Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Early Evening Lights

Lights from Samish Island, City of Anacortes and across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Olympic Peninsula are seen from the Chuckanut Range as a mid December storms clears.

Clearing December Storm ©Paul K. Anderson

Heavy Rains and the Streams Run High

Oyster Creek in December ©Paul K. Anderson 12-14-2010
Just a few short weeks ago the creeks and streams flowing out of the Chuckanut Range were flowing at very low levels.  Fall rains raised the water levels and Chum Salmon swam upstream and gave it their all for the next generation. Recent cold and snow caused water levels to fluctuate down, up, and down - then the Pineapple Express roared in.

Chuckanut, Oyster and Colony Creeks are at high levels and have been observed carrying a significant level of sediment based on observations of water color.

Compared to Sunday, Oyster Creek has cleared up significantly by Tuesday.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"How We Find the Path"

The Chuckanuts hide behind dark moisture laden clouds
of the Pineapple Express above Samish Bay near Edison.
©Paul K Anderson

From his poem "How We Find the Path" Washington Poet Robert Sund wrote:

People in the midst of cities are
driven crazy by where
they are and what they
are doing to keep
themselves there.

Where is the way out?
Right there.
But still it isn't easy
for a person to
take the road
out of town.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

January 2009 Flooding Along the Samish River

Editors note: Todays pineapple express and heavy rains are causing flooding on many western Washington streams.  Below is a blog post I wrote back in Jan. 2009

The Pacific Northwest has more than its share of rainy, gloomy weather in the winter.  

The jet stream changes course, the "Pineapple Express" soars in from the tropics near Hawaii and inches of rain falls in the lowlands and the mountains.

In Jan of 2009, over a 48 hour time frame, 6" of rain fell.  In the foothills and lower mountains the rain melted feet of snow pack, all of which contributed to the flooding of western Washington streams.

The snow over the last several weeks insulated and protected small mammals - voles, field mice, from predation by the raptors - hawks and eagles.

Eight American Bald Eagles worked a flooded field swooping down to the water and throwing out their talons at the helpless voles and mice trying to swim to the only high ground - the county roads.

Thousands of acres of blueberry bushes, were covered.

Approaching dusk I drove into the small village of Edison.  Warm inviting lights of the Edison Cafe, The Longhorn Saloon, Slough Foods, The Bread Farm, and Farm to Market Bakery shone out onto the wet street inviting neighbors and visitors to stop by and get dry and warm.

All photos ©Paul K. Anderson and were photographed near the Samish River at the base of the Chuckanut Range between I-5 and just west of Farm to Market Road near Edison.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Late Fall Evening Above the Salish Sea

The Value of High Places ©Paul K. Anderson
Oil Tanker Waiting Near March Point  ©Paul K. Anderson

It cleared off late yesterday afternoon so I drove up to the launch site on Blanchard to get away from town. When it does clear this time of year, sunsets over the Salish Sea can be deeply chromatic with saturated reds, yellows, oranges, purples and blues.

Others at the site also appreciated these ecosystem services and values provided by the Chuckanut Range.

Mt. Rainier from The Chuckanut Range. Nikon 200-400 f4 Zoom
©Paul K. Anderson

Light pollution from Victoria, Bellingham, Vancouver reflected by low clouds
©Paul K. Anderson

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Salmon Continue to Run Up Chuckanut Creek

©Paul K. Anderson Salmon and Ferns From Chuckanut Creek

You still have time to see the salmon swimming up Chuckanut Creek.  The snowmelt and rain seemed to bring up some larger fish from the Salish Sea and Chuckanut Bay,

From Fairhaven in Bellingham head down Chuckanut Drive and turn left just past the Chuckanut Gallery.  There are several parking turnouts within the next 1/2 mile.

Park and walk down the trails into Arroyo Park and hike up or downstream.  Might be a good idea to wear proper footgear.  Yesterday there was still snow on the trail mixed with plenty of slop and some mud.

There may not be too many days left to observe this natural wonder provided by the Chuckanut Range ecosystem services so grab the kids, grandkids, or your sweetie and visit.  It's a Thanksgiving treat!

These images were photographed late yesterday afternoon - Friday November 26th.

©Paul K. Anderson

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!!

Chuckanut Creek 11.23.2010  all photos ©Paul K. Anderson

Consider the salmon - if lucky, you return to your birthplace only to spawn once in life and die. As you drift downstream you become wedged between a rock and a hard place, a freeze hits and 1/2 of you is frozen in place where anyone or thing can take a bite out of you. Then some knucklehead photographer comes along and all you can think of is "no, no my other side"

Kinda like life eh? 

It's worth it, but it's so much easier with friends!

Frozen salmon deflect stream flow

Happy Thanksgiving! Hope you all are surrounded by friends and family.

Icicles formed from spray drippings and snow melt

Regards from your Friends at the Chuckanut Conservancy!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Balmy Summer Evening????

©Paul K. Anderson

Well it is blowing like crazy outside tonight, frigid, icy and it took almost 3 hours to travel 70 miles.  I would like to say I photographed this scene from the Chuckanut Range during a nice warm summer evening - while having a cold beer - but I can't!

This beautiful scene is from last night when it was also bitterly cold - but clear, no snow.

Tonight almost 60 mph gusts, with snow. Tomorrow a disaster awaits I think on I-5 with all the ice.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Snow Fell in the Chuckanut Range

©Paul K. Anderson
Snow fell in the upper elevations of the Chuckanuts and at all levels down to the Salish Sea in the northern section.  Cold air from Canada, possibly because of the Fraser River Valley "effect" allowed more snow to accumulate here in the north.

I've been trying to photograph Chum Salmon along Chuckanut Creek the last several weeks.  I've spent an hour here or there but just haven't been able to capture images that portray the iconic dimensions or emotional response that we have towards this species.

Chum Salmon don't have the dramatic beauty of the red hump on the sockeye, nor the flashy brilliance and size of Kings - but what they lack in drama, flash and beauty they make up in quantity.

So early Saturday morning, with very few drivers out on the snowy streets, I slid down my driveway and drove over to Chuckanut Creek.

The creek was flowing at a higher level than just a few days before, snow blanketed the gravel bars, and wind toppled logs laying across the creek. In the pools below these log "dams" salmon rested, trying to gather enough strength for the last yards of their journey.

Carcasses littered the shallows and I saw many on the forest floor on either side of the creek, dragged there by the many birds and small mammals that visit this area. In the stream, nutrients released by these decaying bodies will provide food to the zooplankton and insects that the small salmon fry will feed on in the coming months. Nitrogen gleaned in the north Pacific, will replenish the forest duff and perhaps provide that one spark that will allow a giant 150 foot Douglas Fir to begin life.

As I was hiking back out to the car I saw this small leaf. A small drop of water had frozen on its surface and provided just enough extra weight to pull the leaf off its branch and tumble down to the forest floor - one small contribution to the forest duff and future generations of Douglas Firs, Red Cedar or Hemlock.

Each of us, like this small red alder leaf lying on snow, have the ability to provide for future generations of forest. Each of us, like the undramatic and non-flashy Chum Salmon can provide for future generations of salmon, birds, small mammals, insects and zooplankton that inhabit this ecosystem.

I joined the Chuckanut Conservancy to try and make a small difference, to generate a small spark that will provide for future generations.  I joined because I see the need for a safe and healthy ecosystem that can be provided by a special place like the Chuckanuts.

Please join me at the Chuckanut Conservancy.  Working together we can make a difference.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The View from Blanchard Mt. - Paragliding

all photos ©Paul Anderson

Early summer brings out green fields and top paragliders to the launch site on the shoulder of Blanchard Mt.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Chum salmon,Oncorhynchus keta, in Chuckanut Creek

Editors note: yesterday I stopped by Chuckanut Creek as it ran through Arroyo Park.  The stream in south Bellingham runs literally yards in places from the road. Please double click on any photo to enlarge it for better viewing.  Enjoy the view.
all photos ©Paul Anderson

Chum salmon return after 3 years to their original birth streams to spawn, die and provide nutrients to the food chain that will sustain their offspring as they emerge from the egg, grow into fry and make their way back down Chuckanut Creek and into the Salish Sea.

The salmon will wait weeks or even months sometimes for rains to raise water levels. Their route took the salmon up riffles and across shallows that sometimes left their bodies 1/2 exposed.  A Bald Eagle chattered from a near by tree and carcasses were seen dozens of yards from the stream.

It's important in small shallow streams like this that they are left in their natural states.  Debris is important. Fallen trees create pools that provide resting areas. Stands of trees and vegetation along the stream provide protection, preventing silting, keep the stream cooler in warmer weather and slowly releases the water year round.

In some spots viable channels for moving upstream are literally inches wide and meander between boulders, sand and gravel bars, tufts of grasses, shrubs, and downed trees and logs.

The salmon reach the gravel beds and build nests or redds - literally just small depressions in the gravel - before laying eggs and fertilizing. Soon the salmon die and their bodies are used as nutrients for  zooplankton and insects that their offspring will feed on as the next generation make their way back to the Salish Sea.

In todays Sunday Seattle Times there is an article about chum salmon returning to Piper Creek and passing through Carkeek Park on Seattle's north side.  The Department of Public Works, to prevent excessive flooding and scouring of the stream bed - ruining any chance for salmon recovery- is spending tax money to build retention ponds that will receive runoff from city streets, parking lots and other impermeable surfaces.  The forest does that already. It is a classic example of an ecosystem service.

When bad forestry practices and excessive clear cutting takes place in watersheds feeding these streams where salmon protection is required, these free ecosystem services provided by nature is negated and it becomes a free taxpayer subsidy to the forestry industry.  

Where would be the fairness be in all of that? 

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Several weeks ago, the first of the fall storm cycles came in from the Pacific.

The winds skirt around the Olympic Mountains, taking the less obstructive way via the Strait of Juan de Fuca, through the San Juan Islands and into Samish, Chuckanut and Bellingham Bays.

Old Big Leaf Maples, Acer macrophyllum, limbs wrapped with epiphytic mosses and lichens, shed their canopy of leaves.

The air explodes into a riot of swirling, spinning yellow that quickly blankets the hillsides and ferns surrounding Oyster Creek.
all photos ©Paul Anderson

The rains that follow fill the shallows of the creek. 

Chum salmon,Oncorhynchus keta, patiently waiting out in Samish Bay, swim inland and end their long journey through the north Pacific,  150 yards from the salt water that had been home for the last three years.

Eggs, laid in redds by the worn down hens and fertilized by the grizzled, tattered males settle into the gravel or drift into quiet pools and eddies.  

An American dipper, Cinclus mexicanus, the only North American songbird that swims underwater, swims by clutching a salmon egg in its beak. It emerges onto a mid-stream rock, swallows the egg and breaks into its melodious call.

Carcasses of dead and dying salmon litter the shallows, their bodies providing nutrients to the stream community, the oyster beds in the bay, and future generations of salmon.

Other salmon carcasses, pulled from the stream to the adjacent forest floor by small mammals, gulls and eagles decompose providing essential nitrogen to the forest.

Frost further breaks down the leaves into duff.

And the cycle comes full circle. From death emerges life.  

From detritus, growth.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Clear Night in the Chuckanut Range

Cold, crisp, autumn weather brought out the stars tonight and a great spot to view them was from a perch high in the Chuckanut Range above the city lights and freeway noise.

Look at a night time satellite image of northwest Washington on the eastern shore of the Salish Sea - from Vancouver to Olympia - the only dark area is where I stand.

all photos © Paul Anderson
But as you can see light pollution is affecting the skies on three sides of the Chuckanuts. The glow on the left horizon is from Victoria B.C., the glow on right is from Bellingham, refineries near Ferndale, and from the huge metropolis of Vancouver. B.C.

As more and more Canadians settle next to the border with the U.S. and Mt.Vernon/Burlington encroach nearer the southern edge of the Chuckanuts, light pollution will increase.  The first two photographs looking up through the trees were in an easterly direction and towards the North Cascades.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Chuckanut Sandstone

Hike south from the top and end of Cleator Road you eventually come to a band of cliffs that over look Blanchard Mountain and the valley in between.

At the base of these cliffs are some beautiful examples of layering.  Here are several photos from that area.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Great Blue Heron near Edison, Wa.

all photos © Paul Anderson

I was driving along near Edison and saw a Heron standing in a drainage ditch.  Since I had my camera with the 70-200 zoom sitting ready to fire next to me I decided to backup and try and photograph this beautiful bird.

These were 3 of the 6 photos I fired off with 1 hand holding the camera/lens, 1 releasing the shutter, I steered backwards with my knees. 3 photos were blurred.

I processed the raw image in adobe lightroom, desaturated the colors green and yellow so the grass didn't detract from the wings, slightly boosted the orange in the beak and increased the contrast slightly,  I also tightly cropped around the bird.

Some Random Thoughts While Flying Over the Chuckanuts

all photos ©Paul Anderson

Fly over the Chuckanut Range and you will quickly realize:
- what a special place we have just minutes from the I-5 corridor. 
- how vulnerable it is to potential development.
- how vulnerable it is to the potential of poor logging practices and processes. 
- there are many stakeholders who will have divergent views on any change.  These include private property owners (homeowners), businesses, industrial forest landowners, logging companies, State Parks, Department of Natural Resources (DNR), local, county and state government agencies, advocacy groups like the Chuckanut Conservancy, Conservation Northwest, the Sierra Club, The Mountaineers, NCCC, Friends of Blanchard Mountain, also recreational groups -hikers, hang gliders, campers, photographers, horsemen, runners, mountain bikers, restaurant goers, motorists and motorcyclists that use Chuckanut Drive. 

The culture and history of the area has an influence and needs to be considered - resource extraction in Skagit County has a proud and long history - it doesn't mean that we agree that it can continue but that history has to be acknowledged, it is ok to be empathetic to the past.
- there will be much frustration in trying to protect an area that we love.
- it is ok to be passionate about special places like this. There will be passion on all sides of this issue.

I also have some ideas on what we can do - I guess continue to do is a better choice of words -  as an advocacy group:
- continue to provide timely information to the public about issues, events, meetings, logging etc.
- ensure that the Chuckanut Conservancy is represented on all teams, working groups, etc. even though it  can be extremely frustrating and seems to be overwhelmingly a situation of David vs. Goliath - it is what it is.
- continue to build the social network already started that will want to address the DNR and working group with little or short notice about their love of the Chuckanuts and concerns/opinions - respectful articulate discourse will have to be listened to.
- define the goals of what we want as an advocacy group, develop the tactics or actions required to achieve some or many of those goals and articulate specifically to the DNR and Commissioner Goldmark what we as an organization want and will do (or offer to do) to achieve those goals.
- educate the membership and public by identifying stakeholder groups and their issues and what can and cannot be achieved based on previous laws, regulations, commitments.
- work at consensus building.
- define/understand what we can compromise on and what we cannot and articulate that to DNR so they have a clear understanding.
- be prepared and ready to stand up for those areas we feel we cannot compromise on and make proposals - offer alternative solutions. If the solution requires large sums of money and we won't commit or are unable to commit, then it is difficult or unreasonable to take that stand.