Owls and Animals/Alaska photos

I’m currently reading The Hidden Lives of Owls by Leigh Calvez.  It’s a good read.  I recommend.  I was reminded of a trip my mother and I took in 2014 to The Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka, AK.  I took a ton of photos and never did anything with them, so here they are.  Also some from the Fortress of the Bear in Sitka,  Sitka Sound Science Center, and the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center south of Anchorage.

I’m guessing which owl is which from the website.  I didn’t keep track at the time but only looked at them each as individual personalities.


Peek-A-Boo, Western Screech Owl.  I remember her being very shy and see now that she was severely injured by a car and is blind in one eye.



Boris, Great Gray Owl.  Bad-Ass.  Also came to the center due to a collision.



Glaucus, Barred Owl.  Sidenote: Barred Owls are an ‘invasive species’ in the PNW.  They are largely responsible (along with massive deforestation) for the decline of the Northern Spotted Owl due to superior survival skills (less picky about food and nesting sites).  A pilot study is currently underway in which Barred Owls are removed (killed) from Northern Spotted Owl territory near Mt. Rainier.  Leigh Calvez, the author of the Hidden Lives of Owls, quoted Aldo Leopold on this topic:

“The cowman who cleans his range of wolves does not realize that he is taking over the wolf’s job of trimming the herd to fit the range.  He has not learned to think like a mountain.  Hence we have dustbowls, and rivers washing the future into the sea.”



Pele, Peregrine Falcon.  Another car collision, found in a parking lot in Friday Harbor.


I can’t place this one, but they sure are pretty.



Tootsie!  A Northern Saw-Whet Owl.  She was smaller than my hand.


and very hungry.




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Musk Ox

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All Trails Challenge, cont’d: ALMOST HALFWAY THERE!

Bear and I have gone hiking twice this past month.  A few weeks ago we went out on a frigidly cold, but sunny day, and I got to play with the new camera my amazing family got me for Christmas.  This post will be mostly pictures.

Frozen waterfall on Bridge Ave.

Steps to the Ridge Trail


Honey Bear greets the Sun


Wildwood Trail



HB needed a rest




Coming down from Firelane 7, we found this guy in a tree off the Leif Erikson Trail.  I took about 100 pictures, trying to get a good one. This is the best I could do.


Brrr!  Honey Bear says, let’s go let’s go!


Coming down the end of Firelane 7 back towards Bridge Ave. and Highway 30, we found this sweet little meadow.  There was a box of chocolate milk abandoned in the grass, must be a hideaway for schoolkids.  Or one of the residents of the park just really like chocolate milk.


And finally… some Advice.

We did over 5 miles hiking yesterday, but it was pure sweat-until-you-don’t-feel-anxiety-anymore hiking.  No pictures and nothing much to write about.  But we’ve now logged 39 miles, which means we are just under halfway towards completing all 80 miles of trail in the park.  Yeah!!

Don’t forget, I’m trying to raise money for Forest Parkhere’s where you can donate!!

Kirsten and Honey Bear’s All Trails Challenge

The Word for World is Forest

It’s December, and the rains have come.  From the window over my writing desk I look out on a dismal scene of grey skies, muddy backyard, dead leaves smeared across my porch waiting to take me down with a step.  Inside there is tea, slippers, incense and Leonard Cohen.  Easy to convince yourself to stay in on days like this.  The forest will still be there in the Spring, right?

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                Ha!  Bear and I are (mostly) native Cascadians, and are not easily cowed by a little water.  The past two Sundays we’ve ventured out into the cold wet world.  Because you know what?  The forest is beautiful in the rain.  In the city, the monotonous grey cloud cover seems to reflect the dull concrete, the blinking traffic lights, the piles of decaying leaves in the gutters… the wet feet, the runny noses, the chilled fingertips.  It’s depressing.  Seattle has the highest suicide rate in the country for a reason.  But in the forest, everything is green.  There is no concrete.  The same rain that makes the city so dismal makes the forest glow.  The water beads up on the leaves of the trees and ferns, reflecting emerald jade olive drab chartreuse, a subtle kaleidoscope of photosynthesis and life.  Everything is vibrant and wet… the pleasure of the rooted forest creatures taking in the moisture is palpable.  You can feel the forest breathing.

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The first Sunday, Bear and I parked off NW Aspen and took the Aspen Trail up into the park.  It was raining, but just slightly, and the tree cover kept most of the moisture off of us.  There is something especially pleasing about the turns and curves of the Aspen Trail… it goes slightly up and over a number of ridges and looks down into a ravine as it rises and falls.  Just a few minutes into the hike, we came up a small hill and at the top the forest suddenly opened out in front of us.  I lost the feeling of being in a neighborhood and something in my consciousness shifted.  I was aware of this huge expanse of trees and hills and creeks in front of me.  We could roam all day… for days… if we wanted to.  It was a very palpable shift in my body, from civilized city human to feral forest creature, and it felt familiar

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As a child, my family lived for a few years on Whidbey Island, near Seattle.  I think I was 9 when we moved there.  We lived in a big brown house on the edge of the woods.  I don’t think my Dad wanted to rent this house… I believe it was a bit of a drive from the Navy base where he was stationed in Oak Harbor… but I vividly remember the day we went to look at this house for rent.  I got so excited that I begged, begged for us to move there.  There was something about the house that felt like belonging.  I can still remember that feeling of excitement and homecoming.  The house was big and rambling with porches overlooking the woods and big brown timbers and rhododendrons.  It was wild.  I wanted it and bless my father’s heart, we moved in.

apparently I don't have any pictures of this house, but here is one from around that same time, with my step-father George
apparently I don’t have any pictures of this house, but here is one from around that same time, with my step-father George

I remember that forest more vividly than I remember most of the children from the neighborhood that I would play with.  I remember days and days running wild through the woods.  It started at the edge of our porch and, to my child’s mind, went on forever and ever.  We played endless among the trees.  Got poison oak and ivy.  Stung by nettles.  Learned that the seed pods of ferns soothed the sting.  We tried to be rangers and ‘Indians’, learn to walk through the woods without making noise.  Created forts and club houses out of fallen trees.  The forest a world more real to me than that of home and school.  The child-knowing that everything is alive and the world was a place I belonged to.

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And when it got too dark to play outside?  Books.  Books about magic, faeries, unicorns, wild places, feral creatures.  The Egypt Game.  Narnia.  Solatia.  Redwall.  Avonlea.  In my favorites, the wild world and the forest were central.  In the books, a blurring of the lines between ‘real’ and ‘magic’.  And in the daytime, no difference to me between the magic of the books and the magic of the actual forest.

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There was a lot of sadness and heartbreak in my life at that time.  Those books and that forest… they were a safe place and a sacred place.  Walking through the woods with Bear is a homecoming, over and over again.



Today is a Sunday.  Sundays have become “Kirsten Time”… a day in which I don’t make plans with anyone else, turn off my phone for most of the day, ignore Facebook as much as possible and concentrate on the important things… namely hiking, writing and dancing.  It’s been a weirdly dry autumn and today was no exception.  Bear and I were super pumped to get out into Forest Park while there was a good possibility we would not end up soaking wet.  I packed rain gear for us both as well as extra jeans and socks just in case.

The plan originally was to head up NW St. Helens Road past Casa Diablo (vegan strip club… cheers, Portland) and start out at the bottom of Firelane 1.  Alas, there is no parking at the trailhead for Firelane 1.  We tried leaving the truck in the La Quinta parking lot but I couldn’t handle the possibility that it would get towed, so we headed back and instead drove up Cornell to NW 53rd Drive and started out on the Birch Trail.

But first, I peed behind a tree in a gloriously rust colored glade in front of the parking area.

The Birch Trail was muddy.  The downside to hiking in winter.  The first 20 minutes I concentrated solely on not falling on my ass and also wrangling Honey Bear away from all the off leash dogs and runners.  Eventually the path dried up and there weren’t so many people and I got into the meditative rhythm of the woods.

Our route was a poem: Beech to Wildwood to Wild Cherry to Alder to Dogwood.  We spent some time on the Leif Erikson as well, but the trail is as prosaic as its name.  Gravel and pavement, mountain bikes whizzing by, cell phone yammerers and grumpy dog owners.  We always walk this trail as fast as possible.  But the others!  Narrow, winding paths through graceful trees, drooping ferns, lush moss hanging everywhere.  Up hills and curving around ravines and little chattering streams running under the trail.  The winter sun lay on the ground in long strips of shimmershine glow.  A patchwork forest of yellow liquid gold, red orange brown autumn decay, cascadia evergreen.

Once, coming down the Alder Trail deep in thought, I looked up to see a tiny wild feral faerie creature – big eyes, silverblack fur, tiny paws.  I stopped, entranced.  Of course it was just a chihuahua run ahead of his people.  But we had a moment.

HB romped and splashed through every mud puddle and creek and tiny waterfall.  I said to her, “Look, you know if you do that you’re going to have to take a cold spray shower from the hose in the backyard, and you know you’re going to hate that, so you better stop.”  She just gave me a look that said “QUIET, FOOL” and kept romping… but she did stand patiently for her shower when we got home so I think she understood.

The sun was setting as we came back up Wildwood toward the truck.  The sweet golden light was gone, the people were gone, and the forest started to feel spooky.  I find the woods at night both alluring and terrifying.  It’s the old story.  The dark, the shining eyes, predators on the hunt, the moon shining, the quiet, a misstep, things unseen.  A world apart from human hustle and bustle.  The primal fear.

But… what magic happens there without us?

Closer to the parking area we began to pass runners out on their evening fitness routines – yoga pants and tennis shoes and sweat bands.  One of them – an absurdly handsome man, Pan-like with curly black hair and pointy ears and brown eyes – smiled invitingly at me as HB flirted with his dog in passing.  We passed three young boys running far ahead of their adult supervisors.  The had stick swords and were bursting with excitement and freedom.  The last of the pack – long black hair, black t-shirt, I would have been friends with him in middle school – asked me to stall the adults behind them as long as possible.  I said, I’ll try.  The adults looked anxious and didn’t smile when I laughingly told them my instructions.  I wanted to go back and play swords with the boys.

We came upon the truck just as the sun disappeared and the cold chill of November nighttime entered the air.  Goodnight, forest.