Thundering Down The Yakima River

On Saturday I floated down the Yakima River with a friend and his brother.  Katlin and I headed to Cle Elum early on Saturday morning to meet up, and to stock up on snacks and drinks.  The float took close to four hours and we saw both sun and thunderstorms, and always mosquitoes.  The temperature was perfect the whole time.  I floated in a an inflatable kayak and I wouldn’t want to have done it in do it injust an inner tube.  The Yakima has world class rainbow trout fishing and I brought my rod and reel and managed to catch a little guy on my second cast of the day.  See more photos from the day here or by clicking on one of the shots below.


Golden Gardens Beach Zebra

Beach Zebra

I saw this wacky set-up at Golden Gardens today.  I believe it belonged to an elder group of ladies who were having a beach day under careful watch of their nursing home caregiver.  Regardless I admire someone who plans on getting so entrenched at the beach that they have to bring a Persian rug, twin end tables, and a stuffed zebra wearing a hat.  Ballard is an amazing place and where downtown feels like an alt-country Universal Studios, the Shilshole Marina and Golden Gardens Beach crowd at noon on a Wednesday was a real mixed bag.  Very close to this I saw maybe forty parents watching their forty plus children playing in a creek runoff into Puget Sound that was clearly marked as dangerous to one’s health.  Everyone was having a really great time.

35mm Photographs: Backpacking 1993 & 1994

These photographs are from a four night backpacking trip in the North Cascades in August of 1993 and a ten-day trip with my Dad in the Sierra Nevadas the following August. They are scans of prints made after each of the trips.

Hometown Tourist: Three Long Walks from Capitol Hill to Fremont, Alki Beach, and the Ballard Locks

A card carrying Eagle

So far this summer I’ve been spending most of my time catching up on my reading, playing softball, and exploring the city on a series of long walks.  These are some photographs from the walks with more at this link to my Flickr page.

6.5 miles took me from Capitol Hill to Fremont.  I stopped at Bruce Lee’s grave site in Lakeview Park, adjacent to Volunteer Park, and then at Gasworks after walking across the University Bridge and along Lake Union.

Lake Union Boat Storage

Gasworks Park

The next long walk was 8.6 miles to Alki Beach.  Katlin joined me for this one, with the promise of a beer and burritos at the end of it.  We started downtown and then headed south along the waterfront, and then on to the Elliot Bay Trail which takes pedestrians underneath the West Seattle Bridge and around to Alki Beach.  We gorged ourselves on burritos and then waddled back to the catch the water taxi across Elliot Bay back to downtown Seattle.

The Duwamish River almost looking clean

Alki Beach Volleyball Tournament

Duwamish Eagle Nest

The third long walk was 7.3 miles to the Ballard Locks.  This time of the year the annual sockeye salmon run occurs and thousands of sockeye come in from Puget Sound into Lake Union and Washington via the fish ladders at the Ballard Locks.  There were tons of the 3-5 lbs fish on view, making this fisherman giddy for the salmon fishing I’ll inevitably get into later this summer.  I find the salmon fascinating animals.  They might be my favorite animal of all.  Their annual returning to spawn and die in the same creeks where they were born never fails to impress me, and I make a point every November of sharing it with my students during a short field trip to Ballard’s Carkeek Park to witness the Coho and silver salmon run there.

1975 Hyrdroplane

Ballard Locks Sockeye

Cedar River Watershed

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Here are some 3×5 photographs I took at Cedar River Watershed on Tuesday March, 27th, 2012.  These are of Chester Morse Lake, which is the dammed source of Seattle’s drinking water.  It takes three weeks for each molecule of water to reach my tap on Capitol Hill from this beautiful lake.  It was a lovely, cold day.   The entire, heavily protected and gated watershed is pristine and the air and the water as clean as it gets.   The tour was a special part my annual week spent at the Waskowitz Outdoor School.


Click here or on the above photograph to see my meager collection of photographs I’ve been taking on my phone this past Fall/Winter.  I’ll continue to add photos as I take them on to my Flickr album where these are stored.  I have to admit I am a sucker for the Instamatic lens/filter effects and the way they improve cheat the terrible quality of any photograph taken with my phone into looking a bit more interesting.  While I still love my Lumix, the cell-phone photographs are more impulsive and less staged than nature and scenery photography, and provide a bit more “slice of my life”.  They count more on and reflect my experiences, rather then just what I may be looking at.

Carkeek Park’s November Salmon

Every November through December there is a salmon run in Piper’s Creek in Seattle’s Carkeek Park and yesterday afternoon I went with my students to see if we could spot any of the 100-600 salmon that return to that creek where they began their lives.  The opportunity to see a salmon run in such an urban setting is rich with learning opportunities and any chance to get the kids outside and engaged I’m going to jump on.  Urban sustainability, salmon biology, and habitat preservation are all on display at Carkeek and the Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife have done a wonderful job of re-invigorating and preserving what was once a “lost” salmon run.  Lost to early-20th century urban development, deforestation, and the building of a railroad that blocked the salmon’s ability to return to Piper’s Creek.   Now they have a stock supplementation program at Carkeek that introduces fingerling salmon that are raised from eggs in a hatchery pond on-site, and are then released into Piper’s Creek each spring.  What’s there today is a moderately successful program that sees a fairly impressive return every year.  The odds are stacked against the fish (and all salmon, really) in a multitude of ways.  The creek is in the middle of the city and at the receiving end of the surface runoff water of some 17,000 people who live near and above the creek.  Regardless, salmon are fighters from the beginning to the end and any return at all is considered a success.  Here’s a short video I took of some of the fish we saw.

When I looked at the weather report on my phone I had a hard time believing that the little sun next to Thursday was really going to happen but the day was perfect and shirt sleeve weather, as they say.  I wish that I had an app that would tell me how I was going to feel on Thursday, because on Wednesday I’d been hit with an end-of-days cold that was peaking miserably on Thursday.  I had a student ask me on Wednesday, “Mr. Evans are you sick?”.  Why yes, yes I am sick.  How can you tell?  “Because you’re in such a good mood.”  It’s true.  The cold medicine cocktail had me a bit upbeat but as we know about all band-aid treatments, my underlying problem was not being treated by the masking of symptoms provided by the decongestants/couch suppressant speedball I was on.  By Thursday my tolerance for such meds had dwindled and I thought I may have to go home sick.  I pushed through though and I’m glad as the trip to Carkeek was absolutely worth it.  And being outside on such an amazing day was exactly what I needed to forget about the gripping vice secured around my head and throat.

My expectations for actually seeing any fish were low.  I had visited Carkeek last year with my then 6th grade students and we had seen maybe 3-4 salmon carcasses on the shore of the creek, but nothing alive.  We started at the western end of the creek trail near the train tracks that run parallel to Puget Sound, and made our way east upstream, stopping at each of the dozen viewing platforms set up along the creek.  At the first one we saw a big salmon.  Then we walked to the next platform and saw two more. Then we moved to a small bridge that crossed over the creek and saw 4-5 more.   The salmon were lazily waving in the shallow stream with some of their dorsal and tail/caudal fins sticking out of the water.  Every so often they would make splashing attempts to move farther upstream with limited success.  The reality that these salmon were at the end of their lives seemed obvious and bittersweet to all of us.  It is worth celebrating that these fish have even made it back to this creek where they were born, and alternately sad that they return to spawn and die, with many of them already looking zombie-like and very near death. They were big fish though, maybe 6-15 pounders, but these are not the pretty silver salmon you see at Pikes Place Market or that I was pulling out of British Columbia waters last summer.  They were red and brown, white, black, and beat up. Regardless, the kids were pumped and hollering and pointing every time they spotted a fish.

The students that had accompanied me last year were with me again on this visit, and I believe our low-expectations for this trip were shared.  To actually see salmon spawning was a nice victory and I’m glad to have been able to show my students what I believe is one of the most amazing biological phenomena in the world.  It can be compared to the migratory patterns of birds and whales.  But to begin and end your life in the same place after many years and thousands of miles in open ocean is truly unique to salmon.  I really think that anyone who calls themselves a true Northwest native needs to see it in person.

My students looking at the big salmon that made their way far up Piper's Creek

October All Over

It has been a while since my last post, and I’m not sure that one even counted as such.  The end of summer felt transitional in every way.  The summer was ending.  My 2+ year relationship had just fizzled to the point of me questioning whether it had ever happened. A new school year was beginning.  This is my first year as a full-time contracted teacher and this school year has been incredible so far.  I’m here at West Seattle Academy full-time and can focus all of my energy at becoming a better teacher.  I have planning time now.  I have communications with parents that are fulfilling and helpful.  I can implement classroom management strategies that work and that are part of my student’s entire school day.  My responsibilities have grown to make me feel complete as an educator and as a contributor to a wonderful community of teachers, students, and their families.

In addition to teaching science and social studies, I am also teaching PE and a leadership class which has me helping our students become great leaders within their capacities as 11-13 year old adolescents.  My goal is to push them towards becoming leaders within the school, their families, and their community as a whole. One of our agenda items for leadership class is to become involved in community service projects and our first such endeavor took place on October 20th, 2011.  We spent that particular Thursday cleaning up two local parks.  We went to my favorite Seattle park, Lincoln Park, in the morning before heading to Alki Beach where we had lunch, swept the beach for trash, and then had a quick game of football in the sand.

My students are surprisingly on board with anything remotely resembling environmentalism.  Before heading out for the day I gave a quick speech about how to safely pick up trash (no needles, glass, toilet paper, diapers, or things that look “sketchy”) and how to behave appropriately in public places en masse (don’t blow the rubber gloves I give you into balloons). The crew that went to the Lincoln Park beach did find a needle and a 12″ long filet knife likely left by a careless salmon fisherman during the late summer pink salmon run.  I can’t tell you how badly that 7th grade boy wanted to keep that knife.  We picked up a depressingly huge amount of trash at Lincoln Park.  However the setting kept our spirits up and we couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day.

WSA Students Sweeping Lincoln Park

The Monday after the park clean-up the entire middle school headed out-of-town for an overnight trip to Waskowitz Outdoor School.  Last year I took our then 6th grade class to Waskowitz for a rainy week spent immersed in all things environmental science.  This latest trip was more about all of us bonding as a group in a natural setting.  The property is very expansive and when we arrived at 10am we unloaded into our cabins before heading into the forest for a hike and lunch cookout at the base of the forest fire lookout Waskowitz has on property.  The fire lookout was originally on Stampede Pass and when it became obsolete was sold to the Highline School District (who run Waskowitz) for $1.  The only catch was that the district had to pay for a helicopter to move the lookout thirty-plus miles west to where it currently stands.  Despite the rain, we started a small fire and warmed our hot dogs on whittled, soggy branches.  Our Spanish exchange student was initially horrified that we were cooking in such a manner but he has grown to love our American hot dogs, and quickly forgot about any possibility of tree-to-human disease transfer.  He also had never eaten/seen a marshmallow and to say s’mores around the evening campfire blew his mind is an understatement.

Earning their merit badges in lighting campfires and smiles

The rest of the day was spent on more hiking, a rousing game of kickball in a beautiful field covered in elk dung, and a delicious pizza dinner at a North Bend pizzeria.  We left early the next day to get back to school by lunch and for the student’s play auditions with their drama teacher in the afternoon.  I feel very sorry for that drama teacher because we all smelled toxic and I’m sure the small confines of the multi-purpose room incubated that stank something ferocious.

This year has been jam-packed and as exhausting as it can be, I still love getting up and going to work everyday.  I am really lucky to work where I work and be able to teach such a small group of students.  The activities we take part in, the adventures we have, and most of the lessons we learn benefit greatly from our small size and from the freedom I have to take them out of the classroom and interacting with the amazing natural resources we have quick access to here in Seattle.  With November starting next week and the inevitable increasing rains I have no plans to slow down.  Middle schoolers are hardy and mine are slow-ish to complain…which I’m also grateful for.  Next up on the agenda is to take my 6th and 7th graders to Carkeek Park in the Broadview neighborhood of Seattle where they have an annual, urban salmon run of Coho and Chum salmon that we can view.  I ordered a set of water ecology kits this past summer and we will use those to test the quality of the stream water these salmon will be returning to.  I went last year and saw a lot of dead salmon and am hoping to head out earlier in the run to try to see some nearly dead salmon.  Thanks for reading all and be sure to check out my Flickr account for more photographs.

Lincoln Park Humpies

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Two years ago I worked a miserable summer as a day camp counselor at Lincoln Park in West Seattle.  It was low-wage work for what was essentially glorified day care and that’s beside the point.   Towards the end of the summer I began to see men coming through the park carrying strings of pink salmon they had caught at the point of Lincoln Park’s beach by the pool.  I was filled with envy.  I told myself that the next time the pink salmon (aka “humpies” for the hump spawning males grow on their backs) ran through Puget Sound and into Elliott Bay before heading up the Duwamish, I would be on that beach, rod and reel in hand.  Today was the first of those days and it was quite a spectacle.  My friend Scott came and picked me up at 7am and we headed out there, tackle boxes filled with the pink buzz bombs the pink salmon favor.  Scott hooked a beauty and I had a bite, just enough to secure the desire to head back out next Monday to hook one of my own.  The shore was the definition of “combat fishing”, with 80+ anglers crossing casts and reeling in the pinks.  The action was amazing to watch.  A school would come through and you could look down the beach and three or four guys would be pulling salmon onto the beach.  I’m glad we headed out for the early bite because by the time we left it was totally bananas.   The pink salmon run happens every other year, on odd-numbered years, and this time the people that count fish predict 6 million coming through.  They should be out at Lincoln Park for at least three more weeks, before the fishing moves to the Green River and Puyallup and the shore space gets even tighter.   Scott and I will be out there again next Monday and if we get a wild hair in us may head north to Golden Gardens or Carkeek during low tide to see how the action is up there.