Snettisham 2016 - 3: A Week
  June 27-July 3

View from the ridge onto Port Snettisham

Last week I ordered a 4-stroke motor to replace my 21-year old 2-stroke Yamaha, the faithful motor that has, along with the Ronquil itself, taken me all around northern Southeast Alaska and through all the weather I've seen. I feel a bit disloyal, but fuel efficiency has notably dropped this year, it takes considerably longer for the engine to rev up enough to get on step, and it still idles a bit rough. It's time. So this is potentially that Yamaha's last big trip with the Ronquil. Thus, I wasn't sure whether the three times it revved down for no apparent reason on the way here was supporting my decision, or a little rebellion. This happened once at the end of the channel and twice in rapid succession around Arden, but not again. The day dawned sunny and warm and I flew south wearing a tank top the entire way (admittedly with hair on end most of the time). After only two cart loads of gear, I left the harbor at 9:30 and, with a few wakes and some anomalous swells, had a following sea all the way down; the worst part, surprisingly, was in the Port itself, where the chop built as I approached Sentinel Point and then turned and came down from Speel Arm in the bay. Two ice bergs lingered between Sentinel and River points, with two tiny icebergs floating nearby. I passed one close enough to break off a bite sized chunk and ate it as we finished the journey. Two whales dove around Seal Rocks, and I'm sure I smelled cucumber (a.k.a. capelin) in the air. Another was in the mouth of Whiting Inlet.

I arrived toward the end of a falling low tide, so anchored the Ronquil pretty far from the lodge and downriver. I put all the perishables in my day pack and carried it to the lodge along with my clothes bag and my regular backpack, leaving the rest for later. Opening up was such an ease that I was soon on the porch in shorts reading Mysterious Island. The breeze had really picked up, coming in off Gilbert Bay, and I soon moved down to the deck and into the sunshine. Before that, I made myself quesadillas for lunch and filled the hummingbird feeders, which were soon swarming with birds again (one had come by to check while I sat there, reminding me of my duty). After lunch I was feeling energetic enough to meander back to the boat, now some distance from the water, thinking I might have the energy to carry the gear back up rather than deal with bringing the boat in and reanchoring it later. This turned out to be more of a production than I originally thought, but I did in the end succeed--after all, the day was fine and I had no time constraints. First I carried up the heavy tote of food and gear, then returned for a handful of sundry items (wine box, cordless drill, orange juice, blanket), before returning for the propane tanks. I only made it about a third of the way with them, then went back for the fishing pole and weed whacker. When those were at the lodge, I finished the task and felt better for it. Before I got back to relaxing, I also rolled up the big Persian style rug in the back of the lodge and laid it out on the top porch to air in the sun....and get beaten. Where exactly have I heard about beating rugs? It seems like such a common thing to do, such a well known convention, but have I ever actually seen a rug being beaten? In any event, I beat this rug with a broom as it overhung the deck, releasing an astonishing amount of dust. I'd been noticing that it smelled a bit like mildew and had collected a lot of dog hair, so I thought this would be good for it. It looks considerably less yellow now.

And then I laid down on the lower deck on a quilt with Cailey to give some sun to my backside (I actually put sunscreen on my face and arms, given the brilliance of the light). I finished Leviticus and embarked on Numbers, which I suspect will not rank highly in my enjoyment of Biblical books.

We had some wildlife excitement in the afternoon, after which I made a dinner of Pavlof coho cooked in a skillet with asparagus, spices, and wine, and toasted two slices of bread (and baked some cookies for dessert, which I managed to overdo). This is my fourth trip to Snettisham this year, and for the first time....I had been looking forward to it. The preparations, which took up most of my Sunday and part of Saturday, were no less endless and tedious, but I did them with more vigor and anticipation of the reward to come, being at Snettisham. I was actually excited! On Saturday I stopped by Home Depot for propane and a new cordless drill (helped by the infinitely helpful Dave who managed to get me a deal to save $69), then Western Auto for a battery charger, zip ties, and other sundry items, plus Costco for cheese finally. Sunday was grocery shopping, bird chores and house chores, culminating in a delicious reward of a popcorn dinner with the season finale of Game of Thrones.

Snetty ice berg

A week of interesting clouds

Sunning the rug


And so I awoke with more enthusiasm than I've had all summer. I still don't know if I'll be more productive, but I've already shown more energy and willingness to work today than I have yet this year. And, anyway, if it's a vacation only, then so be it. The internet connection today has been slow and I failed to even send or read basic email the first time, but the second time worked better, so hopefully it will still function until I have someone to help me reset the position of the dish, if that would improve it. Regardless, the day is fine and we apparently have a couple more days of like weather ahead of us. I might try for the mountain.

I caught up on my sleep a bit last night, not sitting for my tea on the porch until close to 9:00. The day was high overcast at the time and quite breezy from Gilbert Bay, though the sun shone on and off later on. I read for a bit and then spontaneously mopped the floor of the lodge in preparation for returning the beaten and sunned rug to the back area. I haven't properly mopped the floor since it was last painted. It pulled up surprisingly little dirt considering, but definitely looked a shade brighter when it dried. I also began preparing Mink Cabin for staining. I'd decided yesterday that instead of completing staining one cabin at a time, I might stain all the windows first--the detailed and time consuming parts--and then be free of those troublesome areas while undertaking the bulk of the work (surface wise). To that end, I spent some time in Mink Cabin removing all the curtains and then the decorative cross pieces from the windows, sanding the cross pieces, and sanding and brushing off the window frames. To remove the cross pieces, I used my dead maquita drill like a screwdriver, as I only have a small bit that fits the square screws that came with the cabin kits. I then ate an early lunch of quesadillas (more for lack of creativity than a desire for more), read for a bit more, threw a stick for Cailey a few times (in a somewhat fruitless attempt to make her happy, which may have resulted in more tiny cuts to her mouth from the stick I chose than joy), and then headed upriver to see the eagle's nest from my aerie, which probably made Cailey happier. On the way I stopped by a rock slide on the upriver side of the eagle nest point. Although it did not surprise me to see a rock pile there, it began to register that this was a recent one. Alders with this year's leaves were sticking out at the bottom and dying, and a large alder tree perched at the top, its mass of roots dangling down the side of the cliff, apparently exposed since the fall. It must have happened relatively recently. In the alders just upriver from this rock pile were three jays, once of which was making a wide variety of sounds. I first peered at a silent one, exposed on a branch, through my binoculars and saw that he was not only fluffy, but had a bit of pink at the corners of his mouth. The chatty one did too, as did the third. It was a nursery of fledging jays! No wonder the jays have been so vocal and active this year--a great success to bring three young to fledge.

I left them there in their sheltered enclave of cliff and tree and made my way around the point and up the bear trail to the ledge. An adult eagle was standing in the nest facing downriver, head obscured by branches, and on the upriver side, a tiny mound of gray fuzz rose above the branch that curves around my side of the nest. It was not moving. I sat there for a while waiting for action and was rewarded by a tiny head rising briefly, though not through binoculars. Seeking a view from higher up, I climbed the mountain a bit and found a narrower view about 20 feet up from a vertical log hanging over the side of the mountain. It was less comfortable and the view was smaller and more awkward, but I was able to see a few more inches of the gray mound. In time I saw the eaglet stretch its wing several times, a long, gangly appendage with the first flight feather pins appearing on the underside. I also saw a leg stretch out, the yellow knee appearing for a few minutes, and, one time, a tiny gray head with a gray beak. Most of the time I had a view of his nub of a fuzzy gray tail. I was surprised to see how small and undeveloped he was, given that even the largest of song birds have long since fledged their first young. Some of this eagle's brethren will be fully clothed and standing on the sides of their nests in little over a month. I hope to keep close tabs on this one to watch him develop. I couldn't tell if he had any siblings; a search below the nest revealed no fallen nestmates. Hopefully that will be clear in time. While I was watching, I observed a jay bopping around the trees and quietly feeding and heard the calls of chickadees and a Pacific-slope flycatcher. Otherwise, the forest was quiet and serene, though the wind made inroads even there.

I moved the carpet back inside, now noticeably less hairy, and returned to the staining preparation. I repeated the window prep process in Harbor Seal and Hermit Thrush, though I left the cross piece on the uphill side on my window, since it is the only thing keeping the replacement plexiglas in place. It was more tedious than expected, especially since those two cabins have more dirt on the insides of the walls than the others, requiring some extra sanding to lighten them (I think I'll have to wash and possibly bleach the actual walls before staining). I had forgotten at Mink that I should stain the doors too, so I returned there to prep the rest of the door (not just its window). That required a book break, after which I finally got to the actual task of staining. Though I stand by my strategy, the downside is that all the staining now is the tedious kind--dealing with hinges and door knobs and the insides of the window frames against the glass, and the adjoining boards with grains going in different directions. By the time I finished it was cocktail hour, so I sat on the porch drinking a glass of wine while listening to the end of the third movement of Beethoven's string quartet in A minor, a truly beautiful hymn reportedly written in thanks to God for returning health out of what seemed to be a mortal illness. It fit well with both the serene evening (less windy now) and more reading from the Bible. Today I finished Numbers, read Ruth, and began the gospel according to Matthew.

Bird life today has been dominated by hummingbirds. Hermit thrushes have swept back and forth across the gap, as have the noisier Pacific wrens (often preferring to traverse the space beneath the porch). The jays are around and I had a nice look at the fledgling hairy woodpecker as he perched on a mossy branch and squinted at the world around him. Hermit thrushes sing on and off, as does the Pacific-slope flycatcher. The dawn chorus here is sung almost exclusively by the varied thrushes, with soft voices reminiscent of fall. This morning I heard the clear song of a Swainson's thrush, but I know not whether it was a dream. If it was a dream, it was a flawlessly realistic one, as I was in bed as the songs began, struggling to gain consciousness as the unusual song penetrated my sleep. And the songs were perfect, most of them preceded by a "wheet" call just as they often are. It took several songs to convince myself that, indeed, they were undoubtedly from a Swainson's thrush and I marveled at hearing one so clearly here. Twice before I've heard a song or two from the same location in bed, but always too briefly and faintly to be certain. This could not have been more clear. I imaged him passing through in the early dawn, not to be heard again. I was quite sure the several times I woke up afterwards that I'd heard the thrush, but as true consciousness was regained in broad daylight, I began to doubt. The songs played a part in two dreams afterwards, both of which were obviously dreams both because of the general feel of them and because they involved other people (in one I was playing the song of a Swainson's thrush off my iphone app for my mother, in another someone said they still heard it singing, though I could not). There was a fourth event when I head a song so soft I could not say for certain if it was a Swainson's thrush, but I thought it was. If I hear him again tonight, I will surely wake myself appropriately and take note! One way or another, I love the idea that I heard a Swainson's thrush here, a call so intimately tied up in my summers since my first two years with Tucker (the male Swainson's thrush from my sit spot in Juneau).

For dinner I ate cream of mushroom soup and a bit of bread and gratuitously watched an episode of Doctor Who. Tomorrow I hope to try for the mountaintop. Unfortunately, the receive signal from the satellite is now entirely failing, so I'm unable to make any use of the internet, but hopefully the weather will cooperate and, if so, I will leave a note here in case people come looking for me. And of course I'll have SPOT. When I reached Hermit Thrush for the night, I heard a strange sound and tracked it down to the gentle splashes of an adult bald eagle bathing at the mouth of the creek below. I felt a bit like I was spying from above on an intimate moment.

Newly exposed rock

Pine sap

The white fuzzy bit on the left is the eaglet

Cailey at the aerie

I had a poor night's sleep. In place of sweet dreams of Swainson's thrush songs, a crabber entered the inlet in the middle of the night (when it was likely as dark as it was going to be), and kept me awake some time with the rise and fall of its engines and/or hydraulics. With the paranoia brought on by darkness, I at first imagined that people were landing here and got myself into a sleepy alarmed state, which was hard to escape from even when it was clear that pot picking was the goal of the interlopers. Though I did get back to sleep, another (presumably not the same) crabber entered the inlet when it was light, but still early, and caused me to awake often in crankiness before I finally relented and got up. It was later than I wanted, and I was unhappy, not really in the mood to tackle any mountains. Of course, I consoled myself with the fact that, although I normally like to embark on such excursions early, I had a long day before me just a week after solstice and there was no hurry. As I neared the boardwalk I heard the loud, clear song of a bird I could not recognize. It was a bold song, loud and frequent, and came from the fringe of brush at the top of the marshy meadow. As it sounded like it was on the river side of the fringe, I went to the lodge and quickly fed Cailey before walking down the beach and slowly approaching the song, which seemed to come from the alders upriver. I followed that bold song down the beach in front of Mink Cabin, then back to the lodge, song after song after song, with no movement discernable (except a Wilson's warbler). Sometimes it seemed to come from higher up, perhaps in a spruce. Seeing no movement from the outside of the bushes, and tired of shielding my eyes from the sun, I retreated to the boardwalk on the other side of the bushes, where I had similar success. To my frustration, I finally gave up and ate some breakfast, giving in and making myself some coffee to break myself out of my mood. The day was fine, sunny and breezy. As I was a few bites from finishing some granola on the porch, my coffee as yet unsipped, I saw a bird fly from upriver into the meadow grass and disappear, just as a sparrow would do. I thought it couldn't possibly be my bird, who'd seemed so enamored of the alders (though, admittedly, I hadn't actually seen him in them), but I looked anyway and spotted him perched on a stalk of a wild celery type plant. He flew just as I trained my binoculars on him and I caught some yellow in the tail, some markings on the head. My best guess to date had been American redstart, as the song and the frustrating chase were similar to what I'd experienced up the Taku the summer before. Was that a yellow tail of an immature male I'd seen? I'd watched him disappear into the grass again and focused on that spot assiduously. He could move unseen through that grass, but after a minute or two he hopped up onto another wild celery stalk in plain view, singing for all he was worth. Pale cap, black mask, brilliant yellow throat. He was unmistakable--a common yellowthroat! Although not exactly rare, they are not common in Southeast, and this was only my third sighting, certainly the first at Snettisham. As I sipped my coffee, all sullenness ejected, I watched him fly back upriver and land in another plant to sing before retreating from view.

With that delightful encounter, I finished packing my bag (which I'd mostly done the night before), and headed up the path to the olive barrel at 9:50. The way up the creek/waterfall was actually a joy, much more so than it was the first time because I knew what to expect and rather dreaded it. For the first bit I was able to walk in the creek, every step another step up toward the mountaintop. It soon narrowed and was overhung with devil's club, which seemed rather irritated with me today and more inclined to poke and scrape than usual (we usually get along better than that). Deadfall after deadfall after collective deadfall crossed the creek to slow us down, and in places the canyon sides were steep and the creek a waterfall and finding Cailey a suitable route was a challenge. The farther up I went, the less time I could spend in the creek and the more time I spent pushing through devil's club, scaling mossy rocks, and creeping along downed trees at its edge. It's really indescribable and I'm much too tired now to try very hard! I'm sure pictures won't capture it either. It got much worse as the creek continued to narrow, making the waterway mostly impassable due to the vegetation and downed trees. At least father up the water was less canyonized, so going along the edge was made easier, though still strewn with rotting deadfalls and underlain with enormous rocks. The mosquitoes were on and off brutal and I stopped a couple of times to thoroughly deet myself. About an hour and a half after I started, Cailey and I reached the little meadow where Chris and I had stopped many years ago, where the creek meanders over a sandy bottom, no more than two feet across, fringed by skunk cabbage and ferns. On the far side of the short meadow, a huge rock pile overlaid with deadfall proved a challenge, and it was not better on the other side. Here was my best guess for a departure point, leaving the little saddle and the creek to climb straight up the mountain to the left to reach the alpine. How far up was it? I'd brought up the image on google maps during one of my better internet sessions the other day, but it was unclear exactly what I'd encounter and when. The going was nearly vertical through dense devil's club, but here there were Sitka alders to help, each one a blessing as a handhold. A hundred yards up, larger trees grew in a mossy forest almost entirely devoid of devil's club, or much brush of any kind. Here the mountainside appeared to be made of giant blocks, stairs sized for an ogre, with hemlocks and yellow cedar. I left a brushier trench of a more sedate incline for the ogre steps, in part because I suspected the trench might turn into a cliff farther up, and in part because it was much, much easier going in the moss. In fact, we made relatively good time and I tried not to gaze up the mountain too often, wishing to see a break in the trees.

At the top of the first ridge, I encountered a lovely little spongy pool, perfect for a mountain unicorn (if it didn't mind the stagnation and insects). Over the top of the next ridge, another 30 feet up or so of dense brush, I dropped into a narrow valley of wet alpine plants and a truly stunning view looking out the entrance of the port and across Stephen's Passage to Admiralty. At last, my view! I could even see boats out there in Stephen's Passage. But I was still surrounded by trees, the alpine miles away in the distance toward Speel Arm, as spied from the top of the ridge. But I had a view and I was on top of one part of the mountain, and I was happy. Still, I thought, that next ridge is a bit higher, even if it is topped by more trees.... In a way, I thought that the particularly dense brush covering the side of the ridge was a sign that I should be content where I was, but I pushed on anyway. After all, I'd done the hard part already, I may as well explore. And so I was rewarded by a beautiful alpine meadow on the far side, sloping down to the west and ending in a cliff overlooking a valley of spruces and mountain hemlock. The top of the ridge was also covered in stunted mountain hemlock and scraggly cedar (and false azalea and other shrubs), but through the tops of the tree growing below I could see up the river, the marsh at the end of Gilbert Bay, across the land and to the islands in Endicott Arm, out to Admiralty as before, and into Mallard Cove toward Speel Arm.

The top of the meadow was wet, but the lower edge overlooking the next valley was dry, and Cailey and I camped out there for some time. I lied down in the sun, covering my face and shoulders with my fleece for added sun protection (who knows how much the layers of sunscreen were doing mixed with all the deet and sweat) and let my wet feet dry out in the sun. At this point I also put some deet on Cailey to help her suffer the insects. When I heard the calls of a chickadee I roused myself and found him bopping around on one of the magnificent trees growing up from the adjacent valley. I was at eye level with the tops of many of them and was delighted at my secret aerie. I sat in the place for quite some time, watching for birds (I only saw an eagle soaring in the distance and what was likely a Wilson's warbler in the treetops) and gazing over the stunning view. Somewhere down the mountainside, a hermit thrush sang his silver melody to complete the contentment. If you've been on a mountaintop that you climbed that day, you know what I was feeling.

Cailey panted happily in the sunshine, her belly full of the dog food lunch I'd brought her. When I finally got hungry myself (much later than expected), I brought my lunch up to the top of the ridge overlooking the river and enjoyed that view, surrounded by stubby trees, pretty flies (one had a yellow dot on the back of his head), and bumblebees working copper covered flowers on a bush I need to identify. Dead trees were all dry and bleached gray and the area reminded me more of being in the interior than on the top of a Southeast mountain.

At 2:00 I decided to pack up and head down, starting out barefoot. Although I enjoyed the earth beneath my feet, and the going appeared to throw up few painful obstacles, Cailey was following me closely and quickly scraped the backs of my ankles and actually stepped on my foot, perhaps the most painful event of the day. Plus, plunging down nearly vertical mountainsides is better done when one hand is not busy carrying one's xtratufs. So when I dropped into my first meadow, again struck by the view to Admiralty over the gently sloping bog, I decided to don my now-dry socks and put my feet back into my still-wet boots. But when I patted my pocket, as I'd done a hundred times before, I found no phone. In the quick descent, my phone had left me. Periodically on the hike up I'd stowed it in my backpack, fearing a fall into the creek, but it always seemed so secure. Apparently not! I backtracked, wondering how accurately I could follow my exact route. Thankfully, my phone was only about 20 feet up the mountain and easy to find. It went into my backpack and did not emerge for more than a moment at a time (so I have no pictures of the descent), but I was so grateful to have it back! Later on I discovered that I'd lost my watch out of my pocket, but there was no chance of recovering it. On the way down I meant to find the pond again, but wound up at the ogre steps without seeing it. Nonetheless, I was quite sure I was in the right place and just hadn't gone far enough down the first trench to see it. I headed down, bracing myself against trees for support, and worried about Cailey's carefree plunges down steep slopes lest she spill right over a cliff (we'd climbed past one when we'd first started). I kept telling her to temper her descent, but she, as always, proved herself amazingly surefooted. I was astonished each time she leapt from one log to another, or from log to steep slope, or rock to log, executed to perfection and with grace. When we did reach that same cliff, though, I got in front of her and made sure she didn't descend with too much energy.

From there I put my fleece back on, which I'd worn on and off on the way up anytime a patch of devil's club was imminent (which was much of the time). At least it had dried out in the sunshine and was no longer sticky. Going down the devil's club/alder patch to reach the creek was a challenge, as I could not see the ground. Thankfully I was able to use the alders both as sure foot holds and long handholds from one to another, and in only about 20 minutes (from the top) we were back at the creek. And then it got really hard. If the ascent was enjoyable, if rather long (about an hour and a half to this point), the descent was treachery. Every step, bearing my weary weight downward, was an invitation to slip on a rock, or skid down a mossy log, or plunge into a hole. It's a wonder that neither of us had an injury. I think I fared better than Cailey on the way up, but she fared better than me on the way down. That creek went on and on forever. I spent more time on the side of the mountain then in the water, partly because I was much less steady on those slippery, loose rocks going down than up, and partly because the logs were easier to traverse when reached from above. Long story short, that hour seemed to go on forever, just as the creek did. My tank top was drenched in sweat, my muscles tired, and I really wasn't sure I could navigate another deadfall when the olive barrel finally appeared. I stopped there to do a little dam work, as only a trickle of water was then entering the mouth of the barrel (it felt empty as I braced myself against it to cross the creek). And then, finally, to the lodge. I believe even Cailey did a little bound on the way down.

Back at the lodge I opted for a san pellegrino on the porch as my victory drink. It was 3:30. As soon as it was finished, I stripped and walked to the bathing pool, stopping by Hermit Thrush to pick up some camp soap and a towel. I soaped myself up and squatted in the icy pool to bath. I think I was half numb by the time I emerged not many moments later. When I stepped up the lodge steps, still nude, I noticed a skiff in the river. He was pretty far away, but I wonder if he looked my way and considered my homogeneous, rather pale coloration? I emerged from the lodge a few minutes later in shorts and a t-shirt, but either the wind or the dip in the creek or both had chilled me and I soon wound up in pants, fleece, and eventually a vest as well. I was in the shade and the day was clouding over as I thought about all the thrushes I'd been seeing and hearing. Yesterday I'd seen a male varied thrush depart the salmonberries upriver with a yellow berry in his mouth; he perched on the nearby spruce, and then flitted off. I saw another today upriver of the lodge. Their singing is frequent in the mornings at Hermit Thrush and today one gave numerous, varied, purring songs/calls from the salmonberries downriver. I hear generic thrush calls in the bushes often, and spied on a hermit thrush earlier.

I read there for some time, then cooked up some caribou pieces, carrots, the last of the asparagus, and some toast for dinner. I wrote a few emails, read a bit more, and now I'm curled up on the couch with an exhausted Cailey at my feet. Good day!

Olive barrel catchment--low water

Typical deadfall on the creek

Shelf fungus


Cailey struggles to catch up

Ogre steps

Forest near the ridge top

View out the port

Where I wanted to go

Happy dog

Mountain across from the homestead

View to Gilbert Bay

It rained all night, not hard, but enough to keep the roof pinging in one rhythm or another. I'm afraid I had another less than perfect night of sleep and awoke at 5:00, taking some trouble to fall back asleep. So it was not until after 9:00 that I awoke again and rose. I ate a hearty breakfast with a cup of mint tea (from my garden in town) and then headed to Mink to put a second coat of stain on the windows, doors, and cross pieces. Finishing that, I turned my attention next to Hermit Thrush with the idea that it would be best for me to finish that cabin in the middle of the week while I had time and inclination to change sleeping locations if necessary. I thought I could complete the task in one day, but it remained to be seen. I stained all the doors and windows, returning afterwards to Mink Cabin to get a screwdriver to remove the cross piece from the mountainside window (left in to keep the plexiglas in place) and a drop for staining the cross pieces outside. Finishing that task, it was 12:30 and I broke for beer on the porch and then a snack lunch mimicking the picnic I had on the mountaintop yesterday. After lunch, I returned to Hermit Thrush to put on a second coat of stain.

With the idea that I wanted to put the upriver window together before bed (currently without its plexiglas), I stained the outside of its crosspiece instead of the inside, as I did the others. A little later, I heated up water and made the rounds of the three cabins undergoing staining and washed the insides of all the windows with vinegar, something that must be accomplished before the cross pieces are replaced. Then I put another coat of stain on Hermit Thrush's cross pieces, including both sides of the one to go back on tonight. Finally, I put a first coat on the outside of Mink's cross pieces. With one more coat they will be ready to be put back in place and Mink's doors and windows will be complete. Perhaps I should do that tonight so they can dry overnight. It started raining hard just as I returned to the porch, so I came back and moved them more under cover, which gave me the opportunity to clean up some of the drips.

I read for a while on the porch, Mysterious Island is finally getting a bit exciting, then cooked the rest of the caribou that had marinated all night and some carrots, peppers, and peas for dinner. I baked some cookies which I have yet to enjoy. It's 8:00 now and I think I'll head out to stain and hopefully put Hermit Thrush back together for bed. Today I tried the internet three times and managed to send two emails; once I was completely foiled, the other two times gave me a window in which to send a single email, but not a second one.

I stayed up late reading Mysterious Island and subsequently slept well through the night. Thus I woke earlier and with more energy than the last several days. When I got up, I replaced the cross piece in the mountainside window, which I'd left off the night before in order to let it dry a bit more. The plexiglas fit snugly enough in the window to feel secure for the night, if only a curious bear did not choose that moment to inspect.

I had breakfast and tea on the porch overlooking a very calm, serene inlet. While gazing over the rippleless water, I saw what I thought must be a harbor seal, but something was strange and oddly colored. Binoculars proved it to be an eagle, swimming so gently I could hardly see its wings move. Behind it was what looked like a tiny shark fin in the water--could he be dragging a fish, the caudal fin of which was poking up? I wanted to watch it land, but as usual, its selected landing spot was on the other side of the point. I considered hastening down there, but it was a bit far and the tide was high, so I let it go. As the swimmer approached the beach, the other of the pair flew off a perch and escorted another adult eagle off the territory downriver. Could it have been considering stealing a meal, or was it a coincidence?

After only a little lingering, I headed back to the cabins, first to Mink Cabin to replace the cross pieces. Some of them fit right away, nice and snug, others needed to be sanded a little from stain that had dried on the edges of the members. I put the curtains back up, then decided I wanted to sweep before closing it up, so I headed up to Hermit Thrush for the broom. While I was there, I mounted those curtains back on the windows too and, in part just to make sure they fit, put the cross pieces back in. I was considering leaving them off, as I'd really enjoyed the unbroken views, but do look awfully nice. At is it, I am undecided. I also swept the floor and generally tidied up and it looks much better. Then I swept the outdoor stairs and bridge and brought the stain, etc., to Harbor Seal to start work there. Earlier I'd stopped by and moved the leather chair onto the porch, covering it temporarily with the tarp from the cabin outhouse. This should not only make working inside more roomy, but it will smell better too, and perhaps I'll use it to read on Harbor Seal's porch? One way or another, that chair can't be an inside chair down here in unheated Snettisham. While I stained, which was somehow much less tedious than it had been, Cailey gobbled blueberries out the window. One whole round of stain later and I was feeling pretty good about the state of things. I grabbed clippers from the lodge and made the rounds, cutting the salmonberries and devil's club fronds that had crept beyond my comfort level since the last time I was here (I'd clipped the bushes around the lodge a few days before).

By then it was lunch time, so I made quesadillas and ate them on the porch with a beer, after which I finished Mysterious Island. Then I suited up in rain gear for a weird task I had in mind involving an office chair that my dad had offered me about ten years ago and which I for some reason accepted (I think I was accepting just about anything at that time). It has been in Mink Cabin moldering all these years and so much a part of the background that I hardly see it anymore. Now that I'm sometimes actually working in Hermit Thrush, an office chair might be nice, an improvement over the folding chair I'm using now, which isn't well suited for keyboard work. But it was dirty and mildewy, so I hooked up the hose behind the lodge, squirted the chair with tangerine smelling dish soap, and scrubbed away. It's currently sitting on the porch until it dries out a bit, then it'll come in here. It looks much better!

When I'd put on rain gear, Cailey had gotten very exciting, evidently thinking I was preparing for a walk. Out of guilt, I decided to take her upriver when the chair was done. The tide was still pretty high, so we walked to Harbor Seal where we peered over the rocks and saw that the beach upriver was not yet exposed. With apologies to Cailey, I went ahead and put a second coat of stain on everything, listening to music as I've been doing. The first song to come on was the Decembrists' "July, July" which seemed fitting, given that it was the first day of July and I'd started the day off by quoting that line. When finished, I returned to the lodge to grab Cailey and we went back to the point and descended to the beach. There wasn't a lot of beach exposed, and what there was was flooded and covered in seaweed, but we sloshed our way to the point and back in the rain (which had picked up after lunch). Cailey spent a good portion of the walk gnawing barnacles off a beached log.

When I got back to the lodge it was 4:00. I cleaned the inside of the refrigerator, which had grown some mildew since I'd been here last (I need to leave it open when I go), and washed the dishes. Afterwards, I finally got a good satellite signal and managed to check email, send a few emails, and check the weather forecast. At present it looks much better on Sunday than Saturday, so I may be overnighting here tomorrow anyway. It seems the best thing to do except that departing may be tricky with the tides on Sunday (at least as early as I want to go), and I hate to be too exhausted for the dance Sunday night.


Staining window cross pieces

Bird tracks

A summer of algae

After another pleasant night of sleep under the pinging roof, I arose and got right to work, first removing the last of the blue protective plastic from the corners of the windows of Hermit Thrush with the aid of my leatherman (most importantly the top of the riverside window, which required a chair to reach). It had taken me several days to remember to bring my leatherman to bed for the task. Afterwards, I stopped by Harbor Seal Cabin on the way to the lodge to put it together. I replaced the cross pieces (none needed to be sanded), mounted the curtains, swept, and otherwise tidied up. It definitely smells better without the chair inside. As for the chair, I wrapped it more carefully in the tarp, tucked the edges under it, and placed a couple of rocks on top. I put the drops inside to dry with the last of the stain, then went to Mink and placed its larger drops folded up under the porch.

Following that, Cailey and I had breakfast. I was surprised to see that the rain had stopped and, at that point, the inlet was utterly still. However, the weather forecast called for 2-3' seas today and 1-2' seas tomorrow, and I judged that I'd be able to leave early enough tomorrow to make it worthwhile based on the fact that the boat was floating in the morning (hopefully the later high tide and the lower low tide will not make too much of a difference). Soon the wind picked up and I was chilled sitting on the porch. At some point I went in the lodge and was surprised that it was not warmer. My first thought was that it's always cooler inside on warm days, but it was as yet overcast and cool outside, so the inside should be warmer since the introduction of the refrigerator, which produces significant heat. I thought maybe I'd better check the fridge to see if it was on and, of course, it was not! It had run about two weeks on that propane tank. I went to swap it out and was disappointed to find that the connection leaked badly, which I could hear, smell, and see with the application of soapy water. Afraid that the problem was with regulator system and not the tank, I tried the other tank, which was a success. In order to test it, I carried the first tank all the way to Hermit Thrush to try it on my heater system, the easiest one to take apart from its existing setup. Sure enough, it leaked there too. The tank was bad. So much for not taking propane tanks back to Juneau this time!

While I was there, I moved the nail holding up my mirror a little higher and better centered over the vanity, having brought a hammer along. I'd also brought a couple of braces to see if I could hold down the water hose that curves awkwardly across the path on the way to Harbor Seal, but of course they were not long enough to hold it down. I carried the tank back to the lodge, discovered that that fridge was out again, and went back to the bear proof box to find that the connection was leaking again. This seemed to be a product of the door pushing against the regulator, though, and readjusting it so it doesn't make contact fixed the problem and the fridge has been working since.

After that the sun inexplicably came out and I found myself on the lower deck to warm up and there finished reading Providence of a Sparrow which I'm afraid resulted in some tears. By that time, the sodden grass had dried considerably and I started up Joanie to weed whack the path. I left the generator running for another half an hour to partially charge my laptop while I raked the cut grass and had a late lunch of quesadillas. While on the porch I experimented with my spotting scope, training it for practice on the top of one of the trees around the eagle nest. Imagine my surprise to find an eagle there, on the other side of the peak, partially obscured by branches. I could see him through binoculars, but would not otherwise have known he was there. Through the spotting scope it was like watching a good nature documentary as the eagle preened; through binoculars, I could see what he was up to but it was a very difference experience, not nearly as close or as sharp. I tried to train it on a couple of birds that looked suspiciously like loons, but the lighting was too poor to see any coloration. I thought perhaps they were murres instead, but later I heard the classic loon call from the river. In the meantime, the hummingbirds continued to swarm, jays screeched or whisper sung in the bushes (something I've heard several times this week) and thrushes peeped through the berry bushes.

Later in the afternoon, I did something new: I carried my laptop to Cottonwood Cabin and stretched out on the bed (with Cailey) and watched an episode of Doctor Who. For some reason, or combination of reasons, this recent work on the cabins have left them feeling...well, more finished and comfortable and accessible than they ever have been before. I believe I might actually make good on the promise of using them--you know, one for a studio, one for a writing den, etc. I also think that sitting on the chair on Harbor Seal's porch is in my future--the point is so good for birds anyway. Speaking of birds, I've been enjoying the jays today camped out along the boardwalk; I counted at least five there at one time with more calling in the distance. Two good looking fledglings flew up a few feet from the boardwalk when I approached and camped out in an alder in the sunshine, and one of them immediately took to sun bathing. Not particularly shy, they let me approach quite close before moving to more distant branches.

After Doctor Who, which didn't leave on a much cheerier note than the book I'd finished earlier, I walked out to the rocky point and sat there for some time in contemplation. It began to sprinkle and, as I watched the tide ever so slowly descend, I finally headed back to the lodge where I started cleaning and prepping for departure tomorrow, then made a dinner of salmon, couscous, and veggies (ameliorating the stale couscous with butter, salt, and pepper). Among my chores was topping off the firewood inside, cleaning the kitchen, and sweeping, leaving little to do the next day other than covering the windows. On the way to Hermit Thrush, I put a bottom sheet on the bed in Cottonwood and a pillow case in Mink and locked both cabins.

Wrapped up chair


Young Steller's jays

Doctor Who afternoon

In the morning I finished my puttering chores, surprised by how quickly the tide was coming in to float the boat. I don't recall if it was then or earlier in my stay, but at some point I trimmed the current bushes growing in front of the satellite dish in the off chance they might affect the signal, though I don't believe they were. Since the boat was still high on the sandbars, I thought I may as well load it from shore and walk aboard rather than go through the hassle of a low tide departure with a kayak unnecessarily. I believe three trips were required, unfortunately hauling two propane tanks back on board, one of which wasn't even empty. The boat seemed slightly closer to the lodge than it had on the day that I arrived, but perhaps I was just fresher this time around and felt less pressed. Between the first two loads I filled the main fuel tank. A breeze was blowing in off Gilbert Bay, but I hoped it wasn't too brisk. I had just time to drink a cup of hot chocolate on the porch before the water's rapid advance pushed me away. As I walked down the steps, barefoot as I had been the entire week (hike excepted), I managed to skin the top of my little toe. The cold water on the way to the boat felt good, and I quickly pulled the anchor and brought Cailey aboard as water lapped around us. I decided that a bandaid might be in order, so I went ahead and dried and bandaged my foot, which led to socks and boots. By the time that was finished and the boat was ship shape, it was nearly floating and we were soon underway. A tough little chop in the port gave way to a reasonable following sea all the way home and I was surprised to see my parents and my niece and nephew on the docks loading the Kathy M when I pulled in. I filled the main tank (which had run dry in the channel) with my extra gas, making it home around noon.

Typical stretch of creek on the hike up