A first-time hiker on Oyster Dome got to the trailhead at 9 a.m. and snagged the last spot in the parking area. Trekking poles were soon employed and the view from the top was wonderful.
The hiker to Gothic Basin said, "Goodness, what a climb. But here, you absolutely get back what you put in, and then some ... The first mile of the big climb is mainly wooded and includes some parts that are almost laughably steep. That (first) mile took me 50 minutes ... But what a place!
"I was tempted to stop overlooking the first tarn (you could be forgiven for stopping there), but after hydrating and some food, pressed on up to Foggy Lake, which was absolutely worth it. A few helpful souls have placed cairns in some good spots to help you on the way up."
(A tarn is a small mountain lake or pool, usually in a cirque that was dug out by a glacier. A cirque is a bowl-shaped basin.)
"About that descent: Footing for most of the trail down is rough and can be dicey at times. I don't know how people get down this trail without trekking poles, but they manage."
That's the kind of real-time information a hiker can use to make decisions.
Observing birds: It began with a covey of quail in Christie Southwick's childhood backyard. Now, Southwick thinks in a larger context when it comes to the avian world.
"My biggest desire is to save habitat. It's the number one cause of bird deaths," she said.
Southwick is a founding member and president of the Puget Sound Bird Observatory, which started in 2008.
Bird observatories can be found in nearly every state. The observatory studies birds and their habitats to better understand changes so that they can inform decision-makers and the public about birds and their needs.
The organization has about 100 members. It trains volunteers on proper banding techniques in a 5 1/2-day banding class that sounds intense, starting with the 675-page banding bible.
Southwick learned to band birds in 2003.
"Once you've banded birds, you never look at them the same way. It's personal. You get to know them, feel their little hearts beat and relate to them," she said.
"It's a little entity that works without a need for humans. You want to take good care of it. ... Every time I catch a bird I have a great opportunity to have a connection to the wild I wouldn't have any other way," Southwick said.
The Puget Sound Bird Observatory's projects extend beyond bird banding.
On its website (www.pugetsoundbirds.org), find more information on a project to band specific bird species in backyards and parks; a project to study nesting barn swallows at the Woodland Park Zoo; OWL, which documents owl observations in the lowlands, focusing on barred owls and Western screech owls; and a project that studies raptors' winter site fidelity in the Skagit Valley.
Saddle up: The Back Country Horsemen of Washington helps protect the backcountry by lobbying state politicians to protect recreational use of public lands.
The Traildusters chapter sponsors rides all over the state, holds a huge Halloween fund ride on Oct. 26 at the Pilchuck Tree Farm, and organizes work parties to maintain trail.
The riders follow Leave No Trace practices, which minimizes impact on the environment.
The Traildusters chapter meets at 7 p.m. on the first Wednesday of every month at the Eagles Club, 1218 Broadway, Everett. For more information, go to www.traildusters.org.
Check it out. For a seal encounter of a gentle kind, go to www.wimp.com/seaclimbs.
Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or www.songandword.com.
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