Friday, June 27, 2008

Leaving Gnat Creek

We have finished our work at Gnat Creek Fish Hatchery. After two months it is time to move on. But we have really enjoyed our time here. Without a doubt, the staff here has been the best we have ever worked with. All of them—Roger, Garth, Dave and Mike—have been easy to get along with, friendly, helpful and supportive. Such an atmosphere makes the time so pleasant.

In addition, we have enjoyed the work we do. After years of paid jobs that kept us inside, we enjoy the opportunity to work outside and do physical labor. Here we have used a weed eater and a blower to trim grass and maintain trails, used a John Deere mower and Kubota tractor as we worked with the landscaping and done traditional garden weeding. In addition to this, we have helped feed fish, repaired and cleaned fish net pens, kept the information kiosk stocked, cleaned a large storage area inside the hatchery and an outdoor storage area called the bone yard. The bone yard is a storage area for pipes, large pieces of wood, metal and scraps. We also cleaned the office and restrooms and I set up and entered transactions in Quicken.

The variety kept us interested. We also learned how to work outdoors in the rain and mist of the Pacific Northwest. It has been cool and rainy most of our time here. Nowhere in the US is having seasonal weather and everyone here has said this has been an unusually cool and wet period. We spent a number of days dressed in rain jackets and rain pants to work outside. After all, golf carts in western Oregon come with rain covers to keep the players dry between shots. We found rain doesn't need to stop most activities if you dress appropriately.

The hatchery includes a number of graveled hiking trails through the rain forest. They are so pretty. We really liked hiking them, as well as maintaining them. We will miss this beautiful place.

We have appreciated this part of Oregon. Astoria is an interesting town—the first European settlement west of the Mississippi River. There are lots of Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery sites in this area, where they spent the winter of 1806-07.

Fishing—on the Pacific Ocean or in the Columbia River and smaller freshwater streams—is a major recreational activity, as well as a commercial enterprise. As we drove to Astoria for recreation or shopping, we passed the John Day County Park where 100 or more trucks with boat trailers can park on a weekend day so their owners can put out into the Columbia. The sturgeon season just closed. Anglers fish Gnat Creek near the hatchery almost daily for salmon and trout. On the John Day River there is even a housing community. People live year round in this settlement.

It was a treat to watch the striking blue and black stellar jays that live around the hatchery, as well as the belted kingfishers that often dive into the hatchery ponds for a bite of Chinook salmon. One or two ravens also were good at catching fish out of those ponds.

During our two months here, running about three times a week, we logged 67 miles along US Hwy 30 and a logging road. We became a recognizable pair and some of the logging trucks began to honk and wave as they passed. One morning we saw a cow elk on the logging road. The shoulder of a busy highway isn't the best or safest place in the world to run but it had the advantage of being relatively flat and I don't like running up hills.

Now we will take a few days off to explore the Columbia River Gorge, then we head to the Oregon White River Wildlife Area east of the Cascade Mountains. It will be warmer and drier there.

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