I’ve wanted to visit Protection Island ever since I learned I
wasn’t allowed to.
The nearly bare strip of land in the Strait of Juan de Fuca is
closed to the public – and for good reason. The island hosts about
70 percent of the region’s nesting seabirds. Some of them (the
tufted puffin, for example) are increasingly rare. The habitat
is fragile and nests crowd the ground and dot the cliffs.
Protection became a national wildlife refuge in 1982. Its human
population amounts to a caretaker and handful of scientists who
spend a few months each year conducting mostly bird-related
I contacted a few of the scientists last year to see what they
were up to. The work of Jim Hayward, a biologist with Andrews
University in Michigan, stood out. He and his team found a
correlation between rising sea temperature and cannibalism among
the island’s vast gull nesting colony.
(You can read the resulting Sunday story about gull cannibalism
It took a while (mostly because I was busy with other things),
but I got permission from the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife
to join Jim for a visit this summer.
On July 13, Jim and his wife, mathematician Shandelle Henson,
picked me up in their motorboat at Cape George Marina near Port
Jim has devoted much of his career to studying a bird most
people either ignore or disdain.
“Gulls really have a rich repertoire of behavior,” he told me.
“I could study this place for a hundred years and never run out of
things to learn.”
The Quinault has since narrowed the gap. As of last week, the
riverbank had crept to within 28 feet of the chalet. That means
just over 70 feet of erosion occurred over the last two years (60
feet in 2014 and about 10 feet in 2015), mostly during winter and
spring when the river runs high.
It’s hard not to expect the worse. Preservationists are again
launching an effort to save the chalet, but time is limited and the
bureaucratic hurdles are daunting.
I hiked up to the chalet last week to meet with the two guys
trying their darnedest to (again) save the chalet. As I wrote in
Sunday’s paper, housemover Jeff Monroe and longtime ONP volunteer
Rod Farlee want to move the 64-ton structure about 450 feet to
higher, more stable ground. They say they’re ready to do it now and
could accomplish it with little or no cost to the park. Read the
They’re more optimistic than I am that there’s enough time to
save it. If the river runs like it did during the winter of ’14 –
eating up 60 feet of riverbank – the chalet’s timbers will be
tumbling down the river by this spring.
If you’ve had the chalet on your hiking bucket list, my advice
is to get up there this summer or early fall. The trip there
involves a long drive (from Kitsap), a few nights of backcountry
camping and a roundtrip hike of about 30 miles.
Head to the Graves Creek Trailhead at park’s southwest corner to
start your journey. From Bremerton, the drive’s about 3.5 hours via
Highway 3, going through Shelton toward Aberdeen.
Buy a wilderness
camping pass ($5 per person per night) at the Quinault ranger
station, 353 South Shore Road on Lake Quinault’s north end.
The Quinault River recently bit a few chunks out of the road
leading to the trailhead, making what was once a 13.5-mile hike now
about 15.5 miles. The added two miles are along a gravel road
starting at a roadblock. Park your car along the road.
The hike’s long but not steep. You’re essentially following the
river valley up a gradual incline.
I got a late start (thanks,
Hood Canal bridge), so I hiked the first 4.5 miles to Pony
Bridge before camping. This site has a scenic backcountry
campground (little more than campfire circles and spots made flat
by other campers) perched on rocky cliffs over the roaring river. A
creek is the water source (it’s not easy getting down to the
river), and the huckleberry bushes were loaded with ripe
The only tough part on the trail is through a big landslide/tree
blowdown between Pony Bridge and O’Neil Creek. The alternative
routes, which take you under and over fallen old growth trees, is
marked by cairns (stacked rocks) and plastic ribbon. I thought it
was actually kind of fun spotting the markers and climbing and
twisting my way through the busted up trees.
The trail was much worse a few weeks ago but a park trail crew
whipped the path into fine shape, cutting away several huge
blowdowns and installing a few sets of stairs.
I set up camp at Pyrites Creek (about 7 miles from Pony Bridge)
and walked the last 3.5 miles without my pack. I recommend doing
this since your feet will likely be sore at this point from
carrying a heavy pack. Take your valuables (I can’t guarantee that
your gear won’t get swiped), some water and a snack for an easy
stroll to the chalet. This area is beautiful, with meadows and huge
maples draped from head to toe in heavy moss.
What’s a native Puget Sound oyster taste like? Sadly, most of us –
even those born and raised here – have never tried one.
oysters were long ago harvested to the point of
near-extinction. Taking their place was the bigger, faster-growing
Pacific oyster, introduced from Japan in 1902.
A little-known research station in Manchester is working to
restore not only the Olympia oyster’s rightful place in the sound,
but a host of other sea creatures.
Manchester State Park and a Navy fuel station, the Manchester
Research Station is an unassuming collection of white, mostly
windowless buildings. Inside are a heck of a lot of tanks – tanks
with big, thrashing chinook salmon, tanks with black cod swimming
in frigid, green-tinted water, and tanks with pebble-sized Olympia
oyster babies waiting to repopulate beaches around the sound.
The station is a collaborative place, with scientists from
nonprofit groups, universities and federal agencies working
alongside each other on various research projects. About two-thirds
of the 30 people working there are with the National Oceanic and
First up on the tour: big outdoor bathtubs loaded with red
seaweed. Rather than a science experiment, this part of the station
is more of a farm. A Seattle entrepreneur turns the seaweed into
jells, moisturizers and soaps for a skin care line. We had a story
about the business in 2011. Read it
“I’m actually 120 years old,” Berejikian joked. “I use the face
cream every day.”
Across from the seaweed baths is the Olympia oyster hatchery.
Run by Bainbridge Island-based Puget Sound Restoration Fund,
the hatchery produces tens of thousands of oysters for 19
restoration sites around the sound.
PSRF’s Stuart Ryan has had a taste of the rare natives.
“They have a very distinct taste,” he said. “They’re brinier,
slightly metallic – but in a good way, not a bad way.”
Alongside the oyster hatchery is a NOAA project that’s trying to
figure out a way to raise black cod (sablefish) in commercial fish
NOAA’s rearing tanks are pitch black and very cold to replicate
black cod’s natural environment. NOAA tints the water green to help
the fish see their feed (apparently, young cod turn to cannibalism
if they’re not fed well).
Female black cod are preferred. They grow faster with less food,
making them more profitable than males.
One of the largest buildings at the lab is one marked “Salmon
Culture.” Built by the Bonneville Power Administration to mitigate
the impact of dams on the Snake River, the building is full of
tanks for several salmon-rearing projects.
A really interesting one is tied to the
Redfish Lake sockeye. This central Idaho run almost went
extinct, with only 16 adults returning to the lake during the
“These fish were very close to winking out,” said NOAA’s Des
Thanks to Redfish Lake sockeye reared at the Manchester station,
the run now tops 1,000 fish.
Last on the tour was what Berejikian likes to call “the phony
river.” It’s an artificial river, with rocks and branches
tossed in, where scientists run various experiments. Lately,
they’ve used the river to test how much hatchery salmon compete
with wild fish for food and territory.
For more about the Manchester Research Station, head over
George Martin was good at making history. Keeping a detailed
account of that history? Not so much.
as I detailed in Sunday’s paper, was a pioneer in outdoor
education. He founded Olympic College’s storied mountaineering
program and helped establish Olympic Mountain Rescue. His work has
been honored by governors, Supreme Court justices, interior
secretaries and some of the biggest names in mountain climbing.
OC’s library recently cracked open the dusty archives known as
the “George Martin Collection” with the idea of cataloging,
scanning and digitizing the hundreds of photos, letters, articles
and other documents it contains. Problem is, most of the photos
lack any sort information. No dates, names or locations.
They’re pretty cool photos, apparently showing the early days of
the mountaineering class and OC’s once-booming outdoors
“We have books and books of photos but not many of them are well
marked,” said OC Library’s Constance O’Shea.
OC’s librarians are trying to get more eyes on the photos in the
hopes that someone will recognize a face, a trail or a peak.
Foulweather Bluff Nature Preserve near Hansville, they had a
near-record breaking crowd on the beach. One of the volunteers
stationed there said 99 people were counted at noon. The most
they’ve ever counted there was 150.
I spotted plenty of live crabs – including some burly Dungeness
crabs – in Foulweather’s tide pools. Also in abundance during the
minus 3 tide: cockles, horse clams, tiny green shrimp, tube worms,
anemone and lots of speedy little fish darting in and out of the
Reporter Rachel Seymour was on Bainbridge Island at the same
time, covering a Bainbridge Beach Naturalists-led walk at Point
White Pier. Check out her story, photos and video
For more shots from Foulweather, keep scrolling down.
Hot weather and extremely low mid-day tides will make this
weekend an ideal time to get out and see a side of Puget Sound
that’s usually hidden under the waves.
Sunday -3 tide at noon is expected to be the lowest daytime tide
of the summer.
“Getting a minus 3 or 3.5 tide during the day, and on a day
that’s going to have good weather is pretty unusual,” said Jeff
Adams, a Bremerton-based marine ecologist with Washington Sea Grant.
Adams said you can expect to see sea stars, anemone, chiton, big
rock crabs, maybe even an “ugly and alien” hairy helmet crab or geoduck
necks sticking out of the sand.
Check tidepools for stranded octopus and the amazing midshipman fish, which
breathes air when out of water, glows with luminescence when
courting and is known to hum (yes, hum) so loud
houseboaters have a hard time sleeping.
The waters west and south of the Kitsap Peninsula are opening
for crabbing about a month earlier than the rest of Puget
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has OK’d the start of
recreational crabbing in Hood Canal and the South Sound for next
“We’ll send out a schedule for crab fisheries throughout Puget
Sound in the coming weeks, but there was no good reason to hold off
on these areas,” said Rich Childers, Fish and Wildlife’s shellfish
policy manager. “Sport crabbers in these areas have fallen short of
reaching their catch quota in recent years, so we can afford to
give them more time to fish during the upcoming season.”
Three years ago, Lynn Lippert was near the top of Mt. Olympus
taking one of those epic shots you can’t wait to show your
As her camera clicked at the edge of an icy crevasse, Lynn lost
her balance. She caught herself, but her camera wasn’t so lucky. It
dove deep into the crevasse.
“Even if we could have seen it … it would have been impossible
to reach,” she said.
Miraculously, Lynn will get to show off those photos off after
all. That’s thanks to a bit of global warming, a high-climbing Port
Orchard dentist and a Port Orchard Facebook group frequented by a
man with “a very particular set of skills.”
The camera’s happenstance rescue mission began when Chris
Mueller, who has a
dental practice on Bay Street, was recently trekking up the
same route as Lynn.
The page is the kind of place people share (a lot of) backyard
bird photos, ask for plumber recommendations, sell old hedge
trimmers, or poll Port Orchard residents about whether or not Fred
Meyer sells bulk flax seed (rather than, you know, actually calling
Fred Meyer). It’s not the kind of place you go looking for mountain
climbers who might be missing cameras. But what the group does have
going for it is a lot of active members (12,651 at last count).
late start to the season, opening day of Puget Sound shrimping
still drew crowds in Hood Canal.
Low tides pushed the opener about a week, forcing many shrimpers
to change vacation days, motel reservations and other
plans.Quilcene and Dabob bays
were as busy as ever, though, with lines to get boats in and out
before and after Saturday’s four-hour shrimping period.