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Okanogan National Forest, Eastern Washington State.

I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and Native American Heritage Day. This year my family has even more to be thankful for, as my wife Stephanie and I are new first-time grandparents. Welcome Daisy Anna Hebert, who was born on October 22nd. A bit earlier than expected, but everyone is doing well.

With all that has been going on, I have been staying close to home with many trips back and forth to Seattle. No time for major outdoor excursions or adventures. Luckily, there are many treasures to be found in my own back yard. Morning drives along the Salish Sea, to the Skagit flatlands, or up in the Mt. Baker Wilderness bring so many photography opportunities.

Whatcom Creek, Washington State.

To prove that point, all but one of the images in this photo-story are local, within forty-five minutes of home. Sunrise in the South Fork Nooksack Valley, along the Lower Skagit River, Whatcom Creek, and Squalicum Lake are all nearby. The image of the wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), about four times as heavy as a Ring-necked Pheasant, was taken several years ago in Eastern Washington’s Okanogan Forest. Still local considering some of my travels.

South Fork Nooksack Valley. Washington State.

My passion as a photographer has been in pursuit of beauty, wildness, and light, to share that magnificence with others, and to educate around the need to protect a nature that cannot be replaced. I can’t wait to show Daisy (with Mom and Dad) how wonderful this world can be! Golden hour every morning and evening, baby bears, pikas and foxes, stars and northern lights, and wild places near and far. A continuing mission but a new timeliness and a new imperative!

Nature and children are natural playmates; they're both wild and messy, unpredictable, and beautiful.

Mark Hoelterhoff

Whatcom County, Washington State.

Through my photos and stories I hope to share this with all of our children and grandchildren (yours and mine). I wish for each of them an even greater love, understanding, and enjoyment of nature, and I want to help provide them with the tools and passion they will need to assure that nature (and all of its wonderful species) continue to exist.

Olympic Morning 2. Washington State.

While I wait for Daisy to get big enough to put on skies, bounce on my shoulders, or get into a lifejacket, I’ll content myself to share my photos and stories with you.

Skagit River Morn! Washington State.

The approach of the holidays, combined with the birth of our new granddaughter and my love of nature and the wild has stirred a vortex of emotion, love and thankfulness. I want to share all of that, and wish you all unending beauty, love, and peace and contentment in the weeks ahead.

Heron Reflection! Washington State.


· Speaking of a vortex, I also can’t wait to take my granddaughter on a roller coaster, buy her a hot-fudge sundae, and visit all of the Mystery Spots. Can’t wait to sit beside her along a river, listening to the gurgle of water and looking for otters, ouzels, and kingfishers. It’s not all about nature and the outdoors – I plan to keep a healthy and fun balance.

· Getting history right! In the Pacific Northwest, the link with Native American Tribes is strong and constantly visible. Rivers like the Nooksack, Skykomish, and Stillaguamish, and mountains like Tacoma, Komo Kulshan, and Denali are constant reminders of our close relationships with native peoples and tribes. So Thanksgiving is a vastly different holiday depending on your background! The idea of giving thanks is central to Native heritage and culture, as are family, community, the riches of the land, and the autumn harvest. For Native Americans, Thanksgiving is also a day of mourning and protest as it commemorates the arrival of settlers and centuries of oppression, genocide, loss of traditional lands, and the continued struggles of Native peoples today. Hard to be thankful with that history. To make it worse, when Congress designated Native American Heritage Day in 2009, it picked Black Friday, which shares none of the tradition, culture, or values of our native peoples.

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