So much of our day-to-day lives have been upended with COVID-19 it would be unreasonable to think that citizen-science, and in particular our participation with the University of Washington’s COASST program, would be spared. Although the task of actually doing the survey is unaffected, it’s finding a suitable basecamp that has been the linchpin in this process. It’s always been convenient to locate out La Push but the Quileute tribe has restricted access and there’s no indication that they’ll be reversing that decision anytime soon. We’ve tried a handful of other locations with various degrees, or not, of success. However, we may have finally found the perfect location in Crescent Bay.
Crescent Bay was once home to the appropriately named Port Crescent. A thriving and hopeful community located on the bay just west of Port Angels. Like so many other communities its hopes for prosperity rested on the location of the railroad terminals being expanded in this direction. When those hopes didn’t come to fruition, the town slowly withered and died. Finally, the Army burned the derelict buildings and abandoned homes to the ground, and now all that is left is the historic pioneer’s cemetery.
However, there are two campgrounds available. One is the Salt Creek County Park and the other is the privately owned Crescent Beach RV Beach Park. We’ve stayed at both and for the time being, they’ll be our basecamps for heading out the coast to conduct our bird surveys. I’ve been coming out here to explore for over twenty years and would hardly see a soul. Now it seems to be overrun with surfers but as they’re great stewards of the ocean, it’s nice to see them here.
We were lucky that our low tide was mid-morning which allowed us a more reasonable departure time to head out to the coast. Clear skies meant cold temperatures as we made our way around Lake Crescent. The surrounding mountains were snow-capped and there was some ice present around the fringes of the waterfall. In addition to the cold temperatures, there was plenty of evidence of wind damage as well.
Every winter the Pacific Northwest is raked with storms coming off the Pacific. This year was no exception. We usually find remnants of the storm on our trail down to the beach, but this trip was especially full of blowdowns. Just on our trail alone, we had a dozen or so trees that had come down and been chainsawed by the park service.
We have been coming down to Toleak Beach for over two years now, and in that time we’ve seen a wide variety of either wildlife or the clues of wildlife. This time we came across the tracks of a cougar who had been crossing the high tide line recently. Certainly, since high tide as his tracks would have been erased and that was only a couple of hours previous to our arrival.
There was no mistaking these tracks and they were quite large; at least as big as my hand. There’s something that gives you a moment of pause when you release that there is a big predator in the immediate vicinity. As soon as I realized what I was looking at, I glanced over my shoulder both up and down the beach.
Of course, nothing came of our sighting and we patrolled the rest of our beach without incident, but it’s just these serendipity encounters and makes our COASST surveys so enjoyable and rewarding. Whether it’s a Humpback whale on the tide line or a doe with her fawn these are the wonders of nature that bring us over Scott’s Bluff to our beach time and time again.