originally posted June 24, 2017
Thor, Bear dog, and I don’t always get to escape to the mountains for our outings, but luckily we have some wonderful Greenways trails in our community of Bellingham, WA. Bear dog needs a daily run, and a segment of the planned Bay to (Mount) Baker trail happens to run a couple blocks from our home. Parts of it are wooded and serene, where you almost forget that other sections run alongside the Squalicum Way truck route or over/under railway trestle and tracks, past industrial plants like this Oeser wood products.
We fondly call our mostly blue-collar part of town the North End, where nature snuggles up to industry, past and present. An off-leash area in the last segment of the trail and along Squalicum Beach on Bellingham Bay, is a popular neighborhood destination for people and canine pals.
For a few years, the creek and bay here were posted as contaminated from the Oeser plant, and people were advised to keep kids and dogs out of the water. After extensive cleanup, it’s safe but not exactly appetizing for human swimmers. It’s usually pretty murky from the natural Nooksack River silt that empties into the bay a little farther north. The dogs, Canada Geese, herons, ducks, and fish don’t seem to mind.
Bellingham Bay is still an active port, even though the old Georgia Pacific plant is gone and finally undergoing a cleanup for commercial and recreational development. (When I was growing up here, we often had “chlorine fog” and avoided the water due to mercury contamination. Oh, the wonders of “Better living through chemistry.”) The wooded hill is our protected Sehome Arboretum, with more trails, and the buildings clustered at the treeline are Western Washington University, where I taught creative writing until my recent retirement (hurrah!). Thor has another year to go as Professor of Paleontology and Geology.
Today we find a cozy spot to enjoy the sunshine and waves, beneath the railroad trestle.
Bear dog is not a swimmer, but he loves to wade and snap at the waves, watch the shore birds, and climb around on the logs.
A favorite activity for beach visitors is collecting rocks and making stacks. These modest ones we found near our picnic spot.
Thor, as a geologist, naturally bonds with the rich assortment of beach rocks, some formerly part of Mount Baker that have been broken, weathered, transported by the river, and are awaiting their final dissolution as part of the sea floor. Today he became quite inspired and declared himself “High Priest and Story Teller of the Stones.” (As part god, I guess he’s entitled.) We even did an impromptu interpretive dance of the epic battle or “cosmic cycle” of stone versus water.
This small stone encapsulates quite a drama. Called a “turbidite,” it was likely created by a very localized episode of turbulence in the bay or one of our nearby lakes. The sedimentary material was disturbed by a small mudslide or other shakeup, moving quickly, then more slowly. The heaviest grains settled on the bottom layer, medium in the middle, then the lightest silt on top. Pressure solidified everything, then weathering forces broke off pieces to be smoothed by water. Thousands of years of history to hold in our hands.
As the High Priest explains, every stone has its own story. This one is “breccia,” gravel, probably limestone, that was broken up and buried, then glued back together with a water and silica-based cement and pressure.
Our yard is full of “rocks of the walk” from our many beach outings. Here are a few in our fountain basin, surrounding a chunk of columnar andesite from Mt. Baker. Can you hear all their stories they’re singing to Thor?
And, speaking of North End stories, the latest is Walter the Wayward Bear, who has been visiting bird feeders near our neighborhood, and peering in windows. A juvenile who probably got booted out by his mother, he seems to be having a good time. Dave Jones, our Fish & Wildlife warden, has been trying to trap him for relocation, but, “He’s a slippery character.” Last word is he might be heading east out of town, toward the mountain, so maybe we’ll see him on the trails.
Happy Trails to all of us!
You will find The Rambling Writer’s blog posts here on alternate Saturdays. Sara’s newest novel from Book View Cafe was recently released in print and ebook: The Ariadne Connection. It’s a near-future thriller set in the Greek islands. “Technology triggers a deadly new plague. Can a healer find the cure?” The novel has received the Cygnus Award for Speculative Fiction.