Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bridge Over North Fork of the Nooksack River

Just an hour or so away from Bellingham, WA, is another world, one of trees, big mountains, and rushing rivers. On a warm fall day, a drive up Mt. Baker Highway SR 542 will take you to the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. An unnamed bridge crosses the fast running glacial melt waters of the North Fork of the Nooksack River near the Douglas-Fir Campground.

This bridge is in the Pacific Northwest rainforest. The annual rainfall is about 67 inches per year, with snowfall of about 43 inches. That makes for lots water in almost all seasons.

With all that moisture, even a concrete structure like this bridge becomes home to mosses and other hardy plants.

For more bridges from all over, head on over to San Francisco Bay Daily Photo, the home of Sunday Bridges. -- Margy

Friday, September 28, 2012

Coal Train

There has been a lot of controversy in Bellingham about the building of a coal shipping terminal at Cherry Point. Even is this never comes to pass, there are still coal trains traveling the rails heading for British Columbia's Westshore Terminal at Robert's Bank.

The primary destination for all that coal is China.

Here's the train passing Chuckanut Bay on a sunny September day. It's actually heading south empty. The triple engine in the front is pulling. I assume the single at the end is either pushing or going along for the ride. -- Margy

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

38 Miles, 6 Hours, 1 National Forest

Because my daily schedule requires lots of indoor time, it's important to get out into nature as much as possible. Sometimes I don't have enough time off to do an overnight trip or return to our float cabin home, so a quick day trip has to do. Bellingham, WA, has some great places that can be reached in a short amount of time.

Last week, I headed up to the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest for a hike. From Bellingham, I took Mt. Baker Highway without a destination in mind. My first stop was the Douglas-Fir Campground. I saw several cars parked on the other side of the highway, so I decided to check it out. Here I found the easy to moderate "Horseshoe Bend" trail along the North Fork of the Nooksack River

The well maintained trail was built by the United States Forest Service and the Whatcom County Trail Work Crew. It has several stairs, bridges and causeways to make it easy to moderate hiking. I saw a few others, but most of the time I had the forest and river all to myself. What a relaxing afternoon.

I filled my backpack with a towel and lunch makings. The trail intersects with the Nooksack River at several points. Because the water is low right now, a few spots have large boulders exposed. I pulled up a rock, used my knee as a table, and ate my open-faced crackers sandwiches to the soothing sound of the rushing water.

The trail is listed as year-round. I'll have to go back in after the leaves turn. -- Margy

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Deer Lake Reflections

The day I went to Sasquatch Provincial Park, the weather was sunny, warm and calm. That made for some excellent reflections on the surface of Deer Lake.

This was the view I had for my picnic lunch.

This marshy area fed more water into the lake and looked like a great habitat for lots of aquatic plants and creatures. -- Margy

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Bigfoot, Bearfoot or Barefoot?

On my mini-vacation to Sasquatch Provincial Park last week, I took a walk along the shore of Harrison Lake. As the name implies, this is supposed Sasquatch, or Bigfoot, territory. And Harrison Hot Springs capitalizes on the fact in business names and advertising.

Walking along the shore of the lake I saw these prints in the moist soil. What do you think? -- Margy

Friday, September 21, 2012

Deer Lake, BC

Here's another shot of the wonderful, blue sky over Deer Lake in Sasquatch Provincial Park in British Columbia.

A little later in the evening, the golden sunset started to bring out the fast changing leaves.

Each season has its own beauty. -- Margy

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Raiders of the Lost Lunch

Well, almost. When I selected my campsite at Deer Lake, I didn't realize it came with a plethora (I rarely have a need to use that wonderful word) of Steller's Jays. I discovered their presence when one descended from the trees and started pecking at my chip bag. Once I figured out where the pecking sound came from, I shooed him away. That's when I discovered that the trees were filled with "blue fruit."

I delayed my picnic hike to watch them. Jays are opportunistic birds. I'm sure they travel from site to site looking for leftovers and unguarded food. When no human food was produced, one Jay reverted to more natural behaviour.

He flew to the ground and started pecking around. At first I thought he was looking for crumbs, but then he came up with a short stick in his beak. He flew back up into the overhanging pine and began pecking at a large branch with the stick. It sounded like a woodpecker, but with less volume.

I assumed he was tapping to either dislodge or encourage insects to come out of their protective holes to be consumed. I tried to research this behaviour on the web, but didn't find any references except for crows. Since Steller's Jays are a member of the Corvid family including ravens, crows, and magpies, it isn't a far stretch to imagine them actively using tools.

Have you ever seen such a behaviour in a bird? -- Margy

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

24 Hours, 2 Countries, 1 Provincial Park

Last week I used the good weather to squeeze in a solo camping trip. It's a two hour drive from Bellingham, WA, to Sasquatch Provincial Park at Harrison Lake, BC, (depending on the border wait). I went north on the Guide to Badger Road, east to the Sumas border crossing (they now have Nexus!), and north to Canada Highway 1 eastbound. At Exit 135, I took Highway 9 north through Agassiz, Harrison Hot Springs, along the east shore of Harrison Lake, and finally a well-packed dirt road to Sasquatch Provincial Park.

I first checked out the Hicks Lake Campground, but none of the vacant sites excited me. I went on to the Deer Lake Campground and found sites with foliage for privacy. I picked #16, just a short walk from the lake shore.

The afternoon was warm, sunny and calm. I left the car to claim the site and filled my backpack for a lunch hike. The trail along the south shore had the most water access.

The trail passes through some moist, swampy places. Bridges and causeways protect the environment and make this trail easier to hike. Today I had it all to myself.

There were some of the largest Skunk Cabbage plants I've ever seen. Spring must be beautiful (if a bit stinky) here. Looking back towards the campground in the waning light was beautiful.

When I got back it was time to set up camp. I brought a small tent, air mattress, sleeping bag, camp chair, flashlights, everything I would need for a comfortable night. Fortunately, the campground wasn't full and the campers were quiet. It made for a relaxing evening.

The campgrounds are open from March 30 to October 8 at a cost of $21 a night. Winter camping with no fee or services is available only at the Deer Lake Campground. I splurged for a bundle of wood and enjoyed a nice fire before I turned in to read myself to sleep. -- Margy

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Mission BC Railway Bridge

Over the Labour Day long weekend, I went to help Wayne retrieve his kayak after a three day solo paddle down the Fraser River. The boat ramp we used is right next to the Mission BC Railway Bridge. While we were unloading his camping gear, a freight train with a Canadian Northern engine crossed the Fraser River on it's way eastbound.

The original bridge was built in 1891, and was the only railway crossing over the Fraser in the lower mainland until 1904. In the beginning, it shared it's span with car traffic traveling between Abbotsford and Mission. A parallel car bridge was subsequently built to reduce the lengthy waits that could occur for automobile passangers.

A bridge tender mans a central swing span 24/7 to allow tall boats, tugs, barges and ships to pass the bridge on their way up and down the Fraser River. Fortunately, Wayne didn't need that service. -- Margy

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fraser River Sturgeon

At the bottom of the mighty Fraser River in British Columbia, lives a mighty and massive fish. The Fraser River White Sturgeon is a remnant of prehistoric times. The skin is covered with large bony plates rather than scales, and the skeleton is mostly cartilage. Barbels on the underside of the head help it find food on the river bottom, making up for poor eyesight.

In Mission BC, along the banks of the river, there's a sculptural tribute to this interesting and illusive fish. Here's an amazing article about a 1,100 pound sturgeon caught this summer. And it's still there, because fortunately sturgeon fishing on the Fraser is only catch and release. For more information on protecting sturgeon, check out the Fraser River Sturgeon Conservation Society. -- Margy

Friday, September 14, 2012

Airplane Camping on Orcas Island, WA

The summer crowds are gone, so Wayne and I decided to take a quick flying trip in 997. There are lots of interesting flying destinations nearby in the Pacific Northwest. For example, the San Juan Islands are just a twenty minute hop away. This week we returned to Orcas Island Airport (KORS) with our tent and sleeping bags in tow. We landed on Runway 34 with a slight headwind.

The runway is 2900 feet in length, plenty of room even for our cityfolk Piper Arrow. There's a small terminal, but it's only open when a commercial flight is scheduled. If you go around to the front of the building there's a pilot's conference room that may be open. Inside you will find pilot information and space for flight planning. Transient parking is available on the tarmac or in a large grass area.

If you're just coming for a day trip, park at the southeast corner. This is the closest location to the exit gate and trail towards town. If you want to camp, go the large grass tiedown area midfield on the east side. It is well maintained with clearly marked parking spots, some with hooks to attach your own ropes. There's a portable toilet next to the self-serve fuel building. And for those needing to file an international flight plan, there's free WiFi . Overnight parking is just $6 including camping.

Last time we flew to Orcas we walked the well marked trail to the village of Eastsound. That time we ate a The Sunflower Cafe. This time we decided to try the Madrona Bar & Grill. It's right on the water with a quaint atmosphere and a fabulous view down the u-shaped sound to the south. Since we were spending the night, I could enjoy a Mac & Jacks with our leisurely meal on the deck.

We walked back to the airport for a quiet night of reading in the tent. All went well until the wind picked up in the early hours of morning, rattling the tent. We took off the rain fly, allowing us to sneak in a few more winks before we packed up. Rather than walking back to town for breakfast, we flew south to Port Townsend to eat at the Spruce Goose Cafe. It was a great outing for 997 in the skies over Puget Sound, and her owners alike. -- Margy

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Solo Kayak Trip on the Lower Fraser River

On the Labour Day long weekend, Wayne took a three-day solo kayak trip down the lower Fraser River. He used our Current Designs double kayak we lovingly call the Big Yellow Banana. When you see it on top of our white Ford Tempo you'll know why. The trip started at an informal boat launch/camping spot just west of the Rosedale-Agassiz Bridge on Highway 9. When Wayne arrived on Thursday afternoon, it was almost empty. When we returned to retrieve the Tempo on Sunday, it was packed with holiday outdoor enthusiasts.

The Rosedale-Agassiz Bridge was built across the Fraser River in 1956. From 1953 when Highway 9 opened, travelers had to take a ferry across the river. Not as quick as a bridge for sure.

The lower Fraser River has lots of sandbar islands that are perfect for kayak and boat camping. With the low water of late summer, the river is more docile. Plus the low lying island have extended sand and gravel bars for easy landing. The nights are still short and warm. Just perfect for an end of the summer get away. -- Margy

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Better Late Than Never

Usually we have Barn Swallows nesting above our front porch under the peak of the roof. This year, we had no early season nest takers. We were afraid that our annual pair was either too old to return, or met an untimely death on their long migration from South America. Finally, in mid-August, we noticed the nest had been rebuilt.

Then we saw a female bird sitting on eggs. Now there are at least two chicks and both parents are busy bringing them tasty bugs as they rapidly grow to fledgling size. I'll miss the first flight this year, but I'm sure all will go well. Maybe our new pair will start returning each year now that they know the nest is available. I hope so. -- Margy

Friday, September 07, 2012

Finally Some Rain

Even though it was late coming, this summer has been sunny, hot and dry. Because the forests are tinder dry, tighter fire restrictions began on July 20 for the Coastal Fire Centre including Powell River, BC. This is a good thing. I would hate to see our beautiful trees go up in smoke.

People by and large are careful, but you just can't control Mother Nature and her lightening bolts. We got a few claps of thunder and bright flashes the last few days at the cabin, but no major fires began. Unfortunately, the rain was barely measurable.

Then as we were heading out of town, we got a fairly good, but gentle downpour while waiting for the ferry at Saltery Bay. That's the kind of rain we need to soak the soil and restore the plants. -- Margy

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Goodbye Summer

The next time I get back up to the cabin it'll be fall. I love summer up the lake. It's hard to say goodbye to all the sun, warm water for swimming, and clear skies.

You can already tell the days are getting shorter and nights are getting longer. Goodbye summer, hello fall and your golden leaves and crisp nights. We better get going on our woodpile soon! -- Margy

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Bumblebee Bonanza

In the hot summer months, flowers are few and far between. I recently found some blooming Bull Thistles that were a huge attraction for bumblebees.

At a time when nectar is hard to find, even a prickly lunch is a huge bonanza. -- Margy