Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Visitor from the Desert

JK visiting. The weather is not on our side, but we carry on. Below the Visitor Center on Hurricane Ridge, the grass is green between the snow patches. Fog moves in and out. The road spur to the trailhead for Hurricane Hill is still not open. All fogged in over that way, so we didn't hike down past the barriers. There are lots of deer, in the grass, in the parking lot, on the snowbanks.

Hurricane Ridge by the Visitor Center, June 27, 2011 (Click for larger image.)

Meanwhile, Back At The Harbor

The log ship that sailed on Friday was Kiwi Trader. She is en route to Penglai, the same destination as Sun Ruby last month. (1)(2). Thank you to David Sellars for letting me know what ship she was. Mr. Sellars writes about 'boats, ships and strolling the waterfront' for the Peninsula Daily News.

By Sunday there was another log ship at the T-pier, Timaru Star. JK is here, we have driving-and-hiking agendas for the next couple of days, but we will keep an eye on Star; to find out where she's going, we have to catch her on the shiptracker websites after she sails and before she gets out of range of the AIS receivers...

Timaru Star, evening, June 27, 2011. No activity. (Click for larger image.)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Las Conchas Fire, Jemez Mountains, New Mexico

Sunday, mid-day, a new fire broke out in New Mexico, more or less exactly here (photo from a May, 2008, visit— at one time or another, over the 23 years I lived in Santa Fe, I probably took everyone I knew there):

Near the Las Conchas Trailhead, elevation about 8,400', Jemez Mountains

The Las Conchas Fire (location map; none of the fire websites have mapped it yet) exploded to 43,000 or so acres within hours (unbelievable acreage figure new this morning, based on overnight infrared mapping, and is official). "The fire burned actively all day to the north/northeast." (Time-lapse video.) The smoke was so heavy that it shaded the Pacheco Fire on the other side of the valley in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, reducing the fire activity there. For up-to-date news, faster than official sources, follow the #nmfire hash tag on twitter...

I spent the day glued to my desk chair, reading updates, looking at imagery. At dusk (there) when the flames began to show through the smoke on the Pajarito Ski Webcam, it looked like Armageddon. It was Armageddon. 43,000 acres in less than a day. By bedtime, I no longer knew where I was; falling asleep I kept thinking I was in my bed in the old 'tree-house' apartment on Hillside Avenue in Santa Fe.

Las Conchas IR flight confirms the fire is now 43,597 acres in size.less than a minute ago via txt Favorite Retweet Reply

Update Tuesday morning, June 28. I just need a place to stash these links. Wildfire Today. KOAT. SF Reporter. rkr. nmfireinfo. IR flyover, 6/28 (where did they get this?). The PajaritoSki webcam is gone, I think because the Pajarito Ski area is gone.

Later still: adding this morning's 'Smoke Map'. 8AM PDT, June 28, 2011:

All Flags Flying

Saturday, the Coast Guard station on Ediz Hook (map) was having an open house and air show to honor 100 years of Naval Aviation. I hustled myself out there. I had missed the air show, but this was an opportunity to get past that military gate, just outside which I usually park when I go out on the Hook. I've lived here going on 4 years without ever setting foot on that ground.

Visited various boats and helicopters and so on, took lots of pictures. All kinds of flags and pennants flying over everything, a naval signaling condition which is called something like 'holiday colors' or 'full-dressed in rainbow colors'. (I didn't take notes, and promptly forgot everything I was told).

Open House on Ediz Hook, June 26, 2011 (Click for larger image.)

USCGC Active, the cutter based in Port Angeles, was not at home; in her place was USCGC Mellon, looking downright enormous. This was not just a result of being so close to and then aboard a ship which I usually only see from across the harbor, or from outside the gate. Mellon is 378 feet long, nearly twice the size of Active (212 feet); her complement is 167 personnel. There were a lot of visitors, babies and oldsters and all; the Coasties seemed to be enjoying helping toddlers up and down ramps, and answering questions, and smiling a lot.

Aboard USCGC Mellon (Click for larger image.)

I took a tour of Mellon, except that the young officer leading our group got confused about the traffic flow he was supposed to be following (hope he never is the one who drives the ship!!) and kept leading us in the opposite direction of the other groups so that there was lots of confused bumping and jostling in narrow steel corridors; finally he gave up and took us back to the starting point without getting us up to the bridge or to any other of the more rewarding stops on the tour.

Mellon was launched in 1967. Her corridors are narrowed by 45 years of layers of paint.

Panorama: lots of ships and boats...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Going Away, Coming Back, Being Home

KenmoreAir has been flying us in smaller planes than their Cessna Grand Caravans. These are Piper Navajos; only one less passenger seat, but much less baggage space and presumably more fuel efficient. Anyway off we went. Just after takeoff I had a good look at Ocean View Cemetery, where S. and I visited Raymond Carver's grave last month; the Olympics were looking all snowy and distinguished under a mostly cloudy sky.


Florida had four generations of my family in it, and ibises. I don't talk about them here.

I thought mostly about the Pacheco Fire above Santa Fe where I used to live.

The trip home was endless, nineteen hours from wake-up to walk-in-the-door-at-home. The nonstop flight from Fort Lauderdale to Las Vegas flew right past the southern end of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and I saw the fire plainly. It was still early in the morning, no towers of smoke but only a steady low puffing, with winds spreading the smoke and carrying it east across Puerto Nambe and Santa Fe Baldy. (Later the same day the fire was very active and burned into Rio Capulin, lofting 24,000' columns of smoke.) On the Las Vegas/Seattle flight had a fantastic good view of Crater Lake. I was too busy looking to think of getting out the camera, until it was too late.

Back on Kenmore, flying in past the harbor, I could see a log ship, which appeared to be already fully loaded, and several other big ships moored around. I meant to get down to the harbor Friday after I went to work at the tribe, but somehow didn't manage it. Looked out the window in the afternoon and there by golly was the log ship steaming west. No, I never looked it up, have no idea who she was. Shame on me. I'm disgraced as a ship-watcher.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

oh my

I'm not there. Pacheco Fire, Santa Fe National Forest. Our hearts are breaking.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Back in the Land of the Ibises

Tamarac, Florida, and environs. Ibises here are like crows at home. Not nearly so numerous as crows, but perceived by locals in the same way: not exactly pests, city birds, and so commonplace as to be invisible. I love seeing them in the sky or on grass verges, with their wonderful curvy beaks, even if nobody else around bothers to see them at all.

When I'm not thinking about family stuff, my mind is not here at all, and not home either. The fire everyone in Santa Fe feared has begun, burning— as near as I can figure out— in the steep timber up above Rio en Medio and heading for the Pecos Wilderness. This was my backyard for 23 years. Here is how I think of it: a hike up Raven's Ridge in 2002. That was then. Now, oh now doesn't bear thinking about.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Melting Proceeds Apace (and Other News)

Remote sensing, not eyewitness report: it is suddenly rapidly melting, up on the Ridge. The grass has not turned green yet, but any day now...

At the Waterhole SnoTel, halfway between the Visitor Center and Obstruction Point. (Click for larger image.)
The Hurricane Ridge WebCam (Click for larger image.)

In other news, the Research Coordinator for the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary looked at the pictures I took of the (dead) marine mammal at Rialto Beach on Sunday. He's a marine mammal guy by training, and he says it is definitely a Steller sea lion.

Leaving at dawn tomorrow to go see my ma in Florida.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Summer Mode

The days are very long. Sunday afternoon headed west, June survey for dead birds on the outer coast. It's the season of 'June gloom, Juneuary, or tomato hell... whatever' as Cliff Mass writes, and I love it. Even when it's sunny inland, the marine layer keeps the oceanside gray, but by mid-afternoon on Sunday it was raining all over.

Cloudy, south end of the beach at Rialto Jetty, June 12, 2011 (Click for larger image.)
Rain, looking north from near Ellen Creek, Rialto Beach, June 12, 2011 (Click for larger image.)

Unofficial report for COASST: no dead birds, lots of other beach matters to report: There was a deer on the beach, only the second time I've seen one there; by the time I'd whipped the camera out from under the poncho, he was walking away towards the drift. Ellen Creek was in summer mode, not running across the beach but just seeping out through the berm. Two black oystercatchers were on the sand, then flew to a rock (we don't usually have any shore birds at all at Rialto). The sea was very flat. Flights of pelicans out at sea. Some sea stars & bryozoans in the wrack, but mostly various kinds of kelp.

Deer on the Beach (Click for larger image.)
Black oystercatcher (Click for wider view.)

What appeared at first to be a piece of log shaped like a seal was in fact a dead marine mammal. I'll confer with my Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary mentor tomorrow because— as is often the case when left on my own with a dead creature and a data sheet— I couldn't identify it even though it should be obvious. It was way too small for a sea lion, but it had ear flaps so it couldn't be a harbor seal. I had to leave blank the ID fields at the top of the Marine Mammal Stranding Report.

The bryozoan (moss animal) Flustrella (appearances notwithstanding, a colonial animal) (Click for larger image.)
Wrack. Ellen Creek beach segment, Rialto Beach (Click for larger image.)

Windshield wipers all the way home. :-)

PS Lovely interactive graphic about summer and winter beach profiles, part of a very instructive website from the Coastal Morphology Group, Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Second Beach, Minus 1.5 Tide

Parasol weather on Second Beach: bright sun, endlessly retreating tide. Before I even had my hiking boots put away and water shoes on, I heard an oyster-catcher, and he kept on calling. There he was: the clown, the goofy shore-bird who looks like a cartoon.

Meet Mr. Oyster-Catcher, Second Beach, June 5, 2011 (Click for larger image.)

At lowest tide

Arriving Waves, Maybe 2 Inches Deep (Click for larger image.)

many people ambled over to look at Crying Lady Rock from what seemed to be the shallowest point, to see whether they could make it over to the island. Some years you can actually walk right over to it on the big minus tides of summer. (1). So enticing: caves, tide pools, and if you could just get over there you could by golly walk right around it with the tide this low. Only two boys actually got across the channel. Myself, not having anyone to leave my daypack with (and not knowing how deep it was going to be) I turned back when the water was up to my thighs and I could feel the current pushing. Later I saw the boys on the trail. They said the water had been chest deep in the channel, and the island's tidepools were very cool: crabs, seastars, anemones, a sea cucumber.

You can't walk dry-shod to Crying Lady Rock this year either. Note the oyster-catcher there near the gulls. (Click for larger image.)
Panorama, Second Beach on a Sunny Day, June 5, 2011
Another Panorama (the camera is full of them), Second Beach (Click for larger image.)

I didn't stay long, it was relentlessly bright and after I'd somehow gotten sunscreen in my eyes I could barely open them against the glare. Retreated back up the trail into the shady forest.

Trail to Second Beach, about 8 AM. It goes up a bit, then mostly level... (Click for larger image.)
Then drops steeply to the beach (Click for larger image.)

The Park advocacy group Olympic Park Associates worries, by the way, that the south parcel of land which the Park is handing over to the Quileutes lies immediately above Second Beach, and that the tribe's development of this parcel may create light, noise, and visual impacts for the Park's wilderness users at Second Beach.

Reminder map:

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Hurricane Ridge Spy Trip, with Marmot Sighting

It's t-shirt weather on Hurricane Ridge. Steep southfacing slopes, like the one below the visitor parking area, or the face of Hurricane Hill, have grassy patches emerging already though not yet green. The peaks of the Bailey Range, Mt. Olympus, and all the rest look high and snowy and remote, as they will continue to do even when the near places have melted.

View From the Visitor Center, June 4, 2011 (Click for larger image.)

Visitor Center (Click for larger image.)

In the woods along the spur road to the Hurricane Hill trailhead, the snow is still deep. They're working it now, plowed about halfway, and will surely finish this week. I hiked down hoping for a good view of the Hill, but the snow walls were always too high, and then the worked part of the road simply ended. Hiked back up. The sunlight was dazzling. Three people came by carryiing snowshoes and poles, wearing wraparound dark glasses: not intending to be deterred by the end of the plowed road...

Hurricane Hill over the snow and through trees, June 4, 2011. Look closely at how much bare ground there is already. (Click for larger image.)
Panorama: Bailey Range from the Road to Hurricane Hill, June 4, 2011

Near End of Spur Road Plowed, Road Equipment, & As Far As They've Gotten, June 4, 2011 (Click for larger image.)

Intuitively I had parked directly above where I saw the marmots last year on June 7 (look how much more it was melted then— and it was green already!), and when I got back to the car I looked over the edge. Yup.

There's a marmot down there in the grassy patch. (Click for larger image.)
OK, So You Have To Take My Word For It: This Is a Marmot (Click for larger image.)

PS. They haven't plowed or dug out the patio at the back of the Visitor Center, but it's melting itself out just fine. The small purple arrow near the top center of the image marks the web camera. You can see that it's not still midwinter up there, even though the cam looks right at the snow bank and this morning still imagined the building was all but buried...

Back of the Visitor Center, showing the web camera. (Click for larger image.)

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Great Circle

On May 28th, a week after she left Port Angeles, Sun Ruby passed through the Aleutians and into the Bering Sea, en route to Penglai in China. Say what? She's where? I jumped up and laid a piece of twine on the big globe. O-o-o-h.

It's hard to see clearly. Adam Schneider's wonderful gpsvisualizer helps (thanks for permission to show image here:

Great Circle from Port Angeles to Penglai, drawn by gpsvisualizer.com on a Google Maps base (Click for larger image.)

The shortest distance, the great circle, would take her across the corner of Alaska, across Kamchatka, across Sakhalin Island and Khabarovsk and Manchuria. Obviously that won't quite work. So through Unimak Pass she goes,

The unexpected news from http://marinetraffic.com (Click for larger image.)

and then...

Great Circle routes... (Click for larger image.)

Coast Guard map above is from this report)(thanks to http://benmuse.typepad.com for the find.) Another map.

Oh my. I bet this is one of those #everyone-knew-this-but-me things.