Taku 2016 - 5: T'aawak Eix'i (Goose Slough)
  September 3-5

Jeannette and Ace in the helicopter

And then my cousin Jeannette arrived with Ayzling and little Cousin Ace. For a change of pace, and a few other reasons, we decided to head up the Taku for a little wilderness adventure rather than Snettisham. I'd spent the prior night at a homestead outside of Tenakee and arrived at the Juneau Airport on an Alaska Seaplanes flight just a few minutes after the Johnsons landed and was able to hitch a ride with them. A few hours later we were back at the airport loading up an A-star Tempsco helicopter (which turned out to be ridiculously roomy) and heading up Lemon Creek for a spectacular ride. We took a route I'm unfamiliar with, puzzling me with the dead end branch of the Norris Glacier (I didn't even remember there was a dead end branch), then cruising over the end of Norris and Norris Lake before puttering over the toe of the Taku and onto Bullard's. As Jeannette said, I don't think you could ever get tired of that view and we had glorious sunny weather again to enjoy it. I had imagined Ayzling's delight in looking out the window, but only adults are allowed to sit next to the doors and I looked behind me once to find her sound asleep.

We were met by Mike, Amelia, Jia Jia, and Guo Zhong when we landed and managed to squeeze everyone inside in the living room after we unloaded our gear. Cailey and Yogi were still rather cool with each other, but there was less aggression than there had been previously. All in all we were ten people and three dogs, but managed to fit into the cabin. We chatted for a bit, had drinks, and settled in, then ate spaghetti for dinner. Guo Zhong finally got to open his birthday present, nearly two months late. After dinner, we used the giant TV box as a makeshift table to play a collaborative game (something like Lost Island) which we soundly lost. I think the last of us went to bed around 11 or 12 and I slept on the couch, quite roomy with the back pillows removed, even with Cailey.

Barefoot cousins

Juneau Icefield

Dead Branch Norris Lake

Jeannette and Ace

In the morning, Jia Jia helped me pick blueberries and I made pancakes for everyone, feeding Mike's family first as they were heading to the lodge at 9:00 to catch the deadhead. It took a long time to make enough pancakes for everyone! By the time we'd all had breakfast, dressed kids, and packed up for an adventure, it was around 11:00. The Johnsons and my mom and I headed for the meadow behind the cabin, enjoying the good work Mike's family had done in clearing the brushy part of the trail at the end. My mother flawlessly walked us to the canoe and I carried Ayzling part of the way, as the grass and shrubs were almost head high on her in places. We found the canoe and paddles just as we'd left them and soon had everyone aboard--two dogs, two kids, and three adults. Jeannette used the new stool my mother had brought for a center seat, which worked well. I made the mistake again of rushing down the bank to the canoe and failing to peruse the water for wildlife first, consequently startling two swans from just down the slough. The honked at each other, turned, and flew right by us, huge and white, disappearing upstream. The whole slough was alive with other waterfowl, flushed at intervals and corners all along our route, dozens, scores of ducks (green and blue winged teal among them, goldeneyes too I think, plus others I couldn't identify) and a flock of Canada geese near the mountain. The water in the slough was low enough that the water weeds were choking it off and we practically pushed our way through the dense vegetation rather than paddling in many places.

By the time we passed the big bend and reached the mountain, Ayzling was rather antsy and we were ready for a snack, so we took the canoe ashore and climbed up on the rock face that had apparently been utilized by the tour company that used to run in there; we used the remaining rope to help pull ourselves up a steep section and followed the trail they'd worn in the mossy vegetation. With very little effort we found ourselves with a commanding view of the valley, glowing in fall colors and sunshine. We snacked and I got to hold Ace while he napped as the rest of us enjoyed the view and the company. Too soon we were heading down the rock face again and back to Canoe Landing, baby Ace leaning deep over the side of the canoe as though looking for his long lost cousins in the water. We had quesadillas when we got back and played with the kids, then ate a late dinner of hamburgers.

Johnsons on the porch

We get underway

Paddling the slough

On the cliffs

Jeannette and Ayzling

Cousin Ayzling

Ace gazes at the water plants

Mom cutting a spruce (next day)

In the morning we ate breakfast on our own and visited. The sky had clouded over during the night and rain began to fall before my mother and I headed to the river to work on the eroding beach. Last fall on our last trip we'd tied up one large spruce tree that had gone over the bank along with Prometheus the log and the tree from the front lawn that we'd drug over there. Over the less than year since we'd lost about 15 feet of riverbank, as evidenced by the layer of turf blanketing the steep slope toward the water (previously bare sand) and the several trees that had gone over the bank, at least one of which was the anchor for a tree we'd tied off last fall. First we pushed through the brush to a tree upriver that was just beginning to lean. We tied it off several feet up and then Mom cut it off. It got caught on the way down, but she and I manhandled it down over the bank on top of Prometheus. Jeannette and the kids came out and gave us moral support. Being terrified of chain saws, I was suitably impressed with my mother's confidence. Downriver were two spruces and some alders that had gone down. I climbed out and tied lines around them about four feet out and then my mother awkwardly crawled out onto them and cut them off, trimming a few branches on the way. I was genuinely terrified for her, but she pulled it off without any trouble. Both trees fell to the water and were tied off on trees that we'll probably lose next year. These trees will add quite a bit of cover to the bank, which may help, but I am not particularly hopeful the erosion will slow anytime soon.

Mom precariously cuts trees on the bank

I tie off a spruce

Mom and Jeannette

Jeannette and Ace

After that we headed upriver for a little walk in the mist, making it well onto Forest Service land before turning around. Ace came with us and slept, but Ayzling chose to stay behind with Dad. We came back with enough time to have a quick lunch and pack up before the helicopter came to pick us up around 3:00. The rain had set in by that time and we returned via Taku Inlet and the channel.

Ayzling shakes fireweed down