This past weekend was Reconnect Earth’s Student Activism Training Summit at Bay View State Park, two days of discussing important environmental and social justice issues, developing activism skills, and getting to know a truly beautiful part of the Salish Sea region. On Saturday morning eight of us carpooled from Bellingham to the State Park, which sits on the edge of Padilla Bay. Soon after arrival we gathered on the beach to orient ourselves to our place in the landscape. We discussed the unique ecology of Padilla Bay–which has estuary characteristics from when the mouth of the Skagit River flowed into before the course of the river was altered by human activity. And we educated ourselves about the history of nearby Indigenous peoples now living on the Swinomish Reservation, and who have inhabited this landscape since time immemorial.
Later on Saturday, in one of the cabins where we’d be spending the night we delved into one of the most important activist components of the trip: learning best practices for public outreach, communications, and event planning as they relate to putting on strong activist events. Whether planning a rally or educational event, we explored how to communicate with the public in ways that maximize of having a successful, well-attended event. On Sunday we followed this up with a discussion on how to influence elected officials or other decision-making officials through events that demonstrate public support while playing to your campaign’s strengths. During the course of our time together we also worked to identify ways of combating White supremacy and other forms of oppression in outdoor spaces, and participated in an activity that reminded us of the roots of our motivation as activists.
One of the highlights of the trip was on Sunday when we went for a hike along the edge of Padilla Bay itself. This part of Washington sits on a major bird migration route, where thousands of waterfowl who nest in Alaska or Canada wait out the winter before returning to those northern regions for breeding season. We spotted snow geese, swans, buffleheads, and two species of mergansers. Along with these waterfowl sightings came glimpses of raptors like northern harriers and majestic bald eagles.
Sunday in the late afternoon we headed back to Bellingham, ready to take action for a more just, sustainable Earth. Be on the lookout for other Reconnect Earth trips and activism opportunities coming up later this winter and spring!
This past Sunday Reconnect Earth set out on our last weekend day trip of the Fall 2019 season, a hike through Stimpson Forest Nature Reserve on the edge of Bellingham. This tract of land, part of the homeland of the Lummi Nation since time immemorial, is unique in that while some logging has occurred there over the past century it has never been completely clear-cut and some trees hundreds of years old are still standing as they have for centuries. The reserve has characteristics of an old growth forest including not just big trees, but abundant fallen woody debris, snags, and a multi-layered understory. It is truly a beautiful place.
We met at the trailhead, several of us having taken the 512 bus from downtown Bellingham that conveniently stops right across the street. We then followed a route that took us in a loop through forest cover of varying ages, including groves where the enormous, old Douglas-firs stand.
About halfway through the trip we stopped for a nature journaling and observation exercise designed to help sharpen our awareness of the landscape through which we were passing. This led to interesting discussions about what it means to be alert to the surroundings and how we perceive both the human and non-human elements of outdoor environments. As we practiced sketching and writing down observations, a deer made her own observations of our group while she nibbled on nearby shrubs.
Other highlights of the trip included spotting colorful mushrooms on the moist forest floor, hearing the sound of a Pacific chorus frog from a wetland close by, observing woodpeckers holes and other signs of animal activity, and discussing the important role of forests in sequestering carbon. We finished by talking about upcoming opportunities to take action on climate change locally, including Bellingham’s December 6th Climate Strike and chances to give input on local government energy policy.
Although this was Reconnect Earth’s last trip of the fall, we will be back with more weekend trips starting in late January. Keep an eye out for the Winter and Spring 2020 schedule which will be posted on this website soon!
On November 10th Reconnect Earth set out to witness one of the most spectacular seasonal phenomena in the Pacific Northwest: the return of migrating adult salmon to their spawning ground in the streams where they were born. The group of us met up at Bellingham’s Arroyo Park, then followed the trail down to Chuckanut Creek and investigated several spots along the creek looking for salmon.
We were fortunate to get an up-close look at some of these amazing fish as they struggled upstream through the shallow waters. Though we didn’t want to disturb the salmon, there were times when we could have reached out and touched them. We also took time to identify and appreciate other animals and plants we encountered, including the three main conifer tree species that grow in the park: western red cedar, western hemlock, and Douglas-fir.
At this time of year Chuckanut Creek is home to migrating chum salmon, one of the five salmon species in the Northwest. We found numerous salmon resting in pools and fighting their way up through the rocky riffles as they sought their spawning grounds. This year’s returning adult salmon will lay eggs that hatch next year and give birth to a new generation of fish who will migrate to the ocean and spend years there fattening up before returning to their freshwater streams and beginning the cycle anew.
After taking plenty of time to appreciate the salmon, we gathered up for a discussion about the history of Indigenous peoples and colonialism in the Pacific Northwest. Like all parts of North America, the Northwest has a brutal history marked by genocide and the theft of land from Indigenous nations. These injustices have yet to be rectified and are still with us today. Our group participated in an activity meant to spark discussion by building a timeline of events from the past 200 years that affected Indigenous people in this region. Though this history includes many atrocities carried out by European colonists, it also includes inspiring stories of Indigenous resistance. From the rebellion led by Nisqually Chief Leschi in the 1850s, to recent victories won in court by tribes like the Lummi defending their salmon fishing rights, Indigenous people have been fighting back since the first wave of colonization began.
Our conversations about local Indigenous history led to an extremely thought-provoking discussion about the wider implications of colonization, and how traditional societies all over the world have cared for the landscapes they have inhabited since time immemorial. We finished by talking about a couple of upcoming opportunities to take action on environmental issues, including a December 3rd public hearing on a proposed crude fossil fuel export ban in Whatcom County, and the December 6th national day of climate strikes.
Overall this year’s salmon-searching trip was a big success when it came to both seeing fish and exploring the complex issues that define our relationship with the more-than-human world. Reconnect Earth has one more weekend trip coming up this fall. Learn more and sign up to join it here.
On Sunday, October 27th Reconnect Earth took a trip to one of the best sites to access the amazing shoreline ecosystems along the coast of Northwest Washington: Clayton Beach in Larrabee State Park. For countless millennia, Indigenous peoples like the Lummi have harvested the rich bounty of marine life along this area’s coast, relying on fish and shellfish as a major food source. We discussed this human history, looked for life among the rocks and pools along the beach, and talked about issues facing marine ecosystems and how to take positive action.
The tidepools along Clayton Beach support an amazing diversity of marine invertebrates–from thousands of acorn barnacles coating the rocks, to strawberry and aggregate green sea anemones extending their delicate tentacles, to predatory marine snails known as whelks that prowl the barnacle and mussel beds. In the waters off shore marine birds including grebes, loons, and cormorants rode the waves and dove to pursue fish. We spent plenty of time admiring these various creatures and observing their behavior.
Among the most active animals we came across were the crabs that scuttle among the rocks at low tide. They included the one pictured here, which we identified here as a black-clawed shore crab. Much tinier hermit crabs scurried along the bottoms of tide pools, lugging the snail shells they commandeer to use as mobile shelters. Then there were the shell-producing animals themselves, like the hundreds of tiny periwinkle snails scattered all over the tide pools and barnacle beds. Among the more active creates, the occasional limpet clung to a rock beneath its dome-shaped shell, waiting for high tide to come in.
Toward the end of our time at the beach we gathered together for a discussion about threats to marine environments including destructive fishing practices, fossil fuel export projects, and epidemics like seastar wasting disease that have been tied to climate change. We then talked about people and movements who are taking positive action to combat climate change, including young activists like Greta Thunberg and leaders of the Sunrise Movement. We discussed how to get involved in organizing efforts right here in Bellingham, including work to launch a local Sunrise Movement hub.
On Saturday Reconnect Earth set out on our first weekend day trip of the Fall 2019 season: a hike to beautiful Lost Lake in The Chuckanut Mountains just sought of Bellingham. Our group of seven people started at the North Chuckanut Mountain Trailhead, following the Hemlock and North Lost Lake Trails which took us gradually uphill higher into the Chuckanuts. Large Douglas-fir and western red cedar trees towered above us, and we paused throughout the trip to identify and talk about local plant species that also included western hemlock, big-leaf and vine maples, Oregon grape, sword ferns, and many others. Bird calls and the occasional long trill of a Douglas squirrel sounded from the forest canopy above us.
As we approached Lost Lake our group also stopped to appreciate one of the most impressive landscape features in this area: the immense Chuckanut Sandstone cliff formations. We looked up at these cliffs composed of compressed marine sediments that accumulated over the course of millions of years. Today the Chuckanut Sandstone shelters a variety of lichens that grow in the open rock face, and are a great place to look for fossils of ancient plant life.
Finally we reached the lake itself, a secluded spot in the heart of the Chuckanuts where water lilies float on the water’s calm surface and dragonflies patrol their territory. Some of us ventured out on fallen logs that took us several yards over the lake itself, while others chose to stay safely on shore. After exploring the lake for a while our group gathered together and had an lively discussion about climate change and its impacts on Washington. We also discussed groups and individuals who are taking the lead on confronting the climate crisis, from local sustainable business owners to the global Climate Strike movement.
On the return trip to the trailhead we had almost reached our destination when we were treated to a last unexpected wildlife encounter: two deer wandering across the trail who we were able to approach within feet of. It was a fitting conclusion to another memorable adventure into Northwest Washington’s wild places with Reconnect Earth.
Bruna Press & Archives, 221 Prospect Street, Bellingham, WA
Join Reconnect Earth for this special event on Nov. 9th celebrating and supporting the next generation of environmental leaders. Over the course of the evening you’ll hear readings from winners of a student (ages 16-29) essay and poem contest on re-imagining an inclusive twenty-first century environmental movement, learn how Reconnect Earth’s programs are supporting student activism, have the chance to enter a raffle of items donated by local businesses and artists, and enjoy light refreshments.
This event is a fundraiser that helps make possible Reconnect Earth’s work to foster and grow a network of empowered young leaders to sustain grassroots environmental and social movements for years to come. A donation of $15-$40 (depending on your income level) at the door is suggested. Other opportunities to donate will be available throughout the evening.
A new school year is here, and Reconnect Earth is getting ready for another season of weekend trips to beautiful natural areas in and around Bellingham, WA. This fall we’ll be hiking to Lost Lake in the Chuckanut Mountains, exploring the vibrant marine life along Samish Bay, and looking for migrating salmon, among other adventures. Learn more about specific upcoming trips and sign up to join one here!