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Soaked with Knowledge: Kulshan Creek at Rasar State Park

June 2nd, 2016 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

All photography courtesy of Adam Bates, graduate student in the Institute’s 15th cohort.

Youth have a unique skill in creating adventures out of anything. So even though I had been to tree planting on Cornet Bay and the Migratory Bird Festival with the Kulshan Creek Neighborhood Program, both large and expansive day trips, our last trip to Rasar State Park felt no less adventurous!

The day started off wet. That might seem ubiquitous living in western Washington but we had been without rain for two full weeks at this point. The rain was a welcome change from weeks of dry, hot, sunny days.

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Observing snails and slugs.

» Continue reading Soaked with Knowledge: Kulshan Creek at Rasar State Park

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Gary Snyder’s “August on Sourdough, A Visit from Dick Brewer”

November 7th, 2015 | Posted by in Naturalist Notes

“August on Sourdough,

A Visit from Dick Brewer”

Poem by Gary Snyder from The Back Country; a reading with Rob Rich

You hitched a thousand miles

north from San Francisco

Hiked up the mountainside     a mile in the air

Thy little cabin – one room –

walled in glass

Meadows and snowfields,     hundreds of peaks.

We lay in our sleeping bags

talking half the night;

Wind in the guy-cables      summer mountain rain.

Next morning I went with you

as far as the cliffs,

Loaned you my poncho –      the rain across the shale –

You down the snowfield

flapping in the wind

Waving a last goodbye      half hidden in the clouds

To go on hitching

clear to New York;

Me back to my mountain      and far, far, west.

 

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Just behind the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, Sourdough Mountain looms. This fabled peak has enjoyed a front row seat to generations of comings and goings in the Upper Skagit: a glacial lake draining, indigenous peoples journeying to quarry ancient sea-floor stones, newcomers paving Route 20 through gorges, your car rumbling through them.

» Continue reading Gary Snyder’s “August on Sourdough, A Visit from Dick Brewer”

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Tim McNulty’s “Night, Sourdough Mountain Lookout”

October 31st, 2015 | Posted by in Naturalist Notes

“Night, Sourdough Mountain Lookout”

Poem by Tim McNulty; a reading with Rob Rich

A late-summer sun
threads the needles of McMillan Spires
and disappears in a reef of a coral cloud.

Winds roil the mountain trees,
batter the shutter props.

I light a candle with the coming dark.
Its reflection in the window glass
flickers over mountains and
shadowed valleys
seventeen miles north to Canada.

Not another light.

The lookout is a dim star
anchored to rib of the planet
like a skiff to a shoal
in a wheeling sea of stars.

Night sky at full flood.

Wildly awake.

Sourdough Lookout

During our recent lunar eclipse, I know an awestruck child who asked that most earnest strain of seven-year old sincerity: “Daddy, where’s earth?” Though I had lacked the courage to so boldly echo her question, I couldn’t help but to smile in agreement. Just how is it that our real experience on this planet be so utterly surprising and mysterious…so unearthly?

» Continue reading Tim McNulty’s “Night, Sourdough Mountain Lookout”

David Douglas: A Naturalist at Work

November 23rd, 2012 | Posted by in Naturalist Notes

Spokane-based author, naturalist and teacher Jack Nisbet is fascinated with the natural and cultural history of the Pacific Northwest. He is one the most gifted interpreters of the wild bounty that our corner of the country possesses, and also has gone to great lengths to tell the stories of the first European explorers to encounter this native endowment.

His books include Source of the River: Tracking David Thompson Across Western North America, The Collector: David Douglas and the Natural History of the Northwest and The Mapmaker’s Eye: David Thompson on the Columbia Plateau. Each volume retraces the steps of passionate, hardy individuals who made the first strides in understanding the landscape, native people, wildlife and botany of Washington State.

Douglas, the subject of his latest book David Douglas: A Naturalist at Work, landed at the mouth of the Columbia River in the in the spring of 1825, charged by the London Horticultural Society, with blessings from the Hudson’s Bay Company, to learn all he could about the Pacific Northwest ‘s botanical treasures. He had previously pored over the accounts of Lewis and Clark, Vancouver, Mackenzie, Thompson and other explorers and was uniquely adept at scientifically surveying this “New World.” Douglas was passionate about botany and gardening, fastidious about specimen collecting and note taking, young enough to be resilient and adventurous and also wise enough to befriend the native people and others who lived close to the land. This combination of skills, pluck and strategic relationships combined to produce one of the great explorers of America.

His legacy is writ large on the landscape today by way of nomenclature: the Douglas fir, Snow Douglasia, Douglas squirrel, Douglas Brodiaea and over 80 plant and animal species with douglasii in their scientific names.

As exemplified in David Douglas: A Naturalist at Work, Nisbet’s method of interpreting regional history isn’t the usual staid recitation of dates and facts. In pursuit of bringing stories nearly 200 years old to life, he walks trails, visits reservations and tribal elders, charters pilot boats, climbs trees and wildharvests food. His studies may begin by perusing old maps or historical journals in dusty archives, but his curiosity soon has him bounding out the door and in to the same landscapes that his subjects once roamed.

» Continue reading David Douglas: A Naturalist at Work