I felt a great sense of loss when we pulled up stakes in Portland and headed for Olympia, Washington. I knew I would really miss the creek and the many friends I’d made in the process of writing about it. After nine months, that sense of loss is still very strong. However, living here in Olympia has turned out to be a wonderful experience. Folks are very friendly, and the physical environment is downright fabulous.
This morning I leashed up the dog and took off for a short walk through the neighborhood. “Cougar Ridge,” it’s called, and I still can’t believe we are fortunate enough to be living here. Homes in the community date from the late 1980’s and on. Most are on large lots of a half acre or more and almost all have a bit of Doug fir forest growing on them. They’ve all been nicely landscaped and well maintained, thanks to a user-friendly covenant. The HOA is effective but low-profile, and holds its costs down by cultivating owner involvement in maintaining the common areas. The net effect is a strong sense of community and a great deal of pride-in-ownership. There's also a high level of awareness when it comes to how directly the development can impact the nearby wetlands.
All but the most reently constructed homes in the development sport one of these on its nearest drain plate.
One of the best features of this neighborhood is the access to nature it affords. The Capitol State Forest, a haven for wildlife, rises directly to the north. We haven't ventured into its environs to this point, but will certainly do so soon. Meanwhile, Mclane Creek Nature Trail is less than a mile to the west, and accessible by a pathway leading out of the community and through the woods.
Less than a quarter-mile walk from my front door – first by neighborhood streets, then by a small path through the woods – lies Beatty Creek, one of Mclane Creek's larger tribs.
This morning as I sat next to the stream I reflected on how it compares with Sylvan Creek, one of my favorite Fanno Creek tribs.
- They each rise high (1000ft +/-) and finish low (200ft +/-)
- Both can be accessed in multiple places without trespassing private property
- Both support a great deal of wildlife, including salmonids
- Both have been significantly degraded as a result of human land use practices
But there the direct comparisons end.
- Beatty Creek’s environmental challenges stem mostly from the agricultural activities of small farmers; Sylvan Creek is a classic example of a stream suffering from the Urban Stream Syndrome.
- Beatty Creek runs over gravel left behind by the retreat of glaciers that plowed up this area during the last glacial period.
- Sylvan Creek runs mostly through channels cut through deep deposits of loess blown into the Portland area when those same glaciers began to retreat.
- And while both have experienced the impacts of human activity since the 1850’s, Sylvan Creek’s challenges have been far more life threatening than those experienced to date by Beatty Creek.
My first visit to Sylvan Creek in 2007 was a key link in the chain of events that ultimately led me to write Up Fanno Creek. Will spending time with Beatty Creek lead in a similar direction? While it is too early to tell, my best guess is “No.” I don’t think I could go the distance with another literary effort of that magnitude and duration. However, there’s no doubt that I will soon begin connecting to the Watershed Folk in this area. I still feel strongly about wetlands issues. No doubt I will continue expressing those feelings in some form or another as I become more fully settled in the wonderful wetlands that surround Cougar Ridge.