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Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.

A.A. Milne

How many bridges do you see in the above photo? This is the bridge across the Sammamish Slough in Kenmore, Washington, known simply as the slough in localese.

As you drive to or from Kenmore on 68th Avenue NE, which is called Juanita Drive NE just a bit farther south, you pass over a mundane looking concrete structure at the slough. Unless you’re stuck in traffic and thinking about the Cascadia Subduction Zone, you might not give much thought to the fact that you’re on a bridge.

There are three bridges in the above photo. You can’t really tell this from above. But you can from down below.

It is not very safe to go under the north end of the bridges. But you can access their underbellies from the boat launch on the south side of the slough. At least for a few more days. The West Sammamish River Bridge Project begins next week.

The bridge that carries southbound traffic is being replaced. This will affect traffic on this route, which is commonly used by those avoiding tolls on the SR 520 bridge, for two years. It is being replaced because the structure was built in the 1930s. It’s old.

This is the southbound bridge, the one that had weight restrictions placed on it a few years ago. The northbound bridge was built in the 1970s, and it’s been deemed suitable to stay for a while.

Didn’t I say three bridges though? You’re looking at the third in this photo. As the Depression-era southbound bridge is torn out, what remains of the original 1917 bridge will be destroyed as well.

The 1930s bridge was built in the footprints of the 1917 bridge. I’ve asked around to find out if there are plans to preserve any of this for posterity and I do not believe there are. I was told that the 103 year-old pilings will probably fall apart when they’re pulled out. (Have you tried kicking one? You’ll shatter your phlanges.)

The Vintage King County Facebook page has a photo of the Kenmore bridge construction from way back. They actually have many fascinating photos of bridges. This site is so rich in local history that I need to issue a strong warning to anyone who likes to peek into the past– exercise self-control. You can become so enraptured by browsing the photos at Vintage King County that you’ll stay up all night eating Cheetos while your eyeballs bleed.

All of these photos were taken from the south side looking north. Last time I was under the north side we called the King County Sheriff because of a body sticking out from under a wadded-up tarp. I assumed the person was asleep or unconscious, but we didn’t know if they were dead or lying in wait either. There was zero movement and the upper half of their body was covered. There have been encampments and questionable activity under there for some time.

This is still embedded in the ground and probably has been for over a century. But it too will go the way of the dodo. By the way, if you really want to geek out about bridges, Bridgehunter.com is like the Spatula City of bridge websites. Here are some examples of other 1930s bridges.

This is what I tell myself in antiques stores: look up! You often find the most intriguing relics when you elevate your eyes. In this case we can see where the 1970s bridge and the 1930s bridge meet. From above, this isn’t nearly as noticeable.

Standing here felt somewhat sci fi, like a factory fight scene in Highlander, so I had to tweak it a little for effect.

Here again are the Disconnect of Diplomatic Ties to Germany era bridge, the Depression era bridge, and the Disco era bridge. The middle bridge, the one that will start to disappear just days from now, has the most character.

The vandals with their spray paint have decorated the north side many times. Funny part is, no one knows what the heck they’re trying to say.

The ’70s side is really just a big slab. It is the very definition of utilitarian. Perhaps it felt modern and exciting when it was constructed.

The anchors and cables and such on the ’30s side are intriguing. I couldn’t quite figure out why everything was placed where it was. I’m not an expert on seismic retrofits either.

I am intrigued by this coffee can on a shelf feature. If you know what it is, please leave a comment below.

Yep, I know. I can’t stop taking these past, present, future pictures. But can you name another place– anywhere– where you get to see parts of bridges from three different time periods at once?

Any civil engineers reading this? I’d love to have you break this down for me. Trusses, caps, …? I have many questions about how things are joined together at this point. The picture doesn’t quite capture my conundrum. You’d really have to be standing there looking at it. And you only have a few more days to do so.

Hmm… how this takes the weight it does is amazing.

This is exactly why I need to take the tripod along with my point & shoot. I was standing on the metal walkway over the river… not exactly a stable platform. The river has been full and muddy because of the recent deluge.

I kept returning to this spot. It was like the structural incarnation of Gary Numan’s The End of Things:

Are you the end of things come calling?
Are you the answer that I’ve wished for?

Everything’s so cold, the air is so still
And there is nothing here but me
If I belong here, and this is mercy
Then there is no place I’d rather be

Sammamish Slough ducks are the friendliest I’ve ever met. These three followed me all over as I was taking the photos. They’d get out and walk around me, probably hoping I had some people snacks. I learned too late in life that bread isn’t good for them; there are better options. I wonder how many cases of duck diabetes I caused in my childhood.

Say goodbye to the tufted totems, the mud that undoubtedly contains all manner of treasures… The only way I would have been allowed to poke around in it was to get a prohibitively expensive right-of-way permit from the city.

Bridges don’t just carry people. They carry other pieces of our infrastructure. This contributes to why modifying or replacing them is so complicated. Many agencies are involved.

Looking west. Just around the bend is Lake Washington. This is a busy place in the summer. Today it was me, a local, and the ducks.

Teds or Feed or whoever you are, no one knows what you mean or cares.

Let me take a long last look…

If you are between 9’0″ and 9’4″, it doesn’t matter. Duck.

It’s just metal. But I couldn’t help but notice its resemblance to a broken Paleo-Hebrew mem, which meant water.

How many people walk by and don’t even know what this is?

This too shall pass. A few more.

Besides the ducks, cormorants like to hang out on the slough as well. Once again, shoulda brought the tripod… I was guilty of talking while attempting a zoomed in shot as well.

Good bye, old bridges. I hope I can grab a piece of you before they haul you away for good.

He stood upon the bridge alone
and Fire and Shadow both defied;
his staff was broken on the stone,
in Khazad-dûm his wisdom died.

Tolkien

©2020 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Lolita's (Tokitae's) capture in Penn Cove almost half a century ago

Lolita’s (Tokitae’s) capture in Penn Cove almost half a century ago

Yesterday, August 8th, was the 44th anniversary of the Penn Cove Capture. In this sickening, inhumane event, a large group of wild orcas was chased into a cove near Whidbey Island, Washington with speedboats and explosives. Seven were taken into captivity and five died during the roundup, including a mother trying to rescue her calf.

No feeling person could read an account of how the orcas responded during this event and not feel disgusted by it. Orcas are intelligent mammals with their own language and culture, and because scores of them were captured in Northwest waters in that time period, they are an endangered species today.

Only one of the orcas captured near Penn Cove– also the oldest captive orca anywhere– is still alive. Lolita, originally called Tokitae, has been at the Miami Sequarium ever since 1970 when she was taken from her pod. She is nearing 50, and for the past 44 years has been having to dance for her food in a substandard-sized tank in the hot sun.

She still recognizes her native tongue; she still has relatives, including an orca in her 90s who is likely her mother, roaming the Salish Sea in the Northwest. Despite all the efforts to bring her back to a sea pen in her native waters, the Miami Seaquarium still won’t allow her to come home and our government has failed to make it happen. Lolita/Tokitae is the Seaquarium’s star attraction and has made untold millions for them.

The Penn Cove Capture of Southern Resident Orcas, August 1970

The Penn Cove Capture of Southern Resident Orcas, August 1970

Howard Garrett of the Orca Network provided a link to this documentary in a recent newsletter, Lolita: Slave to Entertainment. This film was made in 2003, and sadly, more than 11 more years have passed without improvements in her situation. As the experts interviewed in this piece said, this orca will be worked until she’s dead. She’s already outlasted the rest of her captured peers, some by decades. Some captured orcas have even killed themselves, as did Kathy, the lead dolphin in the Flipper TV series. It’s why Flipper trainer Ric O’Barry became a marine animal rights activist.

You’d think that after 44 years the Miami Seaquarium’s owners could show a little compassion and let their star attraction retire in peace. Orcas have life spans similar to humans and I know that when I hit 50 I don’t want anyone keeping me locked in a bathroom and making me do ballet for a sandwich a couple times a day. I don’t want that now. Yet this amazing creature, who has shown such resilience and spirit despite the daily cruelty she endures, is required to do exactly that in a crappy concrete prison that’s not even properly sized.

Please take an hour to watch Lolita: Slave to Entertainment in memory of what happened at Penn Cove (and elsewhere in the Northwest in the 1960s and 1970s). Some clips, like seeing Lolita/Tokitae float listlessly and alone in her tub between shows and at night, are difficult to watch. But this is a story every schoolchild in the Northwest and in Florida should know. This is an issue all Washingtonians should unite on.

Now is a good time to make your voice heard. As the Orca Network has pointed out, last month the Miami Seaquarium was purchased by Palace Entertainment, which owns over 70 theme parks. We have an opportunity to change the barbaric practice of orca capture and confinement; let’s do this. The Orca Network’s Lolita page has links so that you can easily contact Palace Entertainment.You can read Howard Garrett’s letter to Palace Entertainment here.

Tokitae Ferry

Next time you board the new Washington State ferry Tokitae, take a moment to think of who it’s named after. Your involvement could save her life. Photo by Karen Ducey, Puget Sound Business Journal.

When the half a century-old Lolita is finally brought home to a sea pen in the San Juan Islands, I’d imagine that her reaction would be similar to Raju the elephant’s, who was just released from 50 years of captivity. Raju had been beaten and forced to wear spiked chains. He ate what he could get from passing tourists but sometimes ate plastic just to fill his stomach. When his captors knew he was about to be rescued they chained him even tighter, and then when those shackles finally came off, he cried.

Raju

Like orcas, elephants are highly intelligent animals who live in groups, and Raju went through 50 years of hell as well. He now lives in a refuge with five other elephants who have welcomed him as a friend. He can now spend the last chapters of his life eating regular food, being loved by a family, and being properly cared for by humans instead of exploited.

I hope for the same for Tokitae. Together we can make it happen.

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A righteous man regards the life of his animal,

But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.

Proverbs 12:10

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©2014 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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