Our World in Images

Cavorting in an Old Growth Ancient Forest

This Old Growth Mountain Hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana) hosts this large example of what I believe to be Heterobasidion annosum, one of the most destructive parasitic fungi that destroys conifers by attacking exposed roots and tree butts as shown here. These fungi are hugely destructive in European Forests and somewhat destructive in the North America. Given its size, this H. annosum must be getting great nutrients from this very old hemlock

Pacific Northwest

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.

Fall Color on Orcas Island and a Couple of Seals

Madrona trees in the fading sunlight along the bluff above Deer Harbor.

October 2019

Orcas Island,

Salish Sea

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.

 

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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.

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Madrona along bluff above Deer Harbor

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Piece of peeled red Madrona bark.

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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.

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Madrona against a grey drizzly sky

 

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View of Deer Harbor from our cabin deck. San Juan Island sits across the water on the left.

 

I did say there were seals

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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.

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This seal was successful having come up with a fish. The gulls were hoping for a free lunch but no such luck for them.

 

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The view from atop Mt. Constitution.  Compare this to what it looks like from there when clear 

 

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Color and clouds in East Sound

 

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A bumper crop of red Madrona berries., The tree was full of birds.

 

Last are a few photos of the ferry ride home

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Leaving Orcas island at Orcas Landing

 

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Shaw Island terminal with a bit of color

 

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Some pelagic Cormorants at the Shaw Is. dock.

 

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Lopez Island terminal

 

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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.

Training the Next Generation of Green Warriors – Earth Day 2019

Foggy and rainy day at Kendall Creek and wetlands below Sumas Mountain, Whatcom Co. WA on Earth Day, April 20, 2019. The foreground sticks are Sitka Willow cuttings planted by a class of 2nd Graders. Note the mats of invasive Reed Canarygrass covering everything with proximity to the water.

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.

Saving the Nooksack III – Will Restoration Activity Be Enough to Save the Salmon?

A frosty Morn on the Nooksack, just how the salmon like it.

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.

An Escape to Orcas Island in the Salish Sea

A view from atop Turtleback mountain looking southwest across West Sound in the foreground, San Juan Channel and San Juan Island In the upper photo is the Strait of Juan De Fuca with fog (the white strip) and  the Olympic Peninsula and the Olympic Mountains. To the west ( right side) behind San Juan Island is Vancouver island and Victoria BC.

 

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

Nooksack River Part 2 – The History and Current State of the River

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.

The Nooksack River – a Treasure to Preserve

North Fork of Nooksack River at Horseshoe Bend – Mount Baker National Forest

 

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.

A Creek Preservation Project on Earth Day 2018 & When is a plant a weed?

 

Mt.baker loomed above Canyon Creek

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.

Ocean and Beach Plastic Pollution Locally and Globally

 

A derelict sail boat washed up on a local beach from a winter storm a couple of years ago. It is polluting the beach and bay as it sheds particles from its fiberglass hull. Plastic decking has come off the bow and a number of other plastic items are wedged under the boat, not to mention the numerous cans of spray paint used to tag this mess.