LOCAL WALKS: Roaming ‘Round the Heart of the Island

The island I live on isn’t especially large or small; at 41 square miles (106.684 kmΒ²) there’s room for a small city of about 17,000 people, many residential neighborhoods, and a generous amount of protected public land. Hugging the edges of the island and sprawling across its middle, the preserves include two state parks, a county park, several city parks, and 2,950 acres (about 12 sq. km) of community forest lands, known as the Anacortes Community Forest Lands (ACFL). Because this land once supplied the city with its water, several lakes were protected from being developed. No industries ever polluted their shores. The forests around the lakes, however, were logged to generate extra revenue for the city. Eventually, that changed. Now, water is drawn from a river and piped onto the island and thankfully, income from the forest no longer factors into the annual city budget.

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2.

This post focuses on Heart Lake, part of the community forest lands. Nestled into the woods near the middle of the island, Heart Lake is fed by water draining from nearby Mt. Erie, the island’s highest point. At the lake’s southern shoreline there’s a treasure: a rare bit of lowland, old-growth forest. There, dignified Douglas firs and Western redcedars preside over a hodge-podge of downed trees, unruly understory plants, knee-high ferns, and thick moss. It’s messy. This is not an orderly lumber plantation, it’s a forest that has been largely left alone to follow its own wise way.

The elevation around the lake ranges from about 340 ft. to about 580 ft. (103m – 177m) at the top of a ridge. Mt. Erie, at 1273 ft. (388m), is just across a quiet, two-lane road. For this post, we’ll stay close to the lake, on well-trodden dirt trails that wind through the trees, skirt wetlands, cross small streams, and climb up easy hills. The scenery is quietly peaceful. Perhaps the drama lies in craning your neck to glimpse the tops of the oldest trees or stepping around a mossy, fallen giant. There are wildflowers scattered about and small openings in the forest support meadows of lilies in spring. The occasional boater plies the lake, a lone heron might be seen, and squadrons of ducks patrol the water in the colder months. You might hear an owl, startle a scolding squirrel, or spy a tiny wren hopping through the underbrush. Beavers are around, as you can see from a gnawed tree or a pile of branches, but they don’t come out until after dusk.

3. Old growth Douglas fir trees (Pseudotsuga menzieii) lean in toward the water.
4. Western hemlocks (Tsuga heterophylla) take root in a Western redcedar stump (Thuja plicata), probably from a tree that was logged out long ago. Evergreen fronds of Sword fern (Polystichum munitum) spill over the path in the background.
5. Even in November, when the forest is looking a bit ragged, there is still color because most of the trees and ferns are evergreen. Unlike the dry summer months, November is wet so the green machine thrums along in spite of the chill in the air.
6. Openings in the forest allow Bigleaf maples (Acer macrophyllum) to take root. In autumn their dinner-plate-sized leaves get caught as they fall to the forest floor. This one picked up a stray bit of light threading through the forest. The canopy above is dense so precious little light is available down here along the trails. That’s one reason why some trees begin their lives in stumps as in #4, above. Sprouting just a few feet above the forest floor gives seedlings a head start.
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I can tell you about Heart Lake, its calm water and the deep green forest around it. I trust you’ll understand the words.

But I can’t really begin to convey the complexity of what’s happening here. I don’t know how to plot the intricate relationships that knit the landscape together into one, breathing whole.

When it comes down to it, it’s the simplest thing: you go out and you walk.

You let go of your tedious thoughts and pay attention to what’s around you.

You allow the false division between “you” and everything “else” to thin and fall away.

Your feet carry you along, the sun shines or it doesn’t, you look, listen, smell, feel. That’s it.

*

*

9.
10. Two types of Honeysuckle (Lonicera) – orange and pink – can be found twining around the branches of small trees in the forest.
11. Two species of wild rose are common in the woods: Baldhip and Nootka. Nootka rose (Rosa nutkana) prefers more sun; this one was growing close to the lake’s edge.

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13. Not only trees fall…a fragment of Douglas fir rests on an Oregon-grape (Berberis or Mahonia nervosa) plant.
14. This is probably a Red alder leaf (Alnus rubra). It rests on a piece of old wood from a fallen tree near the lake’s edge.
15. We’ve had a very rainy October this year. One day, feeling frustrated with the rain and wanting to be closer to nature, I drove to the parking lot at Heart Lake and took this photo from inside the car. A flock of ducks, perhaps recently arrived from the north, swam in the middle of the lake. Even with binoculars, I couldn’t make a positive identification through the curtain of rain.

*

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17. Another photo from inside the car on that rainy day; focused on the leaves instead of the window glass. Sharp focus was impossible behind the rain-soaked window but I like the softness.
18. A soup of fallen willow leaves, a little Saskatoon leaf, and grasses that grow in the muck were all floating together at the edge of the lake on this November afternoon.
19. Midwinter on Heart Lake.

***

I live on and gratefully roam through the traditional, ancestral, land of two Coast Salish tribes, the Swinomish and Samish. I honor and respect their long tradition of stewardship of this beautiful land.


73 comments

    • It’s complicated. πŸ™‚ There are two tribes that have been on this island for a very long time, the Samish and Swinomish. In my statement, I was referring to the fact that long before Europeans arrived, these tribes cared for the land in a sustainable way. They didn’t cut all of the trees down, they didn’t remove too many salmon or other creatures, etc. I believe they had an understanding of the land that caused them to be more respectful than some of the people who came later. In the last 150 years or so, large amounts of resources were removed or destroyed without thinking carefully about the consequences. For example, so much logging took place that almost none of the biggest trees are left. But luckily some people who are not members of these tribes also cared deeply about the land and created parks so some land could be protected from development. I hope that begins to answer your question.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Then I had misunderstood your closing remark.
        The view of the earth as a mere resource has existed at least since the industrialization around 1770.
        But environmental sins exist according to Nicole Boivin (Max Planck Institute for Human History in Jena), since the modern man (about 190000 years BC), even at the time of Homo erectus, in which one can prove quarries.
        Man changed flora and fauna, wiped out part of the so-called megafauna, cleared, remodeled the Amazon tree population ect.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I’m sure people have been hurting the environment for a very long time, but from what I understand it seems that in general, the people who lived here before the European settlers arrived were not destructive of natural resources. Part of what I was trying to say in that last statement is that I recognize that most of the land where I live and hike was not always owned by whites. I believe only one of the parks that I’ve written about is still tribal land (Kukutali Preserve). The treaty that was signed in 1855 (the Point Elliot Treaty) created reservations here and promised certain fishing rights, help with education, etc. But the treaty also limited the tribes in important ways. It’s a very complex history – and the present is complex, too, when it comes to indigenous people’s rights. ! I think it’s good to remember that this land has been lived on in different ways over the years but in the end, each individual, no matter what color they are or where they came from, has a responsibility to tread lightly on the land.

          Liked by 1 person

        • You meant to say that you were walking on sacred land, so to speak. that is, land with an origin that should be honored…. I felt the same way when I was walking in nature reserves here. I called my blog posts “Holy ground” at that time.

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  1. How lucky you are to live on such a picturesque island, Lynn. Nature observations and images like yours are always a welcome sight (compared to my more manicured landscape up and down the river behind my housing estate).

    My local council and volunteer groups have been planting and re-landscaping around the 400 hectares of parkland up and down my river, but I think it needs another 5 years before the trees are more fully grown.

    If only more communities saw preservation as a must for future generations. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 3 people

    • I know that your more manicured landscape has its beauty, too, but I also understand that wilder spaces are a tonic. So I’m happy to be able to give people a pleasurable peek at this landscape.
      Are the council and volunteers planting lots of native species? I hope so. A friend of mine who lives in Seattle is part of a project like that. They’ve been working at it for a long time and it’s wonderful to see the plants that have been there for a decade or more, as well as the newly planted species that will thrive – as you said – for future generations. Good to hear from you, Vicki, and I hope things are going OK.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, things are going well now (12 weeks after my open-heart surgery on 3rd August in which I nearly died. Literally.) Just started blogging and blog reading again about a week ago. I gave myself about 10 weeks off the computer except for Korean Netflix which I’m addicted to. Spring is here in Melbourne and our 260+ day lockdown ended last Friday, thank goodness. Although it’s pouring with rain today. Some regular nature walks will be more likely on the agenda soon (I hope πŸ™‚ ).

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  2. You wrestle bright pictures and words even out of the rain, dear Lynn. The landscape starts consoling you over adversities of life, so it is developing from a marveled wonder to a motherly home. Maybe this is kind of a healing experience for a restless wanderer.
    These photos are a gift again. They show dull and dark november, but also those short lightings which bless us with immediate happiness. We are satisfied with so little in the winter months, and you make such great art out of it, bringing these beams of light to your visitors. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The landscape does console us, doesn’t it? A feeling of home is becoming a little stronger as time goes by. It’s been just over 3 years since we moved up here. It takes time for a new place to feel like home, even if you’re writing about it and photographing it on a regular basis. Thank you for such kind words.
      The idea of being satisfied with less during the darker months is interesting. I think it’s true. Working within limitations, in this case, the limitations of fewer flowers (I guess No flowers!), less light, etc. can be easier than having few limitations. I’m glad you enjoyed these small beams of light….

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I like photography, but I know almost nothing about photography, which is why I have a compact camera that is always on automatic. Often I don’t get what I’d like…
    This set of images reveals very well how knowing about photography and have a good camera makes all the difference.
    Difficult photos are beautiful….difficult details are sharp…and so on. Apparently everything looks “easy, possible and beautiful”.
    This is a really nice set of images Lynn! I like them all!
    I would say that it is a magnificent and silent tribute to the tribes you refer to and who inhabited that land.

    Liked by 2 people

    • First, I think you make very good photographs. But I understand so well what you’re talking about. I felt that frustration for years, before I began using cameras that take different lenses. That’s what has been the most important thing about photography equipment to me. I looked in Lightroom, which tells you what camera and lens made each picture. In 2014 I began using a camera that takes different lenses, a Panasonic Lumix. I bought a macro lens which turned out to be my favorite lens, even now, three cameras later. I use Olympus cameras now and they take the same lenses as the Panasonics. That one lens continues to be my favorite because it’s great for photos that focus on one subject and blur the background, something I always wanted to do (like #10 & 11). It also works well for detailed shots like #13 but sometimes the phone is great for those, too, as I’m sure you know.
      It makes me happy to know that you like all the images so much, Dulce, thank you very much. And thanks for your comment about this being a tribute. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks for this fine walk; your excellent photo’s and your rich inside information! I zoomed in on Heart Lake in Google Maps and it looked like a great place. A little to the left was an intriguing spot; but with a little more zooming it turned out to be a quarry or a mine or something where people were exploiting nature.. nothing serious I hope.
    And here are the results of the Dutch jury: The winner is nr14, great colors and the static leaf makes the wood look fluid. 2nd is nr17, the glass makes it look a bit dreamy, or soft as you say; it even feels a bit like a John Todaro, which is a huge compliment as you know.. Third is nr7, just because I love raindrops falling on a water surface, making that fading circle-waves. And, out of competition, because it’s a registration-shot, nr4 with that tree growing on an other tree, I have seen a lot trees in strange positions… but one on top of an other is new to me.. πŸ˜€
    And to finish: I just found a female group called I’m with Her, that makes great music that you might like. For Joe there is male version called The Punch Brothers.. πŸ™‚ Hope I was funny enough.. Enjoy the day, Lynn. See you soon.

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    • That’s great, you checked out the map! The quarry operation is Lakeside Industries, a large company with locations all over western Washington. They seem OK. I haven’t heard anything bad about them. Of course, one wishes quarries didn’t exist but then where would we get certain things? It seems they mainly get rock and gravel from that site. They do lots of road paving in this region. There’s another quarry near where we live – I have no idea what goes on there. Compared to many places, I think Fidalgo Island has a large percentage of land set aside as parks and preserves.

      The Dutch jury weighs in, yea! I can promise you I did not place that leaf on the old wood. “Feels a bit like a John Todaro” is the highest praise. πŸ˜‰

      The tree stump with trees growing on it is a common phenomenon here. There are “nursery logs” too, huge logs that slowly accumulate moss, needles, etc. then become the perfect place for new trees & bushes to grow. I would show photos of this more often, but every time I see one it’s in a dark place, surrounded by a very complicated mix of other trees, bushes, ferns, etc. They are very hard to photograph but really cool to see. With your fondness for noble old trees, you would love the nursery stumps and logs.

      Thanks for the links – The Punch Bros. are great – nice vocal harmonies, instrumentation, a unique sound. I’m With Her – gorgeous harmonies! More classic-sounding. Very nice to listen to. Joe wants to know what you’re doing lately with your music.

      Liked by 1 person

      • ‘Nursery logs’ You are blessed to live nearby such great nature, Lynn. Would be nice to join you some time on one of your famous Local Walks. But time is money and I’m running out of both all the time… so let’s see what the future brings.
        The band, which was called SoWhat? before my time, has been locked down for more than a year. Before that we recorded our six ‘own numbers’ on a pack of 100 CD’s, that are given away or sold almost; but the final financial figures are still in the minor.. but it was exciting and fun to do. During lockdown we have extended our cover repertoire with a couple of songs like ‘Cocaine’, ‘Stop dragging my heart around’ ‘Beds are burning’ ‘Starman’ ‘Hanging on the telephone’ ‘Bohemian like you’.. and they are fun to play now that our rehearsal room is open again. And we had three gigs in September. A garden rich neighborhood party; a retirement party in the Walhalla of a beer brewery, but when we had finished playing the taps were closed at 0:00 because of Covid rules. And we had our own NanStock party in the garden of ant Nan. We invite family, friends and colleagues; provide beer, wine and snacks for free; play 2 sets of an hour and geasts can put some money in a tin can. The balance was -0,93 euro this year… 🀣 But there was a lot fun! No we have the plan to start working on an acoustic set. That’s it. All the best for both of you and stay healthy now that ‘the numbers are increasing again ‘…

        Liked by 1 person

        • Joe likes ‘Bed are Burning’ and says I should listen to it. OK, I did, a great song I can see you doing it. Joe told me a little about the band (Midnight Oil) – good stuff! Joe likes all the songs (that he recognized) that you’re doing. He thinks you’re choosing great songs and having fun, which is the point behind it all anyway. Breaking even would be unusual so being on the minus side isn’t bad. πŸ˜‰ Thanks for keeping us up to date and have a great weekend!

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  5. Scrolling through this collection there is much that’s familiar, much that makes me think oh it’s just like here, which is not that surprising. We are surrounded by beauty. Photos 10 and 13 had me stopping to inhale them. The colour in 13 especially.
    Alison

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  6. It’s dawning on me that familiarity of an area is a huge advantage when looking for places to visit and hope for some satisfying photography… I love all the intimate looks in your visits. On the other hand, sometimes it’s the luck of the draw… or my mood… or simply needing fresh eyes elsewhere. So many of my favorite shots are a matter of serendipity and not something that can be planned. You do remind me that much of it relates to paying attention… or being in the “zone”, as I tend to think of it.

    So… the favorite this time around is #14. I definitely lingered in its swirls and colors. Though #16 almost changed my mind… especially that teeny mushroom, so delicate and shy! But you close with such a serene feel for the midwinter on Heart Lake (#19). You don’t exactly make it easy to pick favorites! πŸ˜‰

    This was well worth coming back to when there were less distractions! Thank you for the delightful tour. Hope your weekend brings peace and health.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good to hear your thoughts…yes, returning over and over has its merits, but seeing new places certainly does, too. I guess the main planning we can do is to watch the weather and spring for those openings, then just what presents itself. Lots of mushrooms around here lately with all the rain we’ve had. And today, again, is rainy. But we somehow stay reasonably healthy despite fewer hours spent outdoors. I’m glad this was worth coming back to – have a good weekend yourself!

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      • Yeah, it’s certainly great to be out and about again… now that some of the summer travelers have headed for warmer climes… I’m having to work up a bit of stamina after being somewhat like a slug for too long. 😏 But it’s all good! πŸ€—

        Liked by 1 person

    • Everyone else saying something isn’t the same as you saying it. It WAS lucky that I was there at that time because we’ve had lots of rain since then. I don’t think those paper tags could make it through all the rain. Someone should do a more permanent system. It was so much fun to just find it in the woods, with no warning, no announcement, Thanks!

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  7. I always love joining you on your walks. Your observations are always full of surprises. I love the intimate nature of #1. #2 is another favorite with the brave black occupying much of the composition. #13 & #14 are such wonderful resting places … well seen and composed. Another great post Lynn!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very nice comments, Denise, thank you. “Brave black” I like that. Things are forever falling on other things…there’s a lot of flora here, it has to go somewhere. πŸ˜‰ I’ve enjoyed photographing the examples like #13 and 14.
      Hey, we’re both caught up! At least with one another…
      πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, isn’t that good to hear! I saw your post in my inbox and am looking forward to giving it my attention. Meanwhile, thanks for stopping by. It’s nice to hear from you and I hope all’s well. Have a good week!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Dear Lynn, What a great, well-doing cornucopia of your fabulous photos and words, above all at the end! Number 14 looks like a painting! You make me feel the unity , perhaps with all the nature not separated from its environment, but merging into your brown background? I love your brown : It reminds me of soil, where everything comes from and goes to. Thanks !

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I guess it’s a warm brown, which is appealing to me, too. That piece of wood is so beautiful – I have seen it and photographed it several times while walking on that trail, and this time the photo came out well. It’s an easy place to feel the unity of nature that you talk about.It’s a good thing to remember, that everything comes from and goes back to the soil. Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. The little mushrooms look adorable and yes I always enjoy your narratives…the the beauty you compose Lynn…it’s all the makings of a foto book πŸ€“β˜ΊοΈπŸ‘Œ also love the comments πŸ•Šhugs hedy

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. This Heart Lake (I’m sure there are other lakes with the same name) is in the US, in Washington State, on Fidalgo Island. It’s halfway between Vancouver, Canada, and Seattle. The Pacific Northwest can be a long trip from the east coast or the south but it’s well worth it. There are amazing mountains, a stunning coastline, grand forests, and beautiful scenery everywhere you look.
      As for plant names, my mother loved plants so that got me started. I’m very curious so I’ve always had field guides nearby to help me figure out what is what. The Latin names seem hard at first but after a while, they get easier. There are apps you can put on your phone that can identify plants that you see. I can’t recommend any particular app because I haven’t used them but look around and I’m sure you can find something that will get you started. Thanks again!

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  10. This was especially nice: “You allow the false division between β€œyou” and everything β€œelse” to thin and fall away.

    Your feet carry you along, the sun shines or it doesn’t, you look, listen, smell, feel. That’s it.”

    That’s it!

    My favorite today was studying the ‘tree calendar,’ and so glad that it will provide refuge and organic material for a very long time. Our time on earth is just a hiccup compared to those majestic giants.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s very gratifying to see you pulling out what I feel is the heart of the matter. That understanding connects us across all these thousands of miles, doesn’t it?
      I haven’t been back to see the “tree calendar” and I fear the tags may be illegible after all the rain we’ve been having. But that too is just a hiccup along an indescribably long timeline. Thanks for stopping by, Lisa, I know you are still busy with the show, so I appreciate it. Take care!

      Liked by 1 person

    • You’re very welcome, Robert, you know it’s my pleasure. I like being outside, I love making photographs and processing them, and I really enjoy putting posts together and then getting feedback. I hope things are going OK in your part of the world – what a hard year it has been!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, I live in a crowded urban area and it is not easy to go into the nature, but I try each time I can.
        It’s noit so bad niow, but winter is coming and covid with it again (people spending less time outdoor). I got the “booster” shot a few days ago and still I am very careful, wearing a mask when too many people around. GFetting used to this new normality!

        Liked by 1 person

        • I lived in New York City for many years so I get it. I’m glad you got your booster shot – I got one last week but I’m still careful, too. It’s amazing that this has lasted so long. I will really be happy when we don’t have to wear masks anymore – I hope that day comes!!

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  11. This, as always, was a wonderful walk with you, Lynn. The love you feel for your surroundings shines in both your prose and pictures. In reading your words i find that there is no reason to pick favorites as each holds special meaning for you so I appreciate each for what it presents. That said, the shot of the Douglas Fir and its story tags was enlightening. It reminded me of the chapter in Aldo Leopold’s “Sand County Almanac” with the local history in each pull and push of the saw as the tree was cut.

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