Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Raining in the cottonwoods

It is raining in the cottonwoods under what is soon to become a sunny sky.  The night frost is melting from the branches.

I head in to get a second large piece of rotting wood for a sculpture project.  I hope to return it sometime when I no longer need it.  I don't like the idea of taking from the forest.  It is a loan.  I hope the forest will understand.  I ponder about how often I think, "my dad used to say..." when I am in the forest.  As I hang onto the ropes that I use to guide the 300+ lb piece of wood down a steep slope, I fetch his memory of hanging onto the plow horses when they got turned toward the barn (my great-grandfather was rather late in buying a tractor).

My heavy work done, I don't have the gas to haul another piece, so it must be time to wander.  I head to the lower beach.  The creek is down a foot, and so it stands to reason that the river should be somewhat lower.  On my last trip I was unable to see the beautiful colored rock installation from the Lo-Fi Arts Festival and I want to check to see if it might have been under water.  At the beach, I scare up two killdeer and three ducks, clumsiness on my part.  A hawk stays perched on the far side of the river and watches me.  The sun did not arrive today like I said it would.  It remains everywhere a steel grey day, a November day that is so very common in the northern tier.  The installation is completely gone.  The water is low enough that it should be fully exposed, but it is nowhere to be seen.  I can't even find a hint of the colored stripe pattern.  High water from rain has already reached the edge of the forest once, and it is clear that the Stillaguamish carries a tremendous amount of gravel when it runs high.  Fresh gravel covers the silt patches where I checked for animal tracks.

up the creek

Just as I am about to leave, a guy from the Stillagamish tribe arrives to check for coho salmon.  I ask to join him.  We walk up the creek, both of us noticing how much it has changed at where it exits the hills.  Where there was a small pond, there is now a foot high ridge of gravely sand.  The restoration seems to be taking this year.  Kevin finds two coho as we ascend the creek.  We find G. with his back turned, head in his camera, and we stop for a moment or two trying to figure out how to not surprise him too much as he won't hear us coming with all of the tumbling water.  We go until it is unlikely that the salmon could pass any farther.  Then, we return and follow the creek most of the way to the river, checking under woody debris and in pools for more fish.  I point out snipe when we flush them (3 total).  Kevin only sees one because he is looking for fish - the two cohos that he pointed out to me I would never have seen. Gravel is returning to the bottom of what was a ditch this summer.  Beaver are working a new dam, higher up than the one I'd found earlier.  These are all good things for the salmon.

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