We took another walk in a nearby state forest that’s full of old logging roads – the same place we found the crazy, moss-growing car wrecks. This time we went a bit further. It had been a very cold week, the pond was iced up and the creek at the far end rushed madly past ice-slicked logs and rocks.
The ice took strange forms – a football-size blob of it hung off a log from a narrow cord of ice – we couldn’t figure out what, if anything, was inside this ice blob to enable it to maintain that shape. We wondered how long ago this creek water had been part of a glacier somewhere far up in the Cascades. I suspect not too long ago. The noise at the creek’s edge was loud and energizing!
An ice-covered log did not invite crossing, but it did invite study – we admired the wavy ice form and it’s crackled glass surface.
Sturdy old cedars and firs were scattered here and there, and a prize Englemann spruce arced precariously over the beaver pond.
The branches you see leaning against the tree are not propping it up. Maybe someone was drying them to use for a fire – I saw evidence that folks do come down here to sit around a fire, and enjoy that secret family recipe…
Licorice fern fronds on the moss-covered tree trunks had curled up from the cold, but alongside the road an early bug basked in the winter sunlight on a blade of grass.
The logging road passes through a more recently logged area – not a pretty sight:
Along the creek I wandered off the path to look at the ice patterns on the water’s edge, and I stumbled across a pile of fresh water mussels – some of them quite sizable, left there by what – an otter, a raccoon, a muskrat?
Freshwater mussels in America are a very threatened group of animals; more than 10% of our species vanished in the last 100 years. The mussel below, the Western pearlshell mussel (Margaritifera falcata) is thought to be in decline. Its larvae actually live for a few weeks in the gills of salmon; then later, they drop down and burrow into the stream bed. Another sight that day was an old salmon carcass, caught in a logjam. That fish probably played host to mussels, which I learned grow abundantly in parts of this creek.
I felt privileged to have seen traces of the lives of creatures that are essential to the Pacific northwest.
And get this – the Western pearlshell mussel can live over 100 years! As you might guess, they are sensitive to changes in their habitat, so seeing them is an indicator of a good, clean, relatively undisturbed environment.
It was cold enough for extra layers, and hats and gloves too – but it felt good to be out in the fresh air. Though there was precious little bird life that day, we were delighted to hear the sweet, melodic song of the American Dipper, an eccentric little fellow clad in somber gray who perches just over the water and dips into it head-first – often with his whole body – to forage for food underwater. All the while he bobs up and down like some cool rocker. I couldn’t get a good photo, but here’s where we saw him (twice now):
And here is an amazing video of a dipper swimming under water, not too far from where we were.
This one is hard to believe – at the Vancouver Aquarium in Canada, a baby Beluga whale plays with a dipper.
We live in such an amazing world.
A parting shot of the winter woods:
I hope it’s not too jarring to see some of these photos processed as monotone images. The older trees especially seem to lend themselves to that look.