Numerically speaking, as of yesterday the three snow telemetry sites in the Olympics—Waterhole, Dungeness & Buckinghorse — taken together indicate a snowpack 64% of normal, and total precipitation 81% of normal. (Graphical.) Not so much snow to melt = rivers dropping earlier, and earlier access to the high country. When will the Park open the road to Obstruction Point? Might one get out on Lillian Ridge as early as June??? What will the marmots think of that?
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Saturday, March 28, 2009
On Thursday was out at La Push on the Quileute Reservation, for their welcome-the-whales ceremony. The gray whales who are often at First Beach in this season were much in evidence, very active and hung around for an hour or so. The last bit of the ceremony was a food offering, two teenage boys carried a raft covered with cedar boughs with a salmon on it out through the surf and launched it into the ocean. Right then some orcas appeared, very close inshore. Unusual for this place, they don't come inshore anywhere out there on the outer coast but they did. Looked like transients. Perhaps that means the last part of the gray whale migration, the mothers and babies, has reached this part of the coast, and the transients were hoping for a baby gray dinner. But they apparently don't usually do it at First Beach, and in the midst of all the drumming and chanting and the absolutely astonishing regalia of the ceremony participants, a more magical explanation works just as well.
So finally I have done it, stood on the shore and seen not one but two kinds of cetacea at the same time.
And if I leave out the parts that are not mine to show or tell — understanding that the participants' regalia are as individually recognizable as their faces, and their history is their own — that's all there is to say about it.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Eagles everywhere; setting the gulls into a panic over the Safeway parking lot, sitting on a pole by the Coast Guard Station on Ediz Hook, cruising over the neighborhood, the lake, the beach, the school at La Push.
Sunday, the mystery of the timber barges advanced a step. There was a loaded barge anchored near the terminal in the harbor. The delightful name of this mound of timber was Paul Bunyan.
Later when I was out on the Hook, a tug (the Edward Brasco) came toodling by pulling Paul Bunyan at the the end of a long long cable; much entertaining several parties of shipwatchers. The guys talking to each other were energetically making up how much that load of logs must be worth. A million dollars, two to three million, five million. We all agreed we couldn't imagine how something so flat and piled so high could venture out into the ocean. But it does. Later I hunted though shiptracker sites (1)(2)(3) and learned that the whole assembly belongs to Brusco Tug & Barge, headquartered in Cathlamet, WA, and was on its way to Coos Bay, Oregon. Scheduled to arrive on the afternoon of the 25th, Wednesday, three long days on the stormy ocean later.
But that just moves the puzzle of the travelling logs a step further along. Then what happens to them?
Do you realize that for the next six months the days will be at least as long as they are already?
Sunday, March 22, 2009
In my persona as (volunteer) consultant/helper to tribal libraries, I spent Friday with the woman who takes care of the school/community library in La Push on the Quileute Reservation (maps: 1)(2). We were working on the corner where the Native American books are shelved: putting things in order, assigning numbers, reshelving. (We also got permission to get rid of seven different old encyclopedia sets.)
If I worked there, I'd never get anything done. The windows of the library look west, and those of the adjacent classroom look out at the north end of First Beach.
It rained like crazy while I was driving out there, and then was really windy. The whole building shook. Then the weather moved on east, and things lightened up. When we were finished, there was no point to chasing the storm east along the highway and getting blown into the lake. So I parked the car behind the school and went out on the beach. Low tide, and lots of wave action. Not likely to be able to spot gray whales. One of the teachers told me they've been seeing them, though not today.
The empty classroom which opens on the library, where two teachers and I took our lunch trays, had signs and posters in Quileute, Quileute words on the greenboard. I heard that the actor who plays Jacob in the Twilight movies came for lessons in speaking Quileute, to prepare for his much larger role in the second film, now in production around Tofino up on Vancouver Island (not around here in La Push and Forks, where the stories take place)(eeee-too-bad).
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Tuesday. Worked in the morning, then headed west. Snow remained on stretches of the highway.
It rained on and off for the first couple of hours, then began to clear. Tide coming in. A couple of eagles. Gulls were working the surf, skimming back and forth. Even one of the eagles did it. Nobody seemed to try to catch whatever was drawing them out there, and you had to wonder, could the birds smell the fish down there below the foam, or what?
Every adult who steps out on the beach starts using their camera. Because it is always beautiful, beautiful. Because somehow they, we, want to take it with us.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Well, not shells. And I've only once seen an anchor in all the shipspotting I've done from Ediz Hook, but yes ships. Lotsa big ships around the harbor yesterday. Polar Discovery and Polar Enterprise already anchored in harbor, American Tern at the terminal. Working boats like Park Responder, Shearwater and Kittiwake also in the terminal area. Alaska Frontier comes out of Puget Sound and straight into the harbor.
Once out on the Hook, I was parked next to one of the pilots' vehicles, and he came out to put something in his trunk, so I finally had a chance to ask someone who knows, "Where is the other pilot boat??" "It had a fire," he said, "it's being worked on. Be back in a couple of months." Hmmmm. This needs pursuing. A fire? They were awfully quiet about it.
Saturday, out on Ediz Hook, the recreational fisher-folk were just coming back in after a morning pursuing 'blackmouth'. King salmon, chinook salmon. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife lady went down on the dock with her bucket of tools as each boat landed, to weigh and measure and tally their catch. 27 boats went out, they caught 22 blackmouth between them. The largest catch of the day may have been a 20-pounder; could be a record. The fisherman took it in to be weighed officially at Swain's General Store.
The as-of-today late-lamented Post-Intelligencer says, "A winter blackmouth is simply a chinook salmon that has not reached maturity and pointed its nose back toward its natal stream -- at which point anglers here call it a king salmon." Angler Guide says, "Fisheries for blackmouth salmon will run through April 10 in marine areas 5 (Sekiu), 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 11 (Tacoma-Vashon) and 12 (Hood Canal) with a one-fish daily limit. WDFW says about 132 pages worth of rules which since I am not fishing I am not going to worry about.
PS That title is an allusion.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Getting twitchy, haven't been to the Actual Outside Ocean in 9 days; but weather not on my side today; and I have to go to La Push tomorrow anyway.
Weather definitely moving in from west to east, but there's a narrow cloud layer discernably parading east to west over the Strait. Weather radar says it is snowing at La Push; the First Beach webcam doesn't think so...
It does look like there's fresh snow at MP 214.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Left out of Friday's beach-day account: eagles, lots of eagles. Hearing eagles, seeing eagles. At one point three of them flew by, one calling out determinedly. M. says because it is nesting season.
Saturday I read all day, while a sequence of mini-blizzards passed by (M. was snowed in again until yesterday). I had somehow ended up with too many library books coming in for me all at the same time, first time in my entire reading life that I was overwhelmed. Have spent the week winnowing, postponing, and reading reading reading.
Also spent much time this week following various librarianly types on twitter, and thinking hard about my (non-existent) professional web presence. It's because my workplace wasn't mine to tell about that this journal-of-a-sort has devolved to all-beachbunny-all-the-time. But I've decided that what I am doing at the tribe several mornings a week is work even if I'm mostly not being paid any more, and I need to figure out some way to account for the part of my life that is not about the water. Perhaps not here...
Sunday, between snow flurries,
Tuesday the sunrise was especially seductive. The sun has moved well north of the vacant lot, and is shifting fast towards the spot where it rises on the equinoxes.
Wednesday was a perfect blue afternoon and there were a lot of b-i-i-g ships moving around. A Polar tanker dropped its pilot and moved on out of the Strait. A second Polar tanker came into the harbor, passing much closer to the inner shore of Ediz Hook than usual,
but by then I had discovered that my camera has died for still photos, though it continues to be ok for movies. This distracted me utterly. I couldn't even see the world, strange gorgeous big shipping passing by, etc etc. Could only twitch, and think, obsessively, "Camera. Must. have. camera."
Weather remains cloudless and gorgeous. Thick frost on the cars this morning.
Sunday, March 08, 2009
Gator at Instigator Surfing says today is the day for great surf conditions in the Strait. He offers an array of tools for looking at waves. How have I gotten by since I moved here without knowing to pay attention to the Cape Elizabeth buoy (1) (2) off Taholah?
Now to set about translating the time in the tide tables and decide when to head for the mouth of the Elwha. (What? No way. Purely being a beachbunny, not on the water...)
Saturday, March 07, 2009
Yesterday. Sunny low tide afternoon.
Obviously, it was a day to go to the Hole-in-the-Wall. Even on a weekday there were a sufficiency of walkers. People with longer legs could just cross Ellen Creek with a running jump, people with better balance tightrope-walked on the drift at the back of the beach. I took off boots and waded at the mouth, where it spread out a little and was shallowest. Then on to the north end of the beach, where the tide was ever lower and the sea stacks put on their usual show.
Boots off again on the way back, to wade the creek again. Sitting on the sand to put them back on, I thought I could stay exactly right there, from exactly that moment on. Why would anyone ever leave?
Friday, March 06, 2009
It's one of those days...
By the way, according to the US Drought Monitor, we are now officially Abnormally Dry.
Thursday, March 05, 2009
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
from Peninsula Daily News, last year in April.
It says high tide, and early morning. It says mid-April and later. It does not say, nobody does, what it is that draws them right up into the surf at First Beach.
I can't testify from my own experience, as I was nearly entirely unlucky last year. Started too early in the season, for one thing, and was already bored with never seeing them (and went back to frequenting the more beautiful Rialto Beach) before I got into the most likely part of the calendar. But also I had terrible luck. I'd walk up to people and ask if they were seeing whales, and they'd say, oh yesterday or a little while ago (or any time but now) they'd had good views. People would walk up to me on the beach and ask if I was seeing whales, and I'd say, 'Don't stand near me, I never see any.' I seriously imagined that the whales were saying, 'Erk! Miriam's on the beach! Let's leave!!'
The one time I had a sighting was April 21st. I'm thinking I might try harder this year to find a naturalist or biologist who knows anything about WHY they come into the cove at the south end of First Beach, and hang around near the surf line. It will give me something to think about while I fail to see them.
Monday, March 02, 2009
They're going to start testing the tsunami siren every month out here at Elwha, beginning today at noon. The head of the Community Emergency Response Team says in an email, "The 'chimes' tone is to be activated for 10 seconds, followed by a verbal message for about 15 seconds. The chimes tone is probably the most pleasant of the sounds programed into the siren." Really curious to hear what a pleasant chime tone which warns you that the ocean is about to rise up and cover you might sound like...
Washington Department of Natural Resources offers us a Tsunami Inundation Map of the Port Angeles, Washington, Area. And NOAA offers us a not very pertinent but entrancing .mov file of the inundation of Ocean Shores, down the coast a ways...
To Rialto Beach on the first of March. Goldeneyes on the Lake. Eagles at the beach. Goldeneyes and buffleheads on the river (no seal). Weather everywhere, and happy people out in it.
P.S., Saturday duck report from Ediz Hook. Just the usual: goldeneye, wigeon, lots of buffleheads. Gulls. Cormorants. (Cormorants. Belong to the order Pelecaniformes, along with frigatebirds and boobies other unfamiliar critters. Sibley says, "All are fish-eating waterbirds with four toes joined by webbing, but beyond that there are few similarities.") Only one big ship in harbor, a Polar tanker. Temporarily bored with ships.