Boat Trouble in Mexico


Ancient Marquesas Tikis

Ancient Marquesas Tikis


Excerpt from Sailing with Impunity: Adventure in the South Pacific


While in The Marquesas in French Polynesia, we had dinner with a couple one evening who told us a hair-raising incident that happened to them in Mexico.
They had spent an evening visiting on a neighboring sailboat. Just going from their boat to the other boat in their dinghy, they hadn’t taken their shoes, purse or his wallet since they wouldn’t need those items unless they went ashore. They’d had a nice evening playing cards and then, much later, they climbed into their dinghy to return to their own boat. It was dark, but they soon realized their sailboat was gone!

Panicked, they went back to their friend’s boat and spent the rest of the night there. First thing in the morning, they went ashore and reported the missing boat. They didn’t know if it had been stolen, became untied, or dragged anchor, so it was unknown if a crime had been committed.

With no money, no identification, not even shoes, they were in a terrible situation. To their surprise and relief, an American, a man they didn’t know, gave them $500 so they could buy shoes and stay in a hotel until they could receive money from home. No strings attached, he simply wanted to help stranded strangers. (They got his name and address and were able to pay him back.)

Mexican officials put out notices and the couple talked to fishermen and anyone going to sea. Finally, about two weeks after it “went missing” the boat was spotted. The fishermen who saw it said it was merely bobbing along, laundry still hanging in the transom, anchor hanging on its chain in the deep water. It didn’t appear to be damaged.

After observing the boat for some time, the fishermen motored over to it and one climbed aboard, started the engine, weighed anchor, and brought it back to port. Everything was intact, even her purse and their wallets were still there.

The couple continued their journey in their sailboat to The Marquesas, so thankful for the kindness of others.

Where Eagles Soar

Photo by Dana Moos

Photo by Dana Moos

One of Washington’s most spectacular attractions is the wintering population of bald eagles along the Skagit River. Bald eagles, migrating from British Columbia, Alaska and the interior Northwest, come to the Skagit to feed on spawned chum salmon. Their haunting, creaking cackle splits the air as they go about the business of hunting for their food of prey.

The Skagit Eagle Festival is a month-long celebration during eagle-watching season in eastern Skagit County. Activities take place in Concrete, Rockport and Marblemount every full weekend in January. The Festival is devoted to public education on the bald eagle, as well as environmental and wildlife conservation.

The festival features a variety of free tours, walks, and educational programs where visitors will learn not only about these majestic birds, but also about a variety of wildlife and the beautiful areas along the Skagit River where eagles live or return each year. Festival attendees may also enjoy arts & crafts, wine tasting, river rafting, music and dance, plus additional indoor and outdoor activities.

Opportunities abound to view or photograph our majestic national symbol as they congregate along the banks of the Skagit River, typically between December through February. Eastern Skagit County offers one of the largest wintering Bald Eagle populations in the lower 48 states. Peak counts have been estimated at more than 500 birds.

For viewing by land, the Bald Eagle Festival committee recommends parking in the pullouts on Highway 20 at Mileposts 99 and 100. (Avoid parking on narrow highway shoulders which could obstruct highway traffic.) Howard Miller Steelhead Park in Rockport also offers good eagle viewing.

If you would prefer viewing the eagles from the river, private raft companies with certified guides offer float trips on the Skagit and other rivers.

The North American colonists originally gave the bald eagle its name when “bald” or “balled” meant white. Bald eagles feed mostly on fish or seabirds, though they may scavenge larger animals such as deer and even whale carrion.

For its size, the eagle is surprisingly light, yet it is very strong, strong enough to swoop down on prey with incredible speed and carry it away. Eagles’ powerful wings allow them to carry prey that weighs more than they do.

Bald eagle nests, which can weigh hundreds of pounds, are typically six feet wide and two or four feet tall. Nests are often located very high in tall trees with broken or deformed tops, with a view of the water.

The nesting period in Washington begins around the last week of March to the first or second week of April. Although some eagles stay in the Upper Skagit River area, most find nesting sites around the shores of Puget Sound, San Juan Islands, or other coastal areas in Canada or Alaska.

The average adult bald eagle weighs nine pounds, with a height of three feet and a wing span of five-and-one–half to seven-and-one-half feet. It is presumed that eagles mate for life. They are generally ready to mate at the age of five. Females lay two to four eggs and the thirty-five day incubation duties are shared by both female and male.

Eaglets are fed by their parents for the first ten to twelve weeks and then sporadically while they learn to feed themselves. By the time young eagles emerge from the nest they are almost as large as their parents. The familiar coloring of white head and tail, however, does not occur until the birds are four or five years of age. Juvenile birds are mostly brown and gray with mottling on the underside of their wings and a black tail with some gray.

The average life span of an eagle is up to twenty years in the wild and forty years in captivity. The bald eagle was almost driven to extinction as the result of eggshell thinning caused by the pesticide DDT. DDT was banned in the 1970s and the eagles, as well as other birds of prey, have made an amazing comeback.

Having “eagle eyes” is a popular expression for someone who can see great distances. Few animals can match the eagles’ ability to see distant objects; in fact, the eagle can see tiny details three to four times farther than humans.

Eagles normally can be seen feeding on the gravel bars of the Skagit River during the morning hours between 7 am and 11 am. Or, later in the afternoon, you can watch the birds catch updrafts and soar overhead. At other times the birds are seen sitting on mossy tree branches along the river. This “quiet time” is an important period when the birds conserve energy.

The American bald eagle is protected by Federal law. Follow these tips for your eagle viewing pleasure and for the protection of these magnificent birds:
● To avoid disturbing eagle feeding periods, boats should not be launched before 11:00 a.m.
● On land, confine eagle viewing to the designated look-out points along Highway 20.
● Your car makes a great viewing blind. You will minimize disturbance to the eagles and you may see more wildlife by staying in your car.
● Maintain a 1,000 foot distance from eagles.
● Do not trespass on private property.
● Keep pets in your vehicle
● Move slowly, talk softly.
● Never throw objects to make the eagles fly.
● Use telescope, spotting scope, binoculars or a telephoto lens to see eagles “up close.”
● Dress warmly and prepare your vehicle for winter weather. Winter months in the foothills of the Cascades often bring cold rain or snow.

For additional information and for a full schedule of events, visit or call 360-853-8784 or 360-853-8767. The Concrete Chamber of Commerce invites you to visit them at the East County Resource Center, 45770 Main St., Concrete, WA 98237

Note: the North Cascades Highway, which goes through the mountains to Winthrop, is closed every winter, but the road to Concrete is ALWAYS open.

A Thing of Beauty: Chihuly Garden and Glass

Chihuli Glass!One of Seattle’s finest destinations, Chihuly Glass and Gardens, is located at the base of the Space Needle at the Seattle Center. This magnificent exhibit includes three primary components: the Garden, the Glasshouse, and the Interior Exhibits.

A northwest native, Dale Chihuly has led the avant-garde in the development of glass blowing as a fine art. Chihuly was introduced to glass while enrolled at the University of Washington. Upon graduation, he enrolled in the first glass program in the country, at the University of Wisconsin. He continued his studies at Rhode Island School of Design where he later established the glass program and taught for more than a decade. In 1968 he worked in Venice where he observed and later adopted the team approach to glass blowing.

In 1971 Chihuly co-founded Pilchuck Glass School, an international glass art school near Stanwood, WA. He has received wide acclaim, both nationally and internationally, for his innovative and ambitious exhibitions.

At Seattle’s Chihuly Garden and Glass, we walked first into the exhibition entrance, then wandered from room to room, each featuring its own impressive theme: Glass Forest, Northwest Room, Sealife Room, Persian Ceiling, Mille Fiori, Ikebana, and Float Boat, Chandeliers and Macchia Forest. Each room bears a theme in spectacular color and texture that flows on floors, ceilings and walls. The walkway leading to the garden is resplendent with chandeliers.

The magic continues in the Garden with dramatic glass artfully interspersed with live plants, flowers and trees. The Glass House, a 40-foot tall structure inspired by Chihuly’s appreciation for conservatories, includes a 100-foot long suspended sculpture.

The Bookstore features books and materials relating to Dale Chihuly’s artworks. The gift shop has partnered with Northwest companies and many talented artisans to reflect the creative spirit of the region.

The Collections Café features many of Chihuly’s private artwork and projects. The menu shows a selection of fresh local food, and serves lunch, dinner, and a weekend brunch. Admission to the exhibition is not required for dining at Collections Café.

A quote from Dale Chihuly: “I want people to be overwhelmed with light and color in a way they have never experienced.” At Chihuly Garden and Glass, he meets that challenge. From one breathtaking display to another, we were pleasantly overwhelmed with light and color, and gained a deep appreciation for Dale Chihuly and his great contribution to Seattle culture.

For hours, admission fees and driving directions, visit
or call 206-905-2180.

High Desert Museum: An Extraordinary Museum

Indian Head Dresses Photo by Roni McFadden

Indian Head Dresses
Photo by Roni McFadden

While attending the Women Writing the West Conference this past October, I had the great pleasure of visiting the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon, an excellent all-encompassing museum with many outstanding exhibits.

A temporary exhibit while we were there was “Tough by Nature: Portraits of Cowgirls and Ranch Women of the American West” which showcased Artist Lynda Lanker. Lanker’s heart-felt exhibit features charcoal and graphite drawings as well as stone and plate lithographs, acrylics, oil pastels, and egg tempera. These pictures honor the spirit and stories of ranch women and cowgirls who earn their sustenance and livelihood from the land.

Another temporary exhibit features the work of Edward S. Curtis who spent 30 years beginning in the late 1800s creating a photo-ethnographic study of the North American Indian. Curtis’ collection is widely considered the finest limited edition books ever made in the U.S. The High Desert Museum holds the complete set of the 20 bound volumes of The North American Indian.

The museum has several permanent exhibits. “Spirit of the West” is ever popular and starts with a stroll past a Northern Paiute shelter and a French trapper’s camp. The details depicted are in incredible detail with the sights and sounds of an Indian camp, a settler’s cabin, a hard rock mine, and into Idaho’s old Silver City.

“By Hand Through Memory,” another permanent exhibit, takes visitors through the Plateau Indian Nations’ journey as they traveled from reservation confinement to the 21st Century. Their struggle to retain cultural identity is both poignant and moving.

The High Desert Museum gives visitors a chance to see close-up in both indoor and outdoor displays of live owls, hawks, eagles, falcons, a Canadian lynx and bobcat. None of the animals cared for at the Museum can be released to the wild, either because of injuries or because, separated from their mothers, they never learned to hunt or avoid predators.

Another enlightening permanent exhibit is the Miller Family Ranch where visitors can meet the characters and watch as they do chores (be careful, or you’ll get roped into lending a hand).

As visitors walk around inside the different sections of the building, the outside is brought in by spacious windows looking out on meandering streams in woodsy settings.

The famous Henry James Monk stagecoach, a sawmill, ranger station, a nature walk–it’s all there. If you’re in the Bend, Oregon area, don’t miss this very special museum.

To learn more about the high Desert Museum and read about current and future exhibits, visit

The Layered Look: The Painted Hills of Oregon

Painted Hills 750

You have to keep reminding yourself that what you are seeing is real. The rolling, rounded hills striped with colors of rich rust, deep green, and yellow appear surreal, like an artist’s conception of outer space. You want to capture them on camera quickly before the illusion disappears, just to prove to the folks at home this marvelous pallet of pastels really exists.

Believe it. The Painted Hills in north central Oregon are authentic, and very old. About 30 million years ago, volcanoes from the Cascade Mountains 100 miles to the west deposited layer upon layer of cooled ash over the region. In time, plants and animals churned the surface, water flowed, eroding and redistributing the minerals, and air oxidized the ash. Many different minerals combine to produce the colorful display we see today: aluminum, silicon, iron, magnesium, manganese, sodium, and many more.

Very few plants are able to grow on the Painted Hills. The soils bind water so intensely plants are unable to draw nourishment. So, except in crevasses and gullies where some plants survive, the hills are bare.

From a distance the striped hill surfaces look hard as though they are painted on canvas, but close-up, you can see they have a popcorn appearance and, particularly after a rain, they are soft and spongy. For this reason, visitors are asked to keep on trails and to avoid walking on the hills. Noticeable trails, however, are created by deer and antelope.

Several good walking trails traverse Painted Hills with excellent interpretive signs and brochures. The moderately strenuous, 1.5-mile Carroll Rim Trail rewards the hiker with an outstanding view of the Painted Hills and Sutton Mountain. For a close-up view of a crimson hill and to see the claystone popcorn structure, take the short Painted Cove Trail which winds around the hill on a wooden walkway.

Another interesting hike is the quarter-mile Leaf Hill Trail that takes walkers past the area where large quantities of plant fossils have been removed for study. Except for this trail, fossils are rarely found in the Painted Hills.

The Painted Hills, located 10 miles west of Mitchell, off U.S. 26, is one of three units of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. In 1975 Congress established the monument which is composed of 14,000 acres and contains rocks preserving millions of years of plant and animal life. The other two units are the Sheep Rock Unit, near the town of Dayville, Oregon, and the Clarno Unit, 18 miles west of Fossil, Oregon. The Sheep Rock Unit, located at the intersection of State Route 19 and U.S. 26, has several trails and overlooks.

The Clarno Unit, 18 miles west of Fossil, OR, known for its Clarno Nut Beds, is one of the world’s finest fossil plant sources where more than 300 plant species have been found. Several trails allow visitors to see the actual fossils embedded in rock.

Be sure to visit the Thomas Condon Palenotology Center, a National Park Service research facility dedicated to the John Day Fossil Beds. It also serves as the park visitor center and fossil museum. We were fascinated as we watched through a picture window a scientist at work in a laboratory and collections room which contains more than 45,000 specimens.

Another interesting side visit is the James Cant Ranch, located on both sides of the John Day River in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. The Cant Ranch complex is preserved as an interpretive site showing visitors an early 20th-century livestock ranch. The James Cant Ranch is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition, there are several short trails with exhibits showing a ranch of yesteryear with original wagons and farming equipment.

There are several camping facilities near Prineville, a small town (population 5,000) about 50 miles southwest of the Painted Hills. Prineville Reservoir State Park, located 17 miles south of Prineville, is a large 70-site facility. In addition, several U.S. Forest Service campgrounds are in the area.

Take your time at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. The area, particularly the Painted Hills, is a unique, fascinating place to visit and a photographer’s delight.


Swagger into Methow Valley’s Old West


When you drift into the Methow Valley, you’re in cowboy country where cattle and horses outnumber people. The Charlie Russell landscapes are the genuine article, and, in fact, it is widely believed that Owen Wister, famed author of The Virginian, derived many of the settings and heroes of his novel from Methow Valley and Winthrop.

Today, the Methow (pronounced Met-how) Valley comprises the small towns of Mazama, Winthrop, Twisp, Carlton and Pateros with lush open country in between where fields of baled hay, pastured livestock and big old weathered barns are graced with a backdrop of the rugged Cascade Mountains.

Winthrop, one of the most popular towns in the valley, offers the facilities and services you’d expect from a major vacation center but with a strong western flavor. Strolling down the town’s wooden sidewalks, you’ll find yourself back in the 19th Century West with false-front wooden buildings, hitching rails and other western trappings. If you time it right this fall, you may witness cowboys (the real thing!) on horseback driving cattle down Winthrop’s main street, moving them from mountain summer pastures.

Mountain lodges, resorts, dude ranches, conventional motels, and bed and breakfast inns abound in Winthrop. Seventeen campgrounds located within eight miles of Winthrop include state parks, forest service campgrounds and private campgrounds. It’s a great place to shop, especially for unique gift items and western clothing. A steak dinner takes on a definite western flavor here and if you happen to be visiting on a Saturday night, you’ll have a chance to dance to the strong beat of western music.

Of special interest in Winthrop is the Shafter Museum with exhibits of furniture, tools, bicycles and carriages depicting the area’s early days. Adjacent buildings feature a well-stocked old-fashioned country store and displays of old mining equipment.

For a romping, stomping good time, take in the rodeos Memorial Day weekend, May 23 & 24 and the Labor Day weekend, September 5 & 6, presented by Methow Valley Horsemen.

Twisp, like Winthrop and the other small valley towns, offers good browsing for western art and craft items made by local artisans. At the western edge of town, the U.S. Forest Service Smokejumper Base welcomes visitors during fire season, normally June through October. Parachuting firefighters in to fight forest fires began here as a national experiment in 1939.

Dozens of small lakes dot the region making the Methow and adjacent Okanogan country ideal for trout fishing. Most of the lakes have campgounds and small rustic resorts with rental boats available. The Methow River is a renown rafting destination and several outdoor companies operate regular trips. One-day or overnight horsepacking and backpacking offer a closer look at the forestlands and the spectacular Pasayten Wilderness north of Winthrop.

The Methow Valley is a great destination, rich in wild scenery and plenty of things to do. For more information, call the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce, (509) 996-2125,
or visit the Methow Valley website at

In Memory of the Oklahoma City Bombing

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Field of Empty Chairs, a reminder of each life lost. In the background, The Reflecting Pool to the right; Gate of Time to the left.


It was a normal Wednesday morning under a clear blue Oklahoma City sky on April 19, 1995. Workers made their way to offices, dropped off children at the building’s day-care center, perhaps poured themselves a cup of coffee to get a jump-start on their
day. Then, at 9:02, America’s innocence changed forever when the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was bombed, killing 168 people and injuring more than 500.

How could such a horrific thing happen on American soil? Timothy McVeigh, a former decorated United States Army soldier, claimed that the bombing was revenge for “what the U.S. government did at Waco and Ruby Ridge.” McVeigh and accomplice Terry Nichols, used readily available toxic industrial chemicals, ammonium nitrate, an agricultural fertilizer, and nitromethane, a highly volatile motor-racing fuel, to accomplish their despicable deed.

The attackers parked a rented Ryder truck in a loading area with a timer set to explode about 5,000 pounds of the highly combustible material. The explosion resulted in the worst terrorist attack on United States soil prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks. McVeigh was executed and accomplice Terry Nichols was sentenced to life in prison. A third party, Michael Fortier received a 12-year prison sentence plus a $200,000 fine for failure to warn authorities about the attack.

The blast tore away more than a third of the Murrah Building, but destroyed the entire building. In addition, fourteen buildings in the vicinity had to be torn down due to extensive destruction and another 312 buildings within a sixteen-block radius were damaged.

More than 12,000 people participated in relief and rescue work, including twenty-four canine units. Prompt investigation gave vital clues to the complexity of the crime and early leads on a suspect and accomplices led to extraordinarily quick arrests. Visitors watch news clips and special bulletins televised from around the world.

From April 20 to May 4, 1995 rescue and recovery operations poured into the area. Professional rescue workers, volunteers and canine units from all over the country clawed through the rubble to help dig out survivors and recover the dead. In the children’s day-care center directly above the mobile bomb, devastation was horrific. Upper floors collapsed onto those beneath them, crushing everyone and everything below.

Although the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was born of hatred and violence, visiting the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum is an uplifting experience. Poignant sights and artifacts of the bombing are in plain view, but also evident is what this sacred ground has become: a monument of hope and faith, of remembrance of loved ones lost, of human spirits rising above this inhumane act.

Three distinct components comprise the memorial: the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial, dedicated on April 19, 2000, the fifth anniversary of the attack; the Memorial Museum, dedicated one year later, April 19, 2001; the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, a concept founded by families and survivors during the writing of the Mission Statement in 1995.

Wandering the grounds where the building once stood, visitors soon see that every exhibit is a vital symbol of this experience. One of the most poignant, the Field of Empty Chairs is a reminder of each life lost. The chairs, including nineteen smaller chairs representing the children who died, placed in nine rows, represent the nine floors of the building. Made of bronze, stone and glass, the chairs are placed in the row according to what floor the person was working or visiting when killed.

For more information, visit or call 1-888-542-HOPE (4673).

The Treasure of the Steamboat Arabia

Dishes and other goods at "old store."

Dishes and other goods at “old store.”

While attending a Women Writing the West conference, our group visited the amazing Arabia Steamboat Museum, a historic Kansas City, MO attraction.

In 1856, the 171-foot-long, side-wheeler steamboat Arabia sank to the bottom of the Missouri River when her hull was pierced by a submerged tree, taking with it 200 tons of brand new store merchandise. The snag ripped open the hull which quickly filled with water. By the next morning, only the smokestacks and pilot house remained visible. Within the next few days, all remaining traces of the boat disappeared from sight. Numerous attempts to salvage the boat and her contents were attempted but, it appeared, all was lost. Although there were no human casualties, a mule that was tied to sawmill equipment went down with the ship.

Over time, the Missouri River changed course, leaving the Arabia buried deep in the mud of a farmer’s field. In 1987, Bob Hawley and his sons Greg and David set out to find the boat. Using old maps and a proton magnetometer to determine the location, they finally discovered the Arabia half a mile from the current river, under 45 feet of silt and topsoil.

The owners of the farm gave permission for excavation with the provision that the project be completed before spring planting. In November 1988, the Hawleys, along with family friends Jerry Mackery and David Luttrell, began the recovery task while the water table was at its lowest point. Heavy equipment was brought in including a 100-ton crane and 20 irrigation pumps to keep the site from flooding, Within days, goods were recovered, all in remarkably good shape. A wooden crate filled with elegant china was so well preserved even its yellow straw packing material was still intact. Pickles sealed in a wooden barrel were still edible. (Can’t you just hear that conversation: “You try it.” “No, you try it.”)

In February 1989, work ceased at the site and the pumps were turned off. The hole filled with water overnight.

Although the site of the sinking is near present-day Kansas City, Kansas, the cargo and remnants of the ship are now housed in The Arabia Steamboat Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. The museum houses one of the most remarkable collections of pre-Civil War artifacts in the world. Each piece has been carefully cleaned, categorized and attractively displayed. The collection is still a work in progress as preservationists continue to clean remaining artifacts.

The Arabia Steamboat Museum is a fascinating collection of goods including European dishware, jewelry, guns, tools, clothing and food products,. The attractive displays are works of art with items exhibited on furniture replicas, effectively creating a time-capsule of frontier life in the 1800’s.

The Arabia Steamboat Museum is a perfect destination if you’re in the Kansas City, MO area. For more information, visit

Hibulb Cultural Center: Keeping the Cultural Fires Burning


The Hibulb Cultural Center & Natural History Preserve is a fascinating museum located on the Tulalip Reservation adjacent to the city of Marysville, Washington, 34 miles north of Seattle. Hibulb (pronounced Hee-bolb) is resplendent with tribal folk lore, carving, weaving, knitting, and sculpture.

The center is named for the large village of Hibulb that was at the end of a bluff overlooking Puget Sound. Warriors who lived in longhouses at Hibulb protected their people from invasion of their territories. From Hibulb, they could see enemies approaching from a long distance and they would light a huge signal fire to warn the other villages and longhouses across the bay and up the Snohomish River.

Tulalip Tribes, the People of the Salmon, are a federally recognized tribe of Duwamish, Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Skagit, Suiattle, Samish, and Stillaguamish people. The 22,000-acre Tulalip Reservation was established in 1855 by a treaty that guaranteed hunting and fishing rights to all tribes represented by the signers. In return for the reservation and other benefits promised in the treaty by the United States government, the Duwamish Tribe exchanged over 54,000 acres of their homeland which includes much of modern-day King County.

Today the Tulalip Reservation is thriving with businesses that serve more than 6 million visitors a year and is one of the largest employers in Snohomish County.

The Hibulb Cultural Center, which opened in 2010, is located on a 50-acre natural history preserve. The 23,000-square foot structure features a main exhibit, a revolving temporary exhibit, two classrooms, a longhouse, a research library and a gift shop. The Center provides an introduction to these Northwest tribes, their culture and history.

The exhibits of the Hibulb Cultural Center may be viewed on a self-guided tour, but we had the pleasure of joining a group guided by Lois, a tribal member who is knowledgeable and informative. We met first in the cedar Longhouse which is built into the museum, I learned that not all Indians were teepee dwellers. The Tulalip peoples lived in longhouses, each of which might house 14 to 20 families. Tribal meetings were held in the longhouses and even today it is an important center where teachings and traditions are passed from generation to generation.

The Tulalip have a binding relationship to cedar and salmon. At the Center, visitors learn how weaving, fishing and cooking defined their culture. The cedar tree is considered a gift to serve throughout one’s life. Every part of the tree is used with nothing wasted. It is a perfect resource, providing everything from baskets, bowls, cloth, and canoes, to long-lasting carvings.

The Tulalip are a fishing people. The Cultural Center has a display showing fishing gear, traps and techniques. Also shown is a “summer house” where they lived while fishing, hunting, gathering berries, etc.

Formal education began at Tulalip in 1857 with a Catholic priest, Father Chirouse, who taught English, reading, spelling, history and math. He himself was a student of theirs as he learned to speak one of the local dialects, Lushootseed. Father Chirouse was revered by the Tulalip people and later became an Indian Agent and the voice of the people.

A sad period in the history of the Tulalip as well as many Indian tribes, is when, in the 1800’s, the U.S. Government required all native children to leave their homes and stay in boarding schools. In an attempt to “civilize” the children, they were forbidden to speak their native language, practice their own religion and beliefs, or wear their accustomed clothing. The children were allowed little contact with their own families. Father Chirouse’s school was closed and replaced by a more military-style education. The result of total immersion into the white man’s world caused the old customs and native languages to become nearly extinct.

Most of the languages have been restored, thanks to the elders who still remembered and who realized their culture was in danger of vanishing. Ancient languages were not written languages, but with dedicated effort, ways of writing the sounds have been found and, with great effort, many of these “lost” languages have been reinstated.

At the Cultural Center, many walls are decorated with small plaques of men and women who have served with the United States Armed Forces. Each wall acknowledges a particular war or period served. The Tulalip Tribes Veteran’s Department has combined forces with other veteran programs to help provide services for returning warriors.

A special exhibit, Coast Salish Canoes, will be on display until June, giving visitors an opportunity to learn about different types of canoes, their construction, and important canoe carvers. The display shows the canoe travel routes in Puget Sound and traditional canoe-based gatherings ranging from canoe races to festivals and journeys. Following a time-line approach, the display shows the history of canoes to present day.

Plan on spending some time at Hibulb Cultural Center. Although it can be self-guided, I recommend joining a guided tour. The short stories and anecdotes are fascinating and informative. To learn more about the Center, visit

Thar She Blows! Whale Watching in the Northwest

Whale Frank A

Photo courtesy of Frank Alishio. Taken from boat on south side of Camano Island, WA.


It’s whale watching time! Each year from March throughout the summer months, the fascination of whale watching begins in Puget Sound.

So where can you spot these gigantic mammals? The gray, a baleen whale, is regularly spotted in the Saratoga Passage and other shallow, muddy beaches around Camano Island. Another baleen whale, the minke, also is seen in Puget Sound.

Baleen whales are identified by horny, elastic material that forms a fringed mesh in their mouth, used for trapping food.

The orca, a toothed whale, is most commonly seen in the waters of the San Juan Islands. One popular place on San Juan Island is Lime Kiln State Park, just 8 miles from Friday Harbor overlooking Haro Strait. This day-use park is the nation’s first whale-watching park.

Orcas, also known as “killer” whales because of their voracious appetite for salmon, porpoise, or even whales, reside in Puget Sound year round but sightings are more common beginning in March.

The orca is not really a whale at all but is the largest member of the dolphin family. However, it is commonly called a whale because of its size and habits. The distinctive black and white orcas are probably the most studied group of marine mammals in the world.

Gray whales, once nearly extinct, have made a remarkable comeback and can be seen making their north-bound migration from March through June. These giants can reach 45 feet in length, compared to the orcas’ 30 feet, and gray whales have a blotchy pattern of light and dark gray coloration.

It is estimated that gray whales consume about seven percent of their body weight each day. Grays feed primarily on bottom-dwelling amphipods (shrimp like animals), clams and worms, and suck up several cubic feet of sediment at a time, filtering it through their baleen plates. They are often seen surfacing with mud streaming from their heads.

The minke whale ranges between 25 and 30 feet long and has dark coloring on its back and small dorsal fin. Because of their coloring, minke whales are often mistaken for female orca. One distinction between them is that the minke travels alone, unlike the female orca who normally travel in groups. Minke whales come to the Puget Sound area during summer time and return to the Pacific Ocean in winter.

What do you watch for when on the lookout for whales? Whether you’re on shore or on a boat, watch for the whale’s blow which consists of vapor, water, or condensation blown into the air up to 12 feet when the whale exhales. Once a blow is located, keep watching. Where you’ve seen one, you’ll see others.

Whales breathe rhythmically and normally follow a pattern of three to five shallow dives in a row followed by a deep dive, to a depth of up to 500 feet. When you see tail flukes come out of the water, it usually means a whale is starting a deep dive. The Orca may stay submerged 3 to 5 minutes while the gray and minke may not surface for 8 to 15 minutes. When whales surface, they blow.

Sometimes whales lift their heads straight out of the water, a maneuver called spyhopping. Some whale experts believe this activity allows the animal to visually find out where it is in relationship to the shoreline.

Another thrilling sight is breaching, when a whale leaps into the air exposing up to three fourths of its body length. The whale then falls on its side or back with a tremendous splash. Whales will sometimes breach several times in a row.

If you’re fortunate enough to be near waters where whales are passing through, enjoy the show. Whale watching is one of the Northwest’s splashiest spectacles.
These giant mammals will give you a show to remember.

For more information on whales, visit