Monday, March 9, 2015

Mary E. Theler Wetlands Nature Preserve: Adventures with Zipcar

A few days ago the forecast was for a sunny and warmish weekend and I wanted to get away from the house for a day so Scott arranged for a Zipcar. His requirement was that wherever we go not involve a lot of driving, especially on I-5. A quick google led me to the Mary E. Theler Wetlands Natural Preserve which, I soon realized, was hike #21 in Craig Romano's Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula. Google directions suggested we could catch a ferry out of West Seattle which made it just that much more inviting as I do love that one can catch ferries in West Seattle. Saturday morning dawned and some hours later we walked up the hill to collect the car and also, not so incidentally, cat litter, since the real impetus for getting a car was the need to get cat litter. But an hour or so later we were on our way, sandwiches packed, along with three or four of the ten essentials, in our backpack. At shortly after noon we paid our fare for the 12:20 ferry and claimed our spot in line.

 And that's where it all started going a bit pear-shaped. A nice woman came up to the car to ask if we were aware that one of our tires was flat. Really flat. We weren't. It was. I hurried back to the ticket booth to find out if there was any sort of gas station in Southworth immediately after getting off the ferry. There wasn't and, what's more, we wouldn't be allowed on the ferry with a flat tire. I hurried back to tell Scott the unhappy news, all the while cursing the premature ending to our outing. Scott, however, realized that of course there would be a spare in the car and, Virgo that he is, he worked out how the jack went together and changed the tire in less than twelve minutes. I have rarely been so impressed by anyone doing anything. Sadly, the stress of the whole business prevented me from taking any photos. Trust me when I say it was quite remarkable.

 We were able to board the ferry and, despite "low pressure" warnings, damaged air pumps at gas stations, missing a turn-off or two, and a memorial service being held at the Mary E Theler Community Center, we eventually found ourselves on the trail to the wetlands.

 Which were, I'm sorry to report, a little underwhelming. Oh there were unexpected highlights such as the woman in her rhinestone sunglasses, cigarette, and overly tight clothes who was accompanied by her ill-mannered children; she was just so very much the Natasha character in The Seagull Project's 's production of The Three Sisters. And, less cattily, there was the rather amazing skeleton of a gray whale. Like Cary Grant in North by Northwest, I thought it might be a fake.

tail portion of the grey whale skeleton
The wetlands are, actually, a very scenic little park with remarkable vistas out to Hood Canal (I think) and some fine trees and even a few wild animal footprints. But it was a little lacklustre on the bird front though even as I type those words I realize that maybe I've become a bit spoiled.  There were some fine Canada geese, a handful of mallards, any number of teals and wigeons, as well as some very obliging song sparrows, several calling red-winged blackbirds, a charming towhee, a delightful ruby-crowned kinglet, a great blue heron, a fishing belted kingfisher, and more killdeer than I see most months. The killdeer were likely my favorites; certainly they are the ones who feature in my favorite photos, perhaps because we encountered them as the sun was sinking lower in the sky so the light was particularly nice.
 The birding on the ferry heading over wasn't bad either; I realized later that we'd seen three different flavors of cormorants as we were approaching/leaving Vashon Island. Double-crested, pelagic, and Brandt's cormorants were all mingling nicely, though I managed only the double-crested and pelagic in one shot. 
Double-crested and pelagic cormorants, Alex-view
And the water was so clear that we could the feet of the adorable little grebes (western, horned I'm now thinking) who were paddling about the water nearby. I suspect it says nothing good about the cleanliness of the water, but I like the lines in the water in this photo of the grebes.  
Getting home involved a missed exit, a blocking train, and a "forgotten kittycat" (not ours!) on the ferry but eventually we reached the sanctuary of home and Gradka and the liquor cabinet with the Zipcar safely returned to its spot, little spare wheel still safely attached.


  1. Ooooh, two posts in two days! Don't overstrain yourself, now.
    I'm terribly impressed by the tire-changing feat -- I would have had to call someone. What lovely cormorants--I like the sheen on the Pelagic. And while the grebe water relections are nice, the cocktail glass reflection is also quite splendid.

  2. I will likely rest this evening; thank you for your concern. As for the tire, I would have called AAA had I been on my own. I am shocked that *you* would choose a cocktail glass over a grebe. -m.