by Docent Ruth Vitovec
Like many of us, my husband and I were drawn to Fidalgo Island by the pristine beauty of the area and its surrounding waters. However, unlike many fellow Trail Tales docents, we were not born here, nor were we long-time residents active in environmental programs, nor members of Beachwatchers. My prior volunteer activities had always taken me into other areas of community life far afield from ecological concerns. I, of course, had a cursory acquaintance with the ecology of the area, but that was it. So it was with a great deal of trepidation that I found myself starting on a personal journey of discovery when I volunteered to be a Trail Tales docent, driven by curiosity and spurred by the boundless enthusiasm of my friend Betty Carteret.
The first discovery I made, more of a confirmation really, was of how much I didn't know about the challenges facing Fidalgo Bay and how much there was to learn. Fortunately, our region abounds with experts and knowledgeable people who willingly share their time, knowledge, interest in and passion for the ecology of our area. Our Trail Tales training brought some of them to us for presentations on the flora and fauna, the birds, Samish culture, and the history of Anacortes, which I had no trouble following. Others gave presentations on the DOE Puget Sound Initiative and Baywide Cleanup, the DNR'S Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve Management Plan, and similar topics, which were interesting and informative, but made my head spin and my confidence flounder. While many of my fellow trainee docents sat nodding in understanding, I was feeling somewhat overwhelmed with talk of phthalates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins and furans. What had I gotten myself into?! I wondered, and could I ever synthesize the torrent of information flowing our way into any kind of tale-trail or otherwise?
Happily, when the second phase of our training began and eight topics for the 2012 Trail Tales program were selected to develop, I discovered some of my anxiety had been misplaced-I wouldn't have to remember everything after all! In the course of the next few weeks, our eight teams of docents researched, prepared, practiced, and presented a chosen topic, and I made further discoveries: about the role of Anacortes's plywood mill in our history and its legacy and clean up, how the shellfish and shore birds are tied to the bay, the interconnections between mountains and water, tides and currents, how native and introduced plants affect the shoreline, the history of Weaverling Spit, March Point,and the native people that have so long lived here, and the role that each of these has had in making Fidalgo Bay what it is today.After my first season of with Trail Tales -- I discovered I now think of Fidalgo Island and its Bay differently. They are not just the beautiful places we call home but also a treasure that is ours to protect so that future generations may enjoy its riches too. The more that ordinary citizens like me learn about it, the better the chances for others to discover these precious natural resources, the Bay's rich history, its beauty and its wonders. Trail Tales is a pleasant way for everyone to learn, share and discover. I'm glad I came along on the trail, and I look forward to even more journeys of discovery as we begin our second year. See you on the Tommy Thompson Trail!