The Incredible Edible Stinging Nettle!

122 By Mandy Randolph

Springtime on Orcas Island means nettle time! Some people only consider nettles to be those pesky weeds that cause an irritating sting when brushed up against. My students at Orcas Island Elementary School know otherwise… they know that nettles are nutritious, tasty, and free!

A fresh nettle patch growing on Orcas Island.

A fresh nettle patch growing on Orcas Island.

Nettles are low in calories, but pack in a whopping amount of iron, calcium, vitamin K, and fiber. It has long been believed that ingesting nettles can combat the symptoms of hay fever and seasonal allergies. Try drinking two cups of nettle tea a day just prior to and during your allergy season and see for yourself! You do need to be careful when gathering your nettles. Wear long sleeves and pants. Use gloves and clippers to harvest. You can take the sting away from your nettles by drying them in the sun or simply by rinsing and soaking the nettles in water. The most certain way to take away all sting is to boil briefly.

A box full of freshly harvested stinging nettles.

A box full of freshly harvested stinging nettles.

After harvesting your nettles and before eating them, you could take some time to investigate them with a magnifying glass!

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Farm to Classroom students investigating stinging nettles with magnifying glasses.

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You can enjoy nettles in many ways, in soup, tea, sauces, and stir fry. We decided to make a nettle pasta dish in Farm to Classroom last week. Here is how we made our nettle pasta.

Stinging nettle pasta!

Stinging nettle pasta!

Start by mincing garlic and sautéing it in some olive oil. 20150312_113039

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Bring a pot of water to boil and add nettles to boiling water for 3-5 minutes. Remove the nettles with a slotted spoon and chop them. Add your pasta to the same water you boiled the nettles in.

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Add the chopped nettles to your garlic and sauté. Add a few pinches of sea salt if you’d like.

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Add the cooked pasta and mix thoroughly until combined.

Fresh stinging nettle pasta.

Fresh stinging nettle pasta.

Enjoy warm or cold!

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Here is an easy way to store your extra nettles for use later. Boil, chop, squeeze out excess water and form into a ball. Freeze the nettle balls on a baking sheet and transfer to a Ziploc bag once frozen. Then you can toss a nettle ball into soup, smoothies, sauces, scrambled eggs and omelets, you name it!

A batch of "nettle balls" before they went into the freezer.

A batch of “nettle balls” before they went into the freezer.

Go ahead and try some stinging nettles. My students enjoyed them, and you may too!

Happy students enjoying stinging nettle pasta. Seconds please!

Happy students enjoying stinging nettle pasta. Seconds please!

Eat your nettles!

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Just a Simple Farm Girl

teri_cropBy Teri Williams

Sometimes I stray too far from the barn, but a day at Coffelt Farm Stand brings me right back to what really is important, family, farming and friendships.

 

Local berries make a sweet colorful gift and reminds me of kitchen time with grandma

Local berries make a sweet colorful gift and reminds me of kitchen time with grandma.

My grandparents had a dairy farm complete with chickens, horses and bottle fed calves. Grandma’s garden filled canning jars and the cellar was filled with pears, apples and plums from the orchard. These are fond memories deep in my soul. I spent many summers picking berries with grandma, never wanting to eat any so my bucket would be as full as hers. Jams and pies were  yummy results. I still remember when grandma left the pie making to me for a family gathering. Her shared crust secrets and faith in me still show in my pies today.

Grandma T's garden shares ready to eat sweet peas and the promise of greens for a meal

Grandma T’s garden shares ready to eat sweet peas and the promise of greens for a meal.

Wanting to get out of the city, I moved to Orcas Island 27 years ago with 3 sons and a desire to find my roots again. The boys are grown and raising their own families now.  It is my garden and orchard they will remember in their hearts and souls, as well as the many trips to local Orcas Island farms.

In my garden, each year I look forward to planting new things, talking to other farmers about their favorite seeds and sharing tricks to invite worms to feed the soil.  I have starts from Sid Coffelt, plum trees from my great grandma’s orchard, tomatoes from John Cadden, garlic from Mary Ann Sircely, raspberry bushes from my mom, Arlene Carlson and blueberry shrubs from Faith Deeds garden. There is much heart and soul in my garden and I dance with joy thinking about the harvest with my grand kids!!!

Brand new lambs and a proud mom

Brand new lambs and a proud mom.

The Coffelt Farm, located in Crow Valley, Orcas Island, gives tours to school children in the spring time when new born run the barn yard. This spring the farm welcomed several new piglets, lambs and a couple of calves.

Orcas Island School children enjoy a day on the farm learning about all the animals and what it means to be a farmer

Orcas Island School children enjoy a day on the farm learning about all the animals and what it means to be a farmer.

This farm girl says get busy, visit a farm, offer some volunteer time in a garden, share an afternoon canning the harvest, spend time with your grandma, bring a friend and create a memory to nourish the soul.

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Baby Boom for the San Juan Islands

Sandi FrielPosted by Sandi Friel

Orca babies, that is! This winter we’ve had three calves born to our resident pods of killer whales. Two of the calves were born to J-Pod, the group that spends the most time around the San Juan Islands. The third baby belongs to L-Pod, the largest of our three pods of Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW).

Every new addition to our local pods is awesome news, because this population has been in trouble. The Southern Residents were listed under the Endangered Species Act back in 2005, but the population has continued to decline and there haven’t been any surviving calves born since 2012. So these three blushing babies (whale calves are born with a pink hue on their white parts) are most welcome.

Christmas orca calf J50

Newborn J50 with her mom, J16, and big brother, J26. Photo courtesy of Center for Whale Research.

The first calf to show up, J50, was just the Christmas present all our local orca fans were wishing for. This little one was born right around December 25th in the protected waters of East Sound. (You might remember Teri’s post reporting a sighting of the new calf during her Christmas cruise.) Making the present even better for JPod is that J50 (it’s a tough ocean out there, so baby orcas aren’t given their human nicknames until they survive a full winter) is a little girl, and this population needs all the future mommies it can get. J50’s mom is Slick (J16), who is over 40 years old!

There’s definite girl power in orca pods, as our residents live in matriarchal societies. Each pod is made up of smaller matrilineal lines led by a mother, grandmother or, as is the case with Jpod, by a great-grandmother. In J-pod, that’s J2, Granny, the best-known wild whale in the world, who researchers believe is around 104 years old!

killer whale baby J51 and mom J19

Baby J51 alongside mom. Photo courtesy of Center for Whale Research.

The next baby in this recent boom is J51, born early February somewhere in the Straight of Juan de Fuca to 36-year-old Shachi, aka J19. As of this writing, J51 hasn’t rolled over yet to give researchers a look at its belly to be able to tell if it’s a boy or girl.

And just this week, on February 23, a new L-pod calf, L121, was seen off the Oregon coast happily swimming alongside its mom, 20-year-old Calypso (L94).

L121 with mom L94

L121 spotted by NOAA Fisheries this week off of the Columbia River. NOAA’s research ship is in the background.

Three babies within just a few months is a huge deal here. The whales only give birth about once every five years, and out of our current population of 80 (a near record low), there are only a few reproductive-age males, and several of our reproductive-age females had not been having calves. Late in 2014, disaster struck the Southern Residents when Rhapsody, J32, a 20-year-old female just coming into her prime breeding years, died from a problem pregnancy.

In addition to the new calves for the Southern Residents, there has also been a baby spotted with one of the Transient pods of orcas that frequents our local waters. Though it’s tough for casual observers to tell the Residents and Transients apart—they’re all huge black-and-white members of the dolphin family—there are actually marked differences between the two types of orcas.

Orca whale spy hopping off Henry Island

My husband took this lucky “spy hop” shot from our boat last year when we were drifting off Henry Island and the orcas swam up to check us out.

Resident orcas live in much larger groups than Transients—if you’re out on the water and see more than four or five orcas together, you’re almost certainly seeing Residents, who sometimes even form Superpods when J, K and L all get together to socialize. A small group of whales seen around the San Juans could also just be one family of Residents swimming together away from the rest of the pod, but if you see them acting very stealthy then it’s more likely you’re seeing Transients.

The reason the two types of killer whales act and group differently is because they’ve evolved remarkably different cultures. Transients travel in small, stealthy groups because they’re always trying to sneak up on marine mammals like seals. Usually the only time you’ll ever see Transients leaping out of the water and doing celebratory fin slaps and tail lobs is after they’ve had a successful hunt. Fortunately for them, if there’s one animal we have plenty of in the Salish Sea it’s harbor seals, so the Transients have pretty easy hunting.

Chinook salmon

Endangered Chinook salmon, favored fish of our Resident Orcas. Photo NOAA

Our Residents are not so lucky. They’ve evolved to eat fish, and in particular, to specialize in hunting big, fat Chinook salmon. The salmon aren’t as smart as seals, so the Residents are able to talk to each other a lot more (each pod even has its own dialect of orca language). They can also splash around more at the surface because they don’t have to worry about the fish jumping out of the water and climbing up on rocks like seals can. So salmon are easier to hunt, but that’s just the good news. The bad news is that Chinook populations have their own troubles—so much so that they’re also listed as endangered. Each one of our Resident orcas needs to catch between 100-300 pounds of sushi a day just to stay healthy, and every year there are less fish around.

Challenges in finding food is likely the main reason our Southern Resident Killer Whale population hasn’t bounced back. Scientists believe there used to be around 200 Resident orcas frequenting the Salish Sea, but that was before a bunch of them were kidnapped for aquariums. And before that, they were even hunted and considered nuisances known as Devil Fish.

So for our iconic and well-loved group of Resident orcas to suddenly jump in number from 77 to 80 is big news. Seeing wild orcas is one of the many reasons why living in the San Juan Islands is such a special privilege. We’ll all be pulling for these new babies to thrive, since they’re carrying the hope that we’ll continue to have the honor of sharing the Salish Sea with these beautiful and complex creatures for many years to come.

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’round the Bend

'round the Bend

’round the Bend

Roxy Marck, GRI

Roxy Marck, GRI

Cold Springs Trail

by Roxy Marck, GRI

 

 

Ditch the gym membership! If you want to do the Stair-Master try hiking up the Cold Springs trail.

Gorgeous scenery and varying terrain make this hike a fabulous addition to any work-out routine. This up and back hike can take almost the same amount of time climbing uphill as it takes to traverse down. And while it may seem like the scenery repeats itself, trust me, it looks different when you reverse direction. Because it is up and back and because you can make this hike into a four-plus hour round-trip to the top of Mt. Constitution there is room to grow your cardio program.

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A little vitamin D with your hike?

Before you begin the hike I suggest a little warm-up stretching at the trail head adjacent to the Kokanee hatchery across the county road from Cascade Lake. The gentle incline  at the beginning of the trail where it runs along side Moran Creek does not provide much in the way of a warm-up.

This hike starts with your back to Cascade Lake. It passes through a grove of large, old cedar trees many still showing damage from a devastating fire which swept through the park decades ago. Tread lightly on top of the roots of Great-Grandfather, the gigantic  cedar tree, as you loop past his massive trunk when the trail makes a sharp right-turn away from Moran Creek and begins an uphill climb.

Cross the first wooden bridge and wind uphill along a couple of switchbacks. When you reach the point where the trail runs high above a small stream bed keep a sharp eye for the barred owl that frequents this area. You’ll be in position to look into the upper branches of several tall fir trees so sometimes this winged-creature will be at eye-level.

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A good place for a break

Cross the third wooden bridge to begin one of those increase-your-heart-rate activities popular with most exercise programs. Push on before taking a breather until you reach reach the green gorge with its moss covered slopes, large fallen tree and small waterfall. If you need to, this is a good point to pull-over to check your lungs. If you haven’t thrown one, take a photo, catch your breath and continue on uphill. Or make it a goal to reach this point in less time with your next work-out.

Deer frequent the trail so don’t be surprised if one bolts across the trail. A wide variety of bird-song fills the air with trills, tweets, warbles and calls …  assuming you can hear them over the boom of your heart or the angry chatter of the squirrels whose home you’ve invaded.

There are a couple of small water obstacles on this trail. For the most part they are relatively easy to cross. The largest of these streams crosses the trail just before you reach “the meadow”, a relatively large open area of moss covered rocks. Don’t stop at the first one. Push on just a little farther because the second one has a cute peek-a-boo view over the islands.

Peek-a-Boo

Peek-a-Boo

If you are in reasonably decent condition you should be at about the one-hour mark. I like this meadow because it makes for a good goal. You can be up and back and home in your ‘jammies within two hours. Now that you know you can reach it you can spend a few days of workout improving your time. Once you’ve mastered this portion of the trail you can add to your routine the “Find the Cave” target.

“Find the Cave” means movin’ onward and upward. First, congratulations! You’ve reached “the switchbacks”. Orcas Island’s novelty of “the cave” is about three-quarters of the way up a series of about eight switchbacks. Watch for a not-so-well defined path to your right. This path will take you up a steep, rocky incline to the mouth of two small vaults. One of these was recently walled closed because some “yahoo” managed to get stuck and our first-responders don’t need the exercise it takes to climb to make the rescue.

Unless you have a fascination for caves or want bragging rights the side-trip is hardly worth the effort to climb the steep slope up to reach the mouth of the cave. However, you have just added a good fifteen minutes of intense cardio to your program with this mile-stone. What’s another 90 seconds? At this point you can shoot to improve your time on your next hike or power on to Cold Springs or push on to a lesser goal of the Mountain Lake cross-trail.

Cold Springs

Cold Springs

Either goal means that you’ll soon finish the steep climb and the switchbacks. Take heart when you pass under the huge, moss-covered granite outcrop. You’ve reached the beginning of the end. You are almost finished with the steep climb and the looming cliff provides good motivation to continue moving.

One last increase of your heart-rate and you’ll reach the cross-trail to Mountain Lake. From here the trail rolls up and down as it passes through the swamps and pools around Cold Springs. There is a shelter a few dozen feet beyond the springs where you can take a long breather or perhaps have a snack.

If you absolutely must climb the whole mountain. And that’s not a bad goal. Continue along the trail through the parking lot and across Mount Constitution road. The trail dead-ends at the Little Summit trail. Turn left at this junction. It is only a short mile and about 300 feet of incline to reach the summit.

The trail passes Summit Lake on your left before reaching the last of your increase-your-heart-rate climbs. Have faith and push-on because you are almost there! In less than one-half of a mile you’ll reach the tiny, little cabin housing the Friends of Moran gift shop. Stop in for an energy bar to much on while you drink in that breath-taking view from the top of our famous tower. Or if you are ready to buy your own mountain or view, call me at T Williams Realty and we’ll go find you your own mountain.

This is what I call a reward!

This is what I call a reward!

A side note. If you find no desire to climb UP the mountain, you can buddy-up with someone. Leave a car at Cascade Lake, drive up to the parking lot at Cold Springs and walk down the mountain. I promise I won’t call you a wimp…at least not to your face;)

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Winter Football On Orcas

Kelly Koral, our Land Use Consultant, Property Manager and #12 FAN

Kelly Koral, our newest #12 FAN

By Kelly Koral

Winters can be long and gray but as Sandi Friel posted a bit ago, we get our sunshine as well. I truly enjoy all seasons here but winter is near and dear to me. That’s when I can work on my quilts without feeling guilty about yard work. I can spend hours in the kitchen cooking comfort food without overheating the house. And best of all……. FOOTBALL!!

I told WH (that’s Wonderful Husband) just the other day that I will actually be a bit  sad to see warmer, sunnier weather come along because it will mean football is over for another season.

This year not only on Orcas but the entire Northwest is absolutely besotted with the Seahawks. Everywhere you go on island the green and blue is flying. Windows are painted, flags are waving and almost every email is signed with “Go Hawks!”

This year not only on Orcas but the entire Northwest is absolutely besotted with the Seahawks. Everywhere you go on island the green and blue is flying. Windows are painted, flags are waving and almost every email is signed with “Go Hawks!”

In our small community we always gather around each other for hard times and bad times.It is absolutely wonderful to come together for something that is so fun and exciting.

 

Kelly Koral and friends in Eastsound getting ready for the BIG game !!!!

Kelly Koral and friends in Eastsound getting ready for the BIG GAME !!!!This year not only on Orcas but the entire Northwest is absolutely besotted with the Seahawks. Everywhere you go on island the green and blue is flying. Windows are painted, flags are waving and almost every email is signed with “Go Hawks!”

 

Ada Sandwith, wearing her new, Teri-Williams-made Seahawks tutu!

Ada Sandwith, wearing her new, Teri-Williams-made Seahawks tutu!

Local color from "locals" on Orcas Island

Local color from “locals” on Orcas Island

Good food, game day fun and plenty of cold beer to cheer on the Seahawks!

Good food, game day fun and plenty of cold beer to cheer on the Seahawks!

 

Today all the channels are a buzz with football lore, old players telling stories, sharing memories, reliving that last winning play, checking out uniforms, trash talking the other team, mouth watering for those wings, looking for your old ball in the closet, setting out your blue and green tutu to make a fashion statement, face paint, calling all your rowdy friends……. and that is just what is happening in my living room! Game On!!!! Gotta go :)

 

 

Check out T Williams Realty Facebook page for all the before, during and after game stories and pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Garden Fresh Roasted Potatoes

122 Posted by Mandy Randolph

When I am not busy doing all things real estate at the T Williams Realty office, I enjoy my other career as an elementary school teacher. In my previous post I told you all about our great potato dig in the school garden. Well, just last week we finally enjoyed the fruits of our labor. All of the students at Orcas Island Elementary School helped to make and then eat some garden fresh roasted potatoes!

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Our yummy garden fresh roasted potatoes- just look at all those colors!

The potatoes were stored just the way they like; cool, dark, and dirty. They spent the past three months stored in cardboard boxes and covered with shade cloth in a rodent free, unheated garage. When we opened the boxes they were just as firm and glorious as the day we picked them.

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Kindergarten students digging up the potatoes in the school garden last fall.

In the classroom the children are divided into working groups: Potato cutters, onion dicers, garlic peelers and mincers, and the rosemary choppers. Yes, all of the groups will be using knives. Children and knives? At school? Yes! The students are taught safe knife handling skills starting in Kindergarten. The rules are followed closely because the children know that using the knives is a privilege that must be taken seriously or they will lose it. Kids LOVE to be helpful! Sometimes we adults forget to give them the opportunities. Not in Farm to Classroom- all students are taught to use tools and expected to do their part!

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Elementary students safely using knives in Farm to Classroom.

Once the cutting commences there are ooohs and ahhhs as the purple majesty and cranberry red potatoes are sliced open to discover that they are also colored on the inside!

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The stunning Purple Majesty potato!

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The Cranberry Red potato- red through out!

The onion group starts to complain of watering eyes. The peeled garlic (harvested from our garden) starts to fill the room with its distinct scent. The rosemary group is focused on cutting tiny pieces so it doesn’t “feel like we are eating the Christmas tree”.

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Carefully dicing the onion.

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Peeling and mincing garlic grown in our school garden.

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Focused on chopping the rosemary into teeny-tiny pieces.

With the chopping complete the potatoes, garlic, onion, and rosemary are tossed together with olive oil and some salt.

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A very colorful bowl of potatoes.

Off into the oven set at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Our garden fresh roasted potatoes are so delicious! The children loved eating them and you will too!

Farm to Classroom Recipe: Garden Fresh Roasted Potatoes

Ingredients:

5 medium potatoes

1/3 cup Olive oil

1-2 cloves of garlic

½ small onion

Rosemary sprigs

Salt *optional

Directions:

Cut potatoes into 1 inch cubes, dice onions and garlic

Mix potatoes in large bowl with olive oil, garlic, onion, rosemary

Spread out in one layer on a baking sheet

Bake at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes

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The Shocking Truth: We Get Sun In Winter

Sandi FrielPosted by Sandi Friel

On Friday I had the pleasure of showing property all day to a couple who are thinking about retiring here. They scheduled their trip for January so they could experience the worst of our weather, fully expecting rain and gray clouds. Well, take a look at the photos I snapped throughout the day:

Deer Harbor Estuary January 2015

Taken at 9:00 am from the Deer Harbor bridge overlooking the estuary. Pair of Hooded Mergansers gliding by, with Turtlehead peeking up behind the treeline, catching morning rays.

Crescent Beach Orcas Island January 2015

View from Crescent Beach, taken midday on the way to lunch in Eastsound. Temp was a balmy 44 degrees.

Sunset at Cormorant Bay on Orcas Island January 2015

The day ends with an exquisite sunset over President Channel on the west coast of Orcas. Who could resist?

I’m not claiming that we get sun all winter long, but more than you might think. It’s part of the rain shadow effect created by the Olympic Mountains, which keeps the San Juan Islands drier than other parts of the pacific northwest. So if you’re thinking of an Orcas getaway or property scouting hunt, make sure to pack your sunglasses – even in January!

Looking to enjoy the simple life on beautiful Orcas Island?
Contact T Williams Realty – we’ll help you find your way home.

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Christmas Gift Aboard the Blue Pearl

Teri Williams, T WIlliams RealtyBy Teri Williams

Headed to Friday Harbor on Christmas Day.

Heading to Friday Harbor on Christmas Day.

Every other year Jay and I find it’s just the two of us on Christmas morning. We actually look forward to these holidays as much as the full-on grandma-and-pa celebrations with all the trimmings and train set running under the tree. This was our year and the Blue Pearl called for us to pull her away from the dock and breath the fresh salty air. Loaded down with a baked Coffelt ham, fixings for Debbie Woodruff’s garlic potatoes, my garden spaghetti squash, long johns and earmuffs, we pulled away from the dock at 3:00 on Christmas Day. Little did we know it would be a cruise to remember.

one sailboat

We see only one other sailboat on the way, plus four powerboats.

A half-hour under way it dawned on me – we are going to lose daylight! Probably a good time to ask Jay what is on his mind for the night. We usually tie up to a dock this time of the year as it’s warmer, you sleep better and wake up where you left her the night before. Windless, blue sky scattered with white clouds and sun on our face, we arrive at the Port of Friday Harbor at 4:08. Not bad, very calm, saw four powerboats and one sailor.

On the foggy, cold morning after Christmas, the Blue Pearl heads north to Roche Harbor. No wind again (Jay says we really have a power boat). No sign of another adventurous sailor, we cross paths with Washington State Ferry headed to Vancouver and the Pintail barge.

crabs in crab pot

We bring up 16 crabs in our pot, three keepers.

Arriving into Roche Harbor at 2:44, we dropped two crab pots and cruised the harbor (Laurie and Eric say it should only take 30 minutes and fresh chicken). Half an hour later we had 16 crabs in one pot, three keepers. Tie to dock at 4:11. Ready for warmth and a hot toddy.

festive lights in Roche Harbor

Festive lights decorate the dock in Roche Harbor.

Crab on ice, we head to Roche restaurant, all lit with festive lights and music of the season. It really does feel like Christmas!

A lazy morning turns into a “get your butt in gear, we need to go with the currents and get back to Orcas!” It was very windy with dark clouds as we motored through Spieden Channel. Nobody was out except the Coast Guard and a few fisherman. Throughout the trip, I kept saying to Jay, “wouldn’t it be a wonderful gift to see whales?”

Just then, off the north end of Jones we see what looks to be a porpoise, but turns out to be a mother and baby whale swimming. A few air blows of spray in the air and our hearts were racing. I run to get my iPhone and push the video button. No matter how many times or how many of these beautiful mammals you see it is always very exciting and memorable. So much so, you better memorize it in your soul because if you are like me, all you get on the video is sky and your feet with a lot of vocals that sound like “oh wow, oh wow, oh wow!” We must have been one of the first to see the new baby orca, Calf J50. We followed for a bit, but they were headed north and we would have had to buck the current, so turn around we did.

new baby orca

We must have been among the first to see the new orca calf.
(From Yahoo News, photo by Ken Balcomb, Center for Whale Research)

It was a memorable Christmas indeed and a successful sailing on the Blue Pearl…. ahh, I mean motoring. No matter, the saying goes, there is nothing better than messing around on a boat, especially when you do it on Christmas, eating crab, dodging ferries and being one with the whales.

Want to learn more about the new baby whale? Here are two articles you might enjoy:

Orcas Issues: Hey Girl, Who’s Yo Mama?
Yahoo News: Newborn killer whale a good sign for imperiled pod

 

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Happy New Year

By Beth HolmesBeth Holmes, T. Williams Realty

Breathe deep in 2015.

There are so many mental and physical benefits to deep, intentional breathing yet we forget. At any given moment, stop and notice your breath. Likely, you’ll catch yourself taking short, shallow breaths or maybe holding your breath; happens to me all the time. Something as simple as one deep inhale makes such a profound difference for me and I just wanted to share.

Be excellent to everyone and don’t forget to breathe.

Cheers,

Beth

Georgia practicing breath focus

Georgia practicing breath focus

 

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’round the Bend

Roxy Marck, GRI

Roxy Marck, GRI

DSC_0056

’round the Bend

  Twin Lakes Loop

       by Roxy Marck

Are you ready for a squishy, adventurous hike? Today I take you   along a trail desperately in need of a sugar daddy, the Twin Lakes loop.

Sunrise at Mountain Lake

This hike begins at the Mountain Lake boat launch. We travel north, clockwise around that lake. A level trail gives us a nice and easy warm-up before we make the short climb up to Twin Lakes. At the northern end, after hiking down a moderate incline and crossing a small wood bridge we see the sign directing us left up the hill.

This shady, sometimes gloomy part of the park is a mushroom hunter’s paradise. During the season a wide variety of fungi festoon the edge of the trail, the logs and the trees. I cannot (under penalty of getting no more) tell you where the edibles grow so please take only photos.

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The trail follows a small stream lined with tall cedar trees until, about half way up the hill, the cedars give way to alders. This time of year all have shed their leaves leaving a light, open area. Tall marsh grass hide the pools and ponds hosting the source of that skunk-like odor, the marginally edible skunk-cabbage. Exiting this microenvironment the trail will become a little more steep as we pass through a forest of fir, cedar and hemlock before reaching “the twins” and the intersection of several trails.

At this intersection we have several options. We could turn left to climb up to the top of Mount Constitution, an aerobic climb of about 1289 feet. Or we could turn right following the sign to Mount Pickett for a 740 foot climb. Or we can travel a figure-eight around the lakes. Or we could go jump in a lake.

Today we’ll do the figure-eight. A coin toss sends us counter-clockwise around the big twin. Head to the right as if going to Mount Pickett. Cross the small bridge and continue a short distance to reach the turn-off to Mount Pickett.

Big Twin

Big Twin

Here’s where things start to get a little tricky. First we need to traverse the small gully directly in front of us. The original trail around the big twin is visible on the left as is the lake. If you follow this trail you’ll quickly find yourself facing a hole the size of a small foreign car. Look carefully to see a small, barely visible trace climbing up the knoll almost directly ahead. This detour becomes a little hard to follow just before it meets up with the main trail.

Once back onto the main trail we travel only a few dozen yards DSC_0028before coming to a fallen tree so massive Paul Bunyan would have found it a challenge. A shout out THANK YOU to the volunteers who managed to cut-out a small section so that skinny or small people can get through. Everyone else will have to turn sideways, suck in the gut and push a little.

At this point the trail becomes more difficult to follow. It climbs a steep set of “stairs” and travels along the mossy face of the rocky outcrop  before hitting the first of several water obstacles. Run-off streams pose a small challenge unless, like me, you hike the trail after a serious rain. Crossing successful! New boots waterproof! Onward!

One of many small streams

One of many small streams

Around the back side of the big twin you may notice tall white stakes marking the boundary of the park. The trail actually exits the park and travels through a day camp for Camp Orkila at this point. It’s my guess that the tread of small feet are the reason why this portion of the trail becomes more well-defined although that big fallen cedar across the trail does pose a bit of challenge.

Having completed our journey around the big twin we find ourselves in familiar territory, the cross trail to the top of the mountain. It is tempting to skip the little twin and head back down the hill but a stubborn desire to do an eight and not a zero sends us left over the bridge toward the Mount Pickett trail. This time we veer right after the up and down of the gully to follow the trail clockwise around the little twin.

Evil Twin

Evil Twin

The beginning of this trail is gorgeous with a peaceful view of the lake and a nice big log inviting you for a short sit-down. Deceiver!  The little twin is the evil twin! Just so you know.

About a third of the way around little twin you hit the first of several bridges which appear to be older than light. Uneven, slippery and with gapping holes they invite a twisted ankle or short step into chilly water. Then you hit the squishy part of the trail.

Twin Lakes reside in a marshy saddle between Mount Constitution and Mount Pickett. I made this hike after a period of heavy rain and quickly wished I brought my scuba gear because the trail was under water. A little “off-roading”, a deer skeleton or two and a balancing act along a log or three takes us the final distance around the little twin to the gully and cross-trail.

Orcas Island Message Board

Orcas Island Message Board

Turn left for a third trip over the wooden bridge and left again to head down the hill to Mountain Lake. When you reach the lake check your time. If you have an hour turn left to hike the east side of the lake. You’ll have a teeny, tiny 250 foot elevation gain up a series of switchbacks before you reach the “message board”. There you can check the most recent post and make a new one.

A right turn when you reach Mountain Lake will take you back to the boat launch. Either way the trail will become level near the end so that you’ll have a nice “cool down” walk as you head back to your car. Now that we are back safe and sound would someone please adopt this poor relation, the Twin Lakes loop, and give it some luv! Or if you are ready to adopt Orcas as home, call us at T Willliams Realty. We’ll help you find a lake to call your own.

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