Welcome to ‘10,000 things of the Pacific Northwest’! My goal here is to find, photograph, identify, and profile at least 10,000 species of the myriad (from the Greek myrioi meaning 10,000 or innumerable) lifeforms to be found in the Pacific Northwest, a project that I expect to last at least the next decade. And just as the Chinese term ‘the 10,000 things’ was used to denote the multiplicity of forms and beings in the world, without being an accurate representation of their true number, my goal of finding 10,000 things does not reflect the actual number of lifeforms extant in the Pacific Northwest. But it should cover many of the species one might encounter here.
The idea here is to write at least one blog per week detailing my adventures as a recreational naturalist. On a much more regular basis, (and it had better be much more regular, because at 1 per day it would take me over 27 years to hit 10,000, and Vegas odds are slim on me seeing 87), I will be posting species profiles of the lifeforms I have found and documented. The hope is that folks will eventually be able to use this site as a field guide to a wide variety of the wild things to be found in the PNW.
For the purposes of this blog the Pacific Northwest (henceforth abbreviated as PNW) is defined as that area bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean, on the east by the Continental Divide, on the south by the south slope of the Siskiyou Mtns, and on the north by the Fraser River in British Columbia (if the Canadians ever let Americans into their country again). There is a gray area to the east of the Siskiyous, but I plan to include all of Oregon, Idaho, and Washington, as well as far western Montana, southern BC, far northern California, and to exclude all of Nevada. I recognize these are somewhat arbitrary boundaries, but I have to put some kind of limits on this. And, though strict climatological logic would probably set the southern limit at the crest of the Siskiyous, the south slope is someplace I’ve always wanted to explore and it is, after all, my website😀.
Another caveat regarding inclusiveness is that this project is about wild lifeforms. That means nothing planted, stocked, or released by humans. However volunteer garden plants that have become naturalized, like some populations of Sweet Williams, Hyacinths, and Daffodils that I’ve seen, will be included, and exceptions may be made for restoration areas where there is some natural reproduction . Any animals you see posted here will have been, to the best of my knowledge, born in the environment in which I found them.
As to my qualifications to attempt such a massive undertaking, I have none. I am not a botanist or bryologist or entomologist or any other kind of ‘ologist. I am no expert! But what I do have is almost boundless curiosity about the wild lifeforms of this area, their natural history, and their relationships with each other. And I have come to know quite a few experts over the last several years, brilliant women and men who I hope to introduce you to in these posts. These fine folks correct (and even occasionally confirm) my identifications. And sometimes they tell me that this bug or that moss cannot be identified by my photos. But do I perchance have a picture of the metatarsal claw, or the mesosternal plate, or the alar cells? Which is why I occasionally do collect specimens, which I euthanize in a freezer and then pin. Because I do want to be accurate when I say that such and such creature is called so and so. I don’t really like killing bugs, but I keep it to a minimum, and I don’t lose any sleep over it.
On a personal level, I came to this obsession in a roundabout way. I have always preferred being outdoors to indoors, but during my childhood in urban southern California that manifested primarily in playing a lot of sports. Then we moved to Montana where I became interested in hunting and fishing. In my 20s I became too tender hearted to kill things for sport (although I still practiced catch and release fishing), but I did develop a keen interest in rock climbing, alcohol, and recreational drugs. Finally, on the cusp of my 50s, I got clean and sober, and met the love of my life, my wife Pam. We often went hiking, and because I professed extensive experience in, and a love of, the outdoors Pam would often ask me what this plant or that bird was. And I was mortified to admit that most of the time I had no idea.
Then came a frigid February morning and our first trip to Catherine Creek Recreation Area, on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge a few miles east of Bingen. It was really an accident that we ended up there, since we were just exploring. But what we found changed my life- Wildflowers blooming on a 38* morning in February. I had no idea such a thing was possible! And by the time I had identified them as Olsynium douglasii (Grass Widows) andLomatium columbianum (Columbia Desert Parsley), having spent hours in the library poring over hundreds of wildflower photos since I was so clueless I didn’t even know where to start, I was hooked. And I’ve been looking for wild lifeforms and trying to identify them ever since.
So ultimately this website/blog is my way of paying it forward in gratitude for all of the people who took the time to write the field guides that made nurturing my obsession possible. And if even one person finds the joy of being a recreational naturalist that I have found, then it will all be worth it.