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We Live Here!


Northern Flicker! Lummi Flats, Whatcom County. Washington State.

No big trips, no wilderness excursions recently, just a continued appreciation for living in an area where wonderful landscapes, wildlife, and beauty abound! Each of the photos in today’s posting were taken locally with the Mt. Baker area, and the road up to Artist Point, being the furthest at about an hour and a half from my home.

Mt. Baker Sunrise. Whatcom County. Washington State.

Each day, at some point, I look at my wife Stephanie, or she looks at me, and the words “we live here” work their way into our conversation. That really has happened ever since we moved here over twenty years ago. It may be over a sunset behind the Salish Sea, sunrise as a backdrop to Mt. Baker or the Twin Sisters Range, by filtered sunlight framing our road and driveway, or blackberries and grasses sparkling with the first frost of the year. For wildlife, a bear (too rare) besides the North Cascades Highway, or a heron or kingfisher up in Birch Bay State Park, or, like yesterday, a barred owl and an early morning coyote along the wetlands continue to remind us of how lucky we are to be here.

First Light, Nooksack River. Whatcom County. Washington State.

Certainly, we are reminded each time we top out on a long, uphill hike in the Cascade Mountains or in the Chuckanut Foothills, and every day that I get to spend along the Nooksack or Samish Rivers, and nearby smaller creeks such as Ten-Mile, Bertrand, Wells, and others.

Greater Yellowlegs. Whatcom County. Washington State.

We certainly don’t have a lock on beauty. Old friends continue to send me photos of bears from northeast Pennsylvania, the colors and mountains in Colorado, and waterfowl back in at Blackwater Refuge in eastern Maryland. Recently, Stephanie and I have been nostalgic for hikes in the Shanandoah’s, and road trips south to the Great Dismal Swamp and Everglades, as well as north to Maine with its Acadia National Park and Baxter State Park. Having spent time along Maine’s rocky coast and in its forests, I often compare it to my current home, saying only that the coast is on the “wrong side!” Both Stephanie and I are far overdue for a visit to get back to our roots along the east coast.

Great Blue Heron. Birch Bay State Park. Whatcom County. Washington State.

But with all the history, family and memories of the eastern states, our hearts remain here in Bellingham and Whatcom County. This is home, and we live here!


Blackberry & Frost! Whatcom County. Washington State.

Whatcom means “noisy waters” in the Coast Salish language and was the name of a Nooksack Tribal Chief. The County was established in 1854, one hundred years before I was born. Before that, the area was the traditional home of the Lummi and Nooksack peoples (as well as Samish and Semiahmoo tribes), explored first by the Spanish and then claimed by Russia, England and then the United States. In 1792, Captain George Vancouver named Bellingham Bay for Sir William Bellingham. In 1951 (still not born yet!) a history text by Lelah Jackson Edson, The Fourth Corner, designated Bellingham as the final “corner” settled in the contiguous United States, and the name stuck.

Last day on Artist Point Road. Mt. Shuksan, Whatcom County. Washington State.

The city itself, being a college town and with a reputation as a haven for ex-hippies, leans to liberal and progressive thinking. It certainly reflects most of my beliefs as well as fitting the term “the left coast” that defines politics and thinking from California, Oregon, and Washington (and most of western Canada).

Flicker 2! Whatcom County. Washington State.

As with many places, that liberal thinking mellows somewhat as you head out into the rural areas. But it is the rural outlying areas that really showcase the beauty of both Bellingham and Whatcom County. Most of our most iconic outdoor places are in the county, as are the agricultural and farming areas that provide habitat for the amazing wildlife and birds that I like to photograph. And it is so very interesting to watch as the county changes, as new people, and new ideas, start to take shape. High on that list is the value of place, and an appreciation for living here which has been shared by generations of local families.


Bellingham Bay is part of the Salish Sea, and the city is protected by Lummi Island and Peninsula and opens onto the Strait of Georgia. Looking west you see San Juan Islands National Park, and, on a clear day, you can revive your soul just by touring along Chuckanut Drive, Washington’s original state scenic byway. Look east you can just see the tip of Mt. Baker and the Sisters Range peaking over Stewart Mountain, and you know that just beyond those peaks (and a bit further than an hour and a half drive) lies one of the most intact wildlands in the contiguous United States, the North Cascades Ecosystem (NCE). NCE covers more than nine-thousand miles of Washington State and British Columbia, with fifteen peaks over nine-thousand feet, another three hundred between seven and nine thousand, and with five-hundred and nineteen glaciers.

Winter's Coat! Skagit County, Washington State.

There is a lot to like, and to see, here in the fourth corner. When I lived back east, and thought about someday going west, my perception was unfortunately limited to Colorado and California. Later work sent me to Seattle for many projects, but I never really got as far as Bellingham on those trips. But we knew we wanted to go west, and to wake up and see mountains and deep forest. Steph came first to Western Washington University, and when I came out, I remember driving up Interstate 5, passing Samish Lake and seeing the mist and clouds blanketing the Chuckanuts (as I later learned Galbraith and Blanchard Mountains). I needed to go no further; I knew I was home.


Endnotes:

· The recent shootings in Maine are so troubling as I think of sleepy (in a good way), wonderful Maine as so far outside of tragedy and drama like that. Prayers and thoughts for everyone dealing with that – and a reminder that Maine is truly blessed with beauty, great people, and a wonderful lifestyle.

· Above I talk about the NCE as one of the most intact wildlands in the country. It is amazing to think that grizzly bears, which lived here for thousands of years, no longer roam the area. You can help change that! The National Park Service and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service are accepting comments until November 13th on restoring grizzly bears to the NCE. Separate comments are required and you can provide your comments and thoughts (either way) at:

· A good article on the need for reintroduction at Courtrooms are critical habitat for grizzly bears



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Buff Wright
Buff Wright
Nov 19, 2023

You should write a table top book for the Whatcom Museum to publish. These illustrated stories are just wonderful! Buff, a SoCal ex pat

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