Yesterday morning, after breakfast and a couple hours on the computer, I bundled up in rain gear, grabbed my camera bag and the dog-leash, then took off with Buddy for Fanno Creek. It was 44 degrees and raining steadily when we arrived at our destination – Tualatin’s Community Park. We set out on the soft pathway that leads through the forested section down by the river and ends at the southern approach to Ki-A-kut’s Bridge. Too late, I noted with regret, to see much in the way of wildflowers – the trillium have long gone bye. Still, it was quite lush and many of the restored areas were flourishing.
Before I crossed the bridge to the Durham Park side, I stood on the bank and looked across at the mouth of Fanno Creek. It was like looking at the face of an old friend, one you haven’t seen for a while. From that distance it appeared not to have changed much, but as I crossed over the bridge I noticed that there’s been considerable shifting of location by one of the old snags that lie across the mouth. The stream billowed muddy water into the less muddy body of the Tualatin as it flowed by. It’s amazing how much material in the way of silt and debris this small body of water can carry out of the hills on a rainy day.
We left the bridge and headed up the trail into Durham Park, stopping in a couple places to take photos of the restoration work I first encountered in 2007. Back then the trees and bushes had been in the ground for only a year or so and were still tiny little living things fighting for their lives. Thanks to the efforts of the crews who planted them and the watering system that sustained them through several summers, the vegetation along this walkway is robust and getting more so with every passing day. Bushes and trees that were once less than chest high now towered over me. The overall condition of the foliage was no less impressive.
A short distance north of the bridge – 100 yards or so – lies an area where crews working under the direction of Rob Emanuel (Water Resources Project Manager for Clean Water Services) have begun restoring an area once choked with an assortment of invasive bushes and trees. The area is now open and sun-filled for a good portion of the day. The undesirable trees have either been girdled and left for snags, or cut down and ground up into wood chips. The dense stands of blackberries and reed canary grass that once crowded out large sections of more desirable understory have been beaten back, and in their place a number of herbaceous natives are beginning to thrive.
At the end of the demand trail that runs through this part of the park there’s a bench. I sat down for a couple minutes and watched the creek dash by on its way to the river. It’s a great place to pause and reflect because there’s not much in the way of distractions, just small details that rapidly come and go across the surface of the otherwise opaque mass: a twig; a whirlpool; flecks of foam; a leaf; undulating patterns of colors and textures that suddenly appeared, then just as suddenly disappeared. Then out of that mental void came the image of a fallen tree trunk I’d spotted as I passed over the trail back on the Tualatin side of the bridge. What stuck out in my memory was the fact that the clumps of small ferns that clung to its sides appeared to be dying.
Typically lush colonies of epiphytic ferns flourish in the trees along the river in Tualatin’s Community park; but as I passed through the area on the way back to the truck, there seemed to be fewer of these colonies in evidence. Additionally the ones I was able to see from the pathway all showed the same prevalence of brown fronds shown in the picture above.
Back in the truck I made a few notes and reflected on the visit. It had been a long time since I’d slogged through the creek’s muddy floodplain. Even before wrapping up the book last October I’d cut down considerably on visits to the urban bush. Instead I’d gotten wrapped up in committee and taskforce work for one group or another – TRK, Metro, BES, THPRD, just to name a few. That kind of work is essential, I reminded myself; but it can’t take the place of actually being with the creek. In addition to spending time on advocacy activities, I’d also become smitten with the idea of working on a new book , this one about the John Day River. As a result I had managed to distance myself from the living reality of the creek and the never-ending threats to its health, even its very existence.
I rummaged around in my pack, hoping maybe to find a forgotten – and by now probably stale – packet of peanut butter and cheese crackers. Finding none, I made a mental note to restock once I was back at the house. I’d be returning to the urban bush soon, I decided. Very soon.