Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

Ridgefield NWR is located on the Washington side of the Columbia River between Vancouver and Woodland.  Unlike most other refuges, this one is a drive-through wild area.  With few exceptions, visitors are required to stay in their cars and drive a 4.2 mile loop through grassland, woodland, and marshland.  The refuge utilizes dikes, canals, and pumps to simulate the seasonal water level changes that used to happen before dams changed the Columbia River.

Ridgefield has thousands of migratory bird visitors as well as many year-round residents.  Because of that, and the seasonal water level changes, there is always something different to see.  I make a point of visiting there three or four times a year, so you can expect to see more photoshoot blogs starring the birds of Ridgefield in the future.

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Update: Grassroots Political Activism

Last week, I wrote of my thoughts about taking a public stand on a local school bond measure.  I very much appreciate the comment that Calpoppy posted and it really got me to thinking more positively about taking that public stand.  (link to previous blog:   Grassroots Political Activism)

My husband and I did quite a bit of research since I posted that blog.  He checked into direct mail postcards.  I checked into the legalities of political advertising with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission.  He found out that we could have a mailer printed on 6×9-inch card stock for around $300 and that the postal service has priced DDDM (Door to Door Direct Mail) service very reasonably so that mailing costs for our ZIP code would be around $300 as well.  Nowhere, though, could either of us find a map or other indicator of what area is served by the Toledo school district.  We know that the high school, at least, draws from a larger area than just Toledo, but how large an area?  Husband learned, for example, that students in the nearby town of Vader have a choice of attending either Toledo or Winlock high school.

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Grassroots Political Activism

There will be a school bond measure on the ballot where I live in rural western Washington.  If it passes, local property taxes will increase by about $600 per year for the average home in this area, about a 33% increase.  In round numbers, the school board wants to spend $23,000,000 on improvements and upgrades to a high school that has 300 students.  When I first read about this, in a mailing sent out by the school district last spring, I was stunned.  Since then, there has not been an editorial in the local weekly newspaper.  No further mailings.  No campaigning.  Nothing.  I find that amazing.

People in Washington state vote by mail.  Ballots will be mailed out in a couple of weeks and the deadline for voters to mail them back is November 4.  Since voting can and does happen over a two-week period at the end of October, the time for political advertising and mailers happens about a week from now.

I happen to feel that amount of the proposed bond measure is outrageous for the size of the school.  The property tax increase to pay for school improvements will last for 30 years and — who’s kidding who? — long before that bond is paid for, the school district will have need for further special funding.  Because of my strong feelings, I have been giving thought to putting out my own mailing or newspaper ad to campaign against this bond measure.

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Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

Low tide is the best time to visit Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, located near Olympia in northwest Washington state. Conveniently for me on the day I visited, that happened at 12:30PM. I arrived at noon and explored the refuge for 3 hours.

Just as I set foot on the boardwalk that would take me through a riparian forest, I spied a snake that I had never seen before. Later research at home revealed that it is a subspecie of garter snake, the Puget Sound Garter Snake. Nothing to fear; it is not poisonous.

Puget Sound Garter Snake, Thamnophis sirtalis pickeringii, seen at near the parking lot at Nisqually NWR.

Puget Sound Garter Snake, Thamnophis sirtalis pickeringii, seen at near the parking lot at Nisqually NWR.

I was able to get only a couple of quick shots of this handsome snake before a young girl came tromping along the boardwalk in the opposite direction and nearly stepped on the snake.  I yelled.  She jumped.  And the snake darted back under cover.

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Westport

Westport is located on the Washington coast, on the South Coast and at the entrance to Grays Harbor.  There are many points of interest for the visitor to Washington’s South Coast, including beaches, cranberry bogs, parks, and hiking trails.

Westport map

The main draw for Westport is boating and fishing. As you can see from this aerial view found at the Westport-Grayland Chamber of Commerce’s website, a large marina occupies a sheltered harbor here.  This is home to fishing vessels and commercial charter boats, as well as private boats.  Chinook and Coho salmon fishing is very popular, as various seasons run from May through January.  Albacore tuna migrate into the area July-October.  Other fishing includes rock fish, ling cod, and a limited quota of halibut.  At certain times of year, some of the charters take people out to watch migrating whales.

Westport aerial

With tuna, there can be concerns about mercury content, but that seems to be lower here than in many places.  By canning my own albacore I am assured of the source and quality of the fish.  Plus the flavor is sooooo good.

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Washaway Beach and Willapa Bay

Willapa Bay

WA coast-Willapa Bay

Long before the Columbia River was tamed by dams and jetties, a long sand spit formed north of the Columbia’s mouth.  The sand spit grew until it partially enclosed the estuaries of several small rivers.  Today, that sand spit is called the Long Beach Peninsula.  The estuary on the inland side of that sand spit is Willapa Bay.  At over 260 square miles of water surface, it is the second largest estuary on the west coast (San Francisco Bay is the largest).  Willapa Bay is also one of the most pristine estuaries in the U.S.

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Coldwater Lake at Mt. St. Helens

As the crow flies, I live about 35 miles from Mt. St. Helens. Driving, it is 55 miles to the end of the road at Johnston Ridge Observatory on the west side — close enough to go there on a whim for an evening photo shoot. Recently, I have been toying with the play of light and shadow when the sun is low in the sky and it seemed like a fun idea to go up the mountain and see what the shadows might reveal.

I have visited the volcano, both east and west sides, on several occasions over the years, but always when the sun was high in the sky, between the hours of 11:00am and 4:00pm, in May, June, and July. The mountain and the lahar field at its base, when the sun is high, are bright. You see harsh shades of gray that are dramatic, without a doubt, and well worth the trip to the mountain.

In the evening, however, I discovered to my joy and amazement, that there are colors in the crater and shapes that I never saw before and the ravines carved by streams of meltwater are deeper than I imagined.

Mt St Helens Lava DomeThe lava dome is better-defined with the help of shadows

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Daytripping to Olympia

West Budd Bay

I had two reasons for visiting Olympia.  First and foremost, it is home to my very favorite farmers market ever.  Those not familiar with farmers markets may be wondering just how much lettuce a person can want to buy.  Let me tell you that farmers markets are far more than that.  Perhaps the only Washington farmers market that is open year-round, it has over 400,000 visitors in the 135 days it is open for business.  And they are not just buying lettuce.  In addition to world-class produce, one can find nursery stock, applewood smoked bacon, hand-crafted sausages, soaps, herbs, artwork, jams and jellies, baked goods, and fresh meat and seafood.  The Olympia Farmers Market also has a stage and offers free, live music during lunchtime.  Did I mention there is terrific food and locally roasted coffee available, too?

Olympia Farmers Market

The second reason I had for visiting Olympia was to shoot some photos.  Since taking up photography a few years ago, I discovered that I go more places and see more things with a camera in hand than I ever did before.  Not only that, but I really LOOK at my surroundings.  While looking for a photo op, I see beautiful landscapes, lovely wildflowers, and interesting birds.  Before I took up photography, I would take a quick look, not really seeing half of what was there, and think “Okay, where to now?”.  With photography, as with much else in life, one thing leads to another.

Heron on a Seafood Diet

I started posting photos on Flickr.  I found and joined a Flickr Group called Birds of Washington.  I posted a photo of a little brown bird I had been unable to identify and a helpful member, Jon D. Anderson, identified it.  I then discovered that he takes some good photos, is an avid and knowledgeable birder, and includes in his captions information about where the bird was seen.  Now, armed with information about where to see some birds in the Olympia area, I grabbed a canvas shopping bag and my camera and headed out to enjoy a fun day trip.

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Befuddled, Baffled, and Bewildered

Thank you for emailing me some How-To tips.  With all these new symbols popping up on webpages while simple menus are disappearing, I feel quite lost. It is as if the world suddenly changed all the symbols on traffic signs — I would be lucky not to have a head-on collision with a cement truck.

That was how I began a comment on a friend’s blog recently.  I was rather pleased with my clever analogy at the time, but the more I got to thinking about it, the more I realized that wasn’t clever.  It was quite simply, the unvarnished truth.

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It seemed like a good idea at the time

How many times has my 20-20 hindsight sneered at that particular thought?

Well, it did!

When they were handing out brains, you thought they said trains and jumped out of the way.

That’s mean!  Not fair!  I’ve just had some bad luck lately.  It’s not my fault!

So now you’re whining about it?  You should have seen this coming.  Idiot.

It Seemed Like A Good Idea at the Time

That is just one example of the inner dialog that has run through my head more than once over the years.  Thankfully, as I have gained in years, I have also gained the ability to spot my bad choices a bit sooner than I used to.  Sometimes, I even catch them quickly enough to make a course correction and fix my error.  Mostly.  Partially.  Sometimes.

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