Come wintertime, wildlife descends from snowy peaks to milder climate

February 21, 2012

State wildlife biologist Brian Kertson spent five years studying the local cougar population, including a 130-pound, 2-year-old male tranquilized, captured and tagged in the Cedar River watershed in 2008. Contributed

As the snow moves down the mountains reaching lower elevations, so do most mountain wildlife inhabitants, from small animals to deer and elk.

And just in case you were wondering, bears don’t hibernate.

Those are two basic bits of information passed on by local experts asked to describe what happens to Issaquah wildlife during the winter months. It’s not the temperature, but snow that motivates most animals’ cold weather behavior, said Stephen West, associate director of the School of Environmental and Forestry Sciences at the University of Washington.

For the most part, cougars, deer and other local wildlife can tolerate any cold the Northwest brings their way, West said. It’s mountain snow they can’t deal with — it makes it more difficult for them to get around and much more difficult for them to find food. So as snow appears, many animals head for lower elevations. There are exceptions, including bears.

Bears don’t migrate, but rather stay in their normal territory, said Kenneth Raedeke, an affiliate professor in the UW’s Wildlife Science Program and the president of an environmental consulting firm.

And despite what you may have heard all your life, bears don’t hibernate, Raedeke and West said. Full hibernation means an animal is unconscious and its body temperature drops to match the surrounding temperature, West said. For an animal the size of a bear, waking up from such a state would require more biological energy and heat than they have available to them.

While they don’t fully hibernate, bears do go into a sort of relaxed state for perhaps three or four of the coldest months of the year, Raedeke said, adding a bear’s heart rate can drop as low as eight beats per minute. Even so, bears can and do remain somewhat active, coming out of their hiding spots periodically. And if you happen to stumble into an occupied bear den during the winter, the resident likely will take notice.

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Winter wanes — and gardeners get a head start on spring planting

February 21, 2012

Carole Moklebust plants a container of flowers that could add some early color to gardens. By Ari Cetron

So, winter is finally winding down. The sun doesn’t set until after you’ve left work, and maybe, just maybe, there will be an actual summer this year. If you’re hoping for a summer full of fresh-from-the garden veggies and tree branches laden with fruit, now is a good time to start, but don’t expect to enjoy the fruits of your labor right away.

“Plants need time in the ground to grow, bud, bloom and fruit,” Jane Garrison, a local master gardner wrote in an email. “You need light to grow plants, and we don’t get enough until after March 15. You need heat to grow plants too, and last year we didn’t get enough until August.”

But don’t be discouraged, say gardening experts. There’s plenty you can do now to will give you rewards in the coming months.

“There’s a whole bunch of stuff to put in the ground in February,” said Matt Pommer, general manager at Squak Mountain Nursery.

Some vegetables, for example, do best in the spring and fall, preferring the so-called “shoulder seasons,” Pommer said. In particular, rhubarb, asparagus and horseradish can be planted around now.

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Homegrown band Modest Mouse nods to hometown flavor

February 21, 2012

Modest Mouse is perhaps the most recognizable phenomenon to originate in Issaquah. (Sorry, loyal Costco members, but the mega-chain started in Seattle.)

Pacific Northwest gloom permeates Modest Mouse songs, but Issaquah receives scant attention in the lyrics.

However, band members tucked a reference to a certain local burger joint into a song. The nod is the closest the band comes to a clear-cut reference to Issaquah.

The mention appears in the song “All Nite Diner” on the “Interstate 8” EP. (The collection dropped in August 1996, a year before the album “The Lonesome Crowded West” turned the band into 1990s indie rock darlings.)

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Issaquah balloons from small town to boomtown

February 21, 2012

Most citizens did not need a decennial update from the U.S. Census Bureau to recognize Issaquah as a boomtown.

The dramatic increase in population is a recent phenomenon.

Issaquah started as a pinpoint on maps, a remote hamlet in the rough-and-tumble Washington Territory.

Even as Seattle boomed amid World War II and into the postwar era, Issaquah did not crest 4,000 people until the late 1960s.

The population growth continued at a deliberate pace until a Microsoft-powered population explosion caused Issaquah and other Eastside cities to expand as the last century barreled to a close.

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What 10 qualities set Issaquah residents apart?

February 21, 2012

Issaquah inspires a deep affection among residents past and present.

Perhaps the connection is because the city stands out among cookie-cutter Eastside suburbs. (Bummer, Redmond.)

Residents can rattle off at least a dozen reasons to love Issaquah, although even outsiders can recognize the charms. Only locals can offer a snapshot into the authentic Issaquah experience.

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2011 Summer Issaquah Living

July 2, 2011

Step off of Tiger Mountain at 1,800 feet and take flight — with a paraglider

July 2, 2011

Seattle Paragliding tandem instructor Matt Amend and owner Marc Chirico help a paraglider pilot launch from Poo Poo Point. By Caleb Heeringa

You know that dream where you’re flying — where you’re able to look down on the hustle and bustle of the earth from thousands of feet above and the problems that normally seem so big are now as small and insignificant as ants?

The dream is real for the paraglider pilots who launch off the west side of Tiger Mountain every day that it’s not raining buckets. For more than 20 years, Marc Chirico has been throwing people off the side of the mountain — with paraglider and emergency parachute attached, of course.

It’s a career that started as a hobby that started with a dream that many of us have had — to drift above it all.

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Made-in-Washington attractions deliver one-of-a-kind destinations

July 2, 2011

Greetings from Washington

Washington, land of Sasquatch and the Space Needle, is unlike any other.

Evergreen State travelers can find kitchenware fit for King Kong, celebrations dedicated to unglamorous farm commodities and roadside oddities pulled from a Ripley’s Believe It or Not! guide squirreled in corners near and far.

“Washington Curiosities” and “Washington Icons” author Harriet Baskas said geography explains at least some of the strangeness.

“You’re on the edge of the country, you’re out here and there’s still that pioneer spirit,” she said.

Summertime offers a chance to journey to out-of-the-way attractions not as obvious as Mount Rainier or Lake Chelan. Discover 10 attractions off the beaten path — but unmistakably made in Washington.

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Issaquah eateries dish up more, more, more in oversized offerings

July 2, 2011

Sunset Alehouse's The National Champ

Some meals must be confronted, in a grab-the-bull-by-the-horns style, rather than eaten.

Consider the proof: Issaquah eateries peddling a pizza as broad as a manhole cover, potatoes heaped as high as the Rockies and a gooey ice cream sundae as large as a bathtub.

Turns out that the fabled XXX Burger is not alone among belly-busting options in Issaquah. The city boasts behemoth burgers, sure, but other options abound, beyond beefy and french fried delights. Establishments revel in menu items meant to satisfy oversized appetites — and egos.

Come, gluttons and gluttons for punishment, on a grease-stained and sauce-spattered odyssey through portions the next size up from ample.

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Fremont’s Lenin statue traces journey from Slovakia — and Issaquah

July 2, 2011

The statue of Vladimir Lenin casts a steely gaze along a street in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. By Greg Farrar

In Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood and, for a time in Issaquah, Vladimir Lenin, so reviled and revered throughout the 20th century, is just the dictator next door.

The reason a bronze Lenin statue came to rest in Fremont, the self-styled center of the universe, is almost as convoluted as a Cold War potboiler. The statue’s circuitous route led from Slovakia to Issaquah after a local man, Lewis Carpenter, chanced upon the statue in the former Soviet satellite state.

Overnight, after the Iron Curtain collapsed, residents discarded such Soviet propaganda symbols by the cartful.

Communism in Eastern Europe imploded not long before Carpenter, a business and English instructor at a nearby university, discovered the toppled statue in a Poprad, Slovakia, storage yard. Inside the hollow statue, a homeless man had set up camp.

The less-than-enamored Slovaks planned to melt down the statue for benches, but the college instructor offered another idea — purchasing the statue as a landmark — and cash.

So, after dropping $13,000 and slicing through red tape, Carpenter owned the statue. The transoceanic shipment to Washington cost another $40,000.

Carpenter, a colorful character and self-described playboy, could not resist the irony inherent in displaying Lenin in the Soviet Union’s archnemesis. Soon, however, tragedy caused the plan to screech to a halt.

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