Sunday, November 20, 2011


I know that people contend that western Oregon only has two seasons and I don't entirely disagree with them, though I do choose to recognize the tiny glimmers of the other two when they decide to show up. The differences between those two-ish seasons have seemed much more noticeable during my years of living in Deadwood than they ever did while I was living in Seattle. Part of it is the amount of time I spend involved with the outdoors here in Deadwood. Even though I spend plenty of time indoors here, you can't get away from the outside in the same way you can in the city when you need to get the firewood in, put the garden to bed, tarp and un-tarp various piles depending on how dry you want them, etc. The other part, though, is that both of my Deadwood stints, separated by 11 years, have been heavily influenced by the school year. Lou and the kids and I all have lives tied up in the school schedule, and summer break looms large and significant in that schedule. In Seattle, I worked a job that maintained its schedule year-round. Looking back from this nearly-December vantage, those times seem to belong to a different story than the pick-up, drop-off, pack, and unpack routines of the school year. Here are a couple of pictures I'd like to share just because they seem so sunny and golden now:

The first is Lucie crossing the logs on the way home from an afternoon visit to the Sunny Beach on the West Fork Creek side of the property. That beach probably won't exist next year, after the water has moved all the sediment around the log structures in that part of the creek. It was fun while is lasted! Next is just a summery pic of Helen and Opal when we were out on a blackberry-picking walk. Finally, Lucie is showing off her green bean haul--she really did pick all of those and we ate them for dinner.

Since I have already admitted to believing in the existence of a bit of fall here, I thought I'd back it up with some pictures. Here are the girls playing in the maple leaves we went out an collected to cover the garden beds with--the garden's winter blankets. (Our camera is strangely fuzzy in the center of the pictures. Probably dropped it one too many times.)

We also had the biggest burn pile that we've ever had, fueled by lots
of the brush we created over the course of this summer's fire break clearing project.

I took the girls trick-or-treating in Deadwood. We tried this last year and enjoyed it so much that we engineered it again. There aren't many tricksters out here--in fact our kids were joined by one other this year and I think that may be the highest tally since 1988. People out here don't usually keep treats handy, since they are much more likely to end up eating them all themselves than to hand them off to little visitors. Because of this, Deadwood trick-or-treating requires a bit more organization. We called several neighbors to see if they would mind stocking treats and playing host to a stop by four little visitors. Everyone we asked said yes. The treats the girls (and the adults, truthfully) got were generously prepared and generously given. Thank you, friends and neighbors!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

End of the Run

This deep in November, the salmon are almost done for the year. They are still around in great numbers, but so ragged. Their sides, backs and tails are tattered from making redds and infected with fungus. No longer sea-silver or the deep, rutting red of the largest and most impressive fish, the salmon have faded into monochromatic black and white. This Saturday past I went for a long walk, first along West Fork, then down Deadwood Creek from the ford to the Summer Bridge watching and taking photographs. Here (left) you see the log emplacement set in by the Forest Service to create structure and habitat. The other photo is the view looking up West Fork from atop the logs.

There a single riffle between the driving bridge to our house and the two photos above. On my way home every day, I stop on the bridge to look at the creek. These past two weeks, I've been watching the salmon fight and squabble over the prime territory atop that riffle. Yesterday, I was able to sneak right up on the fish guarding the spot.

There is another really great spawning site at the ford. Between the ford and the confluence with West Fork, Deadwood Creek drops over a small log emplacement. This is an older structure than the one photographed above and uses a different architecture. The one photographed uses massive trees placed with a Chinook helicopter. The structure by the ford uses much smaller logs placed with heavy equipment (like a back-hoe.) The logs are held in place by steel cables attached to rocks or even the bedrock where possible. The problem is, steel rusts and logs rot. Two winters ago, one of the two logs forming the structure washed out, but in a surprising development, formed a really nice spawning site after the creek had washed away some of the silt to expose the gravel underneath. The dog and I spooked the fish, but I did get a picture of a completely spawned out salmon. Nice teeth!

The last spot I looked was down by the Summer Bridge. Here, the creek takes a long, looping bend and drops through a series of riffles and pools. There is a large (for Deadwood Creek) island with spawning sites on both sides. In a low-water fall such as we've had this year, the fish congregate in large numbers in the pools. Mostly, they laze in the current, but occasionally they squabble and tear around the pool with a great deal of fussing and darting. This year I saw over 20 and heard many more below where I was watching.



A giant redd, easily 15 feet in diameter. You can see the great sweep dug out by the fish and the ridge of throw-up gravel (one of three) running down the middle.