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Friday, April 27, 2012

Seven Maids With Seven Mops

"If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose," the Walrus said,
"That they could get it clear?"
"I doubt it," said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

While the Walrus was talking about getting the vast quantities of sand cleared away from their beach, these days our concerns are with the vast quantities of human pollution on our beaches.

Last January I joined a community beach clean in Long Beach ( "Whoopee At The Beach" January 2012) .  Last weekend on Earth Day weekend, I joined 1300 other people with Coast Savers and volunteered to participate in Beach Clean 2012.  For this effort I selected Shi Shi Beach a place we have visited before. Most of the coast, except the most isolated beaches, was well coered.

Shi Shi is remote and has almost a mystical quality.  For folks like myself, it is a wonderful beach that is reachable with reasonable effort.  The two mile hike from the trail head is muddy most of the year.  Usually for the early bird, you can feel like you have the place to yourself. 

I spent the weekend at Bullman Beach Inn, my favorite little place on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  This beach is surrounded by sea stacks and rocky kelp beds.  This weekend held some surprises I had not seen before.  Rock Sandpipers were busy offshore in the rocks.

Those are the mountains of Vancouver Island in the distance.  From my window I watched a River Otter hunting in the kelp beds and further out I had the thrill of spotting and watching a Gray Whale which stuck close for about 1/2 hour.  Last time I visited the beach was filled with a lot of kelp which had washed ashore.  Today the ever changing beach was very clean and only a few collections of kelp were found.

The weather was promising for Saturday.  I was able to fly my kite for a little while but there was hardly any breeze to really send it up high.  The sunset was looking good.

Saturday morning I checked in with the volunteer desk and got some information I would need for the clean.  I was shown pictures of some of the items of interest.  These were mostly types of fishing and boat floats from Japan.  Most of the floats were had plastic, but some of them were Styrofoam barrels.  I found one of these during my clean up event at Long Beach.

I also learned about the mysterious yellow pieces of line I found all over Long Beach.  These uniform 6 inch long yellow lines ( ropes) are parts of oyster growing nets.  The Coast Savers are collecting data on all of these items in hopes to understand the impact of the net design on the environment.  Clearly there is a need for improvements.

I drove down to the beach head and started my hike in.  There were some nice volunteers who offered me some extra bags.  Sure, one should always have extras.

I hiked through the woods listening and watching.  Not much was stirring in the woods.  This Banana Slug was fat and happy in the Skunk Cabbage.

I reached the beach about 845.  Low tide was turning and the beach was full of campers who were just getting started with their day and those who had hiked in ahead of me.  I have never seen the beach so full of people.  Nor had I ever been to the beach with such a low tide.

 I was thrilled to get a quick visit to the exposed rocks on my way down the beach.  I found great array of anemone and starfish, as well as mussels.  I would have loved to poke around further, but the waves were menacing and I had work to do.

I met the gentleman coming up the beach.  He must have been an early bird camper.  I was amazed at his Zen-like ability to balance his load.  The Styrofoam barrel perfectly counterbalanced the sack of junk.

I headed south towards Point of The Arches noting all the footprints and how the beach, so far, looked pretty clean.

After about a mile, I noticed a large white float up in a pile of driftwood logs.  I decided that this was a good landmark and decide to climb up , get the float and work my way back up the beach.  No sooner did I get into  the logs then I knew that I would not be going back up the beach.  Here was a big problem.  All through the logs hundreds of bottles and floats, line and Styrofoam pieces.

I spent about two hours throwing debris down the pile.  I would toss as far as I could then climbed down and tossed again.  I then gathered as much as I could into a sorted pile.

 Bottles and floats

Big floats might serve as markers for nets and pots

the little blue one likely is woven into the top of a net.  This blue float is Japanese, the white one is Korean.

I then went back into the drift pile and collected as much of the broken Styrofoam as I could.

I knew that I would not have enough bag space and decided that I would remove the caps from all of the bottles so they could be easily flattened and placed in bags of those return from further down beach.

This is Chinese but the majority of the bottles I found were Japanese.

Many people reported finding construction timber.  Perfectly clean, unhammered 4x4 timber all of them marked with stamps were found along the beach.  As the wood is organic and will eventually break down, there is no effort made to remove it.

I loaded up all four of my bags with Styrofoam pieces and as many bottles as I could.  I strung floats on some line that I found, and strung all the bags and line on a branch.

I then took a break to eat my snack and drink a lot of water.  I knew I had three miles of very challenging walk ahead of me.

I hoped that my organized pile of remainders would make it out in other volunteers bags.

I carried the garbage like a milkmaid pole across my shoulders.  My little backpack served me well by taking a bit of the weight every once in a while, giving my neck and shoulders a break.  I could not keep it up for long as it would pull against me, backwards.

I was apprehensive about going up the slope from the beach to the trail, but I was surprised at how easily that obstacle passed.  I took it one careful step at a time.

It really isn't this steep, it only looks that way.

My pace could only be described as plodding.  I listed for birdsong and kept a steady pace.  There were very few folks about but I did encounter hikers coming down the trail going to the beach and they are always wanting to know "how much further"?

But I encountered one person and I looked at him and he me...

"Now its my turn" and he whipped out his camera.  It was the Zen Master of Balanced Loads and he took my picture.

 A few days later on a Northwest Hikers forum I saw a trip report for the Shi Shi Beach clean by a member named "Hulkmeister" and sure enough it was he.  His picture above of the slope climber and that of myself he kindly gave permission to use.

My neighbor works for KING TV and they featured some of my pictures on the news Sunday.  I heard from KPLU radio and Coast Savers themselves that media outlets were wanting to use the pictures, and I gladly gave permission.

Coast Savers reports approximately 30 tons of debris was removed from Washington beaches.  Yes much of it is thought to be the first of the tsunami debris.  The light, floating items which will be pushed by the winds as well as the currents.  When I was filling out a data form about the large numbers of bottles I found, another volunteer was talking about a beach she was on (Sooes), about 3 miles north of Shi Shi.  She reported that their beach was covered in the yellow oyster net lines.  In the hundereds she said.  I found only three on my area of the beach. 

Today on the news this item out of Alaska shows that this is the start of a wide spread problem that needs a plan of action


It will take more than seven maids with seven mops.

I doubt I will ever walk on a beach without a plastic bag to haul out a little bit garbage.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Earth Day , 2012

Another year passes.  Quotes from John Muir.

One learns that the world, though made, is yet being made

Of all the fire mountains which like beacons, once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest.

The power of imagination makes us infinite

The grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere

Lowly, gentle fellow mortals, enjoying God's sunshine

How many hearts with warm red blood in them are beating under cover of the woods, and how many teeth and eyes are shining!

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world

Writing is like the life of a glacier; one eternal grind

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Waterworks Canyon

Early last Sunday I left The Dalles and headed for Yakima.  I found a series of caches placed in a canyon west of town which would take me to someplace new.  I had never heard of Waterworks Canyon .  This is just the thing I had hoped Geocaching could do for me, take me to new and different areas.

The trail head is just past the junction where Hwy 12 and 410 split on their way to Mt Rainier and the trail climbs Waterworks Canyon up into the Oak Creek Wildlife Management Area.  I was happy to find early blooming Balsamroot.  There are always bugs in the Balsamroots and yet again, the olive drab spotted bugs were here in abundance.  I have still not been able to find the name of these bugs, but they are everywhere in the Balsamroots.

Low in the canyon the slope is softly edged and grassy.  They is a noisy creek that the trail follows and today it is sunny and absolutely windless.  A fine change from the day before.

It is early in the blooming season yet, but I did find a few violets and some pretty vetch.  Got another happy bug photo, too!

Further along, Mertensia bluebells were just getting started.  There are several types that grow in the state, I believe these are long flowered , longiflora

The placer of many of the caches along this trail made sure to point out areas of interest and things that might be seen.  He warned about rattlesnakes and I made sure when reaching into holes and rock piles to use a poking stick to rouse a snake that might have slept in.

I didn't see a single slithery thing except a Horned Toad.  Better luck next time, I guess.

But at the box called "A Good Place To Rest" I did spy some gems.  He mentioned that seeing Big Horned Sheep was possible and sure enough, high on the ridge line I saw one, then two then more and more.

Across the canyon I saw deer, equally high up.

The way continued up and the land form transitioned from soft rolly slope to sharp volcanic stone.  There were some stone arches and many spires.  Footing was sometimes rubble with pumice and other rock types

One cache was hidden in a ledge in a rock wall.  It required a little climb up.  All the stone here is covered in lichens.

I can imagine a native hunter spending a safe night in this alcove.

One fun discovery along the way was Chukar.  These game birds are reluctant to fly and usually run away.  If you are lucky they will make a small gabbling type sound and you can spot them, otherwise they blend in pretty well.  Poor Chukar, they are not the brightest of birds and often then will fly down a hill then walk back up.

Can you spot him there in the rocks at the bottom?

About half way along the trail someone had placed a box high on a ridge than branched off from the canyon.  As this is fine open country, you do not really need a trail and I decided to try a bee-line navigation straight up the ridge.  It was a good solid workout and just the thing I need.  The view down to the canyon floor was pretty impressive.  It is hard to appreciate it here, but those trees along the creek are actually pretty tall.  This was a good solid 1000+ feet up.

I followed a lot of hoof prints figuring the sheep and deer likely knew the best footing and the easiest way.  They were pretty correct.  When I got to the top I saw where the canyon trail actually rose to parallel the slope, so I could have gained some elevation a little easier by following the trail further before attacking the slope.  Ah well that is hindsight, I guess.

I trekked to the end of the line.  From there I could see that you could simply climb out of the canyon and camp on top of the plateau.

It was a fine hike.  I met one other couple along the way and they went as far as I did, reluctant to proceed up the final slope without a trial.

What a great end to the weekend.  As I descended the sun started to make its presence known.  This dry area always feels extra warm and when I hike over in this area I always like to finish before the blazing heat of 2pm.  These little lenticular clouds are not going to help block the sun.

A great little hike.  A little excitement as I attacked that tough slope.  A little challenge of navigating some tricky rocky places.  Fun animal sightings, some pretty flowers and even some bugs.

I evicted a tick, found walking along my steering wheel.  Clearly it climbed from my arm and I am sure the good people of Ellensburg will not mind that I ejected this freeloader on the freeway interchange.

I still feel a little creepy crawly.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Caching Up

What a strange few months it has been.  Work has been terribly stressful and with unrelenting dreary weather my spirits really took a dive.

I visited the ocean several times and really tried to enjoy and relax.  I gave in to the persistent memory of the nice dragon (long tail) kite I had seen on a previous visit to Gasworks Kites, and here it is in flight.

Notice the blue sky.  How that does revive me.  Here is the sunset from that day.

The last few weekends I have visited some old favorite places.  If it is Spring it must be time for Washington Park.  The wildflowers are just getting started and right off the bat I would say this looks like it might be a banner year for Calypso Orchids.

Even though the wild flowers seem right on time, the tulip and daffodil fields of the Skagit Flats seem a little behind.  Every year it seems like the farmers must risk their fields to far too much rain or late freezing temps.  The cold weather seems to have persisted quite a while this year.  But I captured a nice daffodil field in the early morning drive to Anacortes.

I have combined my Geocaching with my rambles and visiting familiar places is a good way to learn.  Along the way it is the little things I enjoy seeing.

Glacier scars on the bald top of Goose Rock on Whidbey Island.

a Great Blue Heron catching a little tidbit.

One of my favorite views at Washington Park.

Last weekend I was able to get away for two whole days so I headed for Catherine Creek.  We have visited there before and this year I was determined to hike all over. 

It is a little early for flowers but there were some nice finds.  As usual, the Shooting Stars and Camas are abundant.

Chocolate Lily blend in to the grasses and dead leaves under the White Oak trees, but when you get up close, their colores really captivate you.

I spent 5 hours hiking all over.   The West wind was so strong that it made the Columbia River look like it was flowing in reverse.  I did not see any windsurfers out and wonder if even they felt it was too strong.  Hiking along the west facing rim of one of the canyons I had several Auntie Em moments, feeling like Dorothy about to be swept away. 

This is wild country that shows the marks left by the Bretz Floods of 10000 years ago.  Gorges, bowls and carved out rock faces.  The Catherine Creek Arch has been documented as being a place of spirit quests for the native peoples.

This area below the hill was carved out by the violent forces of the flooding at the end of the last ice age.  Mt Hood was the most dazzling I have ever seen.  The winds were easily 35 mph+ at this point.  I got pushed about by the vortex produced by this bowl.

I finished my hike with a descent down through some woods I had never visited before.  I am wondering what wonders might grow up inside the sheltered area of conifers and yet again, it calls for another visit next month.

I was so pleased to have a good solid six hours of hiking and discovering.  I spent the night in The Dalles and left for Yakima early Easter Morning to  explore a new place.