Tumwater Falls

Salmon, Squirrel, Bird

I bring all my visitors to Tumwater Falls for its Wow factor. Last week when Laura and Liane were here we really lucked out. One of the more anticipated events was going on – the salmon run! The fish swim from the salt water of the Puget Sound up the rivers, navigating turbulent waters and fish ladders to spawn and lay their eggs in the same rivers where they were “born”. 

Chinook and I

Here I am greedily snapping pictures as the salmon swim by in the tanks on their way up the fish ladder and through the viewing portal.

while below in the Deschutes River the hundreds line up for their turn

And down below the falls here the Chinook Salmon are waiting their turn, either to try to leap the falls (which many did!) or make their way up the “ladder” maze. The mind boggling part is that they find their way from the ocean back to their natal river and there they spawn and end their lives. An epic drama.

Another day I headed out to Woodard Bay with Gals Go Birding, a very friendly group of “bird nerds” (my son Andrew’s words, not mine. He’s actually impressed.) If you’ve been following here, you’ll remember that Woodard Bay is where we got our kayak stuck in the muck after seeing the Cormorant rookery. 

There was a light drizzle going on as we headed out to the viewing spots. Since I’m a neophyte wannabe bird watcher whose only gear is tiny binoculars that I bought for my boys when they were little, ahem, I relied heavily on the company of these veteran bird watchers. They would stop and go silent, scanning the trees and ground cover, listening intently, while their world filled up with birds and their stories, and mine waited to see and hear what I was missing.

The Douglas squirrel was pointed out to me – an adorable cousin to the gray squirrel with whom I’m better acquainted. Later I added him to my sketchbook.

I don’t remember what they spotted here. In the background you see the bare trees where the Cormorant rookery has denuded the trees in the past years. Bald eagles are sort of ho hum here where they are so plentiful, but oh, seen through a powerful scope they are breathtaking.

I’m not sure how I’m going to add a sketch kit to my gear, which must already grow to include rain gear and better binoculars! but I’ve been going back to the lessons of John Muir Laws and his nature journaling school. In his book on drawing birds he describes how to sit so you hold steady your binoculars with your non-dominant hand/elbow by bracing it on your bent leg, while drawing/painting with your dominant hand on the sketchbook on your lap, keeping your eye steady on the bird that’s moving and. . .haha! The fun of it is in trying. And this is nothing compared to my friend Chris Carter who has tried sketching while hang gliding and even while under water!

The Fourth

It was kind of a joke on us that we moved up to the northwest coast to get away from the heat/drought/fires and arrived just after a a week of downpour and in time for a historic heat wave. What could we do but use some of that cardboard we’d brought with us to cover some windows and keep the hottest part of the sun out. 

It was one of those worrisome global warming shocks, but the nature here in our yard at least seems to have recovered quite nicely. The bunnies that went underground for a few days are back munching the grass in the yard and the hydrangeas are blooming again above their crisped leaves. And my basket is still overflowing with flowers. 

My friend Shambhavi from Seattle visited over the weekend and we took our sketchbooks out to Tumwater Falls.

watercolor in Stillman and Birn sketchbook

There were lots of families out on the trail around the falls and one particular group was proud to show off their patriotic attire.

I’m not particularly a fan of July 4th, but I sure appreciated their style and spirit. When evening came we got to experience another kind of holiday fervor. . .fireworks, which by the way were outlawed here this year due to the recent heat wave that elevated risk. Ahem. You wouldn’t know it from my neighborhood. There were all kinds of sizzles and pops and airborn light shows going off in all directions. Who needs to go to a public display when you can just stand on your sidewalk and gape.

Exploring Town

The Move to Olympia continued. . . 

We had 5 or 6 days to do a little exploring of the city before moving into our house and taking on the overwhelming task of unpacking and organizing. We picked the right place for our first meal, a restaurant which proudly proclaimed its Northwest allegiance, the Cascadia Grill. We were welcomed warmly by the owner and Tickles the Beaver (statue) and Jonathan Livingston Eagle (statue) and delicious fish dinners.

Cascadia Grill (note tattooed arm on customer to left)

At a little bookstore down the street I picked up just the book I needed, Making Sense of Olympia by David Scherer Water. I haven’t had time to read much of it yet, but the first few pages help to set the stage for what we saw on the city streets: There are 83 financially solvent bars(or were before the pandemic anyway), 41 of them downtown and 40 tattoos shops and 58 banks. The question being how a city with a population of 50,000 sustains all that. Oh, and 8% of Olympia’s 20 square miles is city owned parks. So, it’s a great place to be out in glorious nature, have a drink, get a tattoo and go to the bank?

Oh, and have an excellent cup of coffee! The coffee shops have the best espresso drinks I’ve tasted anywhere. The first morning we found one in a clothing store which opened at 7 for coffee. Then we found this one in a motorcycle shop. Great parings that surprisingly work. And always friendly people to chat with.

Later in the week we had an afternoon coffee break at Burial Grounds Coffee Collective and my latte was a work of art! (Day of the Dead style!)

Burial Grounds coffee

Somehow I think the moms in this town would be fighting a losing battle trying to keep their kids untattooed. I started to feel like I might need to get one myself. . .naw! The untattooed one in the picture is my son, but that may soon change.

Olympia Farmers Market

The Farmers Market on the harbor is open 4 days a week in high season. And it’s got a permanent roof, which makes sense since this is a rainy place for much of the year. Or that’s what they say. I haven’t seen it yet. Haha! The food is so attractively displayed that it’s hard to put down the cell phone camera long enough to buy something.

When it cools down a bit (111 is the forecast for today, gulp!) I’ll bring my sketchbook to the market.

Watershed Park

Have you heard of Forest Bathing? That’s what we were doing on our walk in Watershed Park, a 5 min. drive from the Market. It’s a rainforest with all that lush vegetation. The gold is the light bouncing off the rocks under the water I think. Breathe it in. Pure oxygen.

Tumwater Falls

And five minutes in the other direction is Tumwater Falls and the trail along the river. Can you hear the roar of the water?

Finally it was move-in day and the truck’s arrival at our new home. And the first thing out was my car, which required a tow truck with a flat bed ramp to disembark. More on move-in day coming up next! 

But one last picture, of a portrait I did in before the move (just to prove I’m still an artist!).

portrait from picture on Sktchy app, gouache on beige toned paper

“Ahhhh!” she sighs. “Don’t you just loooove Olympia?!!!”