Friday, June 29, 2012

Elwha dam removal!

Sun star! The sun through the trees on a trail to a viewpoint over the former Elwha dam site. Copyright (c) 2012 Wendee Holtcamp

Last week was PERFECTION in every way, and this week Murphy has gone crazy!!! I have to make this short, because I have to post and caption all these images for my editors, file my story on the Elwha dam (link to come soon, I hope), and then pick my son up from his day camp job and then we are headed to the Central Oregon Coast for the weekend. A much needed break from a hell week in which my poor sweet cat is dying back home, 3,000-miles away and I can't do a damn thing other than rely on my friends and my daughter (I LOVE YOU GUYS!!) to take care of her. She is not doing well and very well may not make it. To make it worse, I feel terrible as I probably killed her myself from bringing in my beloved stray Pippin...

At any rate, that on top of PMS, communication breakdowns, and every technical difficulty with phones, GPS, internet and technology in general under the sun you can imagine... but LAST week was so perfect and fun in every way! The short version is, we arrived in Oregon, spent a couple days with my dad and Bev, I dropped Sam off at his overnight camp and then I headed to Washington. I first visited friends in Seattle, and got an awesome tour of the city with Laura (I will post pics on my next blog, promise!). The highlight was seeing the very first Starbucks, ever! And then I headed to Olympic National Park where I camped in my friend Terri Hansen's RV at Salt Creek campground, soaked in the Sol Duc hot springs, and got to interview several biologists and go see the former Elwha dam site and the Glines Canyon dam which is partly out and coming completely out soon. I'm writing an article for Nature and just got another assignment today. It was just an awesome time there, with lots of laughter, total peace of mind, new friends, and just a really great time. I am posting images from the Elwha trip and will post more in a couple few days! Here's a link to the blog post from my visit two years ago when the dams were still up.

UPDATE: Here's a link to the finished article at Nature News online: Fish return to undammed river.

First we went to the site of the upstream Glines Canyon dam, which is partly but not totally removed. This is a view showing Lake Mills, which is slowly being drained and will be gone eventually once the dam comes out completely. It's scheduled for demolition of the remaining parts beginning again on July 2nd. They are in a "fish window" now where there's no blasting or dam removal activities that could affect water quality since fish are spawning.

Another view of Lake Mills. Not sure what this structure is - I'll find out. Oh ok it is the "intake tower."
Another view of the Glines Canyon dam, partly removed.
When you look over the edge from the platform, the water makes a rainbow!
I laid down and shot this over the edge. What a high! Love it. You can see the rainbow at the top of the canyon wall on the top part of the image.
Next we went to the lower (downstream) Elwha dam, which is now completely gone! Lake Aldwell used to be here, but is fully drained, and they are grading the riverbanks and have begun replanting native vegetation.
Another shot of the tractors and backhoes or whatever they are called grading the banks post-removal.
This is the Elwha river near the former Elwha dam site.
A pile of contaminated soil at the dam site, waiting to be removed and shipped off. I'm writing an article about this but the dam itself and its structures had some contaminants.
Then I took a short trail to an overlook where you can see a bigger view of the former Elwha dam site. Pretty cool! Barb Maynes, the Public Information Officer for National Park Service/Olympic NP on the project said it's interesting to stand there and listen to the various conversations about the dam.
This is the view from the end of the trail of the Elwha dam site activity.
Another view.
A fern on the trail.
A view through the woods of the former Elhwa dam.
The next day, I went out in the field with several scientists to take turbidity data in a tributary (actually, it was technically a floodplain channel) of the Elwha. We met at the tribe hatchery building, and this is a shot of a snow-capped mountain in the distance on the Lower Elwha Klallam reservation.
Another view of the mountains in the distance, from a road in the reservation.
In the channel, this is Chris Curran with US Geological Survey, Matt Beirne a biologist with the Elwha tribe, John McMillan a fisheries biologist with NOAA and Jeff Duda with USGS. The USGS guys were teaching the others some techniques to monitor turbidity, and calibrating for some sampling error or somesuch. (Earlier, I mis-identified Chris C as Chris Magirl - sorry! They both were out with us that day)
I believe this is USGS hydrologist Jeff Duda walking in the tributary.
Me in my waders. Sexy huh? Just kidding! LOL. I don't like this photo of me, but whatevs.
Matt, Chris C and John in the channel.
NOAA biologist George Pess in the channel with some turbidity equipment.
This is a view from the campground Terri and I stayed at - gorgeous isn't it?

Saturday, June 09, 2012

In which I am renamed Wendee Cakes

Rosie and Pippin Yoda Cakes argue over who owns the jar aka the space helmet (this photo is just BEGGING for a "Caption" - have at it!.

Heard at the Holtcamp house at dinnertime.

"Do you know what Pippin's middle name is?" - me

"Probably something stupid," says my emo daughter Savannah, who was not in a good mood.

"She doesn't have a middle name," says Sam.

"Yes she does," I say. "It's Yoda."

"That's stupid," says Savannah.

"And do you know what her last name is? Cakes. Pippin Yoda Cakes. I formally announced it on my blog." 

Death stares.

I suppose this requires a slight backstory. My ex-boyfriend and I would always joke about feeling like a Fatty fat cakes, and it became a sort of thing I always say to everything. Everything is a "cakes" around here.

"She's not a Holtcamp," I say emphatically.

Savi rolls her eyes. "Why don't you change your last name to Cakes, then," she deadpans.

"Maybe I will," I reply. (after all I decided I would marry her if I could!) "I'll be Wendee Cakes."

And at that I burst out laughing so hard that I about fell on the floor. I looked over at the sink, where Savannah was washing her dish, and she could barely repress her smile and laughter too.


10 things

Pippin attacking my foot! She is such a doll! Copyright (c) 2012 Wendee Holtcamp

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. - Isaiah 55:12

1. Last Sunday, I went to my friend Jessica's for "church." We watched the Woodlands Church streaming live from her kitchen while she fed me breakfast (scrambled eggs, fresh tomatoes, toast, fresh fruit & coffee). The sermon talked about .... well crap to be honest I don't remember. But I do remember it evolved into a discussion Jessica and I had about goals. I have been meaning to write down personal and professional goals since the new year, and haven't gotten around to it! She runs an amazing and successful shoe company, Joyfolie, that she started from sewing hand-made baby shoes in her home, and it took off like wildfire! She has stressed to me the importance of creating goals and updating them every month. Well here it is Friday night and I still haven't done the goal-writing session. I will try to do that tomorrow. But it will happen. It will happen. However, this is a lead-in to the next bullet. One of the things I DO remember that Pastor Kerry said was to encourage everyone to do two things. One, "walk a mile in their shoes" - in other words, walk for a mile and pray for and think about the impoverished of the world. Two, eat a 1/2 of rice and a 1/2 cup of beans for one meal because that is what something like half of the world lives on. I haven't done the eating part of this, but ...

2. ... I have been inspired to walk every day for the past several days. Honestly if I wasn't on a lazy-kick and I had been going to the gym I probably wouldn't be walking. But I decided, you know what? Walking is better than doing NOTHING and it allows me to spend some of the time praying - both for the less fortunate (and my life purpose related to that), and for other people in my life. And I have SO enjoyed it!!! The coolest thing is that I noticed that I SEE the world differently when I walk. I will be walking through my neighborhood from my house over to my friend Elise's (she just moved in the neighborhood adjacent to mine, and I can walk there) and I notice each house, and their yard, and the trees, and the differences in the homes in the two 'hoods, and so many more things. I usually walk to the elementary school which is right near Elise's house, and then walk around the track a number of times. I jogged there a couple times and the observation is completely different than when I walk. I am totally getting my groove on when I walk. Lovin it. Two things that made me smile: two little girls hula-hooping in their driveway, and a weeping willow tree which brought back a fun memory from high school and my h.s. best friend Kim.

3. While walking, and especially as I pray for those less fortunate, I am reminded how many blessings I have, and I have really had a grateful and happy spirit lately. I have felt grateful for the freedom we have in our country and the safety in my neighborhood, as I pray for those who don't have that freedom and that safety. I am grateful for my amazing and fun friends. I tell you, I have some absolutely wonderful, one-of-a-kind, life-long friends. The kind I would die for. They are the best. And I am grateful for my beautiful children who are so smart and doing so well, even in "teenagerland." Some bumps, of course, but what life doesn't have bumps? And I am incredibly grateful for my mood and joyfulness lately! Walking tonight with Elise and Mary Anne, I was just happy that I didn't have ANY drama in my life right now! Everything is GOOD! (Knock on wood!) And I am grateful for my career, and how well it is going right now, and the work I've been doing for Environmental Health Perspectives in particular. I really am enjoying learning and writing about more health-related topics. It's important stuff. I just finished a piece on science denial, which is a huge passion of mine! That was related to the Science Denial conference I attended in Madison recently.

4. Speaking of Environmental Health Perspectives, I just got a copy of the latest issue in the mail, with a copy of my article "One Study, Two Paths: The Challenge of Dual-Use Research" (or in other words, research that can be used for good or evil - ie terrorism). It starts with the latest brouhaha over the avian flu (H5N1) research that got a lot of attention in the news, and goes from there.

5. I did an essay on my experience at the Chopra Center Journey into Healing workshop and it appears in the Chopra Center's June newsletter! It's called Journey into Healing - one teaspoon of sweet nectar at a time. It tells all about the experience and how it impacted me, Ayurvedic health and wellness, and the "doshas" and more. Let me know what you think if you read it!

6. My kitten Pippin is doing wonderfully, and I adore every day I have with her! She is so freaking hilarious, too. She's super rambunctious and she totally attacks my other two cats. She runs and jumps full throttle on top of them, like she's going to town. They are incredibly patient, I tell ya (in other words I'm amazed they haven't totally killed her!). Caramel, my big "fluffy" orange cat, is not quite so sure about Pippin, but Rosie (the crazy beige tabby who sticks her head in the jar...) is taking a liking to her, though she gets impatient with her antics! Rosie will swish her tail and Pippin goes in for the kill. And they fight over the plastic jar. THAT is a site to see! Pippin obviously can fit in there, and Rosie usually just sticks her head in. Even though we have fit her whole body in there, she usually doesn't climb all the way in anymore. And its funny - you know how when you bring a new baby home, all of a sudden your toddler seems giant? Well it was like that with Rosie. She was always my thin, little playful cat. But now all of a sudden she seems huge and slow. Ha ha!! The older cats (which are siblings) are 8 years now. It's fun having Pippin's fun energy around. Soon I will put up some of the crazy cats fighting over jars images...but it's 130am already and I want to finish this.

7. I picked blueberries today at Moorhead's Blueberry farm! I thought I was going to miss this year's berry picking, because it has been such a busy past couple of weeks and I'm leaving next Friday (that will be one of my numbers, hold your horses) :) But alas, I made it! It is a tradition to go every year with my kids. This year, Savannah didn't go but Sam and his friend from his old school, Holy Trinity Episcopal, did. It was so cute to get them together and hear them cutting up over stories from 4th grade like when they apparently would put sugar in the Big Red soda their teacher gave them during PSIA practice -an academic competition they participated in every year. The sugar would make the soda explode, and then they'd drink it and get hyper as all get out. Anyway it was funny hearing the stories!! Sam started there in 3rd or 4th grade and stayed through 8th grade. So we picked berries then headed home and tonight I made blueberry-lemon cornmeal muffins with streusel topping! Gluten-free even. Yum!

8. I am going to spend a month in Oregon with Sam!!! I am leaving in a week!! Holy cow! He is going to be a camp counselor at Trackers Earth and I couldn't be more happy for him! This is going to be such an amazing experience for him. He will go on an overnight "Counselor in Training" week-long camp where he trains to be a counselor, followed by 3 weeks volunteering as a day camp counselor (He's scheduled to lead the Forest Ninja; Forest Fishing Fly & Reel; and Stealth, Archery and Wilderness Survival). We will be staying with friends in Portland, and then spending the weekends either with my dad or traveling to different places, including a weekend trip to the incredibly gorgeous Central Oregon Coast where I went last March, and I was so blown away by its beauty that I have wanted to bring the kids back since then. Sam is excited about the camp and about the cool tide pools I told him about. Better than Disneyland I tell ya! While there, I am going to take Sam to look at Reed College and University of Oregon in Eugene (I grew up in Eugene from age 2 to 8). I had always planned to take my kids to the East coast this summer to look at the colleges out there, but Savannah didn't want to anymore and she isn't going on the trip to Oregon (she got a job and will be staying home and working). But I'm super stoked and can't wait!

9. The first week, while Sam is at the overnight camp, I am headed to Washington state to my favorite place in the U.S. - Olympic National Park! It is just the most incredible, beautiful, peaceful, mossy, verdant, lush, mossy, misty land of forest and sea and sand ... and it is where "Twilight" is set (Forks). You can see my past visits here. My plan is first to visit my photographer friend Francis Zera in Seattle (his work is mind-blowing). I visited him last on my 2009 visit to the Pacific NW, and we have worked on a few stories together (Candid Camera for E/the Environmental Magazine, and a piece for Canoe & Kayak on Paddling 3 Texas Hill Country Rivers). Anyway after that, I plan to head to the site of the famous Elwha dam removal! I visited the dam site last in 2010 with my dad and Bev, and the dam was still up. It is now gone! I am trying to sell a story based on the removal - the biggest in world history! I am going to meet my friend, environmental reporter Terri Hansen, and we are going to camp near the dam site in or near the park. I will be meeting with various biologists and getting my story, whether or not I have an assignment yet. Report it, and it will come!

10. That's about all the news that's fit to print! I am already packing, cooking blueberry things, cleaning up the house, and teaching my ongoing Advanced Writing Workshop - and I have my next Online Writing Bootcamp starting June 16, if anyone is interested! I leave you with this lovely quote from Virginia Woolf that resonated with my soul...

“The melancholy river bears us on. When the moon comes through the trailing willow boughs, I see your face, I hear your voice and the bird singing as we pass the osier bed. What are you whispering? Sorrow, sorrow. Joy, joy. Woven together, like reeds in moonlight.”