Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fall Update

As fall turns slowly to winter we're snug in Oystercatcher bobbing around at the dock. Mornings and evenings are dark and often rainy. A wet splash to work for Blain, he is often accompanied by Mo and Chance for the morning walk.

Mo typically heads to the pool or library, or helps out as a volunteer around town. There is something fun going on in this town every day.

Blain knocked on the door at Sitka Trail Works one morning and walked out with a job beginning the next. He works on trails, drives a big green truck, and smiles alot.

We've really been welcomed to the community, to dinners and events, to hikes and evening drinks. We are wondering if we're home.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Hunkering Down

Well it looks like Sitka's got a hold of us for the winter. We've decided to at least leave the boat here and explore more of their wonderful trails. The harbor's nice, and they promise not to have too big of a La Nina year, so we're looking for money-making opportunities so we can keep up the gypsy life next year.

Here are acouple of interesting trails we've hiked recently.

The first is the causeway built from Japonski Island to connect several islands for defence in WWII. Recently dedicated as Ft. Rousseau State Park, there are plans for interpretive stuff and boat launches to get over here from Sitka. The airport kinds of blocks access from land, so you can only get here by small boat or kayak. Regardless of the access issues, it is an interesting place. Built with antiaircraft gunnery, and concrete bunkers, there's still lots of cool stuff to see here.

This railway was probably a circle to roll the cannons for a 360deg view.  Waves have eroded many of the filled areas, and there are a few places where the trail is missing.

 The maze-like antiaircraft batteries were evidently covered with some sort of roof, but could look out in all directions.
 One of the abandoned bunkers is not quite empty. A rough-cut bar with stools, make-shift disco ball, and wood stove are ready for the next rave.

Blain thought he could get this old crane working again if he'd only brought his leatherman. Darn. We've been needing a crane.
 The causeway is exposed to the gulf waves, and it's a spectacular spot on a sunny day.

The new deisel heater came in and Blain spent the better part of a day and a half putting it in. We are very happy to report it works wonderfully, and really takes the chill out of the fall air. Here's Blain trying to figure out the fuel metering pump and filter.

 After the work was done, we tackled a couple of new trails. The Beaver Lake and Harbor Mountain trails.
 Gorgeous rock work and bridges really are raising the bar on trails in Alaska. Sitka Trail Works and the Forest Service have partnered to really build them right. And the citizens and visitors of Sitka reap the rewards.

After slogging and crawling through so many muddy rootwad tracks that get called "trails" in SE Alaska over the last year, we were utterly shocked by how good the Harbor Mtn trail was. Obviously built by folks to last a lifetime, it incorporates full bench construction, substantial rock causeways and stairways, and to the delight of Monique, neat stone benches and overlooks.
 The shelter at Gavan Hill was squat, but would be cozy if stuck in a snowstorm.
And the view. Well ya got to love it. The string of land between the islands is the WWII causeway (Ft. Rousseau).

 Obviously Sitka has done what few communities in Southeast have done - invest in their trails. We, for two, appreciate it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sitka Soup with Blair

We soak in Goddard Hot Springs, south of Sitka with Blain's second cousin once removed, Blair. He just finished up working on the Anchorage to Fairbanks and Denali railroad for the summer and met us in Sitka for a few days of sun, wine and fun. He's a great guy and a fine crew member and loves to cook. That was a good thing, too.

 Dinners were quite the treat. Blair's travelled extensively in Central America and China. Mexican night was quite good.

Then pasta night. Here Blair's rolling out the pasta and hanging it in the cabin to dry a bit before running it through the spaghetti attachment and was eventually topped by the last of the black cod.

The hot tubs were big round wood tubs and were great, but it was a shame there was no good weather tub to soak in. Lots of colorful grafitti to laugh at. A fine kettle of humans. A cannibal's dream.
 Blair's been on the boat twice - once back in Belligham, and we enjoyed a nice sail back to Sitka before the wind.
Blain put in a new solar-powered vent fan before the coming storm, but it still hasn't kicked on. The directions say it might need a few back-to-back days of sun before the battery is charged. We hope that happens before 2011.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Monster that Ate a Glacier

Look at what we found -

Yeah. Woah.

A thirteen-foot long giant squid. Chance found it really, but he always finds the smelly stuff first. The claws at the ends of the longest tentacles were way scary. Nightmares for three days. Blain is reconsidering his swimming chores next time the propeller zinc gets loose.

This was washed up at high tide on the shore of Ideal Cove across Dry Pass from the Laconte Glacier and the Stikine River. It is just south of Petersburg, a town that knows their seafood. The newspaper girls saw it and said, "Woo, look at all that calimari!".

Appartently they wash up from time to time, but are usually 10 feet or under. This was a whopper. So gross and so cool at the same time.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Round Admiralty

Away we go from Juneau - troublesome cabin heater is in the mail to Seattle. Hopefully repairable. They are expensive little boogers.


We decided to do our own "Round Admiralty" regatta of one. This way we can't lose.

A quick pull into Tracy Arm with the active tidewater glaciers, but we decided not to head in due to fog, and other intangibles. We put it on our list for later, though. Locals say it is better than Glacier Bay. Very hard to believe, so we’ll have to check it out. There’s almost nowhere to anchor, and the run in is in the 30 mile round trip range. We’ll see.

The bears are drawing us, and we got to do some viewing at Pack Creek - a bear observatory jointly run by the Forest Service and AK Dept. of Fish and Game. Apparently because the two agencies didn't trust each other in the eighties.
A nice shot of a great blue heron along the way.
We anchored out and took the kayak to shore after radioing the rangers. They tied the kayak to a rope and pulley system that allows skiffs and such to float well off shore (and away from hungry ursine mouths). We are met and briefed and given the bear talk by an ranger with a rifle. He tells us that their policy at Pack Creek is to never give way to bears and never back down. The thinking goes that if a bear is able to push around one human, they will try with everybody. It’s a whole lot easier to do when carrying a gun. Very different than Katmai, where the bears are given the right of way at all times.

At the beach lagoon viewing site –just two logs to sit on – we met the ADF&G technician Jane, and quickly realized that we both were friends with Greg and Marnie in Haines. Quite a little world.  
 This burly sign wasn't quite stout enough... Design standards need to be more like Jurassic Park. We liked the 3-inch thick cedar planking and fishnet over the slippery logs on the canoe trail is a nice way to recycle.
We hiked the trail to Alexander Lake and found a SAGA crew replacing the aged shelter. These are vital for folks doing the cross-Admiralty canoe route like we did in 2005 with Shaun, and we’re glad to see the Forest Service putting some effort into keeping them.

The new Friends of the Tongass Cabins had something to do with it, as did economic stimulus funds. GObama! Though we suspect this sign will last all of a week.

 The trail up to the upper observation platform was nice, and we managed to startle a sow and cub along the way, but she was probably Mocha, and used to people, so we lived.
 One large female bear named “Pokey” was dredging the lagoon for dead fish. She must like the “aged” variety better than those 100 feet away in the creek.

 Later Mocha came over to fish the creek and play with her cub in the meadow. She’s the money bear and always delights, we were told.

It was nice having the place all to ourselves and we got to quiz the rangers on bear behavior and biology. It turns out that this year has an exceptionally large run of pink salmon. Good for bears and other forest critters.


Blain caught his first Dungeness crab in a while and we made omelets with him. It’s been a dry spell since we lost our shrimp pot in Glacier Bay. But we did learn something. It might just still be there.

We looked and looked for our shrimp pot and couldn’t find it anywhere. We’d placed it in around 250 feet and had 400 feet of rope, so we knew it didn’t just float off, and assumed it must have been stolen or a whale got tangled in it, but we didn’t want to admit either of these.

We anchored for the night and went back in the morning at low water slack to look for it. Lo and behold, it was right where the GPS said it should be. Weird. So Blain pulled it up and we saw that the float was all pruned up like fingertips in the bathtub. It must have been held under by the current when we looked for it the evening before. Poor thing. Six shrimp in it. Hmph.

Speaking of tides, Chance sometimes gets a little ahead of them. Here he is wondering why the dinghy isn’t going.
We were escorted by a large pod of Dall’s porpoises on the way to Pack Creek and back. On a sunny day in the clear water of Seymour Canal, we cavorted. You won’t believe the video. The water was so clear. Will post soon.
Our propeller zinc has rattled loose a couple of times and Blain gets to dress up like Jaques Cousteau to tighten it. And he loves it. Though we have to figure out how to roll up the drysuit closure better so it doesn't look like a uniboob.

Some gorgeous clear nights under a frisky moon.

And finally, a lichen with a great name. For some reason, fungus and lichens seem to have been named by a kindergarten glass after a cookie break. This one's real and actual scientific name is "Fairy Barf". Seriously. Look it up. Icmadophila ericetorum.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Glacier Bay - by wee little boats

Our cousins J and Krista flew up to Gustavus from Bellingham to meet us for a week in Glacier Bay NP.
Gear - there was wheelbarrows full.
This load was just the seven bear canisters full of food. We have to admit, we had a bit that did not fit. We didn't lose any weight on this trip.
The water taxi was the high-speed day cruise catamaran, and we got to spot breaching whales, bears and mountain goats along the way. The NPS does a nice job of the interpretation, and they took us up to the glaciers at the head of the bay, and fed us well.
The view was occasionally obstructed...
But we found that if you put them in perspective, they seem less intrusive.
Here we were celebrating fittng all the gear and food in three kayaks on a glorious day. The beginning of 5 straight days of sun and no rain. Wow, these guys can really time the weather.
We were able to finagle a drop off closer to Johns Hopkins Glacier by asking the captain if he'd let us get off with a guided group at "Ptarmagain" near Lamplugh Clacier. Better forget we told you this, though. They don't advertise it.

So right around the corner was a massive glacier. Awesome way to start the trip.

Most of our camps were on moraines, so we could get the views. Unfortunately the ranger who gave us our "backcountry orientation" talk also gave J, Krista, and Mo her cold. So they were a bit puny some days, but we had short paddle days, since we'd been dropped off so much further up our route than we'd planned. It worked out great.
Regular application of glacially-chilled chardonnay helped, too.
The models became a little more lively.
And the photos more artistic.

J was our trip photog, and we can't wait to see what he got with his super-duper digital SLR.
One campsite had great wildflowers, and I shot about 40 of them. Here's a nice paintbrush.

Some gorgeous spots. And only one "carry of shame" beach where the tide went way out and we had to carry the boats a hundred yards to the water. Oops. One should never totally trust their guides, anyway.
And we did pick up a new friend for Chance. This little vole stowaway really wanted to see the world with us. J saved the day by using a paddle float as a magic carpet ride. The little guy got to tell his buddies about the visit to the big boat AND flying through the air.
Other wildlife included a wolf possibly carring a pup, a humpback whale carcass, a lone orca (T-1 so named) loads of oystercatchers, thousands of seals on the ice in Johns Hopkins, harbor porpoises, and on and on.

Here's the daed whale smorgasbord. Yummy, and still a bit more to eat.

Hopefully more photos, later. It was a fantastic trip. We loved sea kayaking again; it is such an intimate way to be on the water. We know it was the beginning of many long kayaking adventures for J&K.