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Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Very short Update

Goodness, time flies these days...

What I've been up to since mid September:
  • Taught 2 four hour basic tracking classes at a women's event
  • Successfully navigated the King County Bus system, Amtrak, and the Portland Light Rail
  • Spent hours in Powell Books
  • Presented my domestic dog tgracking project at the International Society of Professional Trackers symposium
  • Took 4 bubble baths in 2 days - one on either side of the symposium - at fancy hotels in Portland
  • Discovered that the words "German" and "Bakery" go together quite nicely
  • Came home with lots of ideas about where to take the project from here
  • Decided to turn it into a field guide
  • Survived the annual audit at work, followed by payroll and 2 days of quarterly taxes -in one week
  • Knitted 2 of 6 scarves I need for Christmas presents (socks are not gonna happen this year)
  • Read 16 books - 9 fiction
Still to do in December:
  • Book club tonight -"The Help"
  • Bunco tomorrow night with ladies from my church
  • Knit
  • Knit
  • Knit
  • Vist my freind Ellen in Kirkland to help put out and light a bunch of luminarias on the beach to welcome the Christmas ships on the evening of the's becoming a tradition! I'm making biscuits and gravy for breakfast and we will have hot coco and perhaps a nice warm rum drink after the ships...
  • Knit
  • Mail scarves to Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri
  • Get really serious about tracking dogs
Looks like I'll be keeping busy!

Thursday, September 29, 2011


One of the native Pacific Northwest mammals that I've been eager to see has proved to be elusive.  The Apoldonatia, or Mountain beaver (Aplodontia rufa) is a primitive rodent that leaves ankle-breaking burrows all over the Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and Swordfern (Polystichum munitum) forests that I've been playing in ever since I arrived here in September of 2006.
While I've seen lots of feeding sign and stepped into many a Mountain beaver hole, and have seen clear tracks in a mud puddle, I only just saw my first live animal. And I had my camera!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Something New and Different

 I've always been fascinated with glass. I've played around with stained glass, and my tools and a stash of colored glass are still waiting in storage back in Missouri.  It's something I plan to take up again when I have the room to do it.
 When we went to Silver Dollar City, I'd stand and watch the glass blowers as long as my family or friends would let me.  But glass blowing is not a craft one can take up at home, and so I never really thought much about learning that craft.
Recently, a friend found a groupon for the Redmond School of Glass, and we took a mini glass blowing class. We each got to choose one of 3 color combos and decide if we wanted to add texture to our ornament or float. 

The nice young man in the photo pulled a glob of molten glass from the furnace, then handed me the pipe to apply a coat of crushed lavendar, pink and blue glass, then I heated the glob in the "glory hole" and repeatd the crushed glass coating.  The hard part was remembering to continually turn the pipe so that the glob did not start to slump off the pipe.  By keeping up a constant turning motion, the glob stays more or less round. I opted for texture, applied by the instructor, who laid the glass into a wooden mold cut inside with a diamond pattern. Our instructor plopped the hot glass into the mold and gave a puff of air to expand the ball, which picked up the pattern. It sort of reminded me of one of my antique target balls.

 We worked in teams under close supervision...the glass starts at nearly 2000 degrees and cools slowly. While another  student did the blowing, I shaped the hot glass. Here, the danger is in squeezing too hard and cutting off the glob. Getting the correct grip was the most difficult part for me to catch on to.
(I thought the blowing part was easy - it did not take nearly as much air as blowing up a balloon.)
This is what we wanted to see as the still red-hot glass expanded into a neat round shape.  Our instructor cut off the finished ball, then quickly formed a loop on top to create the hanger for the ornament. Then he stuck it in an oven to cool slowly overnight.  If glass cools too quickly, bad things can happen!
It wasn't until 2 days later that I got to see the finished result.  I think it's very pretty, and I'd like totake more classes. Check out the website at

Thursday, September 8, 2011

And the Final Cedar River Watershed Story

Once we completed the watershed tour, Ellen and I sat on a bench near the rain drums and ate our sack lunches...all the while looking at Rattlesnake Ledge. The trail winds up around this peak across the lake.  It's a 2 mile trail that rises 1,175 feet in elevation.  The trail tops out on the treeless edge of rock on the right side of the peak...hikers who make the top look like ants from this viewpoint.
Now I can walk all day on a level path, but I'm not great on hills.  And I get vertigo. Ellen, however, is training for the Himalayas.  She's going in November.  I said I'd go as far as it was fun.  And it wasn't bad, except that as we neared the top, people started running down hill towards us, and I got scared.  We turned back about 3/4 of the way to the's the view:
By turning back, we did get to see a couple of cool things!

The plant above is called an Indian Pipe, or Ghost Plant. The Latin name is Monotropa uniflora, and it's a  saprophytic plant, or a parasitic plant that does not produce any chlorophyll. It's the first one I've seen, and I found it strangely beautiful.

The coolest thing happened after we got back to the lake.  I picked a table off in a little opening by the edge of the water to eat my last sandwich.  I didn't get a picture of the Osprey (Pandion halietus)that appeared over the willows, hovered for a moment, then hit the water right in front of us! We couldn't believe our luck.  The bird disappeared under the water, and came back up without a fish.  It was amazing to be standing right there when it happened.  I didn't even care that I couldn't get a photo.

All in all, it was a great day, and we had such a good time.  I'd recommend the watershed tour to anyone - it's well worth the $10.00 it cost, and the visitor's center is free, as is parking - but be careful not to park in the Iron Horse State Park lot without a Discover Pass.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cedar River Watershed Tour, Part 2

After leaving the Masonary Dam and the loons, we drove deeper into the watershed, arriving at a covered area on the shore of Chester Morris Lake. Across the lake there's a bit of old growth forest still on the top of one of the peaks.  We could see bits of the taller trees through the fog.  Our guide told us that  a few Spotted owls nest there, as well as the rare Marbled murlet.  Those brave birds nest inland in old growth, but fly at night to the ocean where they feed.  North Bend is at least an hour to Seattle by highway...and the ocean is further yet. 

The old growth forest is on the mountain top on the far upper right...under the fog.
Our guided tour continued to the Upper Cedar Falls, and perhaps the most beautiful water I've ever seen. It leaks out of the lake and is  filtered by the glacial sand - at least that's what they think. The blue water is coming in from a creek on the left...

We could have stayed here forever...but the tour was nearly over.  As we learned how they are working with native tribes to allow access to their former hunting and gathering grounds, we kept a watch out for the ever-elusive wildlife. Not a single mammal was sighted, although deer, elk, black bear and the rare cougar have been seen by tour groups.
In my next post I'll tell you about our hike up the trail towards Rattlesnake Ridge.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cedar River Watershed Tour - the Best $10.00 Tour Ever, Part 1

 Ellen Haas picked me up early on Friday, August 5th and we headed off to North Bend and Rattlesnake Lake for the Cedar River Watershed tour.  About 70% of Seattle drinking water comes from this watershed, which is closed to access, except through the tours that Seattle Public Utilites run. 

For $10.00 ($5.00 for seniors), you can ride on a comfortable bus into the no access area and learn about the history of the watershed from a naturalist tour guide.  I liked the mix of history and the amazing chance to go into a closed area.  This is Ellen standing on the Masonary Dam, with the Masonary Pool in the background...Chester Morris Lake is further in the background. 

The dam, built in the early 1900's
Our group was small, but one of the older men had been a fire lookout from one of the nearby mountaintops in his youth.

We expected sunshine and warm temperatures, but the fog never lifted, and the wind was cool...I understand the view of the mountains is quite something to see when the sky is clear.

What we did see was beautiful...and then a pair of big birds landed off a point in the distance...not ducks or geese, I first sighting of wild loons, almost too far out to get photos!
                                 They sit so low in the water!

Friday, June 24, 2011


Link To My Domestic Dog Tracking Project Blog

I've created a second blog dedicated to the Domestic Dog Tracking Project because I know that many readers of this blog are not particularly interested in the dog project. If you are interested, I hope that you will follow it, too.  Here's the link:

I'll still write about tracking on this blog, because it's so central to who I am, but I'll spare you the dog tracks here. Do give the new blog a look, because it's a really cool project, and I'm extremely proud of it.  I just made the first post there, and have lots that I'll be adding over the next few weeks.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Oh my goodness, it's been a crazy month!  I've hardly had time to think, let alone blog about what's been going on...Here's a short rundown of what I've been up to since I last checked in...funny how many of them are about endings of one sort or another:
  • Quick trip to Oklahoma the first week of May to celebrate my baby brother's 50th birthday - the end of our youth...
  • Many days and nights of worry about friends and loved ones in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, and Missouri due to serious tornado outbreaks!  One of the towns we'd driven through on the way to my brother's was hit, and Joplin, Missouri is (was?) only 100 miles or so from the area I lived in before I came west. For over 100 people in SW Missouri it was truly the end...
  • Graduation for all our Wilderness Awareness School students, ages 4-adult...the end of the school year makes me emotional - and our staff is changing quite a bit next fall.  It's going to be awesome, but different.  The end of an era, I suppose.
  • I'm on the final part of a huge cross-stitch project that I brought out with me in's for a friend, and I've worked (or not) on it for way too long...I'm taking off most of this coming week, and I'll complete the darned thing before week's end!  That one is the end of a chore I wish I'd not taken on.
That's the thing about endings...some are painful, others just make you face reality...and some free you to do other things...With the cross-stitch gone, I'll be able to enjoy the yarn and knitting needles friend Margaret sent me - boxes of the good stuff that I wouldn't buy for myself...After a series of endings, it's good to have a beginning to look forward to!

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Other Pic I Got

I took about 20 photos of this little weasel (pun intended)...most of them turned out to be pics of where she was just a moment before...Still, I'm delighted to get 2 pictures of such a rare animal!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Rare Sighting

Hey! I see you! This little guy was a special treat, as we've only just started to see him/her on our land near Duvall, Washington.
One of our adult program instuctors noticed this Short-tailed weasel (Mustela erminea) during a class. The hole that it's popping out of is about the size of a quarter. It's at the base of as stump just a few feet from the woodshed outside Malalo, the rustic 8-sided structure where we hold many of our ceremonial events at Wilderness Awareness School. I signed up at the last minute for a 2 day wilderness first aid and CPR certifications had expired, and now that I'm beginning to lead some small groups on my own, I figured I should take care of that...and I like to be up at the land. I took my camera along hoping to see this guy (or gal). And see it I did...getting photos was much harder. They move really fast!

The Short-tailed weasel is a tiny member of the mustelid family, and is a vicious little killer! The instructor saw it take a vole into the burrow, and then return several times with infant voles. For an animal about 8 inches long, that's some feat! I like cute little furry critters with teeth.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

An Unexpected Tracking Danger

On Saturday I decided to take advantage of the dry and somewhat sunny afternoon to wonder down by Coe Clemmons Creek, which runs through Taylor Park. It's a small park that runs east to west between my neighborhood and the post office in downtown Duvall. The creek meanders along the bottom of the steep-sided gully that separates the playground from the houses that back up to the creek on the south. From the head of the park where the creek passes under 3rd Ave to highway 203 at the far western edge it's about 6 city blocks in distance and about half a city block wide. The playground and picnic area only take up about 2 city blocks, and the upper block and the lower 3 blocks are just wild. A local school group did do some cleanup and trail work along the creek a couple of years ago, and I often see teens and sometimes families walking along the creek. There are also deer trails in several areas along the street - they seem to take the steepest routes. I've been seeing a big doe with what I believe to be her 2 year old daughter and her 2 yearlings, one of which is starting to sprout some buttons on his head. The youngsters both have some interesting "cowlicks" on their sides, so it's pretty easy to recognize them. They have been a block away from my apartment, and I've seen them in various places along my walk to and from work. I've seen tracks along the street on days that I missed the deer. I started to wonder if they spent time in the lower section of the park...I hadn't really ever taken the path that goes down the hillside past the parking lot. On Saturday, I decided to take a look. I found lots of deer tracks! The path switchbacks along, and the deer have made shortcuts from the upper path to the second and third paths. If I'd had plaster in my pocket I'd have made some casts of the clear tracks I found. It was really nice to just wonder along, not taking measurements, and not having a camera along to take photos. I was just tracking for fun...and almost got wiped out in the process. Now, I'm 52 years old...I've let my hair go grey, and I've put on a few more pounds than I'd like to admit to recently. But I do walk a mile and a half to work and back most days, and I often pack groceries up the hill in my backpack rather than get the car out of the garage. But I'm no athlete...never have been, don't want to be. So, imagine me in mid path, bent over admiring a nice deer track in a muddy's deep and the cleaves are spread and the dew claws are there...and I'm thinking that the animal must have come off the hillside pretty fast. And I hear a funny noise - one that makes me think I should pay attention. So I look up and see a kid on a bike, pedaling as fast as he can, and headed right at me...he looks as scared as I feel! I want you to know that I lept - yes, lept - off the trail and avoided a collision by inches...I felt the air on my arm as he sped past. I saw admiration on his face as he went by. Now, I'll confess that it was not a graceful gazelle-like leap, but I'd have bet (and the kid would have, too) that I was not capable of any sort of leap. I guess it's just another survival skill I've learned at Wilderness Awareness School. That, and my weekly visit to my chiropractor saved me from an ugly tracking accident.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Weekend Report

I'm kind of a rock star, you the end of my weekend Ladies retreat a number of young women came to me to ask if they could have their picture taken with me. Some of them told me I should be on "Survivor". How does one become such a heroine to 20 yer old Christian women?
I think it's partly because I won my very first ever team sports award on Saturday morning. I was one of 6 members of the team declared "Most Challenged" in the Warrior Princess Boot Camp games. We placed 3rd...out of 3 teams. But I did get 2 of my 3 grenades into the baskets, and I let one of my teammates paint my face with cammo and pink...I was stunning.
Another reason might be that I took my really cool fish spear that we made in class (WARP07) to add some warrior-like authenticity to my costume on Saturday evening. But the main reason was that I shared some of my favorite outdoor things with a few of them during a short walk in the park just off highway 90 in Issaquah. We found cottonwood buds just ready for harvesting to make oil for salves. There was not a nettle, a dandelion, or even a plantain to talk about nor did we see any birds, except for the 15 or 20 Great Blue Herons that flew from the trees down by the creek. They were exciting, but were pretty high up and flying fast. The park signage had pointed out that the trail to the rookery was closed, and so we could not investigate that option. Then we hit a muddy patch of trail, and I feared losing them I pointed out that trackers LOVE mud. One of the young ladies inquired about what I might be tracking on the trail. "Well, there are dog tracks, and I saw a coyote track just back a bit," I said.
"Can you show me a coyote track?"
"I sure can," I replied and pointed to the ground just in front of us. "And there's a coyote scat," I told her. "See the little bones?" Much to my surprise, she took photos!
Had I been alone, or with other trackers, I might have teased apart the scat for a closer look at the tiny vertebrae to see if I could identify the coyote's last meal...but with my new friends, I decided to play it safe and not scare them out of tracking...who knows, one of those photos may be my intro to Tracker fame! Anybody need a famous tracker chick to teach a class? I can bring my own spear!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Rest and Relaxation!

I'm hanging out at the office waiting for Duvall Reads book club to start at 7pm. Tonight we will discuss "Founding Brothers" by Joseph J. Ellis. It's a good book, but it broke my heart. I've always thought that the men who wrote the Constitution were good and honest men...I was dismayed to find that it's not all that far from "I did non have sex with that woman" to Thomas Jefferson's "I did not hire that man to write lies about you." I'm afraid politics have always been ugly. It should be a good discussion, and I'm looking forward to hearing the opinions of others.
Tomorrow, I'm off on a 3 day Ladies Retreat with 79 other 'girls' from my church. We will be at a fancy hotel in Issaquah, enjoying good food, high thread count sheets, a pool and walking trails in Lake Sammamish State Park - if the weather improves...We've had hail the past two days...Now that won't stop me from going out on Saturday afternoon- we have several hours of free time, and I'm hoping to get some of my girlfriends out to see if we can find interesting tracks in the park. There's a bit of beach area along the lake that's about half a mile from our lodging. We could easily find river otter tracks there! It's been a while since I've had a Friday off to do something fun! I'll report back next week.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Taking February Back

February is a stressful month for me. The divorce was final on February 14, 2003...three days before what would have been our 25th anniversary. In retrospect, it was probably the best Valentine I ever got. But it's still sad, and I tend to do a lot of what we call inner tracking at this time of year.
I'm happy to finally say that I've found a way to take back the month of February. This year, two of my good friends joined me for what we called the First Annual Guinevere was an Idiot Film Festival. Just because we are single women doesn't mean that we can't celebrate Valentine's Day in our own way. We watched my favorite romantic movies - Terminator and Quigley Down Under, shared a wonderful meal with wine and strawberries to dip in chocolate fondue, and enjoyed individual boxes of candy and bouquets of white daises and red carnations.
What - you don't think our movies are romantic? What's not romantic about a guy who will come through time for a woman he's only seen a photo of? Not to mention that he'll fight Arnie, and die protecting her at the end...And Quigley is just about the perfect cowboy fantasy...and that's about all I'm going to say about it...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Funny Story...

I decided that I wanted to use part of my tax refund to join the International Society of Professional Trackers. They have a cool newsletter, and published my domestic dog tracking project in the fall of 2009. I've continued to do reading about dog feet, and have decided that I'm on to something. Seemed like a good idea to make connections with other trackers and keep up with the news about tracking...
Within 24 hours of filling out the on-line registration and paying the fee, I was invited to become the moderator of the Wilderness Awareness School group on the ISPT website. I agreed. And then wondered what I'd gotten myself into. I'm the bookkeeper for crying out loud. Who's gonna listen to what I have to say about tracking?
I've been the moderator for another 24 hours, and already I've increased our group membership from 4 to 5 (well, 6 counting me) and I've had nice conversations with Del Morris, the executive director of the ISPT. He promises to teach me what I need to know about handling the group. Kim Cabrera, the nice lady who helped me publish my dog tracking story has already said some nice things about my three legged dog track photo, and James Lowery, has communicated with me through the group. He's author of the book, "The Tracker's Field Guide". I brought it with me from Missouri when I came to study at WAS, so it was exciting to have him contact me through the group!
If you are a tracker who is not yet a member of the ISPT, you should take a look at the web site at You can join the WAS group once you are a member. I'd like to see all my tracker friends there.
And I thought I was only joining to read the newsletter!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Answers to the Tracking Mystery

OK, it was a trick question. The tracks in my last post are domestic dog tracks...Three-legged domestic dog tracks. I did see the animal. He's about 30-35 pounds, looks to have some boxer in his background, and he's had an amputation of his right front leg at nearly chest level. I watched the dog move, and still can't tell you what gait I'd call his rocking-horse motion. He got along nicely, without seeming to miss his leg. In looking at the tracks, his left foreleg has moved to center, and is kind of twisted to right. I expect it gives him more stability. I believe I'd recognize these tracks again...although I have't seen them, or the dog since the morning I took these photos. I am grateful that I was there with my camera at the right time to catch him in the freshly falling snow!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tracking Mystery For Your Enjoyment

If you know me at all, you know that I love to track animals. Once in a while, I get some really nice photos of something...unusual. So, I'm gonna give you a couple of days to think about these photos, then I'll tell you what left these really cool tracks. Here's a bit of information to help you figure it out, and some tracking questions:
  • Found in the street in my neighborhood at the edge of Duvall, Washington on a snowy morning.
  • There's nothing for scale in the photos, but I'm not going to help you.
  • What animal left these tracks?
  • What gait is it moving in?
  • Is it wild, or domestic?
  • Can you tell right feet from left feet?
  • Can you tell fronts from hinds?
  • Could you recognize this animal's tracks if you saw them again?
  • Tell me the story that these fresh tracks in the snow tell.

My Favorite Fiction Authors and Books

  • Suzanne Arruda- the Jade del Cameron mysteries: "The Mark of the Lion" "Stalking Ivory", "The Serpent's Daughter", "The Leopard's Prey" and "The Golden Cheetah"
  • Ken Goddard - "Balefire" and others
  • Stephen White - the Dr. Alan Gregory books are all great. "Kill Me" is my favorite.
  • Harlan Coben - anything he writes is great
  • Elizabeth Peters - Amelia Peabody mysteries

My Favorite Nonfiction Authors and Books

  • "Coyote's Guide to Connecting With Nature" by Jon Young, Ellen Haas and Evan McGown- 2nd edition coming soon!
  • Gavin De Becker - "The Gift of Fear"
  • "Deep Survival" by Laurence Gonzales- the best survival book I've ever read! Not a how-to, its more of a who does,and why.
  • Candice Millard - "The River of Doubt -Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey"
  • Anything that starts with "Peterson's Field Guide To..."
  • Tom Brown, Jr. - "The Tracker" and others
  • Mark Elbroch - "Mammal Tracks and Sign" and "Animal Skulls"