Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Space Between the Storms, II

Yesterday morning the Hurricane Ridge web cam showed cloudy but scenery-visible weather, the forecast said the next storm wasn't arriving until after noon, and the road recording for the Park said a crew was out working the road to Hurricane Ridge so please call back at 8:45. But at 8:45 and 9:15 the recording hadn't changed. So we rounded up a sack of miscellaneous food—bread, bananas, raisins—and hustled around to the entrance gate just in case. We were the seventh vehicle in line when they started letting cars through.
Hurricane Ridge view (detail); click for full image

(pines by the patio) Just splendid up there. All in black-and-white, greyish-bluish-black and white. The blown snow plasters everything, including icicles. I've never seen flocked icicles before...

A's Hurricane Ridge view; click for another image

A. turns out to be a postcard hound, so we shopped and had hot chocolate in the lodge (where there are no lodgings, just park rangers, a snack shop, and lots of windows). We hung around a long time, pointing and waving, taking pictures, sheltering from the wind on the leeward veranda of the lodge building, and being astonished by the number of local people whose impulse on a weekend morning is to head UP if the road is open, even with winter storm warnings out. Scads of people came up after us, strapping on their snowshoes and skis, dragging their sleds and saucers, snowboards under their arms, little kids bundled up until they are shaped like stubby sausages. They scattered all over the ridgetop.

The ceiling lowered, snowshowers drifted towards us across the upper Elwha canyon, so we headed down. Got a nice sight of Dungeness Spit on the way down, which pleased me in my capacity as hostess/tourguide, showing A. from above where she had been on the ground the day before.

Stopped for more postcard shopping at the Visitor Center at the bottom, and I bought a finger puppet of an Olympic chipmunk, to use when I finally can't avoid being expected to read stories to the little children of the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe... While we were in the visitor center they announced that Hurricane Ridge Road was closing to uphill traffic, because conditions were worsening on top, but mainly because the parking lot up there was completely full :-)

Home for late lunch and out again, as the storm persisted in not really arriving. We went to Freshwater Bay, and then to Crescent Bay (just to see it), and then back to Salt Creek County Park. Just poking along the shore, you know, and hoping for ducks. Saw buffleheads and scoters, but not really a lot. When it got to be dusk we went back to town to Port Book and News, for one last postcard forage. Hot drink and a treat in the coffee shop down the street.

Salt Creek view at dusk. Click for larger image.

Altogether a lovely day.

It's going to end up that I didn't get her out to the ocean, but that's ok. She lives in Berkeley and works in the City, she can get as much ocean as her psyche requires... She feels that she is in another country here, mainly because it is not urban, people like the checkers in the supermarket and the ranger at the entrance gate are really and discernably NICE, and there's no graffiti.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Forest in the Snow

First visitor. We set out for Neah Bay about mid-morning, stopping first to see the tribal library where I work; then headed west and ran into determined snow just before we made it to Clallam Bay. So we backtracked to the cross road to Sappho and came back through a wonderful snowstorm, in the woods and along the lake.
Forest near Fairholm in the snow. Click for larger image.

A. wanted pictures of snow, we took pictures along the road at the Fairholm turnoff, and along the lake, and here and there.

A's Snowy Road. Click for larger image.
A. Through the Windshield at Lake Crescent

It stopped by the time we reached the Elwha River, so we drove up to the upper dam. If ever she hears about its removal she'll know what it's all about. On the way we took the world's shortest hike, about a block, to Madison Creek Falls. (You seen one waterfall, you seen 'em all, but why not...) Then we had a late lunch in town, and then went out on Ediz Hook, where...

I totally fell in love with a couple of beautiful goldeneyes (Barrow's?) on the inside side of the Hook, and then-- lined up on rocks and logs on the Strait side-- were a wonderful cheerful flighty flock of black turnstones hanging out with a flock of sanderlings. Yes!

Now to hit the books about some ducks that didn't look right for wigeons but couldn't be anything else. Map.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Space Between the Storms

Northwest Public Radio said there was a space between storms. And the NOAA radar and satellite images seemed to show a bubble of cloudless sky approaching the northwest corner of the state. So, though it was still raining on and off here in town, I headed towards the Ocean.

As usual, there are no photos of sights along the road. Westbound, I want to get out to Rialto as soon as ever I can, and don't want to lose even a couple of minutes. Coming home, it's either already too dark for photographs, or I'd like to get back before it gets that dark... So words only: all the streams that come down off Mount Storm King and Aurora Ridge to flow under the road into Lake Crescent were energetically foaming white, and the lake waters along the shore were a wonderful jade-blue (and I don't know why). A bald eagle crossed the road almost at windshield level by Bear Creek. It poured down rain for a stretch, then by golly cleared as predicted.

Oh yes. Blue sky, storm surf, dropping tide, lots of new bright red drift.

Waves, you know.
After a while it looked like the next weather system was moving in. But it crossed inland to the south.

It was hard to leave. Just north along the beach the receding tide was trying to leave a soup of new driftwood behind, churning and shifting it and reducing some of it to smaller pieces, then finally leaving it on the pebbles; then further down the foreshore doing the same thing again. You sure wouldn't want to be out in the water just there, it was half wood.

The next weather is still not here. Full moon in a clear sky.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Working in the Invisible Library

It has qualities in common with Ursula LeGuin's Immanent Grove in the Earthsea books ("Sometimes the trees of that Grove are seen, and sometimes they are not seen, and they are not always in the same place...") and R. A. Lafferty's Narrow Valley, which was half a mile on a side but which looked like a ditch to outsiders. "None of them could see that beautiful spread with the eyes in their heads. Where was it?" And with the doors in the witch's house in Patricia Wrede's Dealing with Dragons, which sometimes open on other, perhaps very distant, rooms.

In the case of the tribal library where I work, people can't see that it's a library even when they are standing next to a full bookcase spang in the middle of the space. Someone came to return the keys of the education department van. There was nobody there but me, so I introduced myself. "Hi, I'm Miriam Bobkoff, the librarian." I shook his hand, and he looked around wildly as if the bookcases had suddenly popped magically into view. "Library? You mean I could bring the kids here to check things out?"

Ummmm... yes. As Lafferty says, "It's akin to the phenomenon known as looming, only in reverse." And my job is to surmount the phenomenon by 9 months from now.

"Narrow Valley" seems to have vanished from Luckily the Wayback Machine has more than one archived copy.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Queen of the North

Spent a while this afternoon struggling to stay awake long enough to make some headway in the indexing of the local paper, my volunteer gig for the public library. Hardly anything worth waking up for in the news of October 22. But there was an article from Associated Press (not part of the indexing assignment) saying that the Canadian Transportation Safety Board has discovered, in investigating the sinking of the Queen of the North, that BC Ferries employees may be smoking pot on board ship. Not, they hasten to say, that they have determined that pot-smoking caused the accident that sank the Queen. There has not —yet: the investigation was reopened, and the TSB and BC Ferries are not getting along — been an official explanation of just what caused human error that sent her steaming full-speed into Gil Island; just that, yes, it was fault of the crew and not a mechanical failure...

W. and I traveled on the Queen of the North from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy in April of (I think) 1995. When she went down in March of 2006 I couldn't stop thinking about her, sitting there on the bottom of Wright Sound in the Inside Passage, sitting there under 1400 feet of cold dark water, the Queen of the North on the bottom of the sea, "resting in silt on the keel and the silt covers the hull up to what's called the rubbing strake" in the forever night.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Not Likely To See It Here

Stormy all week. Somebody elsewhere will have to notice Mars. Spaceweather says: "CLOSE ENCOUNTER WITH MARS: Have you noticed an intense red star rising in the east in recent evenings? That's no star, that's Mars. The red planet is having a close encounter with Earth this week. At closest approach on Tuesday evening, Dec. 18th, the two worlds will lie only 55 million miles apart. Mars won't be this nearby again until the year 2016. To the naked eye, Mars now outshines every star in the night sky (it is slightly brighter than Sirius) and it looks great through a backyard telescope... NOTE: While, technically speaking, Mars is at its best and brightest only on Dec. 18th, the red planet will remain unusually close and beautiful for weeks to come."

ABE Habit

Reverse progress in the 'lighten the baggage' realm. Sigh. I try to use the Abebooks 'Save for later' option to protect myself, but sometimes it backfires.

"Gotta return this library book, The Rain Forests of Home, no more renewals available and I've not even started it yet. Oooh. Let's buy one. Oooh look, here's Waves and Beaches and The Secret Project Notebook just waiting here quietly in the shopping basket. Why, just clicky clicky and all three will come!! Yum."

Periods of Partial Clearing

"Periods of partial clearing," says the radio. This term in today's forecast is probably what across the Strait they call "sun breaks". According to UrbanDictionary, they say "sun break" in Seattle, too.
Sky over Clallam Bay, December 15, 2007

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Not Seeing the Gray Whale in Clallam Bay

Expedition to Sekiu, where OrcaNetwork's email bulletin last week reported daily sightings of a gray whale feeding. Variable rain along the Strait of Juan de Fuca scenic highway (State Route 112), brightening patches, bits of blue sky in the distance—what my friend M. calls "sucker holes" —, then more rain. The village of Clallam Bay, then Sekiu. Binoculars pointing here and there... well... where to look? That's ok. I never expected to see anything. :-) Scouted out places to look out from, then settled into the By the Bay Café for lunch, reading a mystery and intermittently pointing the binoculars at what turned out to be a flotilla of buffleheads among the pilings.
Clallam Bay from Sekiu

Then drove up to the bluff above what seemed to be Olson's Resort in a state of winter desuetude, and looked out, read the book some more, and continued to try to guess where to look for a foraging whale. Left Sekiu — which by the way is pronounced See-Cue, to rhyme with see-through— and headed back, looking out at the Strait whenever possible: ducks yes, whales no. Detoured into Pillar Point Park. Grebes, ducks, gulls, ravens and rainbows, yes. Whales, no.

Pillar Point County Park. View east. Click for larger image.

A small boat came puttering in, was loaded up onto its trailer and left. I think they had been crabbing, as they unloaded a big covered bucket, and there was a sign on the shore with rules for recreational crabbers. Once they pulled out, I had the place to myself, so I parked a short way down the boat ramp. Rain came and went. Lots of grebes. A gull eating something large which he kept dropping and grabbing up again, like maybe part of a crab.

Pillar Point County Park. View west.
View north. Butler Creek flows into the Strait.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

More Miscellany

The library here doesn't have Carolyn Reeder's The Secret Project Notebook. K. says it's a better Los Alamos juvenile novel than The Green Glass Sea — and she should know, she grew up there after the war, when it was still a closed city. I just hate it when I bump up against the fact that I no longer can command the universe to get me (and all the library's other readers, whom I serenely used to assume would like what I liked) whatever I want to read.

Quite suddenly a desire to find the next roof over my head outweighs my reluctance to give up this very bright quiet sublet with its dual view. I glance out the kitchen window to guess what weather dawn will bring, assessing how clear the lights are on the Vancouver Island shore. La-di-dah. Another country glittering across the water in the dark. Yawn, so what. I could conceivably let it go. And a good thing too, as it's time to start apartment-hunting...

M. and I went to the Park visitor center the other evening to hear Suzanne Cox Griffin's presentation on the Olympic marmot. There are less than 2000 if them left. I took a lot of notes about population ecology, and marmot hibernation, and patterns of extinction and recolonization. The capsule news, though, is that the population is tanking in most parts of the high country, including the colonies out at Obstruction Point. (The marmot picture is from the Park website.)

'O That's the Place For Me'

"Everybody had a melody all his own. 'Oh that's the place for me.' So off to the faroff city went Celeste. The whole city sang..." And in the Singing City after sundry sad experiences and rejections, Celeste the melody whom nobody wants is invited to dance by Prince Cello.

I'm on a quest. I want the recording of George Kleinsinger & Paul Tripp's "The Story of Celeste" that my sister and I had in the 50s, which I'm pretty sure must have been the one with Victor Jory narrating and the Roy Block orchestra performing the music. Definitely— well probably— NOT Paul Tripp's own recording, because I can hear so clearly the deep voice of the narrator on the last phrase: "And for all we know they may be dancing still..."

I don't seem to be able to extract a good link to the only sound clip I could find. But that's ok, because the voice isn't right anyway... My friend K.'s husband collects old phonographs, and old records. I've asked her to ask him to hunt for it.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Miscellaneous Updates

Working theory on the red driftwood is that they are red alders washed down from along the river. Look at the color in the broken branch photo near the bottom of the Alnus rubra wikipedia article...

...and the woodpecker has to be a hairy woodpecker, downies have shorter beaks. Birdweb says, "In Washington, the typical habitat of Hairy Woodpeckers is mature coniferous forest, although they are common in hardwood and mixed forests in other parts of their range. In Washington, they also frequent burned forests, mixed forests, wooded parks, and conifer-lined streams and shorelines." Shorelines.

Ivan Doig's Winter Brothers was the best book I've read for ages, and has made it possible for me to face Jerry Gorsline's Shadows of our Ancestors : Readings in the history of Klallam-White Relations. Slowly.

And the snow has stopped.

Snowy Driveway
Snowy Town

Bird on the Beach

While I was in Tucson, the Northwest had a 100-year storm. Sigh. Missed it. Here in Port Angeles things were fairly quiet; though the Elwha River reached a record flood stage, evacuations not necessary out at the tribal center near the river mouth. All the major destruction was to the south, Chehalis and coastward from there... All the Park roads are closed for damage assessment and repair, except up the Elwha, and the road to Mora and Rialto Beach.

Saturday, went with J. out to Rialto. A geographical migrant like me, she's been living here a couple of months now but working so hard to get her foothold she hadn't yet actually been west of Port Angeles. 'Every mile new,' one of the best foundations for an expedition! It was sunny and no wind. There were heaps of new drift logs and broken tree litter (and part of a broken pontoon boat), presumably washed out the mouth of the Quileute, around James Island, and then north along the shore. Newcomers both, J. and I were entirely baffled that a lot of the new drift is bright orange-red under its bark. Huh? What does that mean the trees are?

Below, J's good images of the still-energetic surf, and of a woodpecker (downy? hairy?) in a heap of drift. Woodpecker on the beach? The books sure don't say so.

Light snow on the weeds out the window, and it's snowing with determination now.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Monday, December 03, 2007

Flew Over the Empty Country

Flying Seattle--Reno--Las Vegas--Tucson it is almost all empty country, mostly too stark and bleak for people to be able to grow things, or to live in densely enough to show from 8 miles high. I had the oddest feeling of disconnection as I watched the shapes of the mountains and deserts below. I spent more than 20 years looking at and living in the Dry West, and it has nothing to do with me now.

Of all the pictures I showed to my mother, she liked the minus-tide rocks and bits of wood best.