Posts Tagged ‘Alaska’

Reality vs memory

Rockaway Beach, OR

The Oregon coast is spectacular, but seems much more crowded, with more houses, businesses and traffic, than in the past. Of course, it is the height of the tourist season and we also try to take Juneau, AK into account when saying this. Having lived in a remote, pristine area, where human civilization is a tiny dot amidst vast forests and water, our definition of a natural environment is stringent compared to what it was before. Humanity undoubtedly presses more heavily on nature in coastal Oregon, but how much more heavily we no longer feel we can objectively say.

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The Black Rock Seafood store is an addition on a small, old house a couple or so miles walk from the RV park. It makes a nice destination/purpose for a walk with the dogs. They sell Alaskan fish, in addition to local fish and seafood. On a recent walk, we had them pack a nice piece of Alaskan halibut with plenty of ice to put into one of our backpacks for the return home.

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The Salish Sea is close by no matter where we are on Fidalgo Island, but it can lose its sense of immediacy when we’re surrounded by forest, as when we’re walking the trails in the ACFL (Anacortes City Forest Lands) or when we’re in the RV park.

View (with fewest human elements) from our campsite

Sometimes the wind blows the scent of salty water strongly up the long hill to our RV and with it comes a familiar freshening of the spirit that briny air triggers in us both. Living in Juneau, AK, which is tucked in along a narrow stretch of land at the base of steep, forested mountains beside the Gastineau Channel, we were even closer to the changing scene of tides and seasons. We rarely went out on the water, but it had nonetheless a powerful influence in our lives — the dramatic tidal shifts exposing vast muddy flats and tilting gangways to precarious levels at ebb; the everpresent smell of brine; the salmon runs; the enjoyment of buying fresh salmon, halibut and spot prawns from small commercial fishing boats down at the docks; wind-whipped waves breeching the barrier to spray cars driving along Glacier Highway north of downtown. Here in Washington, we no longer feel the elemental connection, due to the much larger human presence and all that entails, but we are more aware of the sea than when we lived in the area previously.

Brian & Annie examining tidal pool

On a recent walk in Washington Park on the northwest edge of Fidalgo Is., we watched Black Oystercatchers poke their long, vividly red bills among big rocks at the water’s edge while out on the water Cormorants and Buffleheads dove for food. Still further out, against a backdrop of mountains made miniature by distance, pleasure boats, small commercial fishing vessels, immense ferries and barges being towed by tugs passed to and fro. The forest still grows right down to the rocky shore on this part of the island. On a walk through the center of the park we came to an open area where tall trees gave way to shrubs of human height and suddenly we heard, but could not see, a tiny fighter plane buzzing by repeatedly and firing on us. A hummingbird in defense of it’s territory or nest, but what type of hummingbird we’ll never know because it was too quick for us.

Bark of the Madrone tree

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Tis the season for food in Skagit valley. The Co-op’s produce section is bursting with fresh, beautiful vegetables and fruits, farmers’ markets have begun their seasons in the various towns and the fresh fish is coming in from Alaska. Spot prawns will be available in about a week. We finished a half flat of local strawberries in just 3 days – so sweet and ripe.
We’ve taken some nice walks in Island and Skagit counties. It has been a rainy spring and we often have trails mostly to ourselves as we walk in full rain gear with waterproof binoculars to hand.

Along the Cascade Trail

On a walk beside Padilla Bay we just about ran into a weasel who had just caught a mouse or vole. The poor thing wasn’t quite dead since we interrupted the hunt, but weasels are quite fearless and this one retreated only for moment (despite 2 humans and 2 dogs) then came back to finish the kill and carry it away. Practically under our feet! Didn’t need binocs, but looking through them provided an amazing clear, close-up view. Like watching a nature show.

Padilla Bay At lowest tide

Skagit River Valley “Upriver” near Lyman

Band-tailed pigeons were another interesting sight on another day. Physically similar in shape to the non-native Rock pigeon, but behavior and size had us guessing. They are big and this flock of about a dozen was silent and very wary in the deep woods upriver.

And yesterday we saw not one, but three Barred owls. All together, a family. We interrupted the parent who was feeding two young. They all flew a short distance in differing directions to settle high in tall trees. This forest area is about a mile’s walk from our RV park. The fairly quiet road we walked along passes through this wood on a steep course down to Similk Bay. The woods drop sharply off to one side of the road so near the top of the hill we’re walking beside the tops of those tall, old trees. The owls, therefore, were easily viewed. We waited for a while, watching. The three owls kept their eyes on us too. In one tree, the parent, clutching what appeared to be a large, dead rat in its talons, called occasionally. Our patience was rewarded when the three joined up on a branch still in clear view. The momma/papa began stripping pieces of flesh from the rat and feeding them to one youngster while the other made hissing noises until it’s turn came.

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