Ridgefield NWR

Thursday, August 30th. Sad farewells all around as we departed our cozy nest in Paradise Bay. We left a day earlier than planned to avoid a long, possibly congested drive on the Friday of Labor Day weekend. We headed south and over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge through steadily moving traffic with only a couple of slowdowns as we passed Tacoma and Olympia. Then it was smooth sailing to our destination, Paradise Point State Park in Ridgefield, WA. 

This is a small campground right next to I-5, so it’s very convenient but also very noisy. No matter: We just wanted a place to stay at the halfway point between Paradise Bay and our next stop, 4 days at the Schwarz Park Army Corps of Engineers campground near Cottage Grove, OR. So we had no high expectations for this place.

But! Another good example of serendipitous, unexpected beauty and wonder so often to be found if you venture off the interstate! We happened to see Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge on the map just southwest of our campground, so after we unhitched the trailer, set up and had lunch and a rest, we drove 10 miles to the pretty little town of Ridgefield. Near I-5, there are new mushrooming housing developments, probably suburbs for Vancouver, WA and Portland, OR commuters. But the town itself is surrounded by farmland that slopes down to the confluence of the Columbia and the Lewis Rivers, and the NWR is a 5200+ acre wonderland that preserves “a lush mixture of seasonal… wetlands, Grasslands, riparian corridors, and forests of Douglas fir and Oregon white oak. These habitats, combined with a mild, rainy winter climate, provide an ideal environment for migrating birds and wintering waterfowl.” We learned that the 1964 major earthquake in southern Alaska instantly elevated the Copper River Delta by six feet. This marshy coastal wetland had been the primary nesting area for dusky Canada geese, and the change in elevation resulted in the growth of willows and alders, providing cover for bears and coyotes, increasing predation and greatly reducing the dusky Canada goose population almost to the point of extinction. The Ridgefield NWR was established in 1965 to secure a wintering habitat for the geese.

Here is Scott: 

A good trip involves some balance between orderly planning, and the joy that comes from experiencing the unexpected. We had decided to reduce Labor Day traffic issues by inserting an additional stop between the Angellic Paradise Bay and Cottage Grove, in Oregon. The Paradise Point State Park campground is situated perfectly, if you love I-5 traffic and want to be near a large and immensely popular casino.

The park is actually very well designed, and right next to the east fork of the Lewis river. Too bad about the road noise. BUT… H. had noticed that the Ridgefield NWR is just one exit South, so we take advantage of our mid afternoon arrival to check it out!

Part of the planning for this trip was to extend the second half into September and October, missing some of the summer traffic, fires, heat and above all, the hordes of families with swarms of screaming kids. And, yes we could sense the shift in seasons over the past few days. At the NWR, it seemed more pronounced, with the cool breezes, truly astonishing cloudscapes in vast skies, and very dry seasonal wetlands. This NWR is located within the floodplain of the Columbia River, a relatively flat Valley with low mountains all around. The town of Ridgefield, surprisingly charming, sits above the refuge and many of the homes have expansive views. Zillow says: $$$. We register — hooray for senior pass!! and start the 4.2 mile driving loop, which is very well designed, with many curves through aspen, ash and oak, and a trailhead for the 1.5 mile loop Kiwa Trail. The dried wetlands were just mowed, except for small patches of water at the very bottom. Too early for migration flocks, but we see resident blue herons,  many ducks, northern flickers, red tailed hawks, nutria, both brown and white, mink (or maybe they were river otters), small flocks of fast moving insect eaters, white egrets, and the endangered and local black tailed deer. The walk was magical… the sky was filled with an ever changing show of clouds and shafts of sunlight. The temperature was perfect with a soft cool breeze, expansive views across the valley, and mostly, quiet. It felt great to move around and to take it in. This was the River ‘S’ Unit of the Refuge.

Later, we travel through town to the the Carty Unit of the NWR, near the refuge office. A few yards from the Carty Unit parking lot is an impressive footbridge over some RR tracks and wetlands leading to the Cathlapotle Plankhouse, a Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail Site. This is a full-scale modern day representation of a traditional cedar dwelling of the Native Americans who once lived here. The Plankhouse was constructed to resemble the houses described by Lewis & Clark when they visited the village known as Cathlapotle in November 1805. The expedition noted 14 Plankhouses in a village of 900 inhabitants. The next spring the expedition returned and camped a mile upstream at the Wapato Portage, also located in the Refuge. Radiocarbon dating has determined that human habitation here dates back at least 2300 years, making it one of the oldest archaeological sites in the active floodplain of the Columbia.

A Paradise Bay Album

Our last week in Paradise Bay… painting the porch railing on a smoky, bad air day:


Lucy waiting for breakfast: 2BFD4128-4EFD-413F-A341-3EE3DEA4676B

Lucy’s morning walk: 44B7A3A9-CF29-4E8C-AD2A-801116038E83

Cool, beautiful days!


A Chimacum sampler: EAE56B75-6FDD-4403-95DD-1575C26EF6DE

Chimacum community garden right next to a thrift shop… my kind of place!

At the Kul Kah Han Native Plant Demonstration Garden in H.J. Carroll Park with co-founder Linda Landkammer:


Chimacum Sunday Farmers Market: 429319F5-89CC-459F-89E6-00D5547B8FD789FB1155-0766-470B-B8AC-A24E147F3E47ECC2A6D5-E544-4402-92FE-3446FBBE50AB


Excursion to Gibbs Lake County Park:


4-H Challenge course on the trail in Gibbs Lake Park:


Seen on the west side of Paradise Bay Road:


Excursion to Lake Leland County Park. View from our picnic table:


Farewell selfie, and sunset on our last night in Paradise Bay:



Friday,  August 24th. Only one more week in Paradise Bay! We have had such fun with a variety of projects.

Cleaning Roof & Gutters:



Painting & pressure washing:


Bird Feeders:84EA5C62-A05F-4D3D-9498-8B0EB658AFD0

Porch posts:3AE902EC-748E-46CF-A0E9-07CA691D5953

Apple gathering and cooking:956F679C-4B7F-47A1-9403-4542D09F5388

Planting garlic:8A3180E7-B973-4050-BD9B-9F0B033F2D80

Chopping kindling: 92631DE1-51F5-4D7C-9823-970301A579CF

The Mundane and the Magical

Wednesday, August 15th. 

Mundane: The laundry. We found the Rainshadow Carwash and Laundromat in Sequim on the corner of a neighborhood of identical manufactured homes with uniform gravel yards sitting cheek by jowl. A Stepford Wives setting. Somehow scary! But the laundromat was clean and spacious with many machines of different sizes. We realized that we should have brought all our linens, floor mats and the bedspread quilt since there were large-capacity machines, so when the first load finished, we got back in the truck to take the clean laundry home and bring the linens back to the laundromat. 99B0E80D-C49C-4FE0-93EB-6B7D34E8DFFB

Reading material at the laundromat:0557975A-A3E0-4B01-AE1D-36D827728DDD

Magical: On the way back to the campground we took a wrong turn which led us onto a road with a brown sign pointing to the Dungeness River Audubon Center and Railroad Bridge Park. Irresistible!!F5A05DDD-AA97-4C2F-9F6C-96C340C93478

2CFE7CF5-3893-450A-AF85-8E4EE7F23A31This was a magical spot. The Audubon Center shares space with a park built around a beautifully restored old railroad bridge, which is part of the mostly-paved Olympic Discovery Trail stretching 26 miles from Discovery Bay to Port Angeles. DA55B231-4554-421E-A7C9-5E4728750A5CThe park is on land owned by the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe which provides access to the park in partnership with the Dungeness River Audubon Society. According to signage on the trail, the Dungeness River area is the ancestral home for the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe. The 53 acre Railroad Bridge Park is privately owned by the Tribe. The bridge, built in 1915, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places because it is one of the few remaining timber Howe through-truss bridges in Washington. 4554760D-2AB4-48A7-9CA7-3E7679C93C85

The bridge is decorated with metalwork in traditional tribal designs, and passes  high over a particularly scenic part of the Dungeness River with lilacs blooming below giant maples on the banks.E411E23B-001E-4F77-B5EC-99CD3D97D806

We walked a little ways across the bridge on the Olympic Discovery Trail, and then returned to the Audubon Center. F444C0CB-E770-40E1-A9FF-8A9D7822A104Inside, there was a hubbub of people standing around talking. At the entrance there was a Ranger from the US Forest Service so we asked what was going on. She said the Forest Service is proposing that several roads within the Olympic National Forest Hood Canal Ranger District be decommissioned, and they were soliciting public comments on the proposal. BF9DD093-23A2-4225-8804-BCE66B9DA63D

There is a native plant garden outside the Audubon Center and several different kinds of bird feeders are set up, very popular with a variety of birds; the only ones we recognized were the spotted towhees, the white crowned sparrows and black capped chickadees, but there were many others! CF2ABA1E-A987-445A-9C6D-E673791CA137

On the way back to the trailer, we passed a sign on the road pointing to “Master Gardener Demonstration Garden,” but couldn’t find the garden.

So, back at the trailer we had some lunch, did some internet research to find the actual address of the garden, and then collected the rest of our laundry and took off again. On the way to the laundromat, we found the Demonstration Garden at 2711 Woodcock Road. Another magical spot!! 4FA691EC-A740-4701-91C3-C4E4A3D47438These are beautiful gardens featuring roses, dahlias, vegetables, fruit trees, herbs and native plants mixed in among exotics.

The veggies were in raised beds between immaculate weedcloth paths. Inspiring! The use of stones for signage in the Succulents garden gave us the idea that we could possibly use stones as plant labels at home for the Native Plant Society garden tour. 3C4A81BE-559F-4DF9-81BC-147F9E2EEB14We had the place to ourselves and wandered around the quiet, sunny gardens in delight, until duty called and we went off to finish the laundry. 

A day of unexpected pleasures!

Elwha Day

Tuesday, August 14th.

Over the past few years, Charles has sent us several articles describing the success story of the Elwha River restoration project, consisting of the removal of 2 dams to restore the free flow of water from the Olympic Mountains to the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the Elwha River. The dams had been used for hydroelectric power but were not producing much anymore since most of the electricity used on the Olympic Peninsula comes from the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River. So the Federal government, local government and the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe purchased the dams, and set about the incredibly complex task of removing them and restoring an entire ecosystem. One of the key components by which the success of the project can be measured is the return of the salmon. Historically, before the dams were built, the salmon population was nearly 400,000. When the dams were built, federal law required that the dams provide for fish passage, but this was not done. The salmon population dwindled to about 3000. 

As soon as the dams were removed, salmon started returning to the river to spawn. This is amazing! Salmon return to their birthplace to spawn, and relatively few salmon were born up the Elwha River for nearly 100 years. How did they find it? Inquiring minds want to know!1F828B2B-022F-467B-A29B-B2E9B4D070D8

Anyway, today was the day we wanted to explore several of the sites where we could experience and learn about the history and progress of the Elwha River restoration. We started with a short detour to Serenity House Thrift Shop In Sequim, where a coffee mug for Scott was purchased.

Then we drove to Port Angeles and into Olympic National Park to the Visitor Center to pick up maps and trail guides. A very informative Ranger was quite enthusiastic that we were interested in the Elwha restoration. Apparently it is not on the radar for most casual visitors. He pointed us first to the Madison Falls parking lot, where there is a gate closing off the road to vehicular passage any further up the Elwha valley. This is because the road was washed out one night last November when the freed river meandered over the road, and also took out two National Park campgrounds, including washing away the concrete pads for picnic tables. Imagine the power of that water! Anyway, the Altair and Elwha campgrounds are closed, and the road is still impassable to cars, but you can walk on it, 3.4 miles one way to the Glines Canyon Overlook. But we decided that we would take it easy today after yesterday’s 11 mile beach hike, so we just walked the quarter mile up a paved path to Madison Falls. The Falls are very pretty. A weird thing: there was a woman with long black hair in a fancy black dress standing hip deep in the pool at the bottom of the Falls. A camera crew hovered around, and a man in a black suit waded into the pool (in his shoes) towards her. Scott asked one of the crew if they were shooting a commercial and he said no, they came up here from L.A. to shoot an engagement video. 

Across the road from the Falls parking lot, the freed river rushes down under green mountainsides, strewing boulders and uprooting trees along the way. Here is where we really started noticing the smoke getting thicker, another reason to limit strenuous outdoor activities! 80AF783A-4240-4EBF-BACE-A78F2ACA1B809EC97AA7-DEEC-4CD5-AAEF-D21CEEEC8A88We talked to the park Ranger stationed at the gate to the closed road, and she suggested that our next stop should be the renourished beach and estuary at the mouth of the Elwha, at the end of Place Road, so that is what we did.

Place Road Beach access to the mouth of the Elwha: A short walk from a parking lot across from a few private homes there is the beach where you can really see how the enormous amount of sediment that was trapped in the lakes created by the two dams has traveled downstream and replenished this estuary, creating a wide delta. There were two aircraft hovering stationary offshore. What were they doing? Wide beach, hot, with a cool breeze. Since we didn’t have to walk along a rocky beach yesterday at Dungeness, we made up for it today at the mouth of the Elwha.

Klallam Interpretive Center. Just back up 112 from Place Road is a small park maintained by the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe with information kiosks explaining in detail all aspects of the Elwha restoration project — cultural, historical, economic, scientific, technical. These are illustrated with extraordinary photographs, maps and charts, and bordered with glazed tiles decorated with scenes of nature, created by local schoolchildren. We learned here that the Elwha was the only river in the Olympic Peninsula that was once home to seven species of salmon, and with the dams removed, may be so once again.

Feiro marine life center.6EBA236B-FD9C-4D79-B425-8514F4D117BB3FD02166-B8DF-4C09-B652-7816A0603A5B The Ranger at the NPS Visitor Center recommended that we visit this place, which gave us the opportunity to drive into downtown Port Angeles and park right on the waterfront. Here, amid touch tanks of various shellfish and other intertidal creatures, there is a rough science-project-type model done before the restoration project was completed, with water flowing through to show the proposed results of dam removal. That was underwhelming, but there were some interesting posters based on work funded by NOAA’s SeaGrant, showing the projected probability of shoreline inundation during severe storms by 2050. Another interesting graphic documented sightings of various species of whales in the area over the past several years, based on the observations of a whale-watch boat based in Port Angeles harbor. A very helpful staff person here shared a lot of good information and recommended that we hotfoot it up the street to the tribal museum located in an old brick Carnegie library building, for the tribal perspective on the Elwha River restoration project. The museum was closing in 30 minutes, at 4 p.m. so we hightailed it out of there and drove 3 blocks uptown.

Carnegie tribal museum. This is a very special place that deserves more than the 30 minutes we were able to spend here. It displays some of the 2700 tribal artifacts that were unearthed in downtown Port Angeles in 2003. The young woman attendant said these artifacts were deliberately hidden by her ancestors in an effort to make sure important elements of the culture would be preserved for future generations. There is also an excellent exhibit on the Elwha project. We mentioned that we had been to the beach at the mouth of the river and she said she goes there nearly every day with her son, and that it changes daily as the river meanders and the sediment flows downstream. Interestingly, we read later that this Carnegie building had been home to the Clallam County Historical Society museum displaying artifacts of Euro-American settlement of the Olympic Peninsula, but that it had become “unsustainable” so it closed in 2017 and was taken over by the tribe. The Port Angeles Visitor Center describes it like this: “The Elwha Klallam Heritage Center opens the historic Carnegie Museum in downtown Port Angeles to house its Native American art exhibits. The famous tribal exhibits on display include Tse-whit-zen Village (c’ix’íc’n) where two-thousand-year-old artifacts were recovered from the ancient village site near Ediz Hook in Port Angeles. This is the largest excavation in Washington State. The epic Elwha River dam removal project is also documented in an exhibit curated by the Burke Museum of Seattle.”

Nash organic farm market. Driving back to the campground, we passed a sign for the Nash Farm market, and remembered we had been there 2 years ago with Charles and Ini, so we found our way back there and bought lots of organic veggies and other treats. Mmmmmmm!C9605198-3DA2-40C7-A703-B5E696BF704B

Spittin’ Distance

Monday, August 13th.

Ever since we visited Dungeness Spit National Wildlife Refuge with the Angells 2 years ago, we have wanted to return to do the 11 mile roundtrip beach hike along the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Lighthouse at the end of Dungeness Spit. Today was the day! 

Last night we went to bed early, knowing we would be getting up in the middle of the night to see the Perseids. We did get up around 11, saw a few streaks in the sky, plus one bright yellow, short, fat flashy falling star. The overlook on the bluff at the edge of the campground where we had an unobstructed view of the night sky was full of loud, high spirited high school boys from Bellingham, and we kept waiting for them to get tired of looking at the meteor shower but they outlasted us, and we soon went back to the trailer and fell asleep. 

Anyway, we can say that we saw the Perseids! Good thing too, because every subsequent day the sky has gotten smokier and hazier from multiple wildfires burning north, south and east of us: British Columbia, Eastern Washington, the southern part of Olympic National Park (Hamma Hamma), and Northern California!  But Sunday night the sky was pretty clear.

It dawned clear on Monday too, so we had very good weather for our hike. D79DFE5A-71D5-4A11-9A46-3C1D155F1104Also, there was a minus tide at 11 a.m. (lower than the mean low tide in a given locality), so the beach was wide and the sand was packed. Had it been high tide, it would have been difficult walking on the high tide line, full of rocks and driftwood. Since it is a beach walk, there is no elevation gain, although the beach is sloped towards the water. Even so, it was a bit of a slog and we took frequent snack and water breaks, sitting on the ubiquitous, beautiful driftwood, mostly the remains of giant cedars washed ashore. EDFE4B84-E9BD-4905-8A39-6044120AC9E8By the time the lighthouse appeared like a mirage on the horizon we were ready for a rest, but we were just past the half way mark at that point, and soldiered on.3592B493-8E02-477C-B1F1-E2ADBE3F62AB

The 5+ miles to the lighthouse compound seems easy enough, but sand and angled beach can make it tough, and for the last mile or so the fabled Dungeness Spit lighthouse seemed tantalizingly close, without us ever seeming to get there. But finally, we reach it, and it is really like an oasis… green lawn, impeccably maintained, the classic white tower, with a beautiful lighthouse keepers house, and remnant structures from times and technologies now gone. 2A7AD152-83D2-4EF4-AF06-4D90CA8F765AThe lighthouse now sits about 1/2 mile from the end of the spit; it was originally at the tip, but the spit adds 13 feet of sand each year, and that area is now for wildlife only. We meet this week’s caretakers, a young couple from Tacoma with their 2 kids, who seemed to be having great fun. If your application is accepted, you can stay here… you pay for lodging, must give tours, do bathroom cleaning, pay for your own food, etc. Really, this is a smart way to defray costs. The central grounds are covered in bermuda grass with picnic tables. The artesian well, which goes down 667 feet, provides water, and the light and house and grounds are now powered via an underground cable from across the bay. We choose a table, and enjoy a light lunch of apples, pumpkin seeds, water… very refreshing! Then, we take the lighthouse tour, which is nice, since they let you get right up next to the light. 70 or so steps up, which groans our legs a bit, but we don’t let this show. Great views all around, although stunted by smoke and haze from the 600+ wildfires burning to the North in British Columbia. Lots of historical facts and photos, and the guide tells us that their residence is beautiful and clearly supported by a dedicated group of volunteers. From above, one can see the top of the well, a small pond, walkways, and foundations of demolished structures, most of which were related to coal or kerosene storage. 04A678E8-FBEE-4019-9367-6F7818687DED

As Helen says, time and tide wait for no man, and we have to get back, lest we get forced into the high dunes littered with rock and driftwood. So, we take it all  in again, and head back the way we came…

We were entranced by the alluvial patterns made by the tide around these rocks:BE379FC7-B989-4B68-9990-79C0F045F469EE407AFC-12D9-4182-887E-62AE7C90F825



Sunday, August 12th. Here we are, camping at Dungeness Recreation Area next to the Dungeness NWR on the Strait of Juan de Fuca that connects the Pacific Ocean with Puget Sound. We are hoping that this campground right on a bluff overlooking the Strait will be a good spot to observe the Perseids meteor shower, if it clears up. Right now it’s overcast, but the sun is trying to peek through as it gets lower in the sky.



We were here with the Angells a couple of summers ago, and vowed to return to hike the 11 mile round trip beach trail to the end of Dungeness Spit and back. At the tip of the Spit there is the historic New Dungeness Lighthouse where tours are offered daily by the volunteer lighthouse keepers.

Tomorrow: updates on the Perseids and the beach hike. It’s supposed to be clear and sunny, with favorable tides. Stay tuned!

Work and Play

Friday, August 10th. First, work: cleaning the gutters and pressure washing the deck. Note to self: if/when we have a house in the conifers of the Pacific Northwest, it should have a metal roof!D9AA0AFA-26C0-4190-9169-57DFEEC24592Then, play: The Jefferson County Fair in Port Townsend. This was a small, low-keyed affair, thankfully without the noisy madness of the glitzy “Midway” such as we have at Palm Beach County’s Fair. The day was lovely, warm and sunny with a cool breeze. Wonderful 4-H members and their animals and projects were much in evidence. 7874FB6C-38EC-4D39-87F4-2C1B0DD3F34AWe learned a lot, for example: did you know that one pound of wool makes 10 miles of yarn?075DC18E-2E6F-4585-8825-019513549865

As usual, we were drawn to the fiber arts.

We especially liked this one, which looks at first like an abstract geometric pattern but which contains the words, “Love kids, not guns.”6E7044F3-06E9-48FE-A1E5-314541D7A1CA Our favorite:767533DB-13F7-4068-B007-BAD4C8C88759Also: 20AD8FB4-D0CE-478F-A74D-4FCBAFDB3666

We enjoyed chatting with some local exhibitors:907C31B7-7D9F-4DC4-A238-728429D8C8D5

Finally, we picked up an application for the Jefferson County Master Gardener program!