Taku 2015 - 2: Ts'isk'w - Little Birds (Restarts, Yellowthroats, Flycatchers)
June 12-15


Beaver house near the big slide


It’s 7:40 and Cailey is snuggled up next to me on the couch at Bullard’s Landing; all is quiet but for the occasional murmur from the dying fire and the ruby-crowned kinglet and varied thrush singing outside—oh, and the chittering hummingbirds vying for the feeder (one male and at least three females/juveniles). It was an adventure making it up here today. Since my brother’s family had booked the cabin next weekend, I was forced to make due with a mediocre tide on a river that (last I checked several days ago) was considerably lower than its summer standard of 30,000 cfs. I made it past Taku Point with no trouble going my normal route past Scow Cove and then to the middle, vastly relieved to see that the reported mega-lodge that Allen Marine was supposed to be building there was apparently a misunderstanding of an existing structure (the only new construction I saw was a small building behind the upriver cabin, which was too small to be much more than a guest cabin). I was cautious when I began the long reach beside the meadows, slowing down well before we reached the danger zone in front of the bare mountain patches between the sloughs. I hit bottom twice in that section, what felt more like logs on the bottom than sand, and kicked up no mud. A little further on my engine struggled and then died. Was I out of gas' Hopefully' Or did those bumps against the bottom do some damage' There was a bit of gas in the main tank left, but I switched the hose and started to pump the system full of gas. Nothing much was happening and I was rapidly losing ground in the current, so I jumped ashore, pulled the boat back upriver, and nosed into a little slough mouth where we were out of the current. There I verified that the big tank was pretty low on fuel. I managed to get the engine started for a moment, after which the hose bulb worked much better and I soon filled the system with gas and got underway again.

Soon I saw a terrifying sight—an actual sandbar off the meadows at high tide, a sandbar that may have been but barely awash with a 14’ tide, which is what my parents say is the minimum needed in their boat (this was a 13.5’ tide). It did not look much deeper on the river side of it and I was uneasy about heading that far from the bank and potentially getting stuck with a lot of river around me, so I hugged the shore and hoped there was a channel there. There wasn’t, or at least not enough of one to effectively run the boat. Just past the entrance to the slough that drains the large waterfall and somewhat south of the bar, I was stirring up mud with my engine tilted up as far as it would go and still make headway. The situation was not getting any better as I started to pass the bar, so I eventually hopped out on the bank again and pulled the boat slowly upriver until I was a bit above the bar and, I hoped, in deeper water. I hopped aboard and started her up and was no longer dredging up mud. I nosed into the bank again to pick up Cailey and we headed upriver, much relieved. Ahead of us, a rootwad stuck into the river several feet from the bank and I was nervous again about its roots slowing the water and attracting the repose of sand. Sure enough, we sludged through the bottom of the river as we poked around the outside of it, barely making it past. At last we were back in water deep enough to lower the engine to a more reasonable depth; the last obstacle appeared to be the slough, where I knew a sandbar to run across most of the mouth of it. Surprisingly, the sandbar, if it’s still there, was submerged, and there was amply deep water all along the outside of it to cruise right past and from there, gratefully, to the landing site. About six feet of flat sand separated the edge of the river from the dock, testament to the low water level of the river. I tied off the boat in two places, unloaded, refueled, and headed up to the cabin with an ecstatic dog.

By the time I’d opened up and lit the pilots (which went off without a hitch), it was 11:30 and I was a bit hungry, so I had a snack lunch of bread, cheesy crackers, dried fruit, and pumpkin seeds (having forgotten my cheese, some fresh fruit, and who knows what else in the fridge at home). While setting up the motion sensor camera on the back porch in the hopes of catching marten in action, I heard a warbler I didn’t recognize and decided I’d better go in search of him. With only a camera and binoculars, I headed out after applying a bit of deet. Of course he wasn’t singing anymore by the time I got outside, so I thought I’d wander around the woods near the outhouse in case he started again. I meandered upriver until I saw the blue survey tape of my parent’s legendary trail straight back to the meadow, which I’d failed to find the year before and which I was somewhat dubious about (having encountered dense thickets fringing the forest). With nothing better to do, I kept wandering, encountering fairly fresh moose tracks (at least, new enough that he or she had dug up plants just as green and developed as those around it which had not bent back toward the sky, and based on the fact that Cailey was extremely interested in smelling the vegetation nearby). We followed the moose, and maybe other animals, back toward the meadow until the trail, predictably, led me into a dense thicket of willow and alder through which I was unwilling to crash. I turned around and found a clearer route nearby under more spruces and followed what almost seemed at times to be a path. Soon I saw a large spruce with several branches cut off and, before I knew it, I was in the meadow and I hadn’t done more than brush up against some devil’s club and push through some cranberry bushes and lady ferns. A trail to the meadow! It put me out in a small meadow of short grass or sedges surrounded by shrubs; pushing through a thin point in the willows on the other side I found myself in the larger meadow adjoining the slough, blooming with irises and cotton grass. A long clump of willow in the middle looked almost entirely white with its abundant plumes of down, and must have hidden the nest of the pair of savanna sparrows who jointly chipped at us nervously from its top. I gave them their space, and moved on toward the willows by the slough, occupied by their cousins the Lincoln’s sparrows, much more common in the meadows.

I wound up following the edge of the meadow, where it drops down onto the grassy shelf at the edge of the slough, upriver in the tracks of a bear or similar creature who had knocked down a path through the vegetation. I stopped for a while where the slough splits around a vegetated island in an attempt to find one of two birds singing an unfamiliar song on the other side. I failed to find them, but did enjoy the sight of three male green-winged teal resting near a clump of wood. I wondered if it was the work of beavers (I’d seen a lodge on the other side of the slough somewhat downriver). I crossed a tributary slough or two, and had the pleasure of watching an unfamiliar bird singing for some time from the tip of a willow tree. His shape suggested flycatcher, and his song told me it was an alder flycatcher. He was not far from where I’d seen an unidentified flycatcher last summer, so I wonder if that, too, as an alder flycatcher (that one was feeding but not singing). I wandered my way back toward the river, puzzled by the density of the trees there among some old moraines. There wasn’t a place nearby that I associated with spruces so dense that you can hardly push between them, and then only in a few choice places. I dropped into a slough and that took me to….the trail. Of course, I was adjacent to the trail, in an area that was once high meadow with nagoonberries, monkshood, and wild geraniums, and is now almost entirely spruces.

I headed back to the cabin along the trail, discouraged at all the branches I wanted to cut, and by the damage that a single winter’s storage of the riverboat and the black floats (and the 4-wheeler that moved them) had done to Debbie’s Meadow. I would have thought that the meadow would have recovered better, but the tracks and the places where the items sat are brown and mostly dead. Perhaps we can find a different place for them next winter!

Back at the cabin I made a cup of café francais and read on the couch for a while, enjoying the quiet and the song of a Swainson’s thrush that came through. I finally got up and worked with the metal detector a little, systematically searching the area around the barbed wire fence I’d found last summer to see if I could trace it. It turned out that it didn’t come toward the cabin much beyond the original find, or perhaps 20 feet from the riverbank, but it did turn upriver as far as I was willing to go (to the edge of the dense brush). Perhaps that was the back edge of a pen. Then, since it was low tide, I decided to see if, by any chance, I could locate the cow stanchions my parents had seen on the clay shelf of the main point nearby. I found a spot just upriver where a stretch of flat sand at the bottom of the steep, eroding slope set the metal detector off. I got a shovel from the work shop and dug, discouraged that the hole yielded less of a signal and the sand I’d dug up more. But positive signs in that area kept me digging for a few more minutes, removing about six inches of the sand on top of the clay layer, and then some of that, but I found nothing.

I dropped the equipment off at the cabin and pursued a bird that sang like an angry junco, gratified to find that it was, indeed, a chipping sparrow, only the second I’ve ever seen (the first being here, two years ago). I watched him preening and singing in a spruce tree. Then I returned to the rediscovered trail behind the cabin, thoroughly flagging it. Along the way I found the remains of old flagging tape and quite a few more cut branches and trees, nearly all the way to the edge of the meadow, revealing that I really had located the trail in its entirety.

I still had some energy in me, so I grabbed the clippers and headed upriver to try to remove some of the stubs of trees and shrubs that catch our feet and trip us up on the trail. I scuffed along, bending down and cutting off all the offending stumps I saw or stumbled on that were small enough for the clippers. Some I clipped off, others I pulled up by clipping off their root system. There are still quite a few larger ones left, but I put a good dent in the others all the way to Debbie’s Meadow so I think you can almost walk securely, if you avoid the big ones and walk on the side of the path I was walking on! Once in the meadow, I cut down dozens of small spruces that had growth large enough to see, trees that in five years would cover the ground. Perhaps the meadow is dying anyway and it’s too late to help it….or maybe the dry spring and summer is taking a toll on a system stressed by overwintering equipment and vehicles.

From there I continued on the trail, clipping a lot of spruce branches on the next section of trail that were beginning to reach uncomfortably close. Then I bucked down and really cleared the section of trail where it turns upriver again, an area I had never focused on beyond providing a path through shrubs. This was mostly about willows and alders, and I cut and trimmed a good number of them, yielding a rather satisfyingly wide trail. This was always a bit of a sore point, walking through that section after trimming other parts of the trail, knowing that I always had that in front of me. Now it’s behind me, and I can focus more on maintenance and improvements. The mosquitoes were pretty unpleasant by this time, and I wound up pretty sweaty and hot besides. On the way back I tried to resist the urge to cut everything that seemed to reach for me, or grew in the trail, but all the clipping I did was worthwhile. I had a drink of water at the cabin, then sat on the porch swing with a mosquito coil and a diet pepsi and read several of Toni Hillerman’s short non-fiction stories, a thoroughly enjoyable read narrated in a dry, almost resigned style that compliments my current subdued mood. Even after bundling up, I was rather chilled outside, so I came back and lit a fire that warned the cabin a bit while I made dinner. I sat in front of it and read while water heated up and then again while the veggie burger mix I’d made with the hot water set. I drank hot chocolate for dessert and read a bit more on the couch, lapsing into long periods of what must look like catatonic states, where I just sat, book open on my lap, staring out the window. Was I having deep thoughts' Not especially….I wondered if it was like being old…. Old people often wind up sitting and staring and it’s difficult to know what goes on in their heads. I wasn’t bored, and they don’t seem bored, yet there was little going on in my head. I was just….staring. Like I was too tired move but without good reason (I think'); like I was too beaten down, but that’s not it either. Anyway, I sat there for a while thinking I should get out my laptop when I saw a huge bee slowly walking across the footstool. Poor guy! How long had he been in here' I trapped him under a measuring cup, slid a piece of paper under it, and released him outside. I tried to get him to walk toward one of several puddles of sugar water I poured for him from the newly-filled hummingbird feeder, but he refused to satisfy me, instead seeming very eager to climb the measuring cup. It looked like he wanted height, so I moved him to some plants in front of the porch. Perhaps he’ll find pleasure in the strawberries blooming nearby.

And then I got out my laptop, and here we are. It was raining when I left Juneau, and a light southeasterly was blowing that caused Cailey to curl up in the back of the boat as we rounded Salisbury. By the time we hit Cooper the sprinkles had stopped and the wind was behind us (though the chop was unpleasant as the river shallowed below Flat Point). It’s been overcast all afternoon, but now I see sun on the face of the glacier. It is pretty, but not an altogether welcome sign, as a north wind is supposed to blow on Sunday, and I fear Taku Inlet. It isn’t supposed to let down until Tuesday, and it would be an awkward time to be away from work. But I’m trying not to worry about it—I should have plenty of fuel for a couple of aborted attempts.

Now I want to record the birds I saw and heard today:

By voice only: ruby-crowned kinglet; hermit thrush, Swainson’s thrush, varied thrush, sooty grouse

By site (and sometimes voice): Townsend’s warbler, yellow-rumped warbler, yellow warbler, orange-crowned warbler, savanna sparrow, Lincoln’s sparrow, chipping sparrow, fox sparrow, robin, alder flycatcher, green-winged teal, barn swallows, bank swallows (along the meadow below the slough), Arctic terns (saw one take a tiny fish in front of the boat), pine siskin (probable), rufous hummingbird (male and female)

We head upriver

Cailey sniffs a moose or a''

A meadow knoll

Irises, lupine, and fern in a slough

In a rare gift (at this cabin anyway), Cailey slept all night and went downstairs this morning without getting me up. I had a sound night’s sleep in the hammock and woke up well-rested around 7:30. By 8:00 I was ready to do something, so I headed upriver with clippers and metal detector. I cut more tiny spruces in Debbie’s Meadow that I’d missed yesterday and did a tiny bit of trimming on the rest of the trail as I walked (awkward since I was also carrying the metal detector). I left the clippers on the ground near the property line and picked up the trail of the barbed wire fence, heading into the alder thicket. The going inside was easier than I expected, almost entirely alder and ground cover, and I followed the fence easily. At one point I scuffed a little at it with my heel to see if it was buried shallowly, but quickly stopped. Oddly, I was unable to pick up the trail from there after climbing over an alder, so I backtracked and discovered that the fence line was about four feet away from the metal I was looking for. I had stumbled on something independent. So now I took to digging earnestly, quickly realizing it was something small, as it kept moving from one small pile of dirt and leaves to another. I kept moving bits around until I’d isolated it in a small pile and soon picked out an iron staple. Perhaps something to secure the wire to a fence post!' Surely this staple had been held in the hands of Mr. Ben Bullard himself 100 years ago.

At the opposite end of the thicket, I lost the fence trail where small trunks formed a tangled ground cover 8” thick. I tried to pick it up on the other side, maybe 15 feet away, but it was brushy there and I decided to try to find it on drier ground a little farther on. I made some effort as the ground rose a little, and in a few other places, but mostly I just meandered my way to the slough, then followed it north until I came to a slough I couldn’t pass, which brought me back to the road. Near the slough I heard the alder flycatcher again. From there I headed upriver, leaving the metal detector behind. The bird activity was phenomenal, little birds flying everywhere among the bushes and trees, alarming and singing up a storm. At one point where the meadow opened up a little on the right, I heard quite a bit of alarming coming from out in the meadow and thought something interesting might be going on, but at that same moment I was distracted by an unfamiliar song. I tracked it in the opposite direction into a cottonwood and finally got a glimpse at a very interesting new bird! It was dark on top, gray throat, with yellow shoulder patches and a white wing bar. It was singing like a warbler but I couldn’t find any warblers (in Alaska or B.C.) that matched. I took a recording of its song.

I started to head through the thickets on the river side of the road expecting to find the meadow with the timber in it that I’d seen last year. It was not the same spot, but I managed to pick my way through several almost-adjoining secret meadows before I climbed a moraine covered in devil’s club and alder with cottonwoods on top (similar to the one upriver, maybe even the same one). On the other side I entered a young spruce forest that was nice and easy to walk through (for a short distance) and then bushwhacked through mixed species, including a few big spruces and cottonwoods, until I magically appeared in a meadow. Next to the river. A meadow next to the river'! I didn’t even know it existed, but this was upriver of the marshy meadow and a section of river I do not normally see. It was a beautiful flower meadow with geraniums, yellow and red and orange paintbrushes, etc. An eagle sat nervously in a tree downriver where there may have been a nest.

I turned south through dense shrubs, bear trails, and bits of forest, running into another tantalizing unknown bird song near the marsh. The brush there is very dense with leaves, and I had a very hard time finding this guy even though he kept singing so close. I followed him up to the woods and then down to the beach and then along the beach, and then back up, and then back to the beach until I finally spotted him in the large cottonwood there that I use as a landmark. He was similar to the one I’d seen earlier and is probably the same species, but I had a much better look. He was brown on top with buffy wing bars, grayish throat, pale belly, orange-red shoulder patches, and……..the underside of his tail was ¾ yellow and ¼ black, the end of it! I saw this several times and it was quite distinct. I also took a recording of his song, which was different than the other one, up and down in pitch three times, where the other was a warble on a single pitch. I can’t wait to find out what he was. (It turns out that they were one year old male American redstarts! Unlike most songbirds of their size, male redstarts don’t mature in a single year (at which point they are bright orange and black), but they do sometimes start singing as year-old birds, and their songs are highly variable. I wonder if redstarts breed up there!' These were my first.

Cailey was sticking close and obviously ready to move on. We headed out into another lovely meadow to the south, this one separated from the marshy meadow by a fringe of brush. I bushwhacked a short distance through more shrubs, etc., and emerged into a narrow stretch of meadow with a north-south slough running through it. I decided to go straight toward the road instead of the easier slough route to see exactly where I was. Lo and behold, I started following a bear trail through the brush and found myself on the same trail I’d started to take earlier in the morning before deciding to go farther upriver! I heard a thrush-like song several times, but not one of the ones I’m familiar with. He could have been a gray-cheeked thrush, but he didn’t seem to want to be disturbed, so I left him alone and trudged home. It was a good four hour tramp!

I ate a similar lunch as yesterday on the porch swing outside, pleased to see that the hummingbird population had jumped and we had at least eight or so. When I went back inside I discovered that I had been keeping them at bay, and there were obviously more than a dozen. Probably closer to fifteen! At least five were feeding from the large feeder at once and many others buzzed around. Still only one male as far as I could tell.

I drank some café francais (instead of hot chocolate, since the milk was frozen) to dip cookies into, then read my dad’s memoirs a little, which made me feel like a complete poser in terms of adventuring. Would I jump off the floats of an airplane onto the edge of river ice in Taku Winds and snowshoe on untested plastic snowshoes in knee-deep snow five miles to a cold lodge, hoping for the best' Probably not.

The trail is clearer and clearer

One of Bullard's iron staples!

Following the barbed wire fence through the brush

It's hard not to take pictures of this meadow

Secret meadow on the river

Old trees

More riverside meadow

Hummingbirds!

Anyway, in the afternoon I decided to go canoeing, quietly, so I can see birds, and unhurried as I always want to do but rarely give myself the time. I put on vest and raingear, grabbed camera and binoculars, and headed to the shed to grab the little engine for the canoe. Everything went off without a hitch (I even put the engine on the correct way the first time) and I puttered down the river to make sure it was running okay and to warm it up for later. When I reached the slough I paddled, thoroughly enjoying just slowly and quietly moving over that beautiful slough, T’awaak Eix’i. The first excitement was a jet black bear on a set of cliffs not far from where the slough turns upriver. She disappeared down the rocks at first, then reappeared and climbed back up when we passed. She seemed to be eating something on a patch of rust and blue colored vegetation. Cailey saw her and watched as well. She climbed a little farther up onto a larger shelf and sat down, scratching and resting. Just as I was about to turn away I saw an alder branch nearby bopping up and down furiously—something big was just a few feet away from the bear. Cubs' I saw it again and waited, but finally turned away. A little later I checked again and there was a big, stunningly beautiful cinnamon black bear climbing the mountain! Then he turned and headed back toward where the black bear had been, who by then was ambling up a different route. They never exactly met up, but there wasn’t any animosity. As I couldn’t imagine what could be there to attract multiple bears to the same ledge, I wonder if they are courting. The cinnamon bear wound up on the same ledge where the other had sat and laid on his side like a dog while the other wandered above him. Of course I’m making up sexes here, but if they were opposites, the cinnamon was the bigger of the two.

We passed a new beaver lodge just upriver from the slough that drains the avalanche, startled a snipe and a sandpiper and three male teal (perhaps my friends from the day before), and saw and heard myriad songbirds from both sides of the slough. Just as I’d hoped, the two mystery birds from the day before were actively singing in the same spot, one on the island and the other on the mountain side of the slough. It took me several minutes, but I finally found a singer, a common yellowthroat, another new species on the Taku for me! They aren’t uncommon around Juneau, but not one I see often as I think they like marshy habitat and I don’t get out much around Juneau in the summer anymore. I also heard my alder flycatcher nearby.

We paddled around the Big Bend, explored below the rock slide by the mountain at a large beaver lodge built in a small slough to the side, then paddled far upstream until the sides of the slough were not more than a canoe width or so to either side of us. I had the same experience as last time with this area—impatience! It goes on and on and the banks are too high to see anything. It was neat to go so far, but we eventually turned around a little before 4:00. I’d expected to go until we hit the first beaver dam, but we’d only run across two—one that had a large gap and was easy to paddle through, and another which also had water flowing over it but took a little more effort. It was much easier going with the current over that one! I heard and saw raven activity on the side of L’kudaseitsk’ and wondered if I was hearing fledglings there. The bird life was a little sparser over there, or there were other reasons they weren’t singing so much, but I did hear another alder flycatcher and watched one take two bugs from the water in front of me. On the way back I also saw a common yellowthroat along the slough bank between the waterfall and Big Bend.

Past Yellowthroat Island I finally started the engine and we cruised home with no problem. I was definitely glad to have it with such a strong current in the river! It was a bit of a hassle getting the canoe up the bank, as the boat was aground and there wasn’t enough room between it and the logs, but I removed the engine and eventually manhandled it up the beach and the steps, looping its line through a hoop in the floats sitting in the woods to hold the length I’d gained while I went back to get another handhold and pull it up again. When I got back to the cabin, the hummingbird feeder was down to an inch and a half or so of water! The weather has been mild today, sprinkling on and off with occasional breezes coming through. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

We pull up to a beaver house at the inside of Big Bend

Waterfall runoff nearby

Slough leading to the beaver house

We pass through a old dam

Steep banks to either side

Heading back to the landing

Cailey is wet and sleepy

The cabin

Well, tomorrow brought clear skies, north winds, and possibly relaxation' It didn’t start very relaxed, though I tried to be as serene as possible as I made preparations for departure, holding back the last tasks until I knew the boat would float. After several internal conversations about the merits of departing with the gusts from upriver picking up and swirling around, I finally decided that I would enjoy the challenge and, even if I turned around, the tide was a full 1.6 feet higher than it was on arrival, so if I had made it up then, I should be able to make it up slightly after this high tide. I now believe that logic was quite sound, as the tide barely seemed to affect the river. I spent the morning near the cabin (it seemed like the right day to do that), going barefoot for the first time all weekend. I had some instant oatmeal (left over from hooligan fishing) and then did the dishes and a bit of cleaning up. I haven’t really used the cabin very heavily. I read inside for a while, read down at the river for a while (carefully watching the riverbank in anticipation of the tide rising), and chose what looked like the best spot for the satellite internet dish to go on the upriver side of the meadow. And checked and checked on the boat. I spent the last 20 minutes of the rising tide sitting on a log by the bow, watching the water rise, generously, a quarter of an inch. It was just a few inches closer to the hull than it had been several hours earlier. The boat would need another six to eight inches, I estimated, to float. When I’d come back from canoeing yesterday, I feared that this might happen, but it was low tide then, and surely it would float on a 15.5’ tide, something like 13 feet higher than it was then' Why isn’t the tide having a perceptible effect on the river' Why is it so low'

The questions remain unanswered. I returned to the cabin and was surprised to see Cailey coming around the side, as I’d left her inside. She’d seemed content to stay inside at the time, so I was doubly surprised that she’d been so motivated as to break out. In a beat or two I realized that the face peering at me was quite black, and the black bear it belonged to then stepped onto the front porch and before strolling over to the cooker. It took him a while to notice me and I had some nice looks at him or her on the meadow before it padded off. It was a nice looking, black black bear. When it left, I rinsed my feet in the drain spout of the water tank (which works very well for that), put on socks and boots, and headed upriver in my bra to work on the trail. Almost two hours later I returned, my arms speckled in spruce needle bites, and the trail finished. I had finally made that one last sweep to clip the last overhanging boughs and the new growth from the Sitka alders creeping in. I walked the whole trail from Debbie’s Meadow north, clipping all the way, including the little spruces and occasional hemlocks growing in the middle of the path on the southern end. When I was done, I realized that I suddenly wanted to walk this trail, not just to get somewhere, but because it is a joy to walk. I had the same experience last summer when I finally fought back the vegetation at Snettisham and began to want to walk the trails just to enjoy them.

I cleaned up and rested for a bit, then sat on the porch swing and read and lulled for a while in the sunshine, topless. I was more relaxed than I had been all day, the stress of wondering whether to go this morning far behind me. Maybe it was good to miss the front of the northerly' Do northerlies even have fronts' It certainly seemed less gusty, but then I wasn’t on the river and I’d finally secured the shutters so they weren’t waving about. It didn’t hurt that the sweet scent of wild roses was all around me, the ones my mother transplanted when the cabin was built 24 years ago from the meadows behind the lodge. They are in full bloom and seem to be doing extremely well, expanding into the meadow around them—even the tiny ones are blooming. And there were no mosquitoes, only the hot sun and the smell of roses, and the endless buzzing of the hummingbirds, one of which circled close around me, vibrating my ears.

I put on a bra for more clipping around the compound, starting with the few spruce boughs blocking the 4-wheeler paths that I’d missed last year. In the middle of that, a very noisy boat passed right along our shore and I ran to the riverboat to see it, but couldn’t. Later I heard it wallowing and went to the boat to see where it was having trouble, but couldn’t find it then either. It or another very noisy boat (probably an air boat) spent some time roaring its way along across the river in what seemed like an unnecessarily extended disruption of the peacefulness of this place. Why it took so long to get out of hearing I can’t imagine (or could it have been one of the tour boats from Taku Point'). While I was at the boat, I carried the anchor upriver about 20 feet and threw it as far as I could into the river (not that far), freeing the line from logs on the way back. I secured the anchor line under the bow line and tied a loose line from the stern to the shore. That way at midnight I can (hopefully) just untie the bow line, pull the boat into the current with the anchor, and swing back to shore on the stern line before pushing it back out. I really only need a couple of feet, and the tide will be higher tomorrow (but I need the extra high tide in the middle of the night to float it, as that is when it went aground too high).

After the boughs were cut I began cutting the little spruce trees growing up all over the meadow in front of the cabin, trees that would take it over in a few years if left unchecked and, in the meantime, would slowly kill the strawberries and flowers we like. The hardest ones to cut were the 3-4’ youths, hard because they had thicker trunks to cut and because they were pretty little trees. In the end I cut about 140 trees! I do not like to kill trees, but there were none of them in places where we would want a tree. This meadow is rather meager as it is, and losing ground. By this time it was around 5:00 and I took a break to feed the dog, read a bit more, and eventually feed myself. By that time I was cooled down enough that hot soup was an acceptable dinner, chosen because it seemed like the most nutritious of my options, as my vegetable supply was nil and my dried fruit nearly gone (I had Thai sweet potato soup that had overwintered). As an appetizer, I had most of the rest of the can of evaporated milk I’d been using for hot chocolate with a little cereal my parents had left behind.

The hummingbirds have been active all day. While sitting on the swing I finally saw that all six “flowers” on the feeder had hummers sitting at them at once! The small feeder has been empty for some time, and the large one is less than half full; both were filled this morning from sugar water I made last night. For the second day I heard a male making courtship/territorial dives nearby. Could it be that, now that the young ones have fledged, there are second broods'

Because I planned to get up to kick the boat out at high tide, I slept on the couch with Cailey. In the back of my mind I admit that I was wondering if it would be wise to leave at the same time I kicked the boat out' It sounded crazy and adventurous, like something my parents would have done a few years ago. The wind had been whipping around during the day, but had died down in the afternoon; the last time I’d checked the weather, it was supposed to be even worse on Monday, and I didn’t relish the idea of leaving in even windier weather than it had been earlier that day. But when my alarm went off at 11:30 it felt very dark inside the cabin. It was difficult to get up at all and I thought immediately that boating was out of the question.

But I did need to get that boat off the beach, so I left Cailey inside and trundled down there, feeling better as soon as I stepping out the door and into the still twilight of midnight around solstice. I could see the glow of the sun behind the mountains up river and, though dim, the entire river was illuminated enough to see passably well. The boat was floating nicely on utterly still water, and I decided to take off after all. I returned to the cabin, quickly packed up, and headed back to the boat with what I suspect was a puzzled, if game, dog. I wish I had a few photos to capture the amazing tranquility of my departure. I felt on top of the world, and the river was high enough (finally) that I didn’t have any fear of getting stuck on the way out. I headed down the shoreline, glorying in the summer twilight, and standing up in order to peer as hard as I could in front of me to detect any obstacles. It was an extraordinary feeling of adventure and pride leaving that river, inwardly giggling as we zipped down the valley. No doubt the risk of hitting a log or the like kept my energy up and gave me some adrenaline to work with. The glassiness of the water only confirmed my decision to leave during the still of the night and increased my feelings of delighted smugness.

 

The trip wasn’t entirely calm. I did come across some chop as I approached Point Bishop, which got worse on the way to Salisbury, making me wish the sun would come up a little higher so I could see through the seas better. But it was all calm again in the channel and I pulled into the dock around 2:30 or so, apologizing silently to the inhabitants of the houseboats I passed. I was home by 3:00 to wake up Chris, who was sleeping on the couch. He was no more surprised by my midnight adventures than my parents the next day, somewhat deflating my smugness! In fact, no one was particularly surprised (or impressed') by the run, but I was delighted, especially when north wind whipped up in the morning and didn’t stop for days.


Cailey tolerates the canoe as we head back