A Trip to Yellow Island with The Nature Conservancy

Sunday was spent driving, boating and walking onto a privately-owned island that few have ever explored. The Nature Conservancy of Washington guided it’s members out to Yellow Island, a small islet southwest of Orcas Island. Leaving Anacortes on a chartered boat, we cut over the calm chilled green waters of a north Puget Sound swirling under sharp blue skies. With Mt. Baker and the Cascades brooding with white summits, the twin 80hp engines sped us into the passages where ferries filled with tourists criss-crossed through the San Juan Islands.

Yellow Island is an 11-acre landmass with over 50 wild flowers bursting in spring air. Once we arrived on its pebbly shores, hummingbirds darted from blossom to blossom across the ancient prairie land. Before the arrival of Europeans, indigenous peoples settled the island and frequently burned the landscape to sustain its prairie land. Few of the original burn scars can be found on the oldest tree trunks. In 1979 the island was purchased by The Nature Conservancy and thus preserved as part of Washington State’s pristine environmental heritage.

A link to The Nature Conservancy’s Washington Nature blog:  Exploring the Gem of the San Juan Islands

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Leaving Anacortes, WA

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Ferries shuttling tourists through the San Juan Islands

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Yellow Island

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Burn scars to sustain the prairie landscape

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The Nature Conservancy scientist Paul answers questions by a TNC member

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An employee of TNC who has lived on and cared for Yellow Island for 17 years

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Bloomberg Businessweek Shoot: Willapa Bay’s Future w/Neonicotinoids

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Last week I was called by Bloomberg and headed to Willapa Bay in southwestern Washington to photograph WSU scientist Kim Patten and the surrounding environment of Bay Center, WA. Waking up at 2:30am on Monday, I spent the morning driving 3hrs to catch a clear sunrise over the waters, which have been the center of Washington’s oyster industry for generations. At over 260 square miles, the bay nearly empties at low tide, creating the second largest estuary on the U.S.’s west coast. But a local shrimp has been disrupting the area’s economy for too long, suffocating oyster beds as the crustacean burrows 1 to 2 feet beneath the surface, turning mudflats into quicksand. The published article is available in the link and the selects from the morning’s shoot are below.

Bloomberg Businessweek: Washington State Turns to Neurotoxins to Save Its Oysters

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A pile of discarded oyster shells are left in the sun so organic matter can decompose before being bagged and placed back in the water as a refuge for young oyster seed.

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Long-line oyster beds stretch across the tidal flats of Willapa Bay as a front of morning fog recedes westward.

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Old oyster shells wrapped in bags ready for delivery outside an oyster nursery

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WSU scientist and researcher Kim Patten uses a clam digger to pull out an invasive shrimp from one to two feet beneath the mud.

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A male and female shrimp (the female is carrying orange egg sacks)

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An oyster shucker in Bay Center, WA

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Mexico: The Land of the Craft

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Mexico is a land of southern sun, warm sands, dusty cobbled streets filled with wafting scents of freshly grilled meats, buttery shrimp skewers and braying donkeys laying idle under the shades of ruffled palm fronds. It is a humble mix of ocean beaches to classic hacienda-style farmland below centuries-old ranches to the hurrying belches of city horns and graffitied buses intermixed within a colored historic city center. The people of Mexico know very well how to eat like ruling kings and drink like maddening queens. They choose their ingredients from the busy market stalls where meats and seafoods, produce and local spices and herbs carry lines of shoppers out to the homegrown rows of agave that stretch along arid rolling landscapes into the wild brushes of the traditional vaquero. Their culture very much resembles a barter and trade system of long ago, with real crafts-people, who to this very day continue to subsist on a technique passed down from generations.

There is pride in the people, the ones who truly know how to carve a cow into the choicest of meats, to the repairman that returns the hurricane-battered palapa back into that exotic specimen above brown leathery Texans and Californians. South of the border is where the Americas’ craftsmanship dwells, behind the colonial walls and feathered into the waves left by the dawn-patrolling ponga. What is in Mexico is from Mexico, built by the people.

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Malecón Nights

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The thrill of travel is not just the location, change of weather, exotic food, cold crisp lager or sweet watered-down poolside cocktail; and neither that departure from the doldrums of a 9-5er as adventurer enters the foray of a new culture. In large part, it is the people and the very fine reclusive act of people-watching. Amble to a reposed locale, with or without inclement weather, put on your sunnies and take in the forms, motions, gestures and secret underlying nature of humanity’s greatest gift: the fleeting expression.

For this, I headed to the great malecón – Mazatlan, Mexico’s fine gift to locals and foreigners alike. The malecón is a boardwalk stretching a total of 13 miles along Pacific sand and stone, one of the world’s longest waterfront escapades. By daytime it’s sparsely populated, the heat and harsh bite of sun repelling personnel. But by night, as twilight dims, those heavenly swathes of orange, yellow and pink fade into sheer depths of purple, the individual and group collide along the concrete seawall. There are walkers. There are joggers. There are bikes, dogs, merchant stalls, blustery palms and ephemeral statues of a past Carnaval: el malecón.

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Living in the Country: Pt III

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These photographs depict the otherworldly slices of land built by undefined hands. Each image brings a revelatory peace of mind, one normally construed around the mazes of walls, stop lights and traffic signs. They are the places where the wind blows freely, sweeping across spaces that allow weather to continually shape and form an existence meant to do exactly that – be shaped, formed and changed. There are no bricks, no concrete, no rebar. Only the elements of time appear unnatural.

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Living in the Country: Pt II

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Country living is dynamic, inside the cabin and out. Things don’t appear the same as if you’re living in an urban environment. Instead of concrete or brick foundations, walls are made of not just wood, but entire logs…big logs. And instead of finding house plants and framed pictures on these wall of beautiful distant locations, you’ll find what was once living in your yard stuffed, anthropomorphized and placed inside. Once again, country living is all about being in harmony, or being one, with nature, and then taking that to a new level.

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Sand rats are friendly despite their appearance once giving a human personality

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A coyote guarding the door

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A black bear and badger go head-to-head for a dead sand rat.

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Stepping outside you’ll spot a frozen land awaken as a river passes listlessly through the valley. Hints of pinks and oranges wash away the purples of night while geese begin to ruffle and hawks take flight. Another day in the country.

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Life in the Country: Pt I

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Life in the country is not an idealized peaceful existence unless you subscribe to the following as elements of such; 5AM start times to milk Daisy Bell the Cow, -5 degree temperatures while hopping on a quad with windchill factors in the -20s, your tears turning eyelashes into frozen shelves, your lips taut and crisp, ears and hands burning as if squeezed in a vice just before numbness sets in, and full days in the field, combing the backcountry for livestock and breaks in the fence line. Add to this clearing pathways of 50 foot toppled trees using a 32 inch chain saw or employing the exhaust of your Polaris’ engine to warm freezing hands after removing three inch thick ice sheets from the numerous watering troughs the cattle need to survive during these cold winter months.

To the ranchers and farmers who thrive out here around the John Day river near Spray OR on the east side of the Cascade mountains, these elements feed their deep spiritual and physical connection to the land. Our rewards for their sacrifice are fresh fruit, vegetables, grains and grass fed beef. Their rewards though are profound and pure. Fresh unpasteurized milk, with warm chicken and duck eggs, and turkeys for Thanksgiving. Here life is shared with elk herds that roam the pristine hills, with bears that hibernate in their caves while cougars and bobcats stalk deer and other game through the sparse pine forests of the hillsides and valleys. The setting sun with its darkening sky reveal, in this high desert, an Atlas of stars, shining with a native brilliance undimmed by the light pollution we’ve all grown accustomed to. A moody fog, lit by that brilliance, courses along the path of the frozen John Day below. As day turns to night, the night crawlers fall into their sleep as the daytrippers awaken.

All around the sounds of the natural world play unspoiled by human industry. The meter of this hard but simple life is not kept by a clock, rather, by the dawn’s early light, the shrunken shadows of high noon, and finally their elongated statures as the sun begins to set are, the timepieces of these hills. As the sky’s hues expand and intensify at sunset and the temperature begins to plummet, the body’s hunger will be satisfied in a kitchen where a pot of steaming milk with honey and spices warms and perfumes the air. Here is a glimpse of life in the high country of Spray, Oregon.

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Daisy Bell the Cow being milked in the barn just after 5AM

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At -5 degrees, this 2,000lb mare had no issue watching the morning sun rise

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Tom the Turkey was the stud

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Micheal F. starts the day with his wife at 5AM and as soon as there is light he is off into the backcountry. Micheal provides full-care to ranch owners; managing and operating a ranch, and learning new ways to evolve the farmer’s marketplace.

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Clearing watering troughs requires thick skin, but the breath and the Polaris offer enough relief. The daily high while in Spray was 10 degrees.

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The John Day River below

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Providing mineral and salt blocks in the backcountry

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Juniper trees are weeds in the high country. They are clear cut to make room for grasses in order to form pasture.

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Sunset in the backcountry pasture at an elevation of 4000 feet

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IRC’s Winter Party in Seattle, WA

International Rescue Committee's Winter Party in Seattle, WA

Seattle’s chapter of the International Rescue Committee celebrated a gift-exchange between refugees and sponsors this passed week. Families from around the world got together for gifts, games and activities, filling the auditorium with smiles, laughter and a few cries from the overwhelmed little ones.

International Rescue Committee's Winter Party in Seattle, WA

International Rescue Committee's Winter Party in Seattle, WA

International Rescue Committee's Winter Party in Seattle, WA

International Rescue Committee's Winter Party in Seattle, WA

International Rescue Committee's Winter Party in Seattle, WA

International Rescue Committee's Winter Party in Seattle, WA

International Rescue Committee's Winter Party in Seattle, WA

International Rescue Committee's Winter Party in Seattle, WA

International Rescue Committee's Winter Party in Seattle, WA

International Rescue Committee's Winter Party in Seattle, WA

International Rescue Committee's Winter Party in Seattle, WA

International Rescue Committee's Winter Party in Seattle, WA

IRC teams provide health care, infrastructure, learning and economic support to people in 40 countries, with special programs designed for women and children. Every year, the IRC resettles thousands of refugees in 22 U.S. cities.

IRC

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Robert Carlson’s Got New Glass

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From his glass imagination, Robert Carlson has created a new series of blown artwork. These pieces are delicately sown with vaporous hues and streaked with air pockets locked in time. Closest to a vase, they are signature art forms that glow in their own empty spaces.

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STORMR Deer Camp: Into the Hoh Rainforest (Pt. IV)

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When there is a river nearby, there must be fish. Always bring your fly rod, seek the thrill and reel in those steelhead. Somewhere up the S. Fork Hoh River on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State on a Stormr assignment.

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