Author Archives: nickengelfried

About nickengelfried

I'm a writer, naturalist, educator, and activist.

Finding Fall Salmon

IMG_20181110_133450970The annual migration of adult salmon up streams and rivers throughout the Northwest to their natal spawning grounds is one of the most incredible phenomena in this region. This past Saturday Reconnect Earth visited Arroyo Park in Bellingham to search for migrating salmon swimming up Chuckanut Creek. And we found them!

About twelve trip participants, many Western Washington University students, met early Saturday afternoon at Arroyo Park and hiked a short way down the trail to the creek. The park protects healthy Douglas-firs, western red ceders, western hemlock, and other native plants that shelter Chuckanut Creek from erosion and too much direct sunlight. The result is good habitat for the large number of chum salmon who migrate up the creek every fall.

IMG_20181110_152854561We knew we’d be most likely to find salmon resting in the deeper pools, gathering their energy in preparation for a run up the shallower rapids or riffles. We began our search in an area with relatively shallow pools, and found a few salmon sheltering behind large rocks. With their splotchy coloration and green-and-tan banding on their sides, chum salmon are good at camouflaging among rocks and sticks. This species is the most abundant salmon in Washington, and is found in many streams throughout the Puget Sound watershed.

As our group made its way upstream, we saw more salmon. We also stopped to admire birds like a Pacific wren flitting through the shrubbery along the path, and an American dipper bobbing up and down as it waded in the creek’s shallows. As we moved up the creek the sightings of salmon began to come more frequently.

IMG_20181110_152910047Then, just downstream of the wooden bridge that spans Chuckanut Creek, we found them: a whole large group of salmon resting in one of the deepest pools we’d come across. There must have been more than a dozen, though sometimes they were hard to see beneath the creek’s moving surface. We got our best glimpses of salmon when they came briefly into the shallower water, sometimes because they were being chased by another fish who felt its personal space being invaded.

After pausing by the big pool for a while we hiked a little farther upstream, then came back to the bridge for a conversation about salmon habitat needs and threats to their survival. We discussed what it takes for salmon to thrive: cool, clear streams free of turbidity; trees and other vegetation to shelter waterways and provide food for the insects juvenile salmon eat; and rivers unobstructed by impassable dams. The chum in Chuckanut Creek are a relatively healthy salmon run, but many other Northwest salmon are threatened by dams, deforestation, and large development projects in their habitat. All Northwest salmon are also potentially affected by climate change that reduces winter snowpack or otherwise leads to warmer, shallower streams.

IMG_20181110_134403947We also talked about proactive steps to help salmon and the many other species–like orcas–that depend on them for food. In early 2019 the Washington State Legislature will be meeting, presenting the state with an opportunity to take action on climate change and clean energy, stream restoration, and other environmental priorities. Our group discussed ways to engage in the legislative session including organizing carpools from Bellingham to attend the annual Environmental Lobby Day event in Olympia.

Finally, we took action to help salmon and the ecosystems they rely on by writing to local officials here in Bellingham. Before leaving Arroyo Park we got out pens, paper, and envelopes and wrote personalized letters to the new Bellingham Climate Action Task Force, expressing support for moving to 100% clean energy as rapidly as possible.

In sum it was a good day looking for wild salmon in their natural habitat in Chuckanut Creek. Members of our group left having observed one of the great wildlife dramas of the Pacific Northwest, and determined to do what we could to help ensure a healthy future for sensitive salmon populations.

Reconnect Earth Visits the Chuckanuts

IMG_20181021_154044071On Sunday, October 21st, a group of students from Western Washington University set out into the Chuckanut Mountains on Reconnect Earth’s first trip of the season. We started from the North Chuckanut Mountain Trailhead, just a short drive or bike ride from WWU and downtown Bellingham. It was a beautiful fall day with sunny weather and brilliant leaf colors on the numerous big-leafed maples, devil’s club, and other deciduous plant life.

Our group followed the Hemlock Trail through stands of maples, Douglas-fir, and western red cedar. Other plant life included a diversity of fern species and an abundance of young western hemlocks in the understory. Now and then we heard the hoarse call of a raven and glimpsed its dark silhouette weaving among the treetops. We also paused for some boulder climbing:


A couple miles into the hike we stopped at a trail junction for an activity meant to facilitate discussion about environmental justice and access to green space. Using a rope and sticks collected from the trail, we constructed a map of the Bellingham area large enough to stand and move about on. We then shifted our locations on the map in response to questions about the places where we live, buy food, go for enjoyment, and associate with nature, poverty, or danger. During the discussion participants brought up ways in which social forced concentrate less privileged and poverty-stricken communities away from large green spaces and close to sources of pollution.

IMG_20181021_134928069_HDRAfter the activity we set out hiking again and reached Cedar Lake, a beautiful body of water whose nearly-still surface reflected the conifer trees growing around it. Cedar Lake is one of relatively few places in Northwest Washington where species of all four of our region’s dominant lowland conifers–Douglas-fir, hemlock, cedar, and spruce–are found growing together in one spot. We watched fish jump in the lake and ate lunch on the sunny shore, then walked the trail that circles the lake.

IMG_20181021_140647121After taking time to explore the lake we began the hike back to the trailhead. Toward the end of our time in the woods we paused again to write letters to the City of Bellingham’s recently-established Climate Action Task Force. We discussed best practices for writing to elected officials or community leaders, and wrote in support of policies that will protect public health and the environment by moving Bellingham to 100% clean energy as rapidly as possible.

In all it was a great day enjoying the forest while discussing important issues that affect our community and taking action for an important environmental cause.

Want to join Reconnect Earth’s next fall trip? Look for migrating salmon with us on Saturday, November 10th.

Fall Trips Are Open for Registration!

IMG_20180506_152216244_HDR (2)This fall, Reconnect Earth is excited to announce we’re organizing four trips to some of the most beautiful places in and around Bellingham and Northwestern Washington. From weekend afternoon trips to places like the Chuckanut Mountains and Nooksack River, to a two-night Activist Training Retreat the last weekend in October, each of these events will give participants the chance to experience local ecosystems while activating our potential as agents of positive grassroots change.

Reconnect Earth prioritizes giving emerging leaders tools to build stronger, longer-lasting environmental and social justice movements–and our experiential trips are central to achieving this goal. We interpret the term “environment” broadly, believing it encompasses human communities and that social justice and equity are an integral part of an ecologically viable future. We envision vibrant movements for a sustainable and socially just society, powered with grassroots organizing done by people who will be in the movement for the long term because they feel connected to diverse natural and human communities.

So, want to hike through forests and along rivers, build grassroots organizing skills, and explore how you can make a difference on issues you care about in your community? Learn more about our fall trips and sign up here!

A Summer of Movement and Community-Building


Youth organizers at the Seattle Zero Hour March, one of the many events where Reconnect Earth had a presence this summer.

Reconnect Earth’s first summer is drawing to a close, and it was a season full of community outreach and building ties with people and organizations throughout northwest Washington and beyond. In particular, Reconnect Earth has prioritized contributing to and having a presence at events organized by people at the frontlines of confronting social and environmental injustice. Here are a few of the events where Reconnect Earth made an appearance over the last few months:

Bellingham Juneteenth Celebration, June 16th. Organized by Bellingham Black Lives Matter, this event was the city’s first-ever official community celebration of Juneteenth, a commemoration of the end of legal slavery after the U.S. Civil War. Bellingham’s Juneteenth event brought together organizations from throughout the community who are working on social justice, human rights, and environmental issues for a celebration of freedom, liberty, and justice for all. Reconnect Earth was honored to have an informational table at this important gathering.

Lummi Nation Stommish, June 23rd. First celebrated in 1946 to welcome returning Lummi veterans home from World War II, the Stommish Water Festival is an annual celebration of Lummi culture and heroism held on Lummi tribal lands. Reconnect Earth received permission to set up a table at this event, giving us a chance to talk with the hundreds of people who came to participate in Stommish. The Lummi and other Indigenous peoples have cared for the land and water in what is now Whatcom County since time immemorial, and it was truly a privilege to have a presence at this event.

Families Belong Together Rally, June 30th. Reconnect Earth joined many tens of thousands of people across the country to protest the Trump administration’s heartless separation of children and families in immigrant detention centers. Hundreds of people attended the local Families Belong Together rally in Bellingham, which was part of a nationwide mobilization held on June 30th.

Bellingham Pride, July 15th. No list of fun-filled, inspiring summer events in Bellingham would be complete without the local Pride festival. Thousand of participants in this year’s Pride came to attend a parade, organization fair, and other activities celebrating the LGBTQ community. Reconnect Earth had our table alongside dozens of other nonprofits, businesses, and community groups at Pride 2018, and we couldn’t be prouder to have joined hands in support of this event.

Zero Hour March, July 21st. When high school students from around the country announced the first-ever youth of color-led national climate mobilization, Reconnect Earth immediately realized supporting this event in whatever way we could fit right in with our mission and goals. Reconnect Earth and 350 Bellingham organized a carpool to attend the Zero Hour March in Seattle, on the same day as a huge youth-led march in DC and other, similar events throughout the country. The leadership and organizational prowess of the youth at the helm of Zero Hour should give hope to anyone concerned about the fate of our planet. It was an immense privilege to march alongside them in support of swift, equitable action to curb climate change.

Prior to participating in each of these events, Reconnect Earth first communicated with the organizers to make sure our presence there would be helpful and welcome. As our organization grows and continues our work, we’ll be doing our best to support movements like these through our work to foster and grow a network of empowered young leaders who will sustain grassroots social movements for years to come.

Reconnect Earth Supports Youth Mobilizing for Climate Action–Join Us!

unnamedSomething big is happening this month: Saturday, July 21st and the days leading up to it will mark the biggest youth of color-led mobilization for climate action in U.S. history. The Zero Hour movement was initiated by high school students in Seattle and has spread to become a nationwide uprising for just and equitable solutions to the climate crisis. Reconnect Earth is organizing to support this historic mobilization, and we want you to join us!

RSVP to participate in the youth-led Zero Hour movement with Reconnect Earth

Zero Hour will include a march of youth and their supporters on Washington, DC on July 21st, several sister marches in other major U.S. cities the same day, and other activities in the days leading up to that weekend. Reconnect Earth is working to coordinate carpools from Bellingham, WA to the Zero Hour march in Seattle, which begins at 9:00am at the Seattle Garfield Community Center Playfield. We’re also in the process of arranging a meeting with the office of Congressman Rick Larsen during the week of July 16-20th, where we’ll urge Rep. Larsen to support urgent action on climate change and the goals of the Zero Hour movement.

Young people will be dealing with the effects of climate change longer than any other generation alive today, while the effects of climate disruption and pollution from fossil fuel industries disproportionately impact people of color. Despite this, youth of color have for much too long been excluded from high-profile discussions about climate policy. The organizers of the Zero Hour movement are working to change that, and Reconnect Earth has been in contact with them to make sure what we’re doing supports their efforts.

Please help us support the Zero Hour movement by joining Reconnect Earth to march in Seattle, lobby in Bellingham, or both. RSVP here to let us know how you can participate.

Attend Reconnect Earth’s 2018 Student Organizing Camp!

P1110802 (2)Are you a young person who wants to make the world a more ecologically sustainable, socially just place? Reconnect Earth’s first-ever Student Organizing Camp is now accepting applications. This event will take place at Washington’s Larrabee State Park* from Thursday, August 9th (starting in the late afternoon) through Sunday, August 12th (with the option to stay overnight until Monday morning). Apply now and join us for four days of building activist and grassroots organizing skills, exploring our identities as agents of change, and enjoying a truly beautiful section of the Washington Coast.

At the Student Organizing Camp you’ll experience trainings and workshops on theories of social change, social identity, campaign planning, nonviolent activism, and more. Food is provided and some camping equipment is available for loan. This event is an opportunity to build your strengths and abilities as an agent of positive change while making connections with other youth activists in the region.

Apply to attend the Organizing Camp here. 

Larrabee State Park is located on the Washington coast, a 15 minute drive or 40 minute bike ride from Downtown Bellingham. During the Organizing Camp we’ll have a chance to enjoy the beach and nearby trails including the 2-mile hike to Fragrance Lake.

Reconnect Earth’s Student Organizing Camp is open to high school and college students and others who self-identify as “youth.” Participants under age 18 will need parental or guardian permission. Cost of registration is $30, with scholarships available to those for whom this represents a financial hardship. Apply here to attend.


*Larrabee State Park is on the traditional territory of Indigenous peoples including the Lummi Nation

Reconnect Earth


Reconnect Earth works for a socially and ecologically just future by fostering and growing a network of empowered leaders who will sustain progressive movements for years to come. We work with emerging leaders who want to deepen their connection to ecosystems and communities and take action to create a better world. We believe the best defense against planetary ills like climate change, biodiversity loss, and the poisoning of our air and water is a civil society armed with a deep knowledge of the biosphere and the organizational tools for making social change.

Please support our work by donating now: 

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With your support, Reconnect Earth will help empower the newest generation of environmental leaders.