Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lighting the DHT in Langley

Lighting the Dog House tree, First and Anthes, and why.

DHT as seen from Langley Whale Bell Park
photo by Janet Ploof

In the lovely town of Langley, at the corner of Anthes and First was once the center of town, back when the Dog House Tavern was up and running.  It's amazing how one business can change the look, feel and culture of an entire town.

Fran Abel, last year in a bucket installing some lights on the tree.
Langley has been years in recovering from this loss and finally other businesses are filling the void.  If you want to hear music you can go to Moe's; if you want to watch baseball you can go to the Village Pizzaria; if you want to just hang out you can go to the Commons; and if you want coffee you can go to Useless Bay Coffee Co.  We now have more options than we once did when the Dog House thrived.

Janet Ploof shows off her skills with a zip strip.
But there is still no true replacement for the community after the huge hole left by the death of Pete and the closure of the Dog House.

Upon lighting the tree, many more people are using the park and walkway to the waterfront.  
The new businesses in town are all good, but they can't totally replace the vibrance and the diversity that the Dog House provided.  Perhaps it was the alternative home provided for the youth of Langley, hanging out on the bench or working for Pete.  Perhaps it was the nostalgia of a business that had been around for many decades.  Perhaps it was the old historic building, mysteriously perched on a steep bank, linking first street to the Water.  Or perhaps it was the huge Thanksgiving dinner hosted by Pete at the Dog House for the entire village.  Come one; come all!  If you can bring a pie,  please do, but come no matter what.

Janet Ploof picking up garbage behind the Dog House Tavern.
Whatever it was, Langley misses the Dog House!  It's gone from the center of town to a big dark hole.

dbBrad doing a little dead limb removal at the same time.
But there are people who are trying to remedy this, who understand community and commerce.  The Dog House no longer looks vacant and empty, thanks to the wonderful revolving displays provided by Langley Main Street.  Through their volunteer efforts the windows are washed and lit and displays change depending on the season and the town's activities.

Ashley Taylor of WOW (Wander on Whidbey) on Belay

Despite the closure of the Dog House, remedies are at work.  One way to fill the dark corner is to light the  magnificent Oak Tree in the park, right next to the Dog.  As you come down Anthes this winter, you will surely see the hundreds of lights.  It is fun, it brightens a dark spot, it serves as a focus for the eye and it makes walking down to the water fun rather than scary.

dbBrad goes out on a limb for Langley!

These wonderful winter lights are good for Langley,  good for business and its thanks to Main Street.  For the past two years of lights we owe thanks to Janet Ploof,  Fran Abel, Yessi Ye,  Ashley Taylor,  dbBrad and Cato Company.

Ashley Taylor of Wander on Whidbey and the Braeburn ascending the tree to install lights.

Yessi is back, but only for a short period.

Yessi has come back to live with me here on Whidbey Island.  We had hoped we'd be working in China for TuTwo, but that didn't work out.  There have been many long Skype calls as we assess our situation, where we want to live and raise children, how we want to live, what we want to do, etc.

Yessi with her Visa, good for a year as long as she leaves in the next two months!?
Of coarse we both want to be with our families in our home country, but we can't both be at home. Yessi was disappointed as she told everyone I'd be coming to China.  At first she though I was changing my mind.  Im not, and I would very much like to live and work in China, at least part time. But right now there is more opportunity for us in the Seattle area.

Yessi doing Moore gardening.

The ideal for us would be to live in Xiamen 5 months of the year and on Whidbey Island the other 5 months. Wait, that leaves two months!! Okay, then we want to continue our adventures and our traveling the other two months of the year.

Fran and Ed looking good in their Ibex outfits.  Of coarse, Benton, still the world's cutest Aussie, looks good in his fur coat.
Currently we are looking for small odd jobs for both of us to sustain the costs of living.  We have a great cabin at MooreVille, just outside of Langley and love it.  Yessi is very fond of the garden, her first, that we have created.
Yessi arrived just in time to see the Mushroom Extravaganza we're having in Washington this year.  In the Cascades, in the Olympics, and here on Whidbey Island, mushrooms in numbers I've never seen before.  This is the year of the Fungi!
And again, our plans have changed.  We thought she'd be able to stay until April, but must return in January, 3 months less stay.  We both know that immigration, marriage, children will be difficult topics for the next few years and there is no amount of planning that will add certainty to what awaits us in dealing with US immigration.  I'm drawing on my Freestyle skills from hiking all last year trying to recognize that we can't predict what will happen, we can only solve problems as we go, one at a time; and most important, that we have to enjoy each day of the process of getting there.

Carving pumpkins was new to Yessi.  An odd treatment of a food source, and kind of wasteful, but this is America and she did have a good time, as did Fran and Ed.  And we still have all our fingers!
Right now, Yessi and I are just trying to survive.  We may be able to extend her Visa with the help of an immigration Lawyer, but of coarse that takes funds we are very short on right now.

Durham property overgrown, but getting better and better.
In the mean time, we continue to work on our property in Clinton, little-by-little.  Getting rid of invasive weeds, clearing diseased trees, planting natives and building a fence are our priorities.  Soon we will begin building a garden shed.  When we have enough money, we will apply for a permit to build a house and a shop, but that may be a while.

Yessi learning the art of cedar shingles.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Cameron Creek in the Olympics, more different types of mushrooms and in such quantities, I wish I was a smurf.

Durham and Hansen lots moving forward.

I've started working on my property again.  I'm trying to get it cleaned up and walkable, so I can start planting native plants and restoring the badly damaged land which is covered with invasives like Himalayan blackberries, Morning glory and thistle.

Cutting back the scraggy trees making room for natives.
I've cut a bunch of the scraggly trees, am building fences out of recycled wood, have set up a tent for storage and will be building a garden shed soon.

Josh models the line as we lay out the fence and double check property lines.
And all the while I'm working on drawings for the county on how I'm going to convince them to let me fix the water problem.  Thousands of gallons of water end up on my property, the last vacant unfilled lot in the neighborhood and the county and two neighbors drain water directly onto my property.

dbBrad building a fence and happy to have the Thompsons as my neighbors.  I'm putting in a gate along this fence, just in case they can't resist my tree house!
But that's not the problem.  The problem is no absorbtion higher up, thanks to big houses and impervious surfaces.  This entire neighborhood has been subjected to flooding ever since Spinaker Ridge development went it.  Not only flooding, but failing of septic systems.

The tent which will keep stuff dry for me this winter as I continue to improve the lot no one else wanted.
I have two lots which clearly hold water and could hold a lot more if the County will work with me.  My plan is to set aside half the total area of my property for water management and habitat.

dbBrad fence out of recycled lumber.  All the short pieces and rippings from projects over the years that I can't bare to throw away now have a home and what I hope will be a fun, natural and neighborly fence.

There's already a bit of a pond, hand dug at some point in the past.  I'd like to make this existing pond much, much bigger, to make if a feature, and then to restore the plants around it turning a swamp into a precious little beautiful wildlife habitat pond.

Beyond this large pond would be another large area I will call a bog.  It will have lots of organic material, logs and moss, and plenty of wet loving plants to soak up water, but hopefully will only have water once an a while.  Currently there is water there almost all the time.

Got an excavator and no experience, perhaps you can work for Island County.  This is probably the worst drain set up ever and not only does it not address the problem, which is the drainage at Bob Gailbreath Road, but it doesn't alleviate the sypmtoms either.  Rather it restricts my access to my land and creates a hazard the neighbors have already had several issues with. 
The county knows about this.  They recently dug a culvert on the Thompsons' driveway next door as a quick fix.  They did such a bad job, I wrongly accused the Thompsons of doing it themselves.  The fact of the matter is the water is a problem, but it's not from my property.  It's from decades of irresponsible development and Island County's neglect of water management practices.

dbDog rides in the trailer as I bring some Moore big rounds.  L and S Moore have been so generous with me to let me use their truck, their trailer and of coarse to stay at their lovely little cabin.  They truly are lifesavers for me right now.
The good news is I can fix it, if they will let me.  I've already fixed a similar if not smaller problem next door during a Hearts and Hammers work weekend.

dbBrad Hearts and Hammers 2011 project a success three years later.
Three years later the pond looks great, the soil around the house footings is dry, the gutters no longer back up, the lawn isn't mushy any more and the driveway which acts as overflow retention alleviates any ponding below on the neighbor's property.  If common sense plays a role in my dealings with the County, I'm in good shape.  But...

Water retention, habitat and common sense needed!!  
...well, we'll see how it goes!

Not Thru Hiking, but taking a weekend to go Camping at Thorton Lakes.

Hiking has changed dramatically for me in the last two years.  It wasn't long ago that I too, attracted by all the crap for sale at REI, consistently carried a 45 plus pound pack and thought that 12 miles was a very long day.

from L 2 R
Joe Green, Vaughn Fischer, Jeffery Huntington and Tim Black

That all changed, bit by bit.  It took hiking 300 miles south on the PCT with a slim pack of 35 pounds struggling to get 15 miles a day in, before I understood that camping and thru hiking cannot be done together.  It's one or the other.

dbGreen and Joe Freestyle

Gear is part of it, and initially there is value to all the trinkets, safety and comfort products for campers.  But eventually, as your skills increase and experience provides confidence in choosing to leave items behind, a lighter trimmer pack can be employed.  It takes more than spending money and purchasing all the newest and lightest products.  It requires making decisions to 'do without'.

Jeff brought a tarp which served us well since it rained almost the entire time we were there.  I scoffed at the extra weight and the idea of so much shelter, but it was  little old light weight me who was getting soaked under his own lightweight tarp.  Sometimes it's possible to give up too much and this trip was a great way to combine what I learned in a year of thru hiking with the gear and experience of almost 100 combined years (between the 4 of them) of camping.

The reason to do without is because when you spend 2/3 of the day hiking, 1/3 sleeping, you realize you don't need items typically reserved for 'campers'  Why carry an object 8 hours a day only to use it for one simple function. Believe me, it doesn't take many days of walking with a too heavy back pack before you will begin to consider a new valuation of 'needed' items.  
Vaughn was new to camping, but clearly he feels right at home along an alpine lake perched on a rock!

I've even reduced my 10 essentials, but only after 20 years of carrying a full first aid kit and never using it got the better of me.  One shouldn't sacrifice safety or comfort, but re evaluating to what extent these are needed is the only way you'll get a sub 20lb pack.

Tim turned out to be quite the outdoors man and a far better climber than myself.
Thru hiking/long distance hiking also requires constant progress in your direction of travel, from sun up to sun down.  It's not how fast you walk, though that helps, but how long you walk.  Few people realize that to hike 25 miles you should allow 8-10 hours of moving time.  This is actually much harder to do than one realizes.  Not hard physically, but hard from a discipline and efficiency standpoint.  You must minimize time cooking, setting up camp and keep breaks to a minimum, all day, every day.  I personally think getting 6 hours of move time in a day is difficult.

dbFreestyle all over the place.  It's fun to just roam, to know your going up but to pick your own coarse.  Watching others it seems that everyone chooses their own coarse even if there is no need.  It's like moving a chair before you sit in it, it's just something you do.

No cup, only a spoon, no tent, no bug screen, no rope for hanging, minimal sunscreen and few cloths.  So few clothes that when it gets really cold, there is nothing else to wear.  But is it worth being slightly cold for one or two nights to not carry that extra garment from Mexico to Canada?  

Joe Green takes nothing for "Granite", except this climb.

But, there is something to be said for camping.  For keeping the hike to a half day (5-10 miles), having a fire and cooking better food.  Sleeping in a tent staying totally dry, fishing in the lake, exploring a ridge or circumnavigating a lake.  Or just to sleep in as long as you want and then get up and spend an hour picking huckleberries for your oatmeal.   This is fun and I realized though I've seen amazing sights in my 6000 miles of hiking the last two years, I've missed out on what it means to camp.

Tim Black inspired great confidence in me with his outdoor skills and his easy demeanor.

So, what I'm finally getting too, is that I decided to take time off from my thru hiking and go camping.  I joined a party of 4 including Jeff Huntington and Joe Green, long time hiking/climbing pals.  We were also joined by (damn, I forgot his name) who though soft spoken and inquisitive about others gear and techniques, had very solid outdoor camping and navigating skills.  And then there was Vaughn, a fly tying fish loving guy who'd never been camping before but clearly had spent some time perched on steep rocks on the side of a lake.
Joe Green, Lake Blue, Hat Orange
 The destination was off Hwy 20, about 10 minutes out of Marblemount, called Thorton Lake.  I must admit when I looked at the map and the short trail, I felt above such a minor outing.  But camping is fun and I was sure I'd find something to do and besides, meeting new friends and participating in some one else's trip is fun too.

All in all, I'm glad I trusted my partners, because even though Thorton Lake was a very accessible and fairly simple hike, it was an amazing place.  And the mountains above and the ridges surrounding are all accessible providing wonderful day excursions and climbing options for those so inclined.

dbBrad at Lake Thorton, not on a trail, not getting paid, not going anywhere in particular, and loving getting back to backpacking basics and doing it 'just because'.

And though I don't fish, I eat fish and they were good.  Jeff, Joe and Vaughn all fished, catching dozens each.  Most of them went back in the lake, but some went in the pan.  Eating butter fried trout reminds me of camping with my dad as a kid, and I've probably fished 3 times since.  Nostalgic to say the least.

Thorton lakes, party of 5, one of the best weekends this summer.  Thanks to Jeff, Joe, Vaughn and Tim for such a wonderful time.

Joe Green, Vaughn Fischer, Tim Black and Jeffery Huntington.  Photo by dbBrad on iPhone.