Month: April 2019
Explore the Washington State CoastApril 16, 2019
The Washington Coast provides miles and miles of rugged beauty with hundreds of trails for exploration. Hop onto US Route 101 and get ready to explore all along this wild and sometimes remote coastline. Check out these destinations that offer a glimpse of all the Evergreen State’s coastline has to offer.
Located at the northern mouth of the Columbia River is Cape Disappointment. This amazing state park offers zero disappointment along with eight miles of hiking trails and a campground with yurts, RB and tent sites. A picturesque lighthouse sits above this chaotically, beautiful place. Cape Disappointment is said to be the foggiest place in the United States and is wonderful to visit even in the winter months.
Long Beach is the longest beach in the United States, stretching out for a continuous 28 miles. It is also the second longest drivable beach in the world for those who love driving on sand. The sand dunes, driftwood, kite flying, museums and whale skeletons make this a family-friendly destination. Makes sure to stop by Marsh’s Free Museum to see Jake the Alligator Man, check out the Sasquatch wooden statue and explore their vast seashell collection.
This small town on the southern side of Grays Harbor offers some of the best surfing along the Washington Coast. The Pacific Ocean is protected by a man-made jetty which helps hem in the sometimes rough waters. Westport offers incredible fishing opportunities and offers a glimpse into the history of life along the coast. The boardwalk is lined with small shops and delicious restaurants. Take time to walk along the dunes and head out on a whale watching trip in the spring.
Kalaloch Tree Root Cave
This destination is worth a stop just for the Instagram worthy photos. Kalaloch is where the rainforest meets the ocean. Just a hundred feet below the campground parking lot is the Kalaloch Tree Root Cave which hangs onto the eroding ground by its roots, defying all odds. Combined with scenic views from the Kalaloch Lodge, this is a destination to check out.
Head just a few miles north Kalaloch Lodge along Highway 101 for Ruby Beach. This is one of the most spectacular beaches along the entire west coast. There is a short ½ mile walk down a well-maintained trail to access the beach. The sea stacks, driftwood and incredible views make this a noteworthy destination.
Second Beach is just west of Forks and is a classic coastal hike within the Olympic National Park. The short 4 mile round trip hike provides views of sea stacks, tide pools and wildlife sightings. Low tide allows visitors to walk for nearly a mile out into the surf.
No trip along the Washington Coast is complete without a visit to Cape Flattery which is the northwestern-most point in the contiguous United States. Located on the Makah Reservation, the views are utterly breathtaking. Head down the 1.5 mile trail to explore coastal forests and glimpses of the ocean. Whales are frequently spotted swimming near the entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca along with seals and sea lions.
By Rebecca Mongrain
The Pacific Northwest–a Haven for Urban WildlifeApril 5, 2019
Seattle’s more than 400 parks, 130,000 trees and almost 86 miles of shoreline mean the city is an abundant host for wildlife–and not only the usual raccoons and squirrels. Seattle has much, much more to offer in the way of urban wildlife than most cities.
It’s possible to spot transient deer lurking in greenbelts in the city along with coyote packs. Birds are plentiful too, with peregrine falcons flying overhead as well as crows, pigeons, starlings and over 80 other bird species.
Urban wildlife also abounds throughout the Puget Sound corridor in and around city and county parks.
The variety of birds in Washington are vast. Birds help keep a natural balance in their environments and snack on insects along with seeds and nuts. Washington state has over 516 species of birds from waterfowl to crows, swifts and hummingbirds. Each species comes with their own unique set of features and needs. Some birds like crows can recognize individual people and at least in Seattle, hundreds and hundreds nest together at night in a nature preserve near the University of Washington. Seward Park is home to nesting eagles and other raptors, such as falcons and hawks as well as many other species of birds including owls and hummingbirds. Great blue herons are also frequently spotted in and around this Seattle Park treasure. The Seward Park Audubon Center has information and programs for your young birders.
Raccoons are the ultimate urban wildlife. They roam around yards and alleyways and like us are omnivores. Eating both plants and animals helps them adapt to their urban environment. They usually hunt at night and rest during the day in rock piles, hollow trees, crawl spaces or under decks. Kits (baby raccoons) stay with their mother in one place for 8 weeks before leaving their den. Then they remain in the same territory as their Mom for 13 months or so before growing more independent and venturing out further. Raccoons tend to avoid humans but should they get too close, make yourself appear bigger while shouting and waving your arms.
Coyotes have become more and more common as civilization creeps in. The dog-like animals are both hunters and scavengers who eat any small animal (cats beware!) they can capture along with grass, fruits and berries. Coyotes are pack animals who raise their young for many years. They are wary animals with a remarkable sense of smell. Sightings are most likely to happen just after sunset and before sunrise, though you can sometimes see them during the day. They live in dens under uprooted trees, logs, caves or even a storm drain. They may have one or several dens.
The Western Gray Squirrel is a threatened species in Washington due to human intervention and competition from the Eastern Gray Squirrel. Squirrels of all types can be found almost anywhere there are trees. They like to build stick and leaf nests for their homes while others enjoy tree cavities for dens. Squirrels are most active at sunrise and sunset but also enjoy daytime hours. They tend to eat tree nuts and seeds. Squirrels will also scold humans with their high-pitched calls.
Though unpleasant, rats are everywhere in the urban environment. Washington is home to many types of rat such as the Norway rat and the black rat. Black rats are also commonly called roof rats due to their climbing ability. Rats will eat almost anything humans do along with garbage and animal droppings. They usually forage after dark and will hoard food in hidden areas. Rats tend to live in groups and will travel approximately 50 to 300 feet from their nests for food. Rats have a high water need and tend to congregate where water is plentiful. Rats breed year-round.
Depending on who you talk to, Beavers can either be a menace or amazing creatures. They are the largest living rodents in North America with adults averaging 40 lbs and more than 3 feet in length. They are well known for their broad, flat tails. Beavers live along rivers and in small lakes, marshes and streams. They prefer deep, calm water along with ample building material for dams. They eat the leaves, inner back and twigs of aspen, alder, birch, cottonwood, willow and other deciduous trees along with shrubs, ferns and grasses. Beavers mate for life and breed between January and March. Their kits will remain with them for two years or more.
Bats are a very beneficial animal for people and hunt down annoying insects such a mosquitoes. They play a very important role in keeping the natural balance in your neighborhood. Bats feed at night and use highly developed radar system known as “echolocation to find their food. More than 15 species of bats live in Washington and hibernate over the colder months. Most bats breed during late fall or winter in the same place as their hibernation. Bats enjoy living in bat homes made by people or caves and hollow trees.
By Rebecca Mongrain
Biking with KidsApril 2, 2019
In an effort to stay active and spend time outdoors, more families are taking the streets on two wheels rather than four. The benefits are multiple: spend quality time together, keep the whole family fit, and care for the environment all at once. With the right equipment and a bit of planning, cycling with kids can be easy and fun.
Start at the top: helmets that are in good condition and fit well are a necessity. Small children can be resistant to wearing a helmet, but be firm about this one. They got used to seatbelts; they’ll learn to love their helmets. Make sure the chin strap is tight enough to keep the helmet from sliding around on their heads. When my sons were young, I let them decorate their helmets with stickers. That seemed to make them more amenable to having the helmets strapped on.
If you have little ones, choose a child seat that’s right for your family and the type of riding you’ll be doing. Some children do just fine in trailers, others prefer to be up front near the action. Other options include rear-rack and center-mounted child seats. Whatever you choose, make sure it meets ASTM safety standards.
If your children are older they may be ready for an add-on bike, like an Adams Trail-a-Bike. This allows kids to help with the pedaling while leaving the steering and braking to an adult. The other benefit is that kids can pedal greater distances when attached to your bike than they would be able to reach on their own bike.
Special cycling clothing is not necessary, but layers are never a bad idea, especially in the Northwest. Keep a waterproof outer layer handy in case you get caught in the rain – a warm, dry kid is a happy kid.
Where to ride
Choose your routes carefully. Look for roads that have generous shoulders and good visibility. A day out with the kids is not the time to try out a new route. Local rail-trails (like the Burke-Gilman Trail and the Sammamish River Trail) are a great way to enjoy a bike ride as a family. Plan a route that will include a good rest break along the way, like a park where the kids can get their wiggles out, and make sure you know where the nearest bathrooms are.
If you have kids, you know that meltdowns are often either food or sleep related. Even if you are the one doing the pedaling, make sure you have snacks handy to keep your little rider well-fueled. And don’t forget the fluids! You might be the only one breaking a sweat, but kids can get dehydrated easily while riding along.
If your child is ready to ride on his or her own, consider signing up for a class through an organization like the Cascade Bicycle Club. Cascade offers cycling basics classes, skills rodeos, and camps covering everything from urban cycling to mountain biking!