Time to Prepare

Summer is over… the fishing fleet is back…

and we need to get the boat ready for winter before the weather changes.  The dinghy needed some TLC and it was safer for me to work on it by putting it on the tidal grid instead of suspending it with our davit and laying underneath it.  A tidal grid is a structure that supports a boat when the tide goes out.  It’s used to make quick repairs or do maintenance below the boat’s waterline, but you have less than 12 hours to do it!  Just float your boat onto the grid when the tide is high, tie it and tend the lines as the tide ebbs, and get out there and work as soon as the ground under the grid is bare.  I got a LOT of laughs for putting such a tiny boat on the grid – but it made my job safer and easier.

With winter prep completed and daylight shrinking by 5 minutes a day (!)……it was a perfect time to take a trip for a different kind of adventure.We flew “down south” (which refers to anywhere in the Lower 48), and I immediately took advantage of abundant stores to check out two yarn shops. We picked up our RV, took it on the ferry……and… I’ll tell you more in the next post.

Rainforest Festival

Every September Petersburg hosts a Rainforest Festival, far enough into the month that it’s obviously not for tourists – they’ve all gone south by then.  The Festival is all about science with lectures, field trips, hands-on learning and activities for kids.  There are so many things to do and see – it can be hard to choose, yet still easy to fill a long weekend.

The artists headed up the Stikine River for some plein air painting and berry picking, the mushroom lovers spent time with a mycologist (“just call me the Fungus guy”) to learn about common as well as rare mushrooms that grow in our rainforest (and to collect edible ones). People took guided boat trips to the Baird glacier gravel bars, and I joined a field trip to our local salmon hatchery.The outflow of the mountain lake that provides much of our hydro-electric power also supports the cooperative salmon hatchery – this one raises king (chinook) and some coho (silver) salmon for sport fishing.  1.6 million eggs are incubating, and the fish are raised until they are just a few inches long before they’re released at the head of several creeks in the region.  Hatcheries use eggs and sperm from wild fish to help improve the percentage of eggs that grown into adult fish – available for marine predators as well as sport fishermen.

We attended an excellent lecture by a local Forest Service hydrologist who spoke about the nature of salmon streams that make them good habitat for the fish to successfully reproduce… and then the hydrologist took us on a field trip out the road to a salmon stream that was severely disturbed by logging back in the 1960s.  The hydrologist’s job has been play detective – analyzing terrain that has been heavily overgrown to understand what happened to the stream over 50 years ago, and what subtle modifications (if any) would restore the stream to its original characteristics for good salmon habitat.  The radio station produced a nice story about our hydrology adventure.

Of course it rained.  But no self-respecting southeast Alaskan would go out without good rain gear and brown boots.  Well, most.  The hydrologist’s wife and daughters came along, and the little girls didn’t want to wear raincoats.  Instead, they made umbrellas from giant skunk cabbage leaves and stayed pretty dry.I chose a kayak trip up Petersburg Creek instead of learning to make fish skin leather, taking advantage of the big tide needed to get up the creek.  We were led by a fisheries biologist who talked about the different sizes of gravel and bottom composition that each type of salmon species prefers, and we could easily see through the clear water.  Coho were leaping and a few sport fishermen were enjoying success… as were the bears.  We saw 5 as we paddled and rode the flood tide up the creek.And yes, that’s rain in the photo.  It’s a rainforest, and we really need the water after such a dry summer.It’s a beautiful creek, accessible all the way up (about 6 miles) only on a big tide.

Thomas Bay – Cascade Creek

We decided to give the dinghy prop a little break from glaciers and hidden rocks, so we headed down to the lower end of Thomas Bay to hike Cascade Creek and to do a little kayaking.Can you spot Cascade Creek?  It’s just to the right of center, looking pretty small at this distance… even though it’s a big roaring stream.The trail follows the creek through the forest, with tiny flowers……even tinier mushrooms and other fungus along the way.We didn’t venture all the way up to the lake – the trail got very rough and the climb wasn’t something we wanted to do, but it was beautiful to see the rushing water as we hiked along.There just isn’t a bad view anywhere in Thomas Bay.

Scenery Cove and Baird Glacier

Sorry about the long lapse between posts – we’ve been super busy, stopping back in town, heading out for one last cruise of the season, back in town in time for the Rainforest Festival, and getting the boat ready for winter.  Last week we had overnight temps just above freezing, with slick frost on the docks in the mornings.  The days are getting much shorter, and we’re losing daylight at a rate of 5 minutes a day! 

We tend to spend so much time exploring far from home that we forget how good the cruising can be in our own backyard.  For the last cruise of the season we traveled just 16 nautical miles to Thomas Bay for another visit to the Baird Glacier and the aptly named Scenery Cove.We had the little mini-fjord all to ourselves for a couple of days, enjoying some kayaking and exploring along the edges.We didn’t see any bears here – there weren’t any salmon, but we saw a deer leaping and lots of interesting little things along the shoreline… like these curly tree branches……and tiny silvery threads of falling water.Fall is starting to make its arrival known…The other great thing about Scenery Cove is that it’s right at the doorstep of the Baird Glacier, one of the two glaciers that formed Thomas Bay.  The Baird is no longer a tidewater glacier, which means that it no longer comes down to the sea, but it has a meltwater lake at its face that flows into the bay.  The outflow changed over the winter, making the channel accessible by small boat this summer.  However, glacier water is completely opaque with glacial silt and the channel is shallow and rocky.  It’s not very forgiving, as our dinghy propeller can attest.But… it’s worth a little excitement for the views and to have a chance to explore the gravel bars and silt plains left behind as the glacier has retreated.

We saw moose tracks and bear scat, and we were careful to make lots of noise when we passed through thickets of brush.  There were barren patches of fine silt and sand, big stretches covered in boulders and cobbles, small trees, and a wonderful assortment of mosses, lichens and tiny mushrooms.I don’t have enough space in this Blog to put all the photos I took of the various lichens and tiny plants – I’m still looking up all the names of everything!  My point is that, while the landscape is a grand one, the many details within that landscape are also special… like a “face” in the silt.And aren’t the patterns and texture of the glacier beautiful?