Monday, April 28, 2008


Saturday was Washington Coast Cleanup Day. M. and I signed up for the beach at the mouth of the Hoh River. It's on the Rez (map) and usually private though not posted, and we expected there would be lots of people taking advantage of an opportunity to do our symbolic sweeping of the temple gate someplace you usually don't feel welcome. But in fact there was only the site leader L., and us, and S. who was driving the truck to haul things away from the end of the road at various sites.

It was a really glorious day.

Low Tide, the mouth of the Hoh River, Hoh Reservation

We were told to take a quiet moment at noon to remember Jan Klippert, founder of the Olympic Coast Cleanup, who passed away in January.

Very quiet. Click for larger image.

So it was just us, you know, and a whole lot of drift logs. Styrofoam, litter, plastic, metal, a tire. Ocean and sky, an eagle. S. said that the other day there were lots of gray whales, blows all over the place. But we didn't see any. (People always say that the other day there were lots of whales. It's always some other day, not this one...)

I hauled out a few bags of bagable-size trash. M. went much further down the beach then worked her way back doing the same. But I didn't like hopping deep into the drift, the footing was way too unstable. So L. took care by himself of the two drums and the big ball of netting that I'd spotted back there among the logs. One drum—which was still sealed and had a small amount of unknown substance in it—he carried and pushed out of the drift, rolled it down to the beach and then along the beach, and horsed it back up through the drift again to the end of the road. The second drum was empty, flattened and rusted out, and he decided that it was not intrinsically hazardous, so instead "we" worked on the blob of netting. He had to cut it into chunks that wouldn't be too heavy to haul or drag.


L. & S. kindly said that our tiny team had probably gathered more pounds of trash per person than any other team on the coast, one whole pickup load and then a second smaller one.

Waiting for the truck to haul out more

Across the river we could see the Oil City cleanup team walking out with bags of trash. They had a long way to go to get back to the vehicles. On the Rez side you could drive almost to the beach, so we had a much easier time (and could do metal and big blobs of netting...

Across the River, the Oil City cleanup crew walking out with trash

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Air That They Breathe

So finally I saw gray whales from First Beach at La Push. Saw a spyhop, a really good look at a barnacle covered rostrum hovering there looking around; this guy was pretty close, also got a good look at his much-barnacled back. And several noses sticking up, many bits of back, and lots of blows. I decided that seeing blows is indeed seeing a whale : even if all you see is the air they breathe, you are experiencing that they are present. At one point I was seeing two blows very close together, side by side and almost simultaneous. Though I didn't see more than maybe-flashes of them, a mother and baby were there.

Plus the weather was gorgeous.

First Beach, La Push. Just after the best sighting...

Late in the afteernoon there was one quite close in at the far end of the beach. When I walked down there he had disappeared, but before I moved took a picture: and he actually flashed into view as I pushed the button on the camera...

Dark speck towards bottom right is a bit of whale... Click for full view.

Driving back, immediately into changable spring. Sleet, sun, snow; snowbanks still remaining along Lake Crescent; beautiful warm evening back in Port Angeles.

Definitely Spring

It snowed Saturday afternoon and night. Melted away here in town, and even up on the hill where M. had had five inches and barely made it up her road. But westward, heaps of snow along the highway by Lake Crescent.
Sunday morning, Lake Crescent.

Even at the end of the day it still looked wintry there. Well, springy. All the way out at the west end, no snow by the time I got out there...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Watcher of Ferries

Standing at my northfacing windows looking at the water, and at another country out there on the other side. I whip out the binoculars and examine freighters as they pass the bottom of the street; try to follow the ferry all the way across the Strait to Victoria, so I can find out whether any of my bits of further shore view include the entry to the Inner Harbor.

I think I can recognize the Coho's silhouette and determined presence at any distance now. He is such a fine little boat. I used to think he was big, when I was on the boat as a passenger or noticing it at its mooring on the Port Angeles shore. But having watched him out on the Strait with tankers and great honking container freighters in the same field of view, I now see him as a sturdy small working boat. And definitely a him.

Coho passing the bottom of the street
Coho about to pass the end of Ediz Hook

Last weekend I spent a whole afternoon sitting near the edge of the bluff at the bottom of the street, reading and watching the Coho cross to Victoria. It was the sunny day that all the little boats were out enjoying the spring and fishing for halibut. I watched and watched. He disappeared somewhere on the other side, before I figured out exactly what buildings over there might be bracketing the opening to the Inner Harbor from here. After a while he reappeared already quite far along on his return run. I watched him all the way back.

Ediz Hook on a sunny day. The paper mill is off screen to the left...

I'm 90 minutes from the actual ocean, but the salt water of the Strait is outside my windows, and after I have puttered away hours or all of a day not going anywhere, I can be out on Ediz Hook in about 7 minutes. I go often. There the ferry comes in or goes out. Ducks and loons and shorebirds poke around the sheltered harbor side, or bob in the surf on the Strait side. I look across to Canada, or back to the bluff above Marine Drive to spot the end of my street. I scribble lists of birds and the ships in view, and look them up when I get home. Buffleheads-brants-scaup-dunlin says one list. Loon-wigeons-turnstones-sanderlings.

Looking back to my neighborhood from the Hook.

There's all kinds of boat and ship action. Polar Adventure / Crowley Response / S/R Long Beach reads one list. Yesterday just after the Coho came into the harbor, the pilot boat suddenly left the Puget Sound Pilots station, whipped over to the tanker Polar Resolution in the middle of the harbor, and returned to her mooring at the station; then Resolution and her escort tug the Lindsey Foss started moving, slowly exited past the end of the Hook and headed east. If I'd understood what I was seeing, I'd have taken pictures...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Three Little Boats

Three little boats are visible beyond the end of the street, bobbing off Ediz Hook. J.'s boss, who lives out near the Elwha and has a boat, told her that there's a halibut opening on, it started on Thursday; and the Hook is a hot location. Sure enough. Map of WDFW Marine Areas. We are Marine Area 6.

J. and her husband complete their move into their new home this week, and soon will be fishing Marine Area 6 themselves.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Trailer Loader

Innumerable searches later (very hard to find out about something if you don't know what it's called; "guillotine" didn't work at all as a search term), it appears that all those trailer hoist thingies are the same brand, they are MAR Hook Trailer Loaders; and they work the way I was beginning to imagine they must: "The patented reach guide yoke stops the trailer from turning while it is suspended."

These critters are everywhere around the North Peninsula.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Volunteer Lady

Turned up at the public library this afternoon to do a little indexing of the local paper—alas I am presently the only one doing it, and I only get one or two papers a week done, so we are ever further behind. I usually manage only one paper per session, 'cause it's just too deathly boring. But today there was also another lady in the volunteer cubicle. She was folding brochures; humming to herself and radiating humankindness as she sat there. Occasionally we talked. She got up after an hour and walked around with her cane, came back, set herself to fold 75 more brochures. It was altogether pleasant and companionable, and kept me awake twice as long as usual.

It remains ten degrees colder than normal, and raining on and off. Clearing over the Strait at the moment, mountain covered in cloud. The days are getting longer really fast. Photos taken from the deck.

Evening clearing. Fruit trees blooming in the neighborhood. Click for wider image.

The vacant lot across the street. Mostly Arbutus menziesii. It's so-o-o nice to be back in Pacific madrone country.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Former Obsessions

Here, for example, is a file folder containing various handouts and xerox copies of geological information about the mine south of Bingham, New Mexico, out in the Jornada del Muerto. Keep? Toss? If ever I go again to the Blanchard/Hansonburg mine, will I suddenly regret no longer having a copy of "Mississippi Valley-Type Lead-Fluorite-Barite Deposits of the Hansonburg Mining District", published in 1983?

Mind you, there are some rocks from there on the porch of my new digs, waiting for the landlady to finish her landscaping so I can figure out where in the yard to put them. But will I ever go there again? Do I need a Lincoln National Forest Travel Map from 1988? How about a 3/4"-thick pile of papers about the the Gallina culture and Nogales Cliff House (1)? Do I remember how to find it? Well, no. But I could just keep Hiking Ruins Seldom Seen and let everything else related go...

A 45-year old Sierra Nevada natural history book? A 2-inch-thick file of Sierra geological papers and maps?

I'm thinking about Philip as I do this, who arrived in New Mexico with Cascade Mountains books and maps that dated from his time on Sourdough Mountain thirty years before. Emblematic for him, but geeze, as information all too old. But I'm no different. "Wallrocks of the Central Sierra Nevada Batholith, California: A Collage of Accreted Tectono-Stratigraphic Terranes (1983)"? Vanish it. But there's a map! No. Keep only topo maps? Keep them even for places I'll not go again?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Continuing Not To See Cetacea

On Monday, spent yet another day practicing my current favorite sport: failing to see Eschrichtius robustus (gray whales) from shore along the NW Washington coast. At M.'s suggestion I was on the bluff south of Ruby Beach. Thought I would try a wider/further view rather than stubbornly hanging out on First Beach where they hypothetically come in near the shore. Nope. No Cetacea. Lots of ocean, though. I'm not complaining; listening to waves, watching breakers and whitecaps, scanning far and near with my binoculars. What's not to love??

Great bald eagle action, one kept launching from behind some trees and cruising low over the bluff where I was parked. An Australian tourist saw me with my binoculars and stopped to ask if I was seeing whales. Well, no. He had just been at La Push, where he had been told that ordinarily the whales come in close to the beach beginning this weekend, but they had seen only far distant blows.

My friend I. says, "Good luck on seeing whales. I never have been able to convince myself that seeing a whale blow is a bona-fide whale sighting." Not to worry, I., haven't seen any whale spoutings. Friends from the desert have contrived to get themselves in the path of the gray whale migration this season, E. at San Ignacio Lagoon and P. at Cabo San Lucas. Back home in the interior, they tell me about it. But me, here? Nope nope nope.

Will try again Saturday.

Looking South

OK, mostly I wander back and forth in my east-of-north-facing front room, watching the Strait at the end of the street. But from the bedroom, I look south. Constrained by telephone wires and an apartment complex, there is Unicorn Peak, I think, and behind it, entirely snowy, Hurricane Hill.

Click for wider panorama.

East of there, Mount Angeles and Klahane Ridge.

Click for wider panorama.

Further east still and out of the panorama image, other bits of skyline between the trees of the neighborhood.

M. says that the snowpack on Blue Mountain is 166% of normal. And that temperatures this spring are a good 10 degrees below normal. Not melting up there anytime soon. She has a visitor coming for Memorial Day, and called the back country ranger to find out if they might be able to hike the Little River trail down from Hurricane Hill to the Elwha Ranger Station at the end of May. "Late July," he said.

Disappearance Gremlins

Remind me to never move again. The disappearance gremlins keep making off with items I have had in hand days or minutes ago, never to be seen again. Nothing gets set in an accustomed place. There are no accustomed places.