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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Stairs and Beavers

Last weekend, Sean, our friend Jackie, and I went on a group walk organized by Feet First, an organization that promotes walkable communities, to celebrate the publication of a book Seattle Stairway Walks:  An Up-and-Down Guide to City Neighborhoods  (The Mountaineers Books) by Jake and Cathy Jaramillo:  "For one day, for two hours Feet First Neighborhood Walking Ambassadors led [fifteen] free simultaneous stairway walks to celebrate the Puget Sound Region's amazing elevation changes and the individual characteristics and historical context of our local stairways."

The route we went on was the Maple Leaf and Thornton Creek walk, near Northgate Mall, where a creek runs through more than 700 backyards, 15 parks and natural areas, finally making its way to Lake Washington. Ironically, our particular walk did not include many stairs, or so it seemed.  The guide book said there were 326 steps down, and 136 steps up.  The Maple Leaf area is a largely residential area with big evergreen trees, split level houses, and no sidewalks, feeling quite suburban.  About twenty people made up the walking group, which was led by a very nice school-teacherly lady who stopped frequently to talk about the features we passed on the walk, and who quickly learned Sean's name, as he immediately became the front walker/troublemaker amongst our slower cohorts.  Sean and I had a copy of the book with the route, so we went ahead at our own pace, stopping at the best spots and waiting for everyone else to catch up.

The most amazing feature of this walk was the Beaver Pond Natural Area.  This area, located right in the middle of houses and apartment buildings, was purchased by the city in the late 1970's and restored by volunteers who cleared invasive plants from the bank of Thornton Creek, and replanted native plants.  In 2008 beavers felled trees and built a dam.  Although the book has a short history of this area it doesn't explain where the beavers came from.  "The raised water level and felled trees established new habitat for other plants and animals, which is why beavers are called 'keystone species.'  They have made the area hospitable to mallards, hooded mergansers, great blue herons, and fish, including numerous cutthroat trout."  We did not see an actual beavers, but we did see the beaver dam, lodge, a great blue heron, and many ducks.

Which brings me to another fun book I just cataloged, and which sold almost immediately:  Chip:  The Dam Builder by Jim Kjelgaard, who wrote many children's books about animals, especially dogs.  The one I remember from my childhood is Big Red.  The wonderful illustrations are by Ralph Ray.
I love the drawing of the attacking/floating lynx; so statuesque.

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