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  • Writer's pictureEdward Leonard

Sunday Dreaded Sunday

Growing up I remember adults complaining about Sundays as they dreaded the coming Monday. I never wanted to feel they way they did and for a long time I didn't. I used to get excited about work. Honestly, I probably spent 20 out of the past 27 years working at the same company where I worked at least a few hours every weekend. Recently though, I've started to feel that dread.

Today, my answer to avoiding this dread was a full day of birding and hiking with the family. The day started with Andy and I heading down to Billy Frank Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. This is a favorite birding spot of ours. We hoped to see either a Black Tern or a Common Term both of which had been reported over the past couple of days, but we were skeptical. Regardless, it was fun just to get out and spot a few birds.

The Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, originally established as the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in 1974, is located at the southern end of Puget Sound in Washington State. It was created to protect the diverse estuarine ecosystem formed by the confluence of the Nisqually River and Puget Sound. In 2015, the refuge was renamed to honor Billy Frank Jr., a prominent Native American environmental leader and treaty rights activist from the Nisqually Tribe. Frank dedicated his life to the stewardship of natural resources and the fight for indigenous fishing rights. His efforts not only helped preserve the ecological richness of the Nisqually Delta but also strengthened the recognition and respect for Native American treaty rights across the United States. The refuge stands as a testament to his legacy and commitment to conservation and indigenous rights.

We got a few fun birds and some good photos.

After Nisqually, I dropped Andy off and picked up Sandra to go for a hike she picked: Coal Creek Falls Loop Via Red Twon and Cave Hole Trail. Apple Maps missed the construction so we ended up parking a little far away, but who can complain an extra half mile under the lush canopy where I was able to show Sandra a pair of Brown Creepers.

The trail itself was rated as Moderate. Initially it seemed too easy, but before too long I got out of breath as we made it up the inclines. Not too steep, but I have some opportunity to lighten my load.

We ended up walking 4 miles (+ 2.5 earlier with Andy). As a result of all the effort today, I feel no dread of tomorrow. I feel relaxed. I feel like we lived in the moment today. Birding and hiking in nature with my family pulled my focus into the present. I am pretty thankful for the day. I can't wait until next weekend for our next adventures.


Now for some ChatGPT commentary (why does chatgpt like "nestled" so much?)

Embracing Nature’s Harmony: A Visit to Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

Nestled near the southern tip of Puget Sound in Washington state lies a sanctuary of tranquility and natural beauty: the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge, named in honor of the late Billy Frank Jr., a Native American environmental leader and treaty rights activist, serves as a reminder of the enduring connection between humans and nature. Spanning over 4,500 acres, it offers a haven for wildlife and a serene escape for visitors seeking solace amidst the bustling Pacific Northwest.

As you approach the refuge, the first thing that strikes you is the landscape’s seamless transition from the urban to the wild. The bustling streets of nearby Olympia quickly give way to vast expanses of wetlands, estuaries, and forested uplands. It's a mosaic of habitats that support a rich diversity of flora and fauna. The air grows fresher, imbued with the salty tang of the Sound and the earthy scent of marshlands.

Walking along the boardwalk trails that snake through the refuge, you are immediately immersed in a world teeming with life. The Nisqually River, flowing from the glacier-clad peaks of Mount Rainier, meanders through the refuge before merging with the tidal waters of Puget Sound. This confluence of freshwater and saltwater creates a dynamic estuarine environment, one of the most productive ecosystems on Earth.

The morning mist lingers over the water, creating an ethereal atmosphere. Herons stand statuesque in the shallows, their piercing eyes scanning for fish, while flocks of migratory birds dart overhead, their calls echoing in the stillness. The refuge is a critical stopover on the Pacific Flyway, hosting tens of thousands of migratory birds each year. During the fall and spring migrations, the skies and wetlands come alive with the vibrant hues and sounds of waterfowl, shorebirds, and raptors.

As you continue along the Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail, you encounter interpretive signs that narrate the history and ecology of the area. They tell the story of Billy Frank Jr., whose tireless efforts in advocating for Native American fishing rights and environmental stewardship are woven into the fabric of this landscape. His legacy is palpable here, a testament to the power of indigenous wisdom and the importance of preserving our natural heritage.

The boardwalk extends out into the tidal flats, offering panoramic views of the estuary and the distant Olympic Mountains. On a clear day, the snow-capped peaks form a stunning backdrop to the tranquil waters below. The interplay of light and shadow, the shifting tides, and the ever-changing skies create a scene that is both dynamic and timeless.

Further along, you reach the Twin Barns Loop Trail, which takes you through lush riparian forests and open meadows. The scent of cedar and Douglas fir fills the air, and the occasional rustle in the underbrush hints at the presence of deer or other woodland creatures. Here, the sounds of civilization are a distant memory, replaced by the symphony of rustling leaves, bird calls, and the gentle murmur of flowing water.

The refuge is not just a haven for wildlife, but also a place of reflection and learning. Visitors of all ages can engage in educational programs, guided tours, and hands-on activities that deepen their understanding of the natural world. The Visitor Center, with its exhibits and knowledgeable staff, serves as a gateway to the rich ecological and cultural tapestry of the Nisqually Delta.

As the day draws to a close, the setting sun casts a golden glow over the landscape. The silhouettes of trees and birds are etched against the vibrant hues of the sky, creating a scene of serene beauty. It is a moment of quiet contemplation, a reminder of the delicate balance between human activity and natural preservation.

The Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is more than just a place to observe wildlife; it is a testament to the resilience of nature and the enduring legacy of those who fight to protect it. It offers a sanctuary for both the creatures that call it home and the humans who seek respite within its bounds. Visiting this refuge is a journey into the heart of the Pacific Northwest’s natural splendor, a journey that leaves you with a profound sense of peace and a renewed commitment to preserving the wild places that enrich our lives.

Exploring Coal Creek Falls: A Journey Through Nature and History

Just a short drive from the bustling heart of Seattle, nestled within the verdant expanse of Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, lies a hidden gem that invites adventurers and history enthusiasts alike. The Coal Creek Falls Loop, accessed via the Red Town and Cave Hole Trail, offers an enriching blend of natural beauty, serene landscapes, and poignant historical remnants. This approximately 5.5-mile loop with a moderate elevation gain of around 600 feet promises an experience that is both invigorating and reflective.

The journey begins at the Red Town Trailhead, named in homage to the historic mining town that once thrived in this area. The ample parking here can fill up quickly, especially on weekends, hinting at the trail’s popularity among locals and visitors alike. As you step onto the trail, the air immediately feels fresher, imbued with the earthy scent of the forest and the promise of adventure.

The initial steps of the hike take you on the Red Town Trail, a well-marked path that ascends gently through a lush, second-growth forest. Towering firs stretch towards the sky, their canopies filtering the sunlight into a delicate, dappled glow that dances on the forest floor. Ferns and moss blanket the ground, creating a rich tapestry of green that soothes the soul and invigorates the spirit. As you walk, historical markers punctuate the trail, offering glimpses into the area’s coal mining past. Rusted remnants of mining equipment and interpretive signs narrate stories of a bygone era when the land was alive with the industry’s hustle and bustle.

About a mile into the hike, the trail forks. Taking the left path, you embark on the Cave Hole Trail. This segment of the journey feels like a step back in time, winding through dense underbrush and past intriguing depressions in the ground – relics of the old mining days. These "cave holes," now safely covered, are the remains of vertical mine shafts, serving as solemn reminders of the area’s industrial heritage.

Two miles in, the sound of rushing water grows louder, guiding you to the hike’s centerpiece: Coal Creek Falls. Though modest in height at around 20 feet, the falls are particularly picturesque, especially after a period of rain when the water cascades more vigorously over the rocky ledge. The surrounding area, with its moss-covered rocks and thick foliage, offers a serene and refreshing pause. Here, the symphony of flowing water and the whispering leaves create a moment of pure tranquility, perfect for rest and reflection.

Continuing from the falls, the trail loops back towards the Red Town Trail. This portion of the hike involves a few more moderate ascents and descents, weaving through dense forest and across small creeks. The rich biodiversity here is notable, with frequent sightings of birds, small mammals, and a variety of plant species. Each step through this section feels like a deeper immersion into nature’s embrace, where the air is filled with the symphony of bird calls and the rustle of leaves.

As you near the end of the loop, the path widens, and the distant hum of civilization begins to reemerge. The final stretch is a gentle descent, bringing you back to where the journey began. The return to the Red Town Trailhead completes the loop, leaving you with a profound sense of connection to both nature and history.

The Coal Creek Falls Loop via Red Town and Cave Hole Trail is more than just a hike; it is a journey through time and nature. It offers a rewarding escape from the urban hustle, providing a sanctuary where the mind can wander and the soul can find peace. Whether you are a history buff, a nature enthusiast, or simply seeking a tranquil retreat, this trail offers a unique and enriching experience that lingers long after the hike is over.

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