelous River as it deserves.
The Nooksack River is neither a large nor a long river by most standards as it runs only 75 miles from its origin in the glaciers of the North Cascade Mountains to its delta and mouth where it empties into Bellingham Bay to become part of the Salish Sea.
However, its relatively small size does not diminish its importance to the Pacific Northwest and its marine environment. The Nooksack is one of the few streams in the PNW that supports all five native pacific salmon species as well other salmonids such as steelhead and the rare Bull trout.
I have a favorite tree. It is a Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea). The scarlet designation comes from its bright fall red foliage that will be apparent when we get to October.
Canyon Creek, Whatcom Co., WA State
April 22, 2018 (Earth Day)
There were so many Earth Day activities to attend that I had some difficulty choosing which to spend my day with. I chose to go with the Whatcom Land Trust that has preserved over 20,000 acres from Farm land to salmon spawning habitat, to watersheds, to river corridors, to old growth forests and parks and has facilitated preservation of thousands more acres.