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We Live Here!

"Home is where one starts from." -- T.S. Eliot

Salish Sea Sunset from Blanchard Mtn., Whatcom County Washington

My wife and I lived our first four decades on the east coast. Family was in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, excitement and paddling everywhere but certainly across all of West Virginia from Harpers Ferry to the Cranberry and Dolly Sods Wilderness, and on the New, Gauley, Tygart, and Blackwater Rivers. Evenings spent kayaking and surfing on the Potomac River waves outside of Washington DC, and weekends hiking in Virginia’s Shenandoah Mountains. Vacations spent in northern Maine or Florida’s Everglades. But always we were looking west and wondering what life would be like if …?

Cascade Range, Mt. Baker Wilderness, Whatcom County

Then, in 2001, “if” happened and we moved with our daughter to Bellingham, in Whatcom County, in the Pacific Northwest. As my father said, looking at the map, “Could you move any further away?” From our home here, it is a hop, skip and ferry ride to the Mt. Baker Wilderness, San Juan Islands National Monument, Alaska, and British Columbia. If you have not been here, imagine Maine with its beautiful trees, rocks, and water, except the water (in this case the Salish Sea) is on the wrong side!

Diablo Reservoir, North Cascades National Park, and in eastern Whatcom County

We loved the east, we loved living there, but we are totally and forever in love with this area and the doorways to the outdoors and wilderness it has opened for us -- daily.

It rains here, but usually a steady, gentle misting and nothing like the pummeling and deluges that we experienced back east. And no lightning storms like Colorado, where, being from the east, we thought was west for many years.

Canyon Lake Community Forest, Whatcom County Parks & Whatcom Land Trust

The rain colors the northwest landscape green and grows the ferns and remaining old-growth forests. Rain powers the winter mountains and the cascading spring rivers and streams. Rain enables all five species of Pacific Salmon to call this home. Rain makes that magic light at sunrise and sunset so vibrant and beautiful. Rain creates that wonderful fusion of mountains, forest, and grey-moody storm clouds that made me absolutely certain that I had to ‘live here’ and which appears in so many Northwest River’s images. And it is our abundance of rain that has drawn me again and again to the flowing water that inspires my photography.

Water Ouzel, South Lake Whatcom, adjacent to Whatcom Land Trust's Ladies of the Lake property

Bellingham and Whatcom County lie nearly dead center between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia. Forty-five minutes north and an hour-plus south to get big-time sports, world-class food and culture, and endless traffic. Here, there's absolutely no travel time whatsoever to get to beauty, wilderness, wildlife, and superlative outdoor adventures.

Nooksack River Salmon, Whatcom County

We call this area home, but we share that with salmon, eagle, elk, pika, bear, mountain goats and other species. We share that, thankfully, with our friends and community, and with the native Lummi and Nooksack tribal members who have called this home since time immemorial.

The Sisters Range from Skookum Creek, Whatcom Land Trust

Bellingham and Whatcom County are also home to the Cascades to Chuckanuts (C2C) Corridor, some 350,000 acres where the Cascade Mountains meet the Chuckanut foothills, and then continue downhill to the saltwater of the Salish Sea. C2C remains one of the least developed places in the Pacific Northwest outside of our National Forests -- an excellent pick if you want to photograph wild lands and wildlife or if you want to ski in the mountains in the morning and paddle in the San Juans in the afternoon.

Upper Nooksack River, Whatcom County

C2C is powered by the Nooksack, Skagit and Samish Rivers, and Whatcom Creek. These arteries, and the rain that feeds them, are what add that special texture, ambiance, and aura that makes Whatcom County and the Pacific Northwest so unique and special. These waters, and the land and rocks that they carve, make this area home for us, and what continues to drive our interest in the wild, in photography, and in conservation of both land and water.

Hooded Merganser, Samish River Preserve, Whatcom Land Trust

It is no coincidence that many of the images in this blog and on my website represent land, habitat and species protected by the work of the Whatcom Land Trust (with which I have a long and wonderful history). Nooksack River, Canyon Lake, Samish River, Clearwater and Skookum Creek, and coastal area photos are all representative to the mission and work of the Trust. To date, the Trust has permanently protected more than 12,000 acres of the C2C through land purchase and private-landowner partnerships and conservation easements. Doing what we can to protect what makes our home so special, and so that each day we can look around and continue to say, “We live here!”

Sunrise from Lummi Reservation, Whatcom County

Climb up on some hill at sunrise. Everybody needs perspective once in a while, and you’ll find it there.

Robb Sagendorph

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