Showing posts from 2010

Love It Gently

In the Pacific Northwest, the Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) is king of the forest.  It usually grows straight and tall, and may exceed 300 feet/100 meters.  Some get second lives as telephone poles.  In the West Beach sand dunes at Deception Pass State Park, there is a very special Douglas Fir.  The park's interpretive sign says it best:
"For over 850 years, this Douglas Fir has stood witness to the forming and changing of these dunes.  Thick bark and strong wood have served well against storm, fire, drought and disease.  Through all of this time it has offered generations of people its leaves for shelter, limbs for climbing, and branches for sitting.  Its bark is strong, but thinning from so much climbing.  Love it gently.  Look on it with thought for the times it has seen.  Find its stillness while you listen to the forest, dunes and sea.  Wonder at what forces sculpted it so.  Reflect on the ways its relatives touch your lives.  Love it gently and it will live to sh…

Skywatch Friday:  Cumulonimbus

We had a cold, dark overcast day with a little snow on Wednesday.  Late in the afternoon, the skies cleared over South Fidalgo Island.  The setting sun illuminated storm clouds above Washington's central Cascades, about 60 miles/100 km away.  Interstate 90 through Snoqualmie Pass received heavy snowfall in the storm.

Here's to a happy and healthy New Year for everyone.

Blue Flotsam

Yesterday we looked at how driftwood is born.  Today there is this.  Shall we call it art?  They actually sell these at Amazon.  I know where you can get one for nothing and I'll throw in a tennis ball.

Driftwood Dynamics

Driftwood is one of the aesthetic elements we enjoy at the beach.  We like to look at it, collect it and make things with it.  Although not recommended, it fuels a great fire at a picnic.  Even its name has a pleasant ring, the word "drift" implying carefree leisure.

Did you ever wonder how it got there?  It turns out this is not well known and is now a subject of study at Evergreen State College.  I do have some insight into the process locally.  It is basically created by the weather.  Recall the torrential rains we had about two weeks ago swelling rivers out of their banks.  When the Skagit River floods, wood debris and even entire trees are dumped into southern Skagit Bay.  The journey may have begun several miles upriver.  The currents are now bringing this material into the upper bay, a journey of between 8 and 15 miles (15-25 km).  This is a recurring pattern after every Skagit flood event.  The photo above shows some of this debris moving in with the high tide this m…

Twelve Foot Tide, Eleven Foot Land

I have noticed that our highest tides seem to occur in the winter, especially during the weeks around the solstice.  The lowest tides happen during summer.  I am not asserting this as a scientific fact, but it seems to be something I observe every year.  We know that the tides are related to the moon.  Around here, high tides occur about the same times as moon rise and moon set.  Think of tides as a "sloshing" of the seas.  The energy to initiate and maintain the sloshing is the gravitational pull of the moon and sun.  You can simulate the process in a bathtub where the energy would come from your hand pushing the water.

Having one large moon also stabilizes the earth's rotational axis.  This makes the seasons possible, normalizes climate zones and allows the planet to be habitable.  Without the moon, the earth would tumble in its orbit around the sun.  There would be no beaches and our world would be very different place.

This Christmas weekend, we are experiencing som…

Wild Fidalgo:  Canadian Dilemma

From Wild Fidalgo, Canada Geese are welcome visitors to South Fidalgo Island.  Canadian biologists, on the other hand, are recommending complete elimination of the birds from Vancouver Island.  The geese have altered the natural habitat threatening other wildlife and the important salmon resource.

Skywatch Friday:  Winter Solstice

On the eve of the 2009 winter solstice, the last rays of the setting sun shine through Deception Pass in this 46 minute sequence.  There's a bit of Stonehenge in the alignment.  Deception Pass separates Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands and connects Skagit Bay with the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  In the photos, Whidbey Island is the land across the bay.

Happy Holidays to everyone.


By far, the most beautiful building in downtown Anacortes is the Majestic Inn and Spa.  It was built in 1889, the same year Washington gained its statehood.  The classic American Colonial Revival building was completely remodeled in 2005.  A beautiful open staircase was enclosed in glass to meet fire codes.

Skywatch Friday:  Red Sky at Morning

...sailors take warning.  Looking across Skagit Bay, it was almost too much for the camera to handle.  This is what it looked like and not a product of photo editing.

Whistle Lake Adventure

A unique treasure lies within the city limits of Anacortes, Washington.  The Anacortes Community Forest Lands comprise 2,800 acres of forest, meadows and wetlands preserved in a pristine, natural state.  A December hike to Whistle Lake led by Denise Crowe of Friends of the Forest was announced in a newsletter I receive.  Since I had the day off, I decided it was about time to check out the ACFL.  The adventure began in the parking lot, where the photo above was shot.  The very first glimpse revealed that a visitor is in for a special Northwest experience.  A garden of Western Sword Ferns grows in the shade under a stand of Western Red Cedar.  Cedars are identified by bark in vertical, fibrous strips.  Dust Lichens may appear as a greenish stain:

There are three areas to explore in the ACFL, Cranberry Lake, Heart Lake and Whistle Lake which was on today's agenda.  Networks of old logging roads and trails are well marked with permitted usages:

Trail maps are available at several An…

More Pineapple Express

The rainstorm continued and by early this morning was reaching its peak.  Here on South Fidalgo, the heaviest rains stopped by 11:00 AM, although it continues to drizzle lightly.  So far, we have received 1.08 inches here, about 2.74 cm.  I realize this is not much rain compared to many places.  While western Washington has a reputation for being rainy, it is usually light and intermittent.  We are not adapted to getting continuous, heavy rain over several hours.  Areas along Interstate 90 east of Seattle received 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm) from the storm.  Bremerton got more than 6 inches.  There is urban flooding in several neighborhoods of Seattle.  By Sunday afternoon, the heaviest rains were passing out of the area:

Eastern Washington and points further east should be on the alert.  The concern now is flooding and warnings are posted for all rivers in western Washington.  The Skagit is high, but still contained in its dikes this afternoon.  The river was above Fir Island, but Fir …

Skywatch Friday:  Monday

A Monday sunrise over Skagit Bay hints at changing weather.  After a fair and pleasant weekend, the wavy stratocumulus clouds predict rain on Tuesday.

Tugboat Afternoon

Time 12:48 PM, Temp 49.0° F, Dew Point 42.1° F, Barometer 30.07", Wind 6 mph ESE, Humidity 77%

Under overcast skies, a pair of tugboats steam toward Similk Bay, each with a raft of logs in tow.  Taking the lead is Tugboat Rosario out of La Conner, Washington:

Following closely is Tugboat Swinomish which we have seen here before:

Both tugs bear local names.  Swinomish tends her flock like a shepherd:

Since I had the zoom lens straining I tried a shot of the salmon rearing pens south of Kiket Island.  These have been controversial.  Some believe their presence poses a risk to native salmon from parasites and diseases:

Checking It Out at Wild Fidalgo

Winter birds are checking out the new BirdCam feeder at Wild Fidalgo.

Comfort Ye My People

After an overture, this is how it begins.  Then comes "Every valley shall be exalted" and you know you are hearing something special.  The work, of course, is Handel's Messiah, a favorite work from a favorite composer.  Excerpts are now being heard on our classical radio station KING-FM, and for me, it is one more reason to look forward to this time of year.  Like cold weather and early sunsets, it is a sign that Christmas is coming.  It was also a favorite work of Beethoven who said of Handel, "he is the greatest composer that ever lived."  Musically, I seem to be in good company.

Georg Friedrich Händel (pronounce it HEN-del) was born in Halle, Germany in 1685.  He studied under Italian Baroque masters Arcangelo Corelli and Alessandro Scarlatti.  His works follow the Italian style.  He became a naturalized citizen of Great Britain, changed his name to George Frideric Handel and became court musician to King George I.  He is thus described as a German who wrot…