Sunday, October 20, 2013

Alaska day

October 18th is Alaska day. I celebrated by going to the Berry Patch cabin at Eagle beach. Mr. X was sick with a cold and had a presentation for work the next Tuesday so he opted to stay home in bed. Friday was a rainy day. I packed up some books, a camp chair and some goodies. I chose not to overachieve by cooking pizza over the campfire or haul the gear for dutch oven cooking and instead just have a nice relaxing day.

At the cabin, shortly after I'd burned through all my t.p. trying (and failing) to light the oil stove, I noticed that there were a dozen seals playing in the river just in front of the cabin. So I sat on the porch and watched them leaping out of the water, throwing their flippers in the air. I then turned my attention to my book and heating water for my hot cocoa. Only the best. Double chocolate with marshmallows.

An hour later I realized the rain had truly stopped so I decided to take the little loop trail from the Eagle beach campground to the Eagle glacier trail and around the backside of the Methodist camp. Mr. X made sure I took the bear spray when I left the house, but I forgot to take it on my hike. Biologists are saying that most bears are denned up already, so the precaution was mostly for human encounters...since the only people I saw all day were moms with toddlers, I'm pretty sure, it was okay the spray stayed in the cabin.

Almost directly behind the Methodist camp I found this toadstool. It was about ten inches in diameter and I was amazed that no one had come and crushed it yet.

I walked through the muskeg on the planked trail loving the red and orange colors of the grasses, the green and gray witch's beard hanging from the trees and the misty fog floating low in the sky. A perfect mix of fall. I crossed the highway back to the park and saw three eagles fighting for dominance; the two juveniles had to give up their perch. A couple of grebes paddled their way against the river current.

After my hike, I popped up some corn only to run out of stove fuel which meant that those chocolate covered graham crackers weren't going to be s'mores. When it got too dark to read my book, I packed my bags and headed for the car, satisfied with my trip "out-of-town".

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

You might live in Juneau if...

Bears in three parts:

1) traffic stops - not for a crossing guard in the middle school crosswalk - but for a law abiding bear. Traffic was slow, but busy in the school zone as it always is at this time of day, and I expected to see 6th graders in the street, but instead got a good look at a loping black bear. The students appeared unfazed as they waited their turn for the crosswalk. Not sure I'd be that cool about a bear trotting towards me.

2) On Saturday evening, while watching a wildlife video about the great salmon run (BBC's Natures Great Events), I hear the garbage can go clunk. I peek out the window and see a bear rump less than two feet away. When the can didn't yield it's goods, he was off to somewhere else.

3) In the news: Bear looking for night cap in Juneau bar JUNEAU, Alaska (AP & KINY) — If only all unwelcome bar guests were this obliging. A black bear walked into the bar at the Alaskan Hotel in downtown Juneau on Monday night. Bartender Ariel Svetlik-McCarthy says she freaked out and yelled, "No bear! Get out! No! You can't be in here!" The bear complied, leaving the bar within seconds. State biologist Ryan Scott says it's rare for black bears to go inside Juneau businesses, but they have wandered inside homes before. One wandered in to Auke Bay Elementary School a couple of weeks ago after classes had concluded for the day.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Blackerby Ridge

After hitting the Labor day sales at Fred Meyer, Mr. X and I decided to take a hike. Mr. X called B and we settled on Blackerby ridge for the day. After lunch we set off on the trail.

Despite the rainy weather we had the previous days, the trail was in pretty good shape through the woods. We took our time, talking and sharing movie recommendations. At one rotten tree on which we were marvelling at the pumpkin colored fungus, we were greeted by a short-tailed weasil. This little guy was orange brown with a buff underside. He zipped around investigating who we were and what we were doing. Mr. X says he was saying, "I can take you!"

We finally broke out of the trees and trudged out way through the now trail with stream running through it. Mr. X and B stopped to eat blueberries. We then crossed a mushy meadow and climbed some more elevation to a drier meadow. We sat down for a rest and a spruce grouse flew up next to us. After checking us out she proceeded to eat blueberries within 6 feet of us. They aren't called fool hens for nothing.

We hiked up the trail another 100 feet and then sat down for a luxurious dinner with ptarmigan glacier behind us and the Mendenhall wetlands, Auke Bay and Lemon Creek area below. We had a cheese and apple plate, cracked pepper trisuits, chocolate and nuts, Chicken and rice, Chicken ala king and the thing keeping us going through out - red vines. B did some after dinner entertainment - reading Ender's Game.

On the way down the mountain we stopped and picked some blueberries. They were nicely sun ripened and although the easiest spots were picked over, the hardest spots to reach still had large berries, just waiting to be picked. We filled my nalgene bottle. And Sunday I made blueberry muffins to share at a potluck dinner.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Mr. X's sister visits

The last full weekend of August, Mr. X's sister and brother-in-law came to visit. First on their list of things to do was charter fishing. We went out with our friendly captain and crew for a half day of salmon fishing near icy straits. We caught 3 silvers that we're sure to enjoy. All of my good pictures have Mr. X in you don't get to see them.

After fishing we tried out the Thai Kitchen which we've been told for years is the best restaurant in town. I'm not sure it lived up to its reputation. In the afternoon, we headed downtown to shop and go up the Mt. Roberts tram. We hiked the alpine loop and even made a quick jaunt up to the cross - the first time Mr. X and I have made it that far up the mountain.

Mr. X then treated us to gelato and then we drove to Last Chance Basin to talk about mining in Juneau. For dinner we went to the Island Pub. I think this is my new favorite restaurant. The next morning we went to breakfast at the Sand Piper and then went to the Mining Museum.

We then went out to the Mendenhall Glacier where we saw three bears (including one with a radio collar) and BIL taught us about rocks. In fact he looked around picked up a rock and said, "See here, this is a great example, here's quartz, sulfides, and see that glitter, that's gold. Do you have a back pack?" No, we didn't take the rock. We didn't have a pack and well, who knows what a park ranger would say about removing "artifacts" from the recreational area.

For dinner Saturday night we had a fish bake on Sandy beach. The weather held and Mr. X's sister, created the best salmon, potato, zuchini foil dinners ever, a variety of deli salads and fire roasted stuff peppers. We finished the night off with s'mores with peanut butter cups. The out-of-towners left Sunday morning. It was a good visit, especially since I now know where to eat out!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Whale watching

John Harrison's last week of work, we finally took him up on his offer of a complimentary whale watching tour. After work one night we headed to Auke bay for a cruise out to the Orca Point Lodge on Colt island for dinner, beach combing and touch tank viewing.

The salmon bake dinner was excellent. After dinner we headed out to do some whale watching. We saw a calf, cow, escort whale and Spot, the local non-migratory, non-reproducing whale.

After a bit of that, we stopped at hump island to see some seals reclining on the beach. We've seen plenty of sea lions hauled out in places, but never seals on a beach. It was a beautiful evening and totally worth the price. :)

Friday, July 5, 2013

Fourth of July

I had big plans, but when it came down to it, I just needed a day to rest.

So we watched movies and I made food and then I saw a little black bear cub walk by.

Mr. X and I went outside to watch him wander down the street. After he disappeared from sight we headed back inside. On the way, I noticed that our garbage cans were unlocked, so I locked them up and noticed the cub was staring at me from around the corner of the house (i.e. within 10 feet). Thankfully he turned and walked away. We watched him climb the neighbor's fence, gnaw on some antlers stacked on the wood pile, completely ignore the chicken coop and then come back and try to break into our garbage cans. He worked really hard on the black can, and got it half-way open since the latch is faulty, but not enough to get his snack. Eventually he wandered away.

Kinda fun we didn't have to go anywhere beyond the front door to get our wildlife viewing.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Herbert Glacier

We've gone for short walks on this trail, but I'd never finished it and Mr. X hadn't been out to the glacier for five or six years. On Saturday, June 8th, we decided to try it out once again.

The trail is flat and one that Trail Mix (the local trail crew) has improved. It is now mostly bikeable and considering we were some of  the only hikers, I'd say most people ride instead of walk.

The trail winds through hemlock forest with plenty of blueberries and devil's club. There are a few lakes with benches for resting on, but Mr. X wanted to run the trail as much as we could (less than half of it), so he didn't even pause when we saw a golden-eye on one of the small bodies of water.

We'd been told to expect scattered showers, but we soon discovered it was going to be a gloriously beautiful day. Sunshine and lollipops again.

After four miles we entered a sandy area where the silt from the glacier has been deposited. We were now in a large clearing where we could soak up the sun, spot mountain goats on the hills. The rushing water from the Herbert Glacier River, though, was scary. I wouldn't want to be holding onto kids here.

The beach was an attractive camping spot and I envyed the people setting up their sites. We'll have to go back. 

We could see a little bit of the glacier from this angle, but Mr. X said we could wind our way to the left and get in front of the face. Following tags and cairns, we scrambled up some rocks and past the raging water, crossed a small clear creek and sat down in a gravel pit for our lunch.

Mr. X and the scouts had crossed the water to get up near the glacier, but they had gone in November when water levels are lower. There was no way I was going to attempt the 5' leap across the 35 degree rushing water.

After spending an hour in the hot sun, being cooled by the breeze off the ice field, we made our way back down the trail.

At one point we stopped running because there was a porcupine in the middle of the path. Mr. X pointed out a large discolored spot on the porcupine's back and suggested that the animal had had a run-in recently.  Just then a black lab rounded the corner ahead of us and we called out to the owner. He told the dog to "leave it", but the dog didn't mind; he ran directly to the prickly animal. When the dog was less than two feet away, Mr. X and I shouted "NO!" and luckily he decided he wasn't ready to be a pin cushion and should leave it. We were embarrassed. We're not sure if the dog owner may have annoyed that we had involved ourselves. But really Mr. X didn't have his gerber tool and I'm certain the owner didn't have one hidden in his running shorts either.

We continued our running/walking through the forest and back to the car where we found cars parked along the highway. Herbert Glacier was popular Saturday.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Eagle Glacier Trail

No pictures for this trail. It was kind of a lost cause.

Saturday G called us in the afternoon and asked what we were up to, then suggested a hike. It was record heat (83 degrees) and I thought that sounded like a good idea as long as it was in the shade.

G picked the Eagle Glacier Trail. None of us had been on it, and we had no idea what to expect. We had our work cut out for us since it was after 1:30 and we had at least 14 miles to go. At about mile 2.5, Mr. X stumbled and stubbed his toe. At the 3 mile mark he said he couldn't go any farther. G said her ankle was bothering her anyway. And the mosquitoes were having me for lunch, so we decided to call it a day.

On the way back to the car we ran across a group of gold panners. They had a few flakes after an hour's work. They also had a 10 week chocolate lab pup who was tuckered out by the heat and hike - he was asleep right in the middle of the bridge and didn't wake up even when we petted him.

G and B came over for popsicles and we showed bored them with the packrafts. Mr. X iced his foot which we're pretty sure is going to need at least three weeks of recovery.

Friday, June 14, 2013

May I suggest...

We've been learning about our Scandanavian roots. Well, not really. I'm not sure I can claim much. Mr. X says he knows he's Finnish blood is still there in the fall 'cause he suddenly has the urge to sew warm clothes... Half of these aren't even Scandanavian, but rather Baltic, but we've appreciated the following:

Max Manus: Man of War - About the Norwegien underground during WWII.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys: the story of a girl pulled from her Lithuanian home by Soviet guards and sent to Siberia.

The Singing Revolution - Estonia's bloodless revolution in 1990. A documentary that will have you wishing for sheet music. Beautiful singing. Amazing story. Other countries were not as fortunate and, I think, may have paid the price so Estonia wouldn't have to. But the brave, yet civilized, cultured people's story will amaze you.  

And just for fun.... Wallander (UK TV series) - murder mysteries adapted from Swedish novelist Henning Mankell's novels. We've watched the Swedish versions too, but watch out! They have nudity.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Treadwell Ditch

'Cause we can't get enough of Douglas island...

The Treadwell Ditch trail is a historic trail. The Treadwell mine built the ditch in the late 1880s to collect water for hydroelectric power. They created a ditch to collect stream water off the hills of Douglas for 16 miles. And seeing the trail during spring melt, they were well rewarded for their efforts.

Saturday we met B and G downtown and stashed a car at Sandy beach, then drove up Fish Creek road to the trailhead near the Eaglecrest Ski Lodge.

The trail book assures us that this trail is best hiked on a "misty" Juneau day when you can't see anything since you'll be in the trees all day. It was 47 degrees and raining the entire time. We passed though bands of fog too. Pretty sure we followed the instructions perfectly.

The first part of the trail was well graveled and then a flat, slowly decending route (water does flow downhill) through the forest. At about the 4 mile mark G slipped during a stream crossing and sprained her ankle. She decided she wanted to keep going, so somehow she muscled on.

We saw some bear scat in this area.

We had a 0.5 mile reroute through muskeg where I spotted two deer - running in the opposite direction. If we weren't wet before, we were now. At one point we were about to cross a snow sheet, I recalled my swimming episode near John Muir cabin and walked around instead.

There are 39 bridges on this trail and we think only 3 of them were still standing. Which made a few of the stream crossings hair raising. Remember - it is spring melt right now.

Nielson Creek was steep and the stairs out of the canyon were gone. We scaled a mossy wall. We admired the work the miners did blowing the ditch through rock. It looked like a mine shaft in this area rather than a ditch.

At the Falls creek crossing, B and G crossed above raging white-water cascading waterfalls on a rotten log, then scaled a mossy rock wall. Mr. X took time to build a rock step in the middle of the torrent which he and I used to leap across the water.

At Eagle creek, Mr. X and G built a rock wall to a fallen log up which they shimmeyed and then scaled another mossy wall. B and I chose the step-rock method in (now) calf deep water and scrambled up a mossy drainage. The pictures don't do it justice. This was a new bridge. We are standing 20 - 30' above the water here.

Most of the rest of the crossings were annoyances.

We stopped for a break at the 10.5 mark/junction with the Dan Moller trail. And saw our first people on the trail. Mr. X engaged a gentleman skiier in a conversation about conditions in the Dan Moller bowl. Really he said it was small talk to allow me a private potty break.

The trail conditions for most of the rest of the trip were pretty good, though several more stream crossings had us groaning. My hands were hurting and my thumbs were numb. We ran across/were nearly run over by two mountain bikers.

Eventually we reached an end. We could not cross Paris creek, so we back-tracked and hiked down through a muskeg where we reached another trail with a bridge across the creek. Deciding we had hiked enough, we hiked down the steep Mt. Bradley/Jumbo Trail access and out on 5th street above Sandy Beach. G's ankle and Mr. X's knees were pretty much toast. I was feeling hypothermic and B was just plain beat. Successful day, but I'm not signing up for this trail again any time soon.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Memorial Day

I had heard that there was supposed to be a good low tide on Monday, so after breakfast Mr. X and I went to Point Louisa to see what we could see. We were told upon arrival that Douglas is really the place to be...and that the lowest tide was Saturday. Good thing we spent Saturday's low tide scrambling on the beach and Sunday's low tide paddling past beautiful star fish.

We spent an hour looking at starfish. Green, orange, pink, silver and purple. We were able to identify red anenomies and sea cucumbers. A dad out with his kids caught a dolly varden trout and released it in a deep tidepool for everyone to examine. We saw green and purple urchins. Our sunburns were bugging us a little in the early morning sun, but this was Mr. X's chance to use the good camera for beach picture taking, (since we don't take it rafting with us) and I didn't want to miss it.

In the afternoon, I made potato salad with potatoes John left in the fridge and we continued to put away our camping gear. Seriously the living room looked like a sporting goods store.

 I'm afraid I'm seriously in need of a vacation now.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Back-side of Douglas

Mr. X has been gunning for this trip since we got the packrafts. He happily says Douglas looks like a giant pork chop, and I'd wondered if that was his true attraction to the place.
When we kicked my brother out on Monday, I told Mr. X we needed to get a bear canister since I'm not going tent camping without one. Our lack of a canister also prevented me from feeling good about dropping  said brother at the local campground 'cause I didn't want to be responsible for a mauling or a $5,000 fine.

So we ordered the container on Tuesday and Mr. X started talking about Douglas. I reminded him that the canister wasn't supposed to arrive until May 31st, and I felt confident that I was going to have a nice relaxing holiday weekend. You can imagine our surprise when the carrying case arrived on Thursday. At this point Mr. X procured a promise that if the canister arrived Friday we would go camping or at least make an attempt on going around the west side of Douglas aka the back-side. The canister arrived Friday and Mr. X started packing...
Starting out. Laughing about just where I put my keys, wool socks and pb&j sandwich.

Saturday morning we finished our packing and left on the Outerpoint/Rainforest Trail on North Douglas. After walking on the beach for a little way, we crossed the peninsula and bushwacked through the trees to a beach on the backside of Douglas. It was low tide, so we had plenty of room to scramble and pick our way over the rocks, boulders, seaweed and barnicles. We hiked along with a humpback whale to our right and greeted a marten that had just emerged from a swim. He look awful weasely all wet.

Continuing to hike along, Mr. X dropped back and I was walking by myself. I slipped on some rocks and fell over on my side. My pack was so heavy, I couldn't move and the rocks were holding me in a position so that I couldn't roll myself over. Eventually I managed to get to my knees and back on my feet. If only we could get to that nice sandy point up ahead with fresh water we could have our lunch.

Finally we neared the point and I heard a loud crash in the trees. Thinking it was a bear I backed away down the beach a little and then realized we had walked right up to someone else's campsite. Actually 8 adults and 16 kids campsite. It was one heck of a party. They talked to us and said if we had trouble to come back and share the crab they were pulling from their pots.

Thinking it was high tide we prepared to put the packrafts in, only to discover the tide was still rising and we had dropped our packs right in its path. We felt dumb. Good thing they were drybags.

We then headed out paddling. It started to rain. Then it stopped. Then the sun came out and we were singing about lollipops and rainbows. It was beautiful. Admiralty island looked like a hop, skip and a jump away and once the tide turned, I made it my goal to make it to church the next day. Everything was just going swimmingly.

We heard puffins, loons, saw two more martens on the rocks, scoters, eagles, mountains. It was beautiful.

At about 4:30 pm we made it around the fat part of the pork chop also known as Point Hilda, got checked out by some seals and decided that we would not stop there to camp for the night, but push for the southern tip instead since the tide should keep pulling us until 8:30 and slack tide would help us until 10:30 pm. It took us an hour and a half to make the crossing to the narrow part of the island and then we started looking for a beach to take our dinner break on. We saw cliff after cliff with raging waterfall and another marten took a good look at us from the beach.

After dinner we had a tug boat and barge pass us. Then a cruise ship. At about 8:30, Mr. X started looking for a campsite, but I thought it was too early. We passed some kayakers already camped out in the best looking spot, enjoying the golden hour as the sun slipped down casting a golden light on the peaks of Admiralty. The water was glassy; it was so calm.

Eventually about 10:15 Mr. X pointed to a cliff and said, that looks like a great place. Not convinced, I humored him and went might have had something to do with the sea lion that was huffing behind us though.

Mr. X ran up the beach and onto the cliff and sure enough found a cozy spot, just big enough for our tent. We hauled our gear all the way up the beach and tied the boats to the driftwood. We cleaned up the tent site, clearing away sticks and pine cones, finding enough evidence of deer beds, that we knew it would be a protected spot, away from wind. By 11:00, two more cruise ships had passed. We were tucked into our beds and had the gps alarm set for 1:22 am. We were expecting a 19 foot tide and Mr. X wanted to be sure to check our gear at the highest point. We were lulled to sleep by the lapping of the rising tide and the "Who-cooks-for-you?" query of a barred owl.

At 1:22 am, with the golden, nearly full moon low in the sky, Mr. X checked the rafts and paddles, assured that a rogue wave would not wash them away, he came back to bed.

Squirrels and ravens alarmed at our tent, Mr. X smiled in his sleep. We had a bear canister afterall.

At 6:30, a whale spout just outside had me leaping to my feet. A humpback was trolling just off the cliffs where we were camped. It was so fun to watch it work its way along spraying water as it went.  

Knowing that time and tide wait for no man, just before low tide, we rustled up a cold breakfast and headed out to finish the last 9 miles of our trip. We floated along, the current pulling us quickly in the direction we wanted to go. Mr. X checking the beach for dozens of star fish, me paddling through bull kelp. We quickly passed the South Douglas point and Marmion island. We spotted a dozen harlequin ducks and now wished for the flood tide. Eventually it came and pushed us up the Gastineau channel at 1.5 miles per hour. 

Of course, just what I didn't want to see behind me? A mammoth cruise ship. I headed closer to the sandy shore, terrified of the wake that would be coming. A couple jet skiers rushed to jump through the wake. And while Mr. X was saying, "Wheeee!" I was saying "Shoot!" Unfortunately, I caught a cresting wave at an angle and predictably, my fears were realized as my raft flipped in three feet of water. I rode out the rest of wake waves on my knees holding on to my paddle and raft as best I could. The poor guys on jet skis couldn't tell it was only three feet and paused their wave running until I could hoist my paddle, flip the raft and leap back in. Nothing hurt but my pride.  

Tortured now that we had seen downtown Juneau for hours, we just wanted to be finished with our trip. We paddled on, now making good time despite our aching muscles and blistered hands. We finally passed Juneau island and crossed into the Douglas boat harbor at 12:30 where we packed up, called a cab and cooked chicken and rice for lunch. After a quick ride to North Douglas we loaded the car, drove home and then I headed to church since I hadn't made substitute arrangements for nursery. I got a couple strange looks and comments about "who manages a sunburn in Juneau?" Me! That's who.