Michael and I left Darwin after midnight on March 20 for the USA. First stop was Sydney and a wait of a few hours before we boarded a plane for Los Angeles. This leg of the flight, across the Pacific, took 13 hours. It didn?t seem that long, and time would have gone even faster had we more seat space- the man on Michael?s left was extremely large, and he forced the seat arm between them into Michael.
The man on my right was a very pleasant technician from Texas who had been working on oil rigs out of Darwin and didn?t object at all whenever I wished to squeeze past him.
However, the seats were that close together, that getting out of one?s seat proved mighty difficult for all except those sitting on the aisles. For Michael it was impossible. Luckily, every few hours his neighbor got up to stretch his legs and Michael was able to make it to the toilet or whatever. Still, I worried about him getting leg cramps not being able to move about but he coped with the conditions admirably.
On arrival at Los Angeles airport we retrieved our bags and settled down to wait for our Alaskan Airlines flight to Portland, Oregon. Security was tight. Michael always had to remove his shoes as they had some metal in them. As usual I was wearing my trusty gumboots and generally sailed through security.
The flight to Portland was over snow-capped mountains. They looked beautiful and I looked forward to experiencing deep snow for the first time.
Originally, we were to stay with my friend Nicole Duplaix in nearby Salem, for the first week or so. I wanted this time before my lectures began to get over any problems caused by lack of sleep, and also, just in case I picked up a lung infection or a cold (fortunately the bugs stayed away). However, Nicole who had just returned from Cambodia suddenly had an urgent otter meeting in Seattle (she is a world authority on otters), so we arranged to travel onto that city to meet up with other friends, Fred and Anne Weinmann who were going to drive us to their home in Port Townsend.
Then Nicole, who had run herself ragged traipsing around the world on otter business, became ill, and couldn?t attend the Seattle meeting. But having made our alternative arrangement we decided to stick to it.
The drive from Seattle to Port Townsend was about 250 miles much of it through forest. Fred is a renowned wetlands ecologist, but while working for the EPA under President Clinton, he became an authority on uplands and an architect of Clinton?s forest policy which still stands. Fred pointed out one tree after another ? red alder, cypress, different species of fir ? and also the myriad weeds ? broom, ivy and others.
At their beautiful little home tucked away between the trees, Fred and Anne told of the plans of the State government to sell off the Port Townsend forest and the community fight to oppose this.
We went for a long walk through the forest, Fred and Anne pointing out various plants ? spruce, Douglas fir, mid-storey plants and herbs (I?ve more information on the plants for those interested).
Anne and Fred showed us posters of plants they put up around the park. Both are members of the Washington Native Plant Society (Fred was president at one time). It was most enjoyable to be out with people who knew so much of their natural surroundings. We saw a few birds as we walked along, the most spectacular being Bald Eagles, a juvenile and an adult. Other birds were namely American Robin, Varied Thrush, and Northern Flicker (I do have a complete bird list if anyone wishes to see it).
We also went to the beaches where we saw a range of other birds - Glaucous-winged, Western and Bonaparte Gull, Brandt, Double-crested and Pelagic Cormorant, Dunlin, Brandt and Canada Geese. There were many ducks ? Bufflehead, two species of Mergenser, Widgeon, and Golden-eye to name a few. While we were watching the birds at one pond, a raptor suddenly dove out of the sky ? juvenile Northern Goshawk. We had great views of the bird, unlike the Turkey Vultures that flew high overhead.
We also visited some wetland projects that the Weinmanns are involved in ? at one, Anne said, the project manager had sunk up to her waist in mud, and so warning signs were put about. At this particular site we saw Belted Kingfisher.
Much of the time it was too cold and wet to go outside, and so we spent some hours in the spacious loungeroom watching the bird feeder and surrounding trees. Some birds became quite familiar ? Varied Thrush, Junco, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Towee, Rufous Hummingbird, Song and Fox Sparrow. There were also mammals ? Douglas Chipmunk, Grey-mantled Squirrel and Black-tailed Deer.
After a few days with our friends, drinking great wine and coffee, and eating wonderful food, we caught the ferry back to Seattle and boarded the train back to Portland and on to Nicole in Salem.
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