There’s still a chunk of summer left and some river miles to get done before it’s all over. Because of high flows on the White River back in June, there’s still significant miles to get done there. After the White, the Puyallup is going to seem relaxing in some ways, but will include some long mountain-biking sections and off-trail hiking and climbing in the high country of Mount Rainier, along with the canoeing portion, the final part of the trip that brings all three rivers together and runs out into salt water.
Water samples that are being collected at various spots along each of these rivers will be analyzed for microplastics and the resulting data is intended to be the baseline for a new, watershed-wide program for area students. One of the outcomes of the expedition will be a classroom kit that individual teachers can use to take their students through the collection and analysis process of their own samples from places that are close to where they live. The kit will contain all the lab equipment necessary for a class of 30 students to run their own samples, to get familiar with writing a field report and to get experience looking through a microscope. A video guide to the step-by-step process will be included and students will be able to share their results online, with each new sample giving a clearer picture of the unseen plastic in our watershed.
But more than anything else, it is a way for all of us to connect with this place on a deeper level. When you really see it, it’s hard not to love it. And when you love it, it’s hard not to want to protect it.