By Joanna Bastian
It is not normal to see someone snorkeling in the Methow Valley in March.
I have completed a fair amount of meticulous research on the subject and have formulated several strong theories on why snorkeling is not an early spring activity in the Methow Valley:
• It is mud season. Underwater vision could be obscured due to springtime runoff transporting higher levels of silt and soil through turbid waterways.
• The lack of snorkel gear shops in Carlton.
• The snow-melt runoff feeding the Methow Basin waters is classified as “frigid.” The combined water and air temperature is in fact, colder than the human body. The wind velocity as it makes contact with wet skin may result in the development of hypothermia should one decide to go swimming without a wet suit in Methow waters during the month of March.
• The lack of wet suit shops in Methow.
• The absence of tropical fish and sea turtles — typical snorkel attractions in warmer climates — in the Methow watershed basin.
Imagine my dismay when I spied a snorkeling snorkeler floating face down in a pond on Gold Creek — an outlier of data to my well-founded theories. I slung my camera around my neck, put a notebook and pen in my pocket, stuck my crutches under my arms and lurched and propelled my clumsy self over to the side of the pond. Sitting down on a bench along the shoreline, I propped up my FrankenAnkle and snapped a few pictures while waiting for the mystery snorkeler to emerge from the murky pond water.
A large net divided the pond in half. Within this netted section the snorkeler floated along, intently searching along the folded edges of the net. Periodically, his gloved fist would rise out of the water, clutching the handle of a scoop net. He would invert the net over the other side of the divider, shake it empty, and then return to his diligent search underwater.
After what seemed like nearly half an hour, he swam to shore and emerged from the water. Icy rivulets ran down his cheeks, reddened from the frigid pond water. “I am Casey. I am so cold!” he exclaimed. He looked very bulky. As he unzipped his wetsuit, the reason became clear. He was wearing multiple layers of fleece.
Casey Heemsah was preparing the pond for a coho salmon restoration project by the Yakama Nation Fisheries. According to the fishery website, yakamafish-nsn.gov, young coho salmon are deposited in acclimation ponds along off-channels. The fish imprint on that section of the river and, later in their life cycle, return to that location to spawn.
Casey donned snorkeling gear to remove the native fish, rainbow trout and steelhead, from the cordoned off area of the pond. The young coho salmon can then be accurately observed and counted before they leave the safety of the pond and enter the Methow River later in the spring.
If your garden plot and tools were damaged during the Carlton Complex Fires, there are resources available to help you get your garden going this season. The Carlton Complex Assistance Network — CCAN — is offering a garden starter kit. The contents may vary, but the basic kit contains a wheelbarrow, shovel, rake, hoe, spading fork, two hoses, drip irrigation supplies, seeds, and compost. Visit www.ccanrelief.org or call (509) 699-9429 for more details.