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Celebrating People, Places & the Good Life in SW Washington State
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Posts from — July 2010

Expedition Explores Lake River, Discovers the Mouth of Salmon Creek!

It was a rare hot day in late June when we set off from the shores of Vancouver Lake Park – four explorers, three kayaks (two Necky Narpas and a brand new Folbot Greenland II ), with views of five mountains (St Helens, Hood, Adams and even Rainier and Jefferson).

View of Mount St Helens from Vancouver Lake Park

Mt Hood and Youth Regatta at the Vancouver Lake Sailing Club

Paddling behind the lake’s main island, we arrived at the opening to Lake River about 45 minutes later. The south end of this water route to the Columbia River was busy at Felida Moorage, a unique collection of floating homes of various ages and styles, and boat ramp users.

Expedition members sans the photographer's boat

Paddling toward Felida Moorage on Lake River

The strenuous paddle paid off just beyond the houseboats with an osprey nest perched above the channel. Osprey parents and two chicks wearily watched us watching them from their stick-filled condo on a power pole.

The osprey family watching us watch them

We had heard rumors that it was possible to paddle from the Salmon Creek Greenway to Lake River so, after a floating lunch in the boats, we set out to discover the opening.

About 10 minutes later there is was! Reminded of William Clark’s famous quote and (and misspelling, his, not mine) “Great joy … we are in view of the Ocian,” we found it! Paddling into new territory, Salmon Creek featured a much wider mouth than I expected.

While Lake River is fun to paddle (albeit sometimes strenuous due to the currents), Salmon Creek offered more variety in both flora and fauna. About 15 minutes into the creek, next to the BN Railroad Bridge, all the hard work of getting there paid off with the sighting of two beautiful bald eagles.

Eagle above Salmon Creek

“Turn around” our weary arms said so, while we really wanted to explore the creek, we saved it for another trip. Next time, assuming there is enough water in the creek, we’ll start from NW 36th Avenue at the Salmon Creek Greenway and explore the route to Lake River.

Paddling back, we saw the eagles again and more herons, some in flight, others lounging in the shade of the willows. Total wildlife count for the day: two majestic, adult bald eagles, countless herons, plethora of seagulls, Osprey family, kingfisher, geese, red-winged blackbirds, martins and other unidentified species.

Salmon Creek eagle

Heron in the willows

Heron in flight

Humans census: only two other kayaks, a few fisherman, a couple of pesky motorboats breaking the Vancouver Lake speed rules, and dozens of sailboats with young sailors, way across the lake, waiting for wind for the youth regatta at Vancouver Lake Sailing Club.

Four hours and about 10 miles later, we were back…hot, sore, downright weary and ready to go again.

July 31, 2010   2 Comments

Why I Love Downtown Vancouver

I love Downtown Vancouver. It’s the galleries, coffee houses and restaurants, the treasured, older buildings and rich history, the venerable Esther Short Park and Vancouver’s Farmer’s Market. But most of all — it’s the people.

“Meetcha’ Downtown” brings this home. Produced by Vancouver’s Downtown Association, this new video says much more than a long blog post on ZEST. Watch the video here . Enjoy! And Meetcha’ Downtown!

July 21, 2010   2 Comments

Here Chick, Chick, Chick…

“Regard it as just as desirable to build a chicken house as to build a cathedral.” – Frank Lloyd Wright

When I was a kid, chickens lived in barnyards. I was in awe of my grandmother’s fearlessness as she entered her long, white hen house and reached under each angry hen to snatch her egg. Those beaks looked mighty scary to me.

Looking back, I can’t imagine what it was like to have the 150 Rhode Island Reds and White Leghorns, which she tended to every day. That is a LOT of eggs! Combine that with multiple crowing roosters and we’re talking serious (and noisy) poultry.

Pondering the age-old question: Which came first?

The Wall Street Journal reported about the urban chicken trend on July 8, article here. Now chickens enjoy city backyards and Vancouver is no exception. We love our chickens!

Roosters are forbidden in our city limits (thank you, City of Vancouver!) but hens are doing quite well. In fact, the chickens will be queens for the day on July 17 at the Coop du Jour Tour, which will allow us to look into their castles. A fundraiser for the Hough Foundation, the self-guided tour will feature chicken coops of various designs in Vancouver’s Uptown Village neighborhoods. The tour will be held from Noon to 4 pm.

I had the opportunity to preview one of the coops in June. “Coop” is WAY too weak of a word. This was nothing like my grandmother’s utilitarian hen house. The Mowats have created a stylish home for their brood in the Hough Neighborhood and will be part of the tour.

Much More than a 'Coop'

A Condo for Hens

My neighbors Caitlyn and Jerrad are inspiring new chicken owners. They have creatively transformed their daughter’s play structure into a handy coop, while preserving the swings, upper deck and slide for play. They will explain their architectural wonder during the tour. Frank Lloyd Wright would be proud.

Play Structure or Chicken Coop? It's Both!

Buy your tickets now for the Coop du Jour. They are available at Arnada Naturals and Mint Tea in advance (Only $10 per family) or on the day of the event. More info about the tour is here.

Grandma Moses reputedly said that if she hadn’t been a painter, she would have raised chickens. She would have enjoyed the Coop du Jour.

July 10, 2010   No Comments

Five Boys, Three Moms, Trolls and Treasure at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

By Sarah Coomber
Photos by Andria Villanueva and Sarah Coomber

“Let’s find the treasure!” called Andria, another mom I’ve roped into my mission to stay sane by hiking this pre-school and largely daycare-free summer.

The adventure begins...

That got our little guys’ attention and lured them out of the tall grass near the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge parking lot and toward the pedestrian bridge that arches high over the railroad tracks and into the refuge itself.

About a mile north of the city of Ridgefield, in the refuge’s Carty Unit, the Oaks to Wetlands Trail is a 2-mile loop that rambles through old oaks and cedars and alongside grassy wetlands. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the refuge is home to waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors, river otter, black-tailed deer and coyotes. (Friends of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge provide additional information here.)

Along the trail

As three moms with five little boys ranging from 2 months to 5 years of age, we had no illusions about seeing wildlife. (Other than the ones we brought with us.) That said, this was a wonderful place for us to soak up some sunshine and scenery while the boys ran and rummaged.

Looking for trolls

Highlights for the little ones included searching for trolls under the trail’s little wooden bridges, looking for secret passageways in the woods and watching a couple of passing Burlington Northern Santa Fe trains from the pedestrian bridge. (The tracks run along the eastern border of the refuge.)

Exploring at Cathlapotle Plankhouse

All of us were fascinated by the Cathlapotle Plankhouse, located just inside the refuge. Completed in 2005 by more than 100 volunteer builders, this full-size replica of a Chinookan cedar plankhouse resembles the ones explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark visited in 1806 not far from this site.

The Plankhouse is beautiful to look at and smells wonderful too. It is open most Saturday and Sunday afternoons between April and October and offers educational and children’s activities the second Sunday of each month. (July 11— basket weaving; Aug. 8—Ravenstail weaving, flintknapping, Chinookan style carving, atlatl throwing and textile arts; and Sept. 12—prehistoric artifacts. Check the Plankhouse calendar for more information.

The happy explorers

Our visit to the refuge lasted about two hours during which we hit maybe a third of the trail system before breaking for snacks and train-watching. It was during snack time that little Ian, beaming, shouted, “I found the treasure!” and brought his mom, another Sarah, something that looked like a piece of hose. No … it looked like a twig with a dangling cocoon. No … it looked like a nearly-but-not-quite-beheaded garter snake! Mom ran, and Ian, thankfully and oh-so-thoughtfully, tossed the whole works into the tall grass behind us.

Boys do put the wild in wildlife.

Good to know:
• Primitive restrooms are available at the parking lot.
• Some trails are muddy—not stroller-friendly.

• $3 to park
• Insect repellent (On June 25th the mosquitoes were out in force.)
• Snack/water

Watch out for:
• Easy-exit gate to the train tracks a bit north of the plankhouse.
It has a “danger” sign, but little ones don’t read. Or care.
• Mosquitoes in the wooded area.

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July 2, 2010   1 Comment