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Bay Watch

This article by Tom Reese in The Seattle Times, discussing the Union Bay wetlands that are part of the 320-acre University of Washington Botanic Gardens, is thoughtful and nicely written. It might give you ideas for an outing during your next trip to Seattle. It also harkens to what makes our lifestyle so special throughout the Wenatchee Valley. Within five minutes of downtown Wenatchee or Leavenworth we can connect with the outdoors by paddling through the estuaries at Confluence Park or along the Wenatchee River. Or we can hike Saddle Rock, the Sage Hills, Freund CanyonIcicle Ridge or a dozen other trails.

Following are some nice passages from Reese's article featuring his observations as he kayaks the marshes of Lake Union:

      "Beneath the surface, where the color of the sky doesn't reflect, the water is sort of black, sort of green, most often the color of dark tea. It changes with the light, the density of microscopic life and the amount of peat that has been stirred up. Each summer a forest of lilies emerges in stages, the pads red as they sprout from the bottom and unfurl, the stems a tangled mass on their way to the surface, the final canopy a green platform for millions of insects and invertebrates until it turns brown and decays in the fall. There are frogs eggs, beer cans, minnows, bass, sunglasses and charred wood. The silty bottom offers little resistance to an arm pushed in to the elbow. What exactly is buried below, how nasty is it, and how likely are we to see it again? All the salmon from the rivers of Lake Washington pass through here twice in their lives, though mostly without our notice.
      And always, everywhere, the hum. The constant whoosh from traffic on the bridge is almost impossible to tune out. It won't let us forget that this is not wilderness. A paddler can actually feel the difference between a passing Metro bus and a passing Subaru by paying attention to the hard plastic seat of the kayak; the vibrations are borne through air, water and concrete into the hull, and strum the spine. What happens during the brief maintenance periods when the bridge is closed to traffic? Do creatures acclimated to this aural environment experience the equivalent of a total solar eclipse, when day turns to night?
      THE SUN CAN shoot a particle of light to one of those cattails growing on the shore in about 8.3 minutes, but I can leave our front porch on foot, or leave our driveway with a kayak on top of my car, and get there faster. I am one of the lucky thousands who can almost claim this place as our backyard. Luckier still, everyone can claim this wetland as a special place. My neighbors in Ballard and Bellevue can get their toes wet here with less trouble than it takes to get seats at most movie theaters. Out-of-towners drive into the middle of the big city to find nature.... 
      What's the value of this particular paradise? Pristine nature, it is not. But it does have the power to reconnect an individual with the larger world — a modern human longing not easily satisfied inside an office building or behind the wheel of a car.
      What we see in marshes depends on what we see in ourselves. How much do we feel a part of nature? How much have we separated ourselves from it, and did we really mean to do that? Can we control nature? Do we get to select which parts we want to keep and which we can do without? Even if we wanted to do this, are we smart enough to know how?"