Thursday, January 31, 2013

XWE' CHI' EXEN (Cherry Point) End of the rail line:

Xwe' chi' eXen is a sacred landscape of the Lummi Nation.  It is also the proposed terminal location and shipping point for the export of the Powder River Basin coal to China.
Xwe' chi' eXen
For over 3,500 years, 175 generations, the Lummi have lived, raised their families, celebrated, held ceremonies, died and are buried here.  The proposed terminal at this location includes an 80 acre coal storage area placed upon a Washington state designated burial site and ancestral village.
Ancestral village and burial site
The Lummi Nation is rich with oral tradition, culture, and traditional knowledge.  The area is revered by the people as a creation site.  It is significant for their relationship with the salmon, and is integral to the salmon ceremonies.
On the horizon the Frazier River carries salmon into the bay
Jay Julius, tribal official, "the salmon are our buffalo".
I spent time talking and walking with Jay Julius across the stones along the beach.  Jay stopped at one point and said, "we are walking on the stones our ancestors walked on 3,500 years ago".

I will share more of Jay's story with you when I return home. I also know I will return to work with the Lummi.  They have important teachings to share.

be strong, be safe, Carlan 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Into Seattle:

Following the China Express into Seattle I was in familiar territory.  In the early 80's I established my commercial photography studio in Pioneer Square within a short walk from the rail route.  Sometimes when a freight train rumbled through we had to stop shooting and wait for the vibrations to settle.  As I drove back to the old locations I had known so well change was very apparent.
Rail crossing Seattle
Scoping meetings for proposed route have raised voices in the community
Ferry traffic must exit across the proposed rail route
Rail draw bridge at the Ballard Locks
Many condominiums line the waterfront along the rail
Liz Talley's home overlooks the rail along the Puget Sound
I have spent two days here with old friends and met new ones, including Liz. Liz is concerned about the future of her home. I will share more of her story with you after I complete the route.

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Crossing the rail:

As I left the Columbia River and headed toward Seattle the rail began a northern route dotted with small towns.  Kalama, Kelso, Vander, Winlock, Napaville, Centralia, and Tenino to name a few.  One thing which caught my attention were all the rail crossings in the towns.
Vander, WA
Near Winlock, WA
Winlock, WA
Napaville, WA
Tenino, WA
Woodland, WA
A major concern of many communities along the China Express is safety.  Accidents can and do happen.  Individuals and families have spoken out at the scoping meetings to voice their concerns regarding safety and potentially more accidents with the proposed increase of rail traffic.

be strong, be safe,  Carlan

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Losing the load:

Last October Nancy and I were at a dinner party in Seattle.  The coal train topic was a lively discussion during the evening.  At one point a story was shared about a former railroad executive from the East now a farmer with vineyards along the Columbia River.  He was concerned about the amount of coal blowing, bouncing, and otherwise being "lost" from the coal cars passing near his vineyard and home.
Don McDermott at his vineyard near the Dalles along the Columbia River
I spent the morning talking and walking with Don through his vineyard and along the adjacent rail line.  Currently there are about 3 coal trains a week on the route.  The proposal could up that number to 10 trains a day each with 125 to 150 coal cars.
Darker strip along the rail is powered coal
The coal cars travel uncovered from the Powder River Basin to the Pacific Coast.  The coal is highly combustible. Covering the loads is not an option. 
Each rail car is known to lose 600 pounds of coal along the route
Much of the lost coal becomes a finer powder which can be airborne as the wind blows.
Powdered coal along the rail 4 to 6 inches deep
Don was a railroad man.  He speaks highly of them.  He also knows what is beginning to happen to his home, his vineyards, and his lifestyle.  I will share more of his story in his own words when I finish the trip.

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Friday, January 25, 2013

Columbia River: Following Lewis and Clark:

"... we arrived at the great Columbia River, which comes in from the northwest. We found here a number of natives, of whose nations we have not yet found out the names. The country all round is level, rich and beautiful, but without timber ..." Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery, October 1805.
Heading west along the Columbia River
No services for 80 miles
Vineyards and Stone Hedge
Morning fog on the river
The rail route snakes along the great river
Looking south across the river into Oregon
Lewis and Clark began their journey along the Columbia River in October and reached the Pacific Ocean in November. I wonder if they could ever imagined the proposal of transporting coal half way around the world today in the same amount of time?

"Every action should be taken with thoughts of its effects on children seven generations from now."  Cherokee

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Eastern Washington: Places Lesser Known:

Today snow, ice rain and the open plains of Eastern Washington. I am driving through Fishtrap, Sprague, Ritzville, Lind, Cunningham, and Hatton along the China Express.
Near Fishtrap, WA.
Sprague, WA.
Grain elevators dot the landscape.
Lind: Home of the Combine Demolition Derby.
Lunch at Jakes Homecooking Cafe. Famous for homemade donuts. Never saw any donuts here.
Coal train outside of Hatton, WA.
The Washington wheat plains stretch to the horizon.
This section of the rail route seems to speak of "harvest and stewardship".  The importance of community and how we will define it for future generations.

“The earth will not continue to offer its harvest, except with faithful stewardship. We cannot say we love the land and then take steps to destroy it for use by future generations.”  Pope John Paul II

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Missoula to Spokane: Flathead River Country

The Flathead Indian Reservation, located along the rail route on the Flathead River, is home to the Bitterroot Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d'Oreilles Tribes.
Native Americans have lived in Montana for more than 14,000 years, based on archaeological findings. The Bitteroot Salish came from the West Coast, whereas the Kootenai lived mostly in the interior of present-day Idaho, Montana, and Canada. The Kootenai left artifacts in prehistoric time.
An ice fog covers the trees and landscape along HWY 200.
The rail route twists and curves along the Flathead River.
The Flathead River joins the Clark Fork River.
Fences built to block long horn sheep crossing to the river for water.
The beauty of the day and the landscape brought a peace to my mind.  I could not help but think of the words of Chief Seattle: “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Monday, January 21, 2013

Billings to Missoula MT:

Outside of Billings this morning the refineries were filling the skies for miles.
The plan today was to follow the proposed rail route from Billings into Missoula.  Thought I would share some of the landscape I traveled through today following the route.
Small rail crossings dot the landscape with gravel roads leading to ranches.
The rail leaves I90 and travels along small country roads, through towns long since deserted.
The landscape is spectacular.  Mountain ranges rise in every direction.
Near the headwaters of the Missouri River the rail crosses a frozen section of the river.
Outside of Helena along Highway 12 empty coal cars head east toward the Powder River Basin to be reloaded.
This is cattle country.  Grazing cattle along the rail were a common sight today. 
The route rejoins I90 at Garrison and heads into Missoula.  It was a beautiful day today.  Traveling through the mountain ranches, into and out of small quiet towns, counting grazing cattle by the hundreds, sun sparkling on frozen rivers and streams, and watching clouds form and float across the blue skies.  Hard to imagine how this may change.

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Defending a Way of Life:

Leaving Gillette, WY yesterday the rail west heads across open country towards Billings, MT.  A quiet open road. LJ Turner's stories from yesterday ringing in my head and heart.  On any day there can be 40-50 trucks carrying unknown individuals driving across his ranch land.  White trucks with orange flags.  Checking methane wells, monitoring gas pipe lines, surveying mineral resources, building new access roads.  LJ has written letters, asked questions, searched for answers.  In most cases there has been no response, no answers to "why".  He shared his stories with me for over 8 hours without stopping.  In the moments of silence between us I felt the deepening sense of loss.  Loss of a way of life.
I followed the rail line along country roads dotted with gas and oil wells until I met I90 west. Joining the interstate I realized where I was. The Little Big Horn Battle Field.
Recently new markers have been placed in the battle field.  Markers 135 years later speaking of "defending a way of life".  As I walked across the battle field my heart was full, full with the magnitude of what I had seen, stories heard, losses shared. I thought of the stories LJ shared with me.  Stories about "defending a way of life".  What has changed?  Do we simply repeat history?  Will there be a marker one day on a WY ranch with "defending a way of life" carved into the stone?

be strong, be safe, Carlan