Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Pacific Northwest Highlights, Looking Back and Ahead

Descent into Sea-Tac, Mt. Rainier, May 2013.
How was your 2013? 

I've tried to winnow down over a thousand photos taken in 2013 to just one (or two) a month to sum up the year in pictures here in the Northwest. Very hard to do!

These photos mostly reflect my outdoors passions. What would your year in photos look like? 

While business was slow, I got out to play more than usual in the Pacific Northwest outdoors. Not so great for the pocket book, but fantastic for my mental and physical health. 


Just because it's chilly doesn't mean we should hibernate here in the dead of winter. Clear skies and snow made for some wonderful trips: Lake Quinault Lodge where I witnessed a spectacular sunset, the Olympic coastline, Orcas Island, and of course skiing in the Cascades.

Sunset over the lake from Lake Quinault Lodge, WA.

With an uptake in mountain snowfall, more skiing at Stevens Pass and Crystal Mountain, and cross-country skiing the Iron Horse Trail, along with a trip east of the Cascades to Wenatchee and Leavenworth.  An unusual irruption of snowy owls caused a female to spend a few months near Sunset Hill Park in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood.

Fun in the fresh pow at Stevens Pass, WA. Photo by Linda Dimmit.
Sunset Hill snowy owl.

March is a shoulder month here in the Northwest between winter and early spring, but still lots of snow in the mountains and early spring flowers in the lowlands. A late month highlight was an overnight on Mt. Hood, with spectacular stars and a lovely sunrise at Timberline Lodge.

Crater Rock and Mt. Hood, OR, summit twilight. Photo by Scott Conover.

Things start really waking up by April in the Northwest, and a seasonal favorite is the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.  Hint, don't go on a weekend if possible! Equally special is the display of native wildflowers over at Deception Pass State Park, where I joined a group from the Washington Native Plant Society. Also enjoyed a weekend at Suncadia Resort exploring the eastern Cascade crest.

Deception Pass State Park, WA.

Skagit tulips, WA.

Now we're talkin'. Hiking. Kayaking. Late snow in the mountains.Trips included a typical wet Memorial Day weekend camping on Shaw and Orcas Islands in the San Juans with great hikes and kayaking, an overnight to Paradise Lodge on Mt. Rainier to celebrate Washington's National Parks Fund, and dashing up Rattlesnake Ledge.

Magical and historic Doe Bay, Orcas Island, WA.

June is when we Northwesterners are out camping, hiking, and more but getting a little impatient for the clouds to disappear (although they do some days). Summer never really starts until after the Fourth of July here. Regardless, enjoyed camping/hiking in the Teanaway region in Washington's central Cascades, hikes to Annette Lake and Little Si, kayak camping on Maury Island, and epic summer sunsets from Seattle's Carkeek Park.

Summer Solstice sunset, Carkeek Park, Seattle, WA.

Ah July.  Late month brings the crest of summer here in the Northwest. So much to get out and do. Outings included hiking ever popular Wallace Falls and Snow Lake, kayaking the Skykomish River and through the Ballard Locks, and an epic trip kayak camping off remote northwest Vancouver Island in the Bunsby Islands.

Cuttle Islets, Checleset Ecological Reserve, Vancouver Island, B.C.

August is rich, mellow, and fantastic for high elevation hiking or any outdoors pursuit here. Or maybe just spending a weekend away with friends at a rented cabin, like I did in Hood River Valley. Kayak camping was a theme this year, and an overnight to Sucia Island in the northern San Juan Islands was crowded at the campsite but wonderful.

Sucia Island sunset paddle, WA.

It just keeps getting better. September is often our best month of the year weather-wise in western Washington and Oregon.  Time for getting together for late summer picnics, harvesting wine grapes, and early fall trips back to Orcas Island. So much to do and see and not enough weekends!

Annual grape harvest, Whidbey Island Winery, Langley, WA.

Oh October!  My favorite month of the year. Whoever says we don't have fall colors here in the Northwest has never gone on a hike in the Cascades or to our Japanese gardens around the region. 'Twas a spectacular autumn hiking season this past fall, with hikes to Mason Lake, Mt. Pilchuck, Beckler Peak, and Lodge Lake in Washington's Cascades. More small farm harvesting, too, with a soggy but fun weekend in the Willamette Valley.

View west down I-90 corridor from Ira Spring Trail enroute to Mason Lake, WA.

Usually November is our stormiest month, but 2013 brought an unusual dry but chilly spell. Highlights were a weekend in the Portland area hiking to the top of Multnomah Falls and beyond, bicycling around Portland's waterfront, watching the salmon spawning in Carkeek Park, a sweet trip to Seattle's Japanese garden, and a perfect Thanksgiving--doing the Seattle Turkey Trot before the ferry to Bainbridge Island for dinner.

Base of upper Multnomah Falls, OR.

Usually we're skiing on December weekends, but in 2013 there is barely enough snow to operate and some areas aren't even open yet. It's a crazy busy month anyway. Walks in the lowland forest at Carkeek Park satisfied my need for outdoors nourishment.

Carkeek Park trail, Seattle, WA.
What were some of your 2013 highlights, and what adventures do you have planned for 2014?

Happy New Year and wishing you a 2014 full of laughter, good fun, and lots of smiles.

BTW for lots more photos and NW news between blog posts, Like Pacific Northwest Seasons on FaceBook or follow on Twitter.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Salish Sea Marine Sanctuary & Coastal Trail: Let's Help Make it Happen

If you've been fortunate enough to see our Southern Resident orca (killer) whales roaming the Salish Sea in northwest Washington or southwest British Columbia, you know they inspire awe—and, for many, a fierce desire to protect these highly intelligent mammals.  

For a man leading a seemingly daunting task of establishing a new marine sanctuary, Douglas Tolchin seems anything but daunted.  While speaking at the Water Symposium in Seattle recently, this tall, silver-haired yet boyish man inspired the crowd with his optimism and enthusiasm for the proposed Salish Sea Marine Sanctuary & Coastal Trail

What defines the Salish Sea? Geographically, it's the 7,000-square-mile body of water that includes the Georgia  Strait in B.C., the Strait of Juan de Fuca that straddles the U.S.-Canadian border, and Puget Sound in Washington. 

The Coast Salish people were the first to formally recognize the Salish Sea name, incorporating it into their collective culture in 2008. The U.S. and Canadian governments adopted the name in 2009 and 2010, respectively. 

As a native-born Seattleite who has spent many happy days playing on Puget Sound beaches and kayaking its waters, I'm all for this vision to restore wildlife populations throughout the Salish Sea to more than 50 percent of historic levelsas soon as possible.

Southern Resident orca whale. October 2012 Puget Sound. Photo by Alisa Lemire Brooks.
 In the last 150 years, human activities have taken their toll on this formerly pristine and still ecologically valuable inland sea rich in wildlife, some now threatened. Industrial pollution, shoreline alterations, seabed dredging, and much more have compromised the health of the Salish Sea. 

It's time to make things right.

Tolchin founded the Salish Sea Marine Sanctuary & Coastal Trail effort, but he envisions a widespread involvement. "For the Sanctuary to reach most or all of its full potential, it is imperative that this be a widespread grassroots people-up and also indigenous-led movement.  I foresee Coast Salish First Nations and Peoples substantially leading and shepherding the Sanctuary's vision and implementation through time.  Hopefully with the active and energetic help of a million or more newcomers, the sooner the better."

Harbor seal, Cattle Pass, San Juan Islands.
Marine Sanctuaries in the U.S. are exceptional bodies of water where elevated standards of conduct protect and restore water quality, wildlife populations, cultural resources, and habitats. Here on the West Coast of the U.S, over 50 percent of the California shoreline and wildlife habitat is protected by a system of four Marine Sanctuaries. In the Pacific Northwest, we currently have the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary off the Olympic Peninsula in the Pacific Ocean.

Mt. Baker hovers over the Salish Sea near Bellingham, Washington.
According to Tolchin, the Salish Sea Marine Sanctuary represents a people-up paradigm shift from the prior effort to establish the Northwest Strait Marine Sanctuary back in the 1990s. The current effort is holistic and comprehensive in nature. 

"It will directly and substantially benefit virtually everyone living throughout the entire Salish Sea watershed, in myriad ways.  It is emerging from unprecedented unified vision and action between people of Coast Salish First Nations, British Columbia and Washington State...together."

View across the U.S.-Canadian border to Vancouver Island.

In addition to increased wildlife protection, a bicycling and hiking trail encircling the Salish Sea is envisioned as part of the effort.

"We're having a lot of fun creating and designing the Salish Sea Marine Sanctuary & Coastal Trail. We're involving children, musicians, artists, scientists, students, teachers, business people, videographers, storytellers... pretty much everyone and anyone who loves animals, clean water, clean air, healthy food and a better future," says Tolchin.

To help make this happen, start by Liking the Salish Sea Marine Sanctuary & Coastal Trail page on FaceBook, where you can see upcoming events and updates.  Then check out their website, which details more about their vision.

San Juan Islands, Washington
It's time to join the party!

We'd love to hear your ideas about this proposal and your Salish Sea experiences. Jump in with a comment below. 

Thanks for visiting and sharing Pacific Northwest Seasons.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Perfectly Portland: In and Around Downtown by Bicycle

Of course the day starts with a stop at an organic juice bar. It's Portland.

On a recent sunny but cold Saturday, my well-situated friend Matt and I enjoy an easy breezy bicycle ride through P-Town.  Bundled up against the early winter chill and the East Wind, we coast from Goose Hollow down to the Willamette River.

But first there's that stop at Kure Juice Bar on Taylor a couple blocks up from the river. They whip up a cleansing concoction of veggies and fruit to get me revved for the ride.

After a tumble onto the street when my shoelaces get wrapped up in my pedal (good thing the street was empty), I pick myself up and we cycle onto the Waterfront Park - Eastbank Esplanade Loop Trail along the river.

Today we're headed clockwise and cross the river on the historic Steel Bridge over to the Eastbank Esplanade. This lovely trail is scenic and spacious, perfect for whatever means of nonmotorized transportation you wish.

Steel Bridge across the Willamette River

After cruising about a mile or so along the eastbank, we cross over the Hawthorne Bridge (I think!) and cut south along the river for our next stop. Portland's bridges have excellent, wide bicycle lanes.

Our next stop is the Little River Cafe along the RiverPlace Esplanade for a proper breakfast.  My breakfast wrap stuffed with freshly sauteed veggies, eggs, and a little cheese is excellent and large enough to split.

Then we continue south down to catch the Portland Aerial Tram up to the gorgeous OHSU (Oregon Health & Science University) facility on Marquam Hill above the South Waterfront District. When I was a kid this was just industrial land along the river, but Portland has grown up quite nicely, thank you.

We roll our bicycles onto the spacious tram that departs every 5 minutes or so and enjoy the short ride uphill. The view along the way is just as awesome as from the top.

 Mt. Hood is out in all her freshly white-clad glory today, looming large but graceful on the eastern horizon. Love that mountain.

Marquam Bridge
Lots of tourists and locals come up here for the view, and some lucky people like my friend Karen ride the tram as part of their daily work commute to OHSU. We chat up several visitors, including some students from Malaysia and a medical resident out from Kentucky.  A spectacular view on a sunny day makes everybody friendly.

Portland Aerial Tram
Riding downhill from OHSU on the winding, tree-lined road is more exciting than the leisurely tram ride up.  I cringe when Matt shoots down hill upright on his bike while he's adjusting his parka.  I'm too chicken and cruise down with a tight grip on my handlebars as I negotiate the blind curves.

Our last stop is back downtown at the Portland Farmer's Market at the South Park Blocks at Portland State University.  I stock up on the last of the season's chanterelle mushrooms and sneak a few cookies from one of the vendors closing up for the day.

After about 4 hours we meander back to Matt's place in Goose Hollow. Compared to Seattle where I live now, bicycling Portland is a dream. Lots of great trails, not too steep (we cheated with the tram), and very bicycle friendly.

Where are your favorite routes to bicycle around Portland?

When You Go 
The Portland Aerial Tram only cost about $4 to ride, payable by credit card. The Portland Farmer's Market at Portland State is open until December 21 for the year, then reopens in March.