The last half of July and most of August have been a whirlwind of rare plant monitoring and GeoBOB! I’ve been helping out a lot with Silene spaldingii (SISP2) monitoring – I’ve been to sites with 50+ plants (not usually so robust!) – and with that comes updating GeoBOB, a geographic database used for biological observations of rare/threatened/endangered plants and animals. Once I got through the training, I was ready to go! I’ve been lucky enough to see populations of over 100 plants and located 2 new sites! It’s been a great year for not just SISP2, but most late spring and summer plants, much in part to the heavy spring rains! As the SISP2 monitoring wound down, I was lucky enough to get to spend a week at the San Juan Islands National Monument collecting seeds.
The timing lined up perfectly with the eclipse, which was ~90% visible at the Islands. That Monday morning I went out with a park ranger named Rosie (if you BLMers read the articles on Inside Passage, Rosie was featured in a story a few weeks back about working with Junior Rangers on the islands) to Iceberg Point to get a feel for the island’s plant life and for Rosie to complete the monitoring at Iceberg Point Monument. We counted about 23 people, 2 dogs (on leashes!! Go Humans!), and 23 sea lions! While there we enjoyed the eclipse; Lopez Island got considerably cooler and the sunlight dimmed, although nothing like what was experienced by those in the path of totality.
Tuesday, I was island hopping with Nick, the outdoor recreation planner, (also featured on a recent Inside Passage article) to Cattlepoint, another part of the monument found on San Juan Island. He was going out to meet with a contractor doing some work on the lighthouse, and I was going to attempt to collect some seeds in the sand dunes and coastal prairie area. Once we finished up at Cattlepoint, Nick got a message from a volunteer letting him know they had spotted a part of a broken buoy that was stuck on the shoreline out at American Camp (another part of the Monument, and technically National Park Service land). What I’ve quickly learned about the Islands out here is that everyone helps each other out. Our BLM office out there has many partners and they work together to ensure that the lands out on the islands stay as ‘wild and native’ as possible. On our way to American Camp, Nick was telling me the story about American Camp, English Camp, and the Pig War. Little did I know, but this monument was actually where the only known war (during the settlement of the United States) had been avoided.
History goes that at American Camp there was a soldier by the name of Lyman Cutlar that had created his garden and recently planted potatoes; he was quite proud of his little production. In English Camp, there was a soldier by the name of Charles Griffin; Griffin owned a pig, a rather mischievous pig. Griffin’s pig would sneak into Cutlar’s garden and dig up Cutlar’s potatoes, making Cutlar understandably angry. Cutlar warned Griffin that his pig was trespassing and digging up his potatoes; Cutlar also warned Griffin that if his pig didn’t cut it out, Cutlar would kill the pig. Of course, Griffin couldn’t stop the pig, the pig continued stealing potatoes, and Cutlar followed his threat of killing the pig.This situation was what eventually (nearly) led to war; known as the Pig War. However, before any battles broke out an arbitrator, Kaiser Wilhem I of Germany, was able to peacefully resolve the war. And there you have it, the short (hi)story of the Pig War. TLDR: A British pig was stealing potatoes from an American garden. The garden’s proprietor, an American soldier shot the British Pig. The pig’s owner, a British soldier, found out; the two sides nearly went to war over a pig and some potatoes.
Anyway, without much luck, Nick and I did not find the styrofoam part of the buoy (and hope that someone else does before it gets blown to smithereens by a storm and does some real damage to the wildlife).
Wednesday, I was able to go out with another volunteer of the monument in search of some seeds. It was a great day spend hiking at Watmough Bay (where the salmon are begging to be fished) and the Holodiscus discolor (ocean spray) was perfect for collecting. Because I was only there for a week, I didn’t get to collect any vouchers since the plants had already gone to seed, and thus no pictures of ocean spray in flower.
Thursday, I went island hopping to San Juan Island again to meet up with one of the monument’s many partners. Eliza, part of the San Juan County Landbank, was creating local pollinator seed packets, and I was going to take a tour of Red Mill Farm and help create seed packets. But of course, not without a mishap. In my early morning stupor, I managed to get on the ferry right before the one I was actually supposed to take, and wound up back in the Americas, as the islanders would say. After boarding the correct ferry, I met up with Eliza, and got to learn more about the partnerships BLM has forged out on the islands. It’s so great to see the entire community rallying behind native plant preservation and land conservation, and really just trying to be better environmental stewards. Another cool fact I learned is that the San Juan Islands have adopted and created their own Leave No Trace principles, in large part to Nick’s efforts (Thanks, Nick!!).
Friday, I also went island hopping with Marcia, the monument manager. We had plans of wading out to Indian Island from Orcas Island – having been told the tide would be somewhere between 3 to 10 inches, to collect some native seed. We got out there and were surprised that the tide was indeed not 3 to 10 inches, but we gave it a shot anyway. As the water level began to near our knees, we didn’t think it would be wise to continue since we weren’t even at the deepest part yet, and didn’t plan on needing to swim over. While I didn’t get to visit Indian Island, I can say I’ve officially been in the Salish Sea! While waiting for the ferry, we stopped at a bakery, and grabbed some of the most delicious pastries I’ve tried (their pan au chocolat definitely rivals the ones I had in France)! So if you ever find yourself on Orcas Island in Washington, make it a point to check out Brown Bear Baking. You won’t regret it. Also check out the history museum, it’s got this cool sculpture outside with describing how man came to be from an old native tale, very interesting!
As I said my goodbyes to the islands, I couldn’t help but stop by Orcas on my way back to the mainland and snag some goodies to enjoy in Spokane. Once I got back to Anacortes, I had thought I would drive down to Seattle and explore the city a bit more. But, like much of my plans, they changed, and I found myself driving to North Cascades National Park. Of course, with it being the National Park Service’s 101st birthday (Happy belated NPS!) and the start of classes lingering ominously, all the campgrounds within reasonable distance were full, so I took a quick little hike up Thunder Knob to get a spectacular view of Diablo Lake. Thanks to the rangers that recommended it, and I hope that their stations get less busy since today is the last day senior passes are $10!!
After my little short excursion, I drove through the rest of the Cascades enjoying a spectacular sunset, and found myself back in Spokane. A busy week full of amazing views; I honestly couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunities CLM has given me. Here’s to making the most of the next 2 months I have left in the Border Field Office.
Until next time,
Odlin Beach, Lopez Island, WA
Sunset at Odlin Beach, Lopez Island, WA
Island Art that explains how man came to earth, Orcas Island, WA
Watmough Bay, BLM, Lopez Island, WA
Diablo Lake from Thunder Knob, North Cascades National Park, WA