2017 - 6: Fall Perfection
Despite significant sleep deprivation, I had an extremely productive day, tucking away one chore after another and never getting overwhelmed. When I got back from an hour and a half standing in the channel up to my thighs to fish fruitlessly at Sheep Creek, I laid down on the couch to read and hopefully take a nap. But after a few minutes, it was clear that I was too antsy for a nap, and chilled, so I did a little work in the kitchen, took a shower, and got to work. Since I was upstairs, I put clothes away, packed clothes for the trip, and put fresh sheets (flannel now) on the bed. I had some lunch and hot chocolate and, in the afternoon, went to Freddie's for food, then came home and packed it up and got the perishables ready in the fridge. One after another I managed to cook eggs, cut veggies, and otherwise get the corvid food ready for my mom while I was gone, clean the kitchen, buy a dress, pay the bills (involving a trip to the mail box), put a new bulb in Bebop's light, clean the large aquarium, add water to the small aquarium, and myriad other small tasks. I was really impressed with myself! And, even better, a lot of the chores I was doing were for when I got back, not even necessary before I left. The house may be in the best condition it's ever been in when I return from the Snettisham closing up. I finished shortly after eight, invited an eager Cailey over to curl up on the couch with me (her eagerness may have had something to do with watching me obviously get ready for a trip all day), and watched two new Bojack Horsemen before heading to bed.
I woke up this morning before the alarm in a wonderful mood. Ever since tea on Thursday I'd known that I was meant to come to Snettisham today, and it still felt right even though (prior to that revelation) a large part of me wanted to recoup in town a weekend before heading out again. But, if nothing else, the weather forecast was impossible to turn down in September--1-2' foots today, 2' seas as far as the forecast went. It wasn't likely to get better later in the month. I decided I wasn't in the mood for socializing, so I went straight to chores, adding vacuuming to the morning preparations. I started unloading at the harbor at 8:55, carrying four jerry jugs, my new 9 gallon fuel tank (my previous one having been stolen from the boat house in the last month along with several jerry jugs of gas), and my emergency bag. I was in full rubber rain gear as it was raining heavily. As I approached the boat I thought it might look a little low in the water and began to worry that the battery was dead from pumping the bilge for a month without running the engine. Sure enough, there was water in the bottom up to the seats and at least six inches in the fuel well. But the battery wasn't dead, it was just missing, its plastic house floating around inside. It couldn't have happened more than a couple of days ago or there would be more water and the harbor would have called me about my boat sinking. I hadn't looked for it on Tuesday when I cleaned my gear out of the boathouse, but I think I'd have noticed it missing then. I unloaded the fuel and everything else I had with me on the boat and headed back up. I first checked to see if my parents had a battery handy, then ran home to grab my wallet and zip out to Western Auto, regretting on the way that I hadn't put my fuel in the boat house to protect it. After a brief conversation about what type of marine battery to get, which I didn't really understand or care about, I went with what the clerk recommended and scurried away as fast as I could, breathing a huge sigh of relief when I saw that my gear was untouched. With the next load, I brought the battery down, dried off the connectors with my t-shirt, and started putting it back together--a little awkwardly because the terminals are switched from my last battery, so the connectors are on opposite sides from usual. To my relief, the bilge pump started going the moment its connector hit the ground. I started the main engine, secured the battery box, and started the kicker before I unloaded the rest of the cart, letting it run while I finished loading. After another load I used the portapotty, put the last load in a cart, drove the 14-day parking area (barely parallel parking into the only available space), and walked Cailey and the cart to the boat. I put my cloth bags in front of the passenger seat on pads to keep them off the floor and covered in Cailey's yellow blanket. Both totes were tarped. We pulled away from the dock a little more than an hour after I'd first arrived at the harbor, which is not bad considering I'd had to buy a battery in the middle of loading.
The rain poured continuously and I wore my mustang suit for the first time in years, though I was at that point quite warm from loading. I also remembered to bring gloves and put Cailey's fleece jacket on her. Both were good moves. The channel was a little choppy in places, but mostly calm, and we sped south, the rain so hard that it was actually painful sometimes when it hit my face. I finally put both my rain jacket hood and the mustang suit hood on, securing the latter shut. Calm to Arden, but heavy, heavy rain. Approaching the point I turned around to do something and when I turned back the rain had stopped and the sky was brightening. It never rained heavily again, and the sun even shone brightly in a small, almost clear patch of sky, but the seas also picked up at that point, a southerly by the look of it. It took a long time to get to Grave Point over the small seas, which built as usual south of Grand Island. I did happen to look in that direction as we approached the point and saw to my delight a tall billow of whale breath, so tall and straight that I thought this breeze must not be blowing over there. He let out three big breaths and then disappeared. Not exactly a group-up, but something about the force of that blow was reminiscent of fall whales.
The seas continued to build for a few miles and we slowed our pace and banged and sloshed south. I veered toward the shore in the hopes that it would diminish, and it did, but not until we were about at Limestone. We passed a dramatic line in the water arcing out and north of the inlet where the brown water gushing from inside met green. Large rafts of scoters floated around the entrance. We picked up a little speed and gratefully passed Seal Rocks, then eventually turned into the port, putting the seas behind us. As they smoothed out I again picked up speed and surfed them a little before they suddenly changed direction and inexplicably came from the west, 45 degrees difference. Very puzzling, but also something I see coming out of the port on a regular basis. And so it wasn't until Sentinel that things really calmed down, and Cailey didn't get up and sniff like she usually does. I think it was a tough ride for her, even though it wasn't much more than two footers anywhere. The leather on the outside of her fleece was soaked, but the faux sheepskin inside was dry and Cailey was warm. Much more efficient than trying to keep her wrapped up in a blanket as she changes positions. All in all the ride was about two and half hours from the bridge; the good thing about the delay and the slow pace was that it gave the tide a chance to rise, so the landing was not too far below the log. I took one load to the path, took off the mustang suit, peed gratefully on the beach, finished unloading, and went out to anchor the boat without Cailey. A seal watched. Desperate also for food, I dug into the peanut M&Ms that had been left behind and opened the place up, making quesadillas when everything was ready for lack of inspiration, though after three days of quesadillas last weekend I wasn't as eager for them as I usually am. I wished there was a cold beer, but drank delicious cold water instead. I ate on the porch and afterwards picked up a new book to read. About a dozen short pages in I suddenly lowered it as tension finally oozed out of my body. I looked around me and began to relax... Here I am, at last, happily at Snettisham for a week, about to put summer behind me. I read and looked out over the inlet for a little while, then walked around the property, picked up the motion sensor cards, and unlocked Hermit Thrush. Falling branches had knocked one of the rails off the bridge along with the cross support for the camera, which was in the gully.
I'd started a fire when I made lunch and had kept it simmering along, largely to dry out the mustang suit, Cailey's blankets, my rain gear, Cailey's jacket, etc. and I eventually came inside to warm up and lay down for a little while. The first thing I did was get started on this report; while typing from the couch, I saw a bird fly straight at the picture window, pulling back just a few feet away and turning into the trees upriver. I saw a crest and thought it was a jay and would land, but the bird continued out of sight and began making the machine-gun chatter of a kingfisher. Only two birds that I know of have ever hit the picture window, both kingfishers. Why only them, and why so rarely, I don't know. A few seconds later he flew past again and I stepped outside to see him chatter himself away into a tree downriver. It was very strange. To try to discourage a hit in case this kingfisher lingered and repeated his flights, I taped a single sheet of newspaper outside the window. To my shock, a few minutes later he again came straight at the window, pulling up at the last moment, chattering again. I noticed the last time this happened that the picture window can readily reflect the inlet and the sky; maybe this agitated bird had seen his own reflection, hence all the scolding and repeated charges? It's now 6:00 and all has been quiet since. I started another book and slipped into a short, delicious nap. It continues to rain outside and the nearby waterfall is very noisy. Chickadees came through once and I saw what I suspect was a wren (or a very active rodent) at the edge of the bushes earlier and one Wilson's warbler. Cailey is very sensitive to my movements and jumps off the couch as soon as I shift positions. I just poured myself a little glass of wine from the box I've been working off of all summer and was alarmed to find it nearly empty; I have just a little left there in the bag and the bottle I brought down earlier this summer. I started my daily readings a little bit ago, but in the middle of the first psalm, I saw the modem lights go off! The power had died shortly after I turned it on earlier and I'd assumed the battery had run down, even though I think it was fully charged this spring and surely hasn't had very much use. I've had power issues all spring, sometimes taking minutes for the lights to turn on after making the connection. I wonder if there is a disconnect in all that wiring (I put in several feet of wires between the battery and the modem, not knowing how widely spaced they'd be when I set it up) and I may try to shorten it this weekend.
With dinner I watched an episode of The Strain and did some upper body exercises; then I read for a little bit by propane light before heading to my cabin around 8:30. At first I turned off my little buddy propane heater as soon as I'd brushed my teeth and crawled into bed, as I was fairly warm, but a few minutes later Cailey shivered a little and I could see my breath clearly when I exhaled, so I started it up again. I was amazed by how quickly I could feel the room warming up and, soon enough, I could no longer see my breath! I had a reasonable, if slightly restless, night of sleep and woke up at 6:30 to find all the windows and the mirror entirely fogged up; I haven't seen that happen since the walls were leaking and soaking the floor and the mattress, so that was a little alarming. When I got up half an hour later, I scoured walls and floor for wetness, but found nothing. We'd come in a little damp last night, but it didn't seem enough to warrant that degree of moisture. It's been a wet summer, but there have been other wet summers without the same results.
I had a snack and a cup of Russian tea on the porch, watching the rain over the inlet, then decided to cheer Cailey up with a walk upriver. The tide was just low enough to walk around the outside of the rocky point, and I enjoyed wading across the wide mouth of the creek beyond. There were no tracks on the sand that I noticed, but Cailey did flush a fledgling eagle from the grassy point as we approached. He was almost jet black, so naturally I called him Khar ("black" in Mongolian). When we flushed him again, he flew upriver into a tree occupied by an adult eagle, so I figured it was one of the parents. Both moved farther upriver a second time. I was just about to turn around for lack of beach when Cailey started sprinting back downriver; I didn't see anything for a few seconds, then saw a dark shape pop up out of the grass on the point. No, not a brown bear, which was my first thought, but another eaglet, flopping those great wings awkwardly in the grass. I yelled at Cailey to stop and, to my surprise, she did, then ran again, then stopped again and let me catch up. The eaglet reappeared a few times, evidently unable to fly, but well hidden in the meantime. We circled the outside of the point so as not to chase him to the river and I again managed to stop Cailey short of encountering the eaglet, who was visible through a break in the grass on the downriver side. We had a nice look, I snapped a few pictures, and we left him alone. Another adult eagle watched us from farther downriver. So, it looks like these two may have recently fledged and this one doesn't quite have the strength to fly; I wished him or her well.
Back at the rushing creek, I climbed up over the rocks just downriver of it to see if that might be a good animal trail up from the beach; somehow the critters are getting from the beach onto the property, and if I know the routes better I'll have a better chance of filming them. It was a reasonable path, but inconclusive. Back at the lodge I picked up clippers, gloves, and a hand claw tool and headed to Mink Cabin to excavate it. Most of the PT 2x8s forming the perimeter of the foundation on the mountain side and the upriver side had become at least partly buried in the rapidly growing soil and needles of the forest. I clipped some ferns and branches out of the way, then sat and crouched my way along the mountain wall, hacking and clawing and scraping my way with the hand tool until the 2x8 was free and clear, working then on the upriver side which wasn't as deeply buried but was complicated by the presence of the water line and filters. I expected I'd want to stop there, but I felt pretty good, so I went up to the outhouse and did the same there, unearthing the 4x4 it rests on and ensuring that nothing was touching the siding, then went and excavated along the mountainside wall of Hermit Thrush to reexpose the wood (I'd done this a few years before). Concerned about the foggy windows there, I started the propane heater and opened the windows with the idea that it would heat the cabin, the warm air would absorb the moisture, and then escape outside. Still with a little energy, I went down to Mink and made a solid attempt at finishing it, but it was the hardest cabin. I'd had a nagging feeling it would be, which was why I didn't start with it, but couldn't have said why. It turned out to be not only the deepest buried (the upriver side was filled in over the 2x8 and onto the bottom of the pine wall), but was also the rootiest. About half way along that wall, I suddenly reached the end of my energy and headed to the lodge for food. No more than half an hour later, I was back at it, stopping first at Hermit Thrush where I tried to help the drying process by drying the windows with a towel and then paper towels and taking everything damp with me. I left the heater running, windows closed this time, and then finished the project at Harbor Seal. I also worked on the 4x4 supporting its front porch; I didn't completely get it excavated on the upriver side, which would have taken a lot of trench digging away from it to work underneath, but was heartened by the fact that the top of that beam was dry, having been covered by the tarp over the chair there. That suggests that moisture from ground contact is not soaking through the whole beam as it is.
On the way back to the lodge, I opened the door and windows of Hermit Thrush to try to flush the hot, moist air out. Then I dried all the windows again with fresh paper towels, a little disappointed to see them quickly fogging up again. We'll see if this is a steady problem or whether we can beat it by heating and venting. By then it was only 11:30 and I was shocked that I'd finished a hard project I thought might take days, or a couple of half days anyway, at it wasn't even noon. AND I'd gone for a walk. It's amazing what one can accomplish by getting up at 7:00 and having a little energy. I rewarded myself with a cup of jasmine tea on the porch, watching the rain turn from light to heavy to non-existent. There have been a couple periods of sun today, glistening on the rushing little creeks. I've seen waterfalls on the avalanche slope across the river that I may not have seen before, and my eye keeps getting caught by the outlet of the gorge creek across the inlet, as its multiple channels looks like a boat at anchor. I've been reading the diary of Ann Frank and am very impressed by the wisdom and poise she acquired in her secret annex. What a woman she would have been! Eventually hunger drove me inside and I heated up some madras lentils (tasty bite) and a couple pieces of my strange corn-jalapeno-cheese bread from Freddie's. While it cooked I cut up the three-pound sirloin tip roast I'd brought, putting a quarter of it in the freezer and cutting the rest into slices or strips for dinners. I also finished framing my childhood print that I like of a mouse family in a kitchen. Strange how I love my childhood prints down here.
Now it's the early afternoon and, as I'd become quite chilled reading outside, I started a fire to warm up and continue to dry out the blankets and rain gear, etc., that never dried yesterday or that have become wet again. I'm about to see if I can get power to the modem again.
The trial was successful, and not even a delay. Very curious. I spent more time on the porch reading and peering at birds every now and again. Jays have been calling and flying overhead regularly and today I caught a glimpse of what I thought at first was a wren by the low bop into the edge of the bushes but turned out to be a very streaky sparrow. A female or young varied thrush landed awkwardly in the currents just downriver, in plain sight and ate several berries as well as something else it found on its branch. It was trying for a string of berries farther away when she lost her balance and flew out of site upriver. This morning, I listened to the interesting chatter of chickadees, a little songlike, and saw two of them upriver in the spruce boughs. The afternoon stayed dry, and I eventually got up and crawled under the house to see about making room to put salvageable lumber from the lumber pile under there, as the lack of rain and surprising energy were encouraging me. I moved Kushdaa, the yellow double kayak, from next to the wood pile to behind the other kayaks, then tossed out all the plywood pieces I'll use to close up the porch and moved the remaining plywood, including a full sheet, to the far back. Then I started moving the lumber I already have stacked under there, discouraged to find that the ground is not, in fact, perfectly dry, and the bottom 2x2s and 2x4s are already beginning to rot. I might use some of the short pieces of PT lumber I had down there to hold them off the ground. When I got too hot, I climbed back out to tackle the rest later and, discovering that it was 4:00, I decided to honor my parents and have a cocktail (4:00 is cocktail hour at their house). Since it was truly sunny at that point and I'd just finished some manual labor, I drank a beer.
The inlet was utterly serene and somehow the cloud cover had vanished. The sunlight soon vanished too--at least, the warm, direct sun--and a chill quickly descended. The tide was high and suddenly I found myself moved to kayak. Cailey followed and climbed on before I did, so I took her along. The water was four or five rocks above the log, right up against the rock that juts up above the others. I headed upriver, thinking we might sneak up on the eaglet on the grassy island, but soon saw that it was entirely flooded. So we paddled up there anyway to see if he or she was in the bushes. I watched one adult fly in from downriver to noisily land right next to another; then they both took off and one had a missing wing feather that made me wonder if it was my pair; it could have been the far upriver boundary of their territory, or part of the other pair's. We saw no life in the bushes around the point, so presumably the grounded eaglet managed to fly, or is quite good at hiding, or hopped farther away than we went. We floated back down through the tips of the grass on the still water, listening to chickadees in the forest and one eaglet crying far above. When we rounded the rocky point, an adult eagle perched near the nest dropped almost straight down and landed in the shallows, quickly stepping up onto shore. I just couldn't resist seeing what he'd caught so close to land at high tide and wished I'd brought my binoculars. When he saw us continue past the lodge, he hopped away from what he'd caught and flew downriver. I knew from past experience he would come back later, so went ahead and crept in, spotting something red on the rocks. It was a spawned out female pink salmon, still flopping, her tail in shreds. I hopped out and killed her, then quickly left, kayaking far enough from shore so any perched eagle downriver would know I'd left. I hope the salmon is enjoyed. Then I made a dinner of steak strips fried in flour and spices and green beans, and I just pulled cherry dumplings off the stove. Earlier today I set up the card table next to the window and I ate there, feeling like I was at a fancy restaurant. I don't even eat at the table at home!
After dinner I stepped outside and was delighted to see a bat fly by. I sat in my chair and watched him pass acrobatically a number of times, once only a few feet in front of my face. I grabbed my quilt, wrapping myself in it from the cold and laying on my back on the, if not quite dry at least with no standing water, deck. I was beginning to give up on the bat coming back when he flew into view, zooming back and forth in front of me and over my head. He seemed to work over the area, then disappear downriver, then work his way back. He did this several times, then disappeared altogether. I love fall batting! In the meantime, the stars had begun to come out in a nearly cloudless sky. One large one was just overhead--probably a planet--and another fainter one to the west. I stayed to watch over a dozen more pop up one at a time, but wanted to get to Hermit Thrush relatively early, so vowed that the next clear night here I'd make a point of star gazing. While down there I was tickled to see that the little solar powered "moon lights" were working on either side of the steps to the path. I need to put more out inside the woods and see if they work there. Over at my cabin I started the heater and lay on top of the covers to watch a The Strain; Cailey, who refuses to get on the bed before me (something I trained her to do that she seems unwilling to break) climbed on after and curled up right next to me. As soon as I draped a blanket over her, she fell asleep. I scooted her over when I climbed under the covers and she never stirred; once during the night she slept with her head on my shoulder!
cabin felt less damp that evening, and again this morning, though the
windows were completely fogged over. I started the heater, dried the
windows with towel and paper towels, and stayed for a while to read
while the heater ran. When I heard an eaglet scream outside, I opened
the windows and door to let the warm air out and saw the eaglet perched
in a spruce over the inlet. I headed to the lodge to grab binoculars
and a camera, washing up a little and feeding Cailey first. To my
disappointment, I found that we had no water, so I used some of my
emergency store. When I came back to the cabin, the eaglet
was gone, but I found him just upriver from the lodge in their favorite
perching tree out of the nesting season, alerted to him by his calls.
Later in the
morning, I heard wild eagle cackling and walked down to find the
adult pair together in the same tree.
a snack, I took a hoe and headed up to the olive barrel, vowing to
clear that trail at some point, which is hard to even recognize in most
The barrel was there, just offset from its hollow a little, and
evidently the water had dropped enough from the raging torrent to stop
the flow. It took me three times to hollow out its spot enough to drop
the hose low enough, building up the dam between each attempt and each
time being certain it was finally working. Even when the whole hose was
underwater, it took some finagling to get the flow to start. But start
it did, and at 10:40 or so I was back at the lodge. I'd slept much
than the previous night--the product of hard work yesterday, I like to
think--and I wasn't feeling well, so I ate some cherry dumplings and
read on the porch. The tide was pretty low, and the overcast skies were
dry, so I decided to go for a COASST walk, first stopping by the pink
salmon kill site. There was bright, wet red blood there and a tiny bit
of something leftover, so I'm fairly certain it was eaten there, and
possibly later carried away. We found otter tracks following a little
rivulet farther downriver, and again, at least two, beyond the grassy
point upriver. I was also pleased to find fresh eagle tracks nearby. At
the farthest end
of the walk I flushed a juvenile eaglet north and an eagle also
flushed at the same time from behind me, but I never got a good enough
look to determine age. It had started to sprinkle, true to the
forecast, but had paused by the time I was half way home. I walked
around the rocky point, then turned up the freshet runoff and found
what may be an animal trail to/from the beach judging by the mossless
section of a log that has to be crossed. I considered more options for
motions sensor cameras over the winter. It was after noon when I got
back; I lingered on the porch to finish a chapter, get thoroughly
chilled, and watch a pair of sparrows with solid brown backs which I
think must be fox sparrows. I was hungry, but before lunch I carried
Katie and Rob's rug to Hermit Thrush and set it up there, shutting the
windows against the more vigorous rain that had started. It fits pretty
well, so I'm going to give it a try. Then I had split pea soup for
lunch and I am hunkered down inside while a front grays out the inlet
and drops more rain.
I lingered inside for a while, really enjoying working on the internet for more than just a quick email and the weather forecast. In this case, I've been leisurely captioning my Mongolia pictures online. The modem eventually shut off, though, either because of another power issue or the battery finally ran out. It's been very finicky. Feeling like I needed to do something, I went outside and under the lodge to set up short pieces of PT boards to lay lumber across to keep them off the ground, and stacked what was there already. Then I uncovered half of the main lumber pile upriver and carried over all the cedar on the near side, stacking it on the deck. It was overcast, but dry, and the forecast was calling for partly cloudy skies the next day, so it seemed safe. Surprisingly, most of the cedar was still dry. I quickly ran out of steam on that task, but the water was pretty high, so I walked down the stone path and made half a dozen casts with my pole. There was a breeze coming in off Gilbert Bay, so the water lapped at my feet and I soon gave it up. But I did get a few minutes of actual sunshine just before it went behind the mountain. The sun is still warm when not behind a cloud, that's just been rare lately! When I turned around I spotted a bird and managed to get a very nice look at a juvenile golden-crowned sparrow, perfect and bold. There was also a smaller, streakier sparrow nearby, but I wasn't able to determine the species. It was well worth the walk to the water--I think I should consider carrying a chair down there and reverse birdwatching in the shrubs on the water side. Maybe the problem is that I'm on the wrong side of them this time of year. I had luscious Sweetheart sockeye, veggies, and toast for dinner, watched an episode of The Strain, read, and retired to my cabin for more reading at 8:30. No stars that night, and it soon started raining, not stopping until I got out of bed this morning. I woke up at 7:00 and lit the propane heater, still trying to dry the cabin, then climbed back into bed for a little bit. Before I left I dried the windows and the wall behind my shelves (which I discovered was also damp) with the last of my paper towels and emptied the water buckets. I had a cup of coffee with a cherry dumpling breakfast looking out over an utterly serene inlet. Often the only sounds were the waterfall nearby and....the WHOOSH of the whale blowing as he circled the inlet once. I even caught him in the spotting scope! A juvenile varied thrush came through eating more currents and I had a nice look at a fox sparrow with a very yellow beak. I heard, but didn't see, more chickadees, and probably golden-crowned kinglets too. While there I finished Ann Frank's diary, wildly impressed with this young woman, and with stronger feelings of horror about the holocaust.
Inside I finally cut off a lot of the excess length in the wires that comment the modem to the battery in the hopes that it would help with some of the power shortages. When I had them all attached again (looking much tidier) I was pleased to see the modem spring on with no hesitation. At 10:00 I decided to take myself onto the water on this gorgeous September day. As I was then a little hungry and couldn't think of any good snacks, I made quesadillas, packing up everything else while they cooked and then wrapping them in tinfoil to eat as needed on the boat. Cailey and I kayaked out on a falling tide and I filled the fuel tank awkwardly, as my funnel got stolen and I forgot to bring one from the shop. We cruised down the inlet, turned and followed the shore line to Speel Arm, getting my first close look at the big waterfall my dad remembers, which caught my eye on the way in this time without my looking for it. The water was glassy calm and the view lovely. We went into Speel Arm and turned around, pausing by Mallard Cove to admire the 23+ eagles on the beach there; evidently there is a run on and that must be where a lot of the fledglings are. There were a few more at Prospector Creek, too, and I made about 20 casts there. Then we slowly cruised along the west side of the entrance to the port to look for likely places a prospector would build a cabin before swinging by the creek behind Mist Island, which I've seen packed with eagles, but not this time. I was surprised to find that the channel between the mainland and Mist Island was full of kelp. From there I saw a whale a little toward the entrance, so we puttered in that direction but, to my surprise, never saw him again. The water was very calm and I was looking in every direction, or thought I was. It's one of the few times a whale has well and truly lost me, and I waited a good 20 minutes for him. Meanwhile, a whale was sounding much farther out, so there are at least two in the area.
We anchored up about two hours after we left, having lost the brief sun we had at the entrance to the port as we drove back under more clouds. Not ready to have the beer I promised myself, I made a tour of the property doing little chores. First I took off the filters housings on Cottonwood and Mink cabin, wrapping the tops in tinfoil and supporting them for the winter and opening the faucets inside, then I moved the nail for a picture on the wall of Hermit Thrush, then pounded in the support for one of the motion sensor cameras down by Harbor Seal before working on Harbor Seal's filters, tucking in the tarp on the chair on the porch for the winter, and finally pounding in the support for the second camera. And then that beer on the porch, a little work on Mongolian pictures before the modem died again, and I was back outside to haul more lumber to the deck. This was a fairly unpleasant task, as so much of the lumber is wet and slimy which is not only undesirable to touch and handle, but makes them very heavy as well. I moved most of it, but have a stack to finish tomorrow. It was after 3:30 then, but I indulged in half a cup or Russian tea, worked on Mongolia pictures for a little longer, and then on my Mongolia trip report. Now it's 5:15 and I've lit a fire as my fingers are thoroughly frozen. I'm having trouble getting it going, though.
More bison strips and green beans for dinner, then I lit the two propane lights on the downriver side of the building and started reading on the couch. I was interrupted by the sound of a thump and claws scrabbling on the window behind me! I couldn't imagine a squirrel jumping on the window, but that's what it sounded like. I stepped outside to peer around the corner and see if I could see anything and, just as I did, a little owl scuttered and flew from the side of the lodge onto the edge of the porch and perched there. It looked a lot like the little owl we saw up the Taku last weekend, so I suspect it is another western screech owl, though the ears were at best little hints of fluff. He gazed at me with yellow eyes in the twilight and I snuck back inside to grab my phone for some fuzzy pictures. He was so calm, though, that I hazarded a walk across the deck to where I'd left my good camera with which I was able to take as many flash photos of him as I wanted without bothering him at all. I sat on the edge of the deck and watched him as he gradually became more lively, looking around him and nodding his head more and more vigorously. While there, a bat made one pass overhead. A bat and an owl at the same time, ha! After perhaps ten minutes, he flew steadily away down the side of the lodge with no warning. It was about 7:40 then, so I soon packed up and headed to Hermit Thrush for the night, stretching, reading, and watching a little television while the cabin warmed up.
This morning when I cleared the fog off the windows for a second time (staying and reading while the cabin heated and condensed moisture on the window again), I saw that the river was obscured in fog. We were completely socked in, nothing visible beyond the eagle nest point. A duck flew by while I was sitting on the porch and it was fun to see him vanish into it. The sooty grouse I've been hearing hoot on and off was more vigorous about it this morning and I watched a young varied thrush flutter around the bushes eating currents. Six teal flew in, what looked like an adult female and juveniles; I thought the mother's patch might be blue at first, but it soon resolved to green and I got a flash of green from one of the others too. They were a little wary, and paddled upriver and out of sight. I finished the chapter of a book I was reading and, though I felt more sleepy and chilly than anything, I changed clothes into the dirty ones I was wearing yesterday and finished moving the bulk of the lumber from the storage area to the porch. The very last two rows were particularly annoying because the wet and rotten black 2x4s kept falling apart and had to be collected into bundles. All that remains over there are the tarps, the short pieces of PT lumber (which makes a large stack), and the myriad scraps of plywood that are unsalvageable. The area where the lumber was is relatively dry and, of course, devoid of vegetation. I'm thinking about building myself a little sit spot gazebo there! I think I'll also move the rounds I have cut up there so they have a better chance to dry out. Then I came inside, ravenous, had a little snack, worked on pictures for a few minutes, and here we are at 11:14. Cailey is curled up next to me sound asleep.
Before lunch I thought I'd take Cailey upriver, as the tide was low enough and would be rising again in the early afternoon. Khar took off from the grassy point, leaving behind his brother sitting on one of the rocks at the tip of it. There was an adult on the sandbars farther out. I walked obliquely toward the eaglet, hoping to get closer for a photo by angling onto the sandbars off the point instead of heading straight for him. I didn't notice him disappear but found him when the adult eagle from the sandbar took off and landed in his same tree and he cried a greeting. I meant to go to the point to investigate where the eaglets had been, but happened to notice a salmon on the sand near where the adult had been and went to investigate that first. I figured it would be another spawned out pink salmon, so imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a huge silver-bright sockeye! It had the faintest, lovely rosy hue which caused me to look very closely for spots, as it was colored more like a coho--but it was spotless! The eagle had eaten most of the head (leaving only jaws and some of the structure), the collar past the pectoral fins, and the eggs (there were just a few smooshed ones on the sand). There actually weren't many eagle prints around it, possibly obscured by all the gull prints. It smelled and looked fresh as can be, and I figured it couldn't have been out of the water for more than an hour or so, as it was close to the river and the tide was falling. I considered my options and, though I hated to take food from the eaglets, who seemed a bit behind the others congregating at other food sources, I decided there was ample food around for them and....and I took it! Carrying it in both hands before me, with apologies and thanks to the eagles, who I am sure were watching me from their perch upriver, I hurried home, making it back with an aching back and incredulity, rinsing the sand off my fish in the creek on the way and walking up into the woods to make the walk easier. In the lodge I started to fillet it, then realized that I hadn't "cleaned" it yet, which meant that the belly wasn't cut! Inside I found only some of the liver (I think) and a bit of the stomach or intestines, but mostly it was a clean and empty cavity. I cleaned out the blood line in the sink and filleted it about an inch down from the edge of where it had been eaten. It was a big fish and I wound up with 11 small portions, more than I get from sockeyes. The flesh was salmon colored, not red, but firm and smelled great. I didn't have my vacuum packer, so after rinsing and drying each piece I put them doubled into ziplocks and placed them in the freezer, keeping one out for dinner. I couldn't believe what a lovely gift it was! After cleaning up I immediately carried the carcass and scraps--with still a lot of meat on it--back upriver and left them on the end of the grassy point in full sight of the adult eagle upriver.
inwardly with disbelief and delight, I came back and made
quesadillas for lunch, enjoying them on the porch with a beer.
Meanwhile, I'd started the generator and had hooked up both my laptop
(whose second battery had died) and the first 12 volt modem battery,
which I thought might be dead.
The day was overcast and mild, warmer now that the fog had cleared off
(which happened after I had finished hauling lumber over). Again that
morning I'd seen how the world is covered in cobwebs, filling in the
gaps in all the branches, strung across every salmonberry twig; the
world has more spiders in it than anyone could imagine, brought to
light in my eyes only in the unique conditions of a dense fog.
I got quite sleepy, so went inside and laid down for a very short nap, waking up, I think, to a loud airplane somewhere in the distance. I got up and started working on the wet and rotting lumber, breaking what I could into wood stove sized pieces and stacking them at the edge of the porch. The ones that were too rotten to salvage but too firm to break by hand I stacked in a couple of places for cutting later. I had mixed feelings about the growing stack of firewood: it was satisfying--probably a couple of years' worth, even if rotten--but I also felt bad about letting so much lumber go to waste. By the time I quit at 5:00 I'd worked through most of the worst lumber, so tomorrow I can start sorting through the pieces that are better intact and tucking them under the lodge for safe keeping. Before I went for a walk this morning I scooped out most of the ashes from the wood stove which had built up a surprising amount in the two years since I did that last, and the fire that I lit this evening took off and burned much better than the others have so far. Feeling pretty good, I had a couple of small glasses of wine on the porch overlooking the inlet before doing the dishes and then cooking up my salmon for dinner. It was tender and delicious and reminded me of coho in flavor and texture. Ha! [A couple of weeks later I was chatting with a coworker who is more knowledgeable about salmon identification and from my photo he could see that my salmon was not a sockeye (there were silver streaks in the tail) and not a pink, of course; there are no Chinook in the river (and it didn't look like a Chinook) so options were chum and coho, and chum seemed unlikely in part because the caudal-peduncle area was very thick, which is typical of coho but not of chum, and partly because it was so silver bright in September (though there are fall chum runs). The next time I thawed a piece for dinner, I pulled four scales and Rich took them to the ADF&G Mark, Tag, and Age Lab; subsequent analysis confirmed that they were from a coho, age 1.1 (one year in fresh water, one year in the ocean)! It could not have been more exciting news, and this fish turned out to be my only coho of the year.]
It feels like it's been a long, productive and good day, though when I look back I don't see that I accomplished very much. It was another overcast day with maybe 45 minutes of sun enough to drive Cailey and I to the lower deck (Cailey takes herself down there, eschewing her comfy dog bed on the upper deck for the hard boards of the lower deck when the sun comes out; this was the second time I've taken her dog bed down there, and this time I joined her). Otherwise, mild and overcast, and again utterly serene in the morning. It was cool, but comfortable wrapped in my blanket, and I sat and enjoyed the morning, not even reading. I do so love the closing in of fall. Of course, it didn't hurt that there was entertainment! I noticed a flock of gulls across the river closely circling together and thought I'd see if anything interesting was drawing their attention; to my delight, a sea lion reared its head high, salmon in his jaws! He was throwing his head back and forth as they do to break off swallowable chunks and the gulls were watching closely for tidbits. The lion shook several times, ducking underwater between thrashes, accompanied by two other lions. I trained my spotting scope on him and got wonderful views. And then it was all quiet, a few heads breaking the still surface, but only for a couple of minutes. Then suddenly a lion, larger than the other two, shot up in a high spy hop and started (apparently) trying to choke down a whole salmon! This was a good sized salmon, and only the head (if it still had a head) was in the lion's mouth; he looked like he was trying to swallow it head first, and whole. He disappeared underwater for a few seconds, then thrashed a little, then popped up with the same ridiculous swallowing motion, like an eagle (or any raptor) swallowing a whole fish. But this was a salmon! He evidently knew what he was doing and this time before he disappeared the salmon slid down his throat until only the tail was in his mouth. The other lions were around and one made a swallowing motion upon surfacing, so may have found a tidbit. Seals were around the area, but didn't seem to react to the lion's presence. I was genuinely impressed by that lion choking down an (apparently whole) salmon.
Eventually I slipped under the deck and started stacking the lumber I'd staged there yesterday, propping them up off the ground on bits of PT lumber and shimming some of them off the others to help dry them out this winter. I followed those pieces with the interior hemlock siding, leaving the best pieces most accessible in case they are wanted up the Taku next year, and finally carried under all the short pieces of useable PT lumber and stacked them neatly underneath as well. Everything is in order, but it will take some maneuvering to get anything out. While working down there, I kept hearing what sounded like a very quiet whale blowing, but when I was able to look, I never saw the blow. Later when I was sitting down on the lower deck with Cailey having a late morning diet coke, I really concentrated on trying to see if it was a whale, timing the dives (if they were dives) and looking back and forth across Gilbert Bay as long as I could hold my binoculars up. I never saw anything and eventually the sound ceased. I have a sneaking suspicion it may have been a minke whale, which I've seen once before in here, by accident, while I was drifting around the mouth of the inlet halibut fishing; I kept hearing the blow, but never saw it, and just by chance saw the distinct sickle shape of the dorsal fin rising while I was out there. I bet this was another. I also heard a little rustling in the currents just to my left and found a lovely hermit thrush there, scratching and quietly bopping around the ground, very close. What a charming creature; I had thought that the hermit thrushes were all gone, but evidently not. Fall bird watching is a gentle, quiet affair, and you really have to pay attention.
Before lunch I started working on rehabilitating the old lumber storage area, which was a mound of PT scraps, shredded tarps, and plywood. So much were wet and heavy (or small and rotten) pieces of plywood that were either weights for the tarps or were saturated underneath. None of it is salvageable. What do to with it? I thought about staging it behind the shed, thinking I might burn it next summer on the beach, but that seemed too awkward with the turn around the building and the all the nettles and vegetation back there. As a temporary solution, I leaned some of the larger, more intact pieces against the upriver side of the shed over the drainage ditch. I'm not happy with it, and plan to lean them against the stack of uncut rounds there if I don't have a chance to move them up to the store them in the lumber area. The smaller pieces of plywood, though, I just tossed out of the area and onto the path and need to deal with them later. In the process I unearthed two long, very wet, large pieces of lumber that I drug over toward the porch, one of which only as far as the top of the river boat. So awkward and heavy. That was probably the time I stopped to have lunch, quesadillas again and a beer on the porch. I read for a little about Eastern Orthodox spirituality, then decided I'd make good on my plans for a nap today. Somehow it was already 2:00 when Cailey and I curled up on the couch; it took me a long time to get warm enough to sleep, but I eventually drifted off, waking up after 3:00 to the sound of a young eagle screaming. This morning, one of the resident eagles chased off juveniles twice; could one or both have been their own? The two upriver are still obviously welcome in their territory. Perhaps these were those eagles, or other fledglings, and this pair's is lingering on one of the nearby streams. I certainly hope so. It's been sad and a little unusual not to have the fledgling hanging around, but this could be a matter of personality, timing, etc. I hope so.
In any event, it got me up in the hopes that there was something interesting going on. I saw nothing, but decided to take Cailey for a walk upriver and dispose of the salmon carcasses. I put three in a bag along with several skeins of roe and trooped upriver, turning on the motion sensor cameras on the way (I wish I'd done that before the bear came by). That way I can take my laptop over there and test for direction before I go. All in all, this has been the most relaxed close up I have ever had, no fretting, no panic over little things like setting up the cameras. Everything is flowing nicely and I hope that it continues. Tomorrow is when I will do most of the close up tasks, leaving only a few minor things for Sunday if I can. What a beautiful and fun week it's been!
So I walked upriver, flushing one of the fledgling eagles from the trees above the grassy point without knowing he was there. I left a couple of carcasses and roe on the rocks (above high tide I believe) near the end of the sandbars, in sight of one of the adults, and the rest on top of a rock with eagle poop on it right on the grassy point. I hope they are enjoyed! On the way back I walked around in front of the cameras a bit to initiate videos, then grabbed the rest of the carcasses. One I left on the beach below the log where I also weighted down a very salmony garbage bag and the stringer to soak in the next tide, and the others down on a log and rock closer to the nest but in sight of the porch. There were no eagles around and I don't actually expect much interest. The large male carcass I kept to place in front of one of the cameras in case it elicits any interest by wildlife.
After that I continued to tidy up at the old lumber pile, first shaking out all the tarps (five or six of them) of the accumulated needles and duff, then neatly stacking all the PT lumber scraps into a succinct pile on the downriver side of it to be left and covered with a tarp for the time being. That was a big project, as there were a lot of pieces, and resulted in another pile of non-PT lumber to be taken to the porch to be cut and some larger PT pieces to join the others under the lodge. I then checked the weather, seeing that it looked decent for my hoped for Sunday departure, and went back outside. With a bit of energy left, I moved the entire stack of broken, rotting firewood under the porch behind the existing row of firewood in a single stack, for once making neat cribs to either side to contain them. Now the only lumber left on the deck is what I need to cut into firewood with a skilsaw, plus the piece of cedar I was going to make the picture window trim out of, all of which will likely have to wait until next summer. So, it has to be stacked. And then I came inside, and am now sitting on the couch sipping a tiny glass of wine and writing this. A few minutes ago I heard a boat noise and stepped outside to find a small fiberglass boat with fishing gear on it charging up the river. I sat down and watched with binoculars as a man stepped onto the back deck and looked at me while another drove. They went a little out of sight upriver, then puttered, turned around, and headed out, toward Gilbert Bay perhaps but I wasn't really paying attention. The first humans I've seen in six days?
But what I haven't said anything about yet is yesterday, after which I was too tired and antsy to write, which is why it might seem like I've skipped a day. It started similar to this morning, absolutely serene over the inlet, and it was wonderful. In the morning I worked on lumber, finishing breaking apart the rotting pieces and sorting through the remainder for keepers or cutters. The last step was to more carefully sort through all the interior hemlock siding left over from the lodge and see what might be salvageable. Quite a few of them have rotten ends, but are a couple of feet longer than 8', so might still work. My parents are rehabilitating the little cabin on the Taku and had mentioned the idea of paneling a wall or two; if I could put this to use there, that would be wonderful. In the end, I had tidy stacks of lumber, including a bunch of pieces staged to go under the deck. I enjoyed the morning too, and there were even a few short bursts of sunshine that were downright warm (this was the first time I moved Cailey's bed to the deck, which was used after a few minutes of apparent disinterest).
I had big plans for the afternoon.... the sockeye I'd found on the
sandbar upriver had put thoughts of fishing into my head, crazy, crazy
thoughts of fishing. I know that that sockeye (if it was a sockeye [it
probably bound for Crescent Lake and of a very different run from those
at Sweetheart Creek, I know that the sockeyes I'd caught five weeks ago
were already, a few of them, starting to turn, I know that twice now
I've gone in late August to find no sockeyes anywhere but in the upper
pool....and yet I could not shake the strong feeling that I should go
to Sweetheart Creek and fish. I could not resist this pull. In any
event, if I didn't catch fish, it wouldn't be a hard expedition, and
then I could check out the mouth of Gilbert Creek for cohos. But in my
heart of hearts I did think there was a chance for sockeyes... So after
lunch, I took Cailey on a walk upriver, who'd seem rather sleepy all
day, then finished packing up before putting her in Hermit Thrush with
a peanut buttered cow hoof. She was excited for the hoof and didn't
seem shook up about my leaving. I think she is finally starting to
relax down here and no longer shoots off the couch anytime I shift my
weight. I put on rain pants and grabbed my backpack, emptied of
everything but the barest essentials along with the net, a bonker, and
several garbage bags. I also took along my fishing pole and camera (to
leave in the boat) and the handle to a hoe or some other tool which
looked like a good walking stick which may be helpful in navigating the
rock and muck of Sweetheart Creek. I took off at 2:12, anchoring up ten
minutes later fairly close to the beach, as it was then low tide. As I
arduously drug that kayak all the way up to the edge of the woods, I
consoled myself that, if I didn't catch fish, that would be the hardest
part of the expedition. Then, with just my pack on and walking stick in
hand, I yelled and chatted my way through the woods to the creek,
noting a motion sensor camera just inside the trees. The first grassy
area I passed had some fresh pink kills I flushed a couple of eagles
off of, and I was pleased to see that the shallows were still full of
dark, spawning pinks. I saw freshish bear tracks in several places, but
thankfully did not see any live bruins on the way to the point.
And on top of the point, as I peered toward the water, what did I see but fish wriggling their way up the falls to the upper pool! Quite a few of them were trying it! That meant there were fish in the pool! Ha! But I still didn't know what state they'd be in, or even if they were sockeyes, though I thought so. I set myself up down by the water, which was back to a more normal level from the last time, and made a cast into the green water above me, about 30 minutes after I'd left the homestead. Lots of wiggling, white flashes over the low falls, and there at my feet were five or six sockeye salmon. Yes, they were all a little darker than silver bright, but some of them were looking pretty decent! I chose the two brightest ones, bonked then, and set about releasing the rest. It went a little better than it had with the pinks, but I did wind up killing one small individual who was noticeably turning and, since I hated to waste fish even if it had no chance to spawn, I kept it. It's funny, because I did not keep the pinks I inadvertently killed the same way earlier this year, but I felt obligated to keep this sockeye. So right off the bat I have three fish. And now I'm thinking....how many fish do I want to/can I carry home? I had no dry bag, so the only way to carry fish was in my backpack, which is why I'd brought the extra garbage bags for that quick trip. I could also carry some on a stringer, but I was unwilling to do that with the potential of running into a bear. Having fish in a pack, out of sight, in a very fishy place is one thing; carrying obvious fish in a place where bears eat fish they find dead is quite another.
Long story short, I caught sockeyes (and one little dolly) in nearly every cast, all but the one I threw close to rushing water and one rather bad cast. It was hard to turn them back, so I quickly wound up with three more on my stringer and decided that eight was the number I would stop at. I began to be more selective, releasing whole net fulls of sockeyes if they seemed too dark, or too small (I was hoping for another larger one or two, as most of what I had kept were fairly small). One very good cast brought in a rigorously wriggling net (such a wonderful feeling that is, when you can feel the movement of the fish through the vibrations of the rope before you see the net in the water) with two large male sockeye, but they were actually red in color, and I let them go. The ones I was keeping were burnished, with perhaps a hint of pink, but not red and olive. Except for that little male who accidentally died, which I later saw was a little red on the side, like a rainbow trout, with an olive blush to the cheek. I soon had another keeper and then I started getting really particular. It's also fun to fish, and I could have had my eight in only a handful of casts and perhaps fifteen minutes, most of that taken up by disentangling fish from my net (I was pleased that my first cast only took me five minutes to disentangle and string the fish). When a lovely female came in that was actually silver-bright, I kept her, and that was that. I was so relaxed, I had my fish, I had no time limit, there were no bears, and no people. I took my time, lining the main compartment of my bag with a garbage bag and slipping six fish in there before I ran out of room. I wanted to put my net and the other fish in the other compartment, but couldn't fit them in, so I settled for putting the rest of the fish in another part of the backpack and the net in the last garbage bag. I took a moment at the top of the point to enjoy the scene and try to snap a picture of a fish running the falls. What a beautiful spot. Oh, and to top it off, in the middle of fishing, a hawk flew right overhead and landed in a tree just across the creek! As it flared out to land, I didn't see any obvious pattern or color to identify him, but when he turned to look at me I'd have said he was a buteo hawk, not an accipiter, but the tail was brown and barred. He watched me for a few minutes, then flew downstream to a tree over the next point. Wow!
I was grateful for the walking stick on the way back, but carrying fish in a small backpack is wildly easier and more comfortable than those silly dry bags that hang so low. Of course. I also had four and a half fish less than the last time, but I still think it would have been easier. I stopped making silly small talk to the bears as I passed the first camera at the edge of the second rocky point (going downriver) and remembered for the other one that if I walked fast it probably wouldn't wake up in time to see me. They seemed positioned to see across the trail, not down the trail, so I wonder if the owners are very experienced with them, and I really wonder what they're for. The one on the ocean side of the peninsula has a padlock attached.
Dragging my kayak back to the water was also not very fun, as the tide was only beginning to come in. Anxious to be back at the homestead, I pulled anchor without cleaning the fish, leaving them on the floor of the boat, having no tarp or anything to put them on. I anchored up at home, cleaned the fish efficiently (cutting all the bellies at once, for example, rather than cleaning each one start to finish), which helped my back. It was going so fast that I didn't even bother stringing them in the water after the first one (I'm always paranoid about knots slipping and losing my catch anyway). I got the boat ship shape again, laid my catch in the kayak, and headed for shore. Cailey was delighted to see me. And it was so early! I set myself up on the porch with the card table and my supplies (I had brought my fillet knife and sharpener) and battled the noseeums while I filleted my precious, precious catch. The color of the flesh varied from bright red to oranger salmon colored, and there wasn't an obvious correlation between the tone of the skin and the tone of the flesh, except that the silver-bright one was red and the turning male was quite pale. But all of the flesh was firm and looked and smelled good. Some of them had wounds they'd survived. I put three plates of portions and a plate of bellies and scrapings in the fridge and took a break for a little snack, some honeydew melon and dry granola. Then I rinsed and dried the portions and placed them five or six to a large ziplock and laid them in the freezer. When I get home, I'll glaze and vacuum pack them and hopefully they'll be perfect! I also plan to freeze some baggies of water to help them stay cold on the way home. Oh, but I was so delighted! Sockeyes on September 14!? Ha! I was also pretty tired and amped up. I made some Amy's organic white cheddar pasta (a.k.a. fancy mac and cheese) for dinner and laid down to finish an episode of Doctor Who to wind down before bed.
We're now back on track, so this is Saturday, two days after Sweetheart: I woke up feeling more alive and better rested than I have recently, predictably at a little before 8, which surprised me since I was up a little later than usual last night. I had a quick breakfast of grapes and the rest of the granola, looking out over a very overcast inlet with a little wind coming down the river, which I hoped would pass away before I leave tomorrow (it's an indication of a north wind, which likely means a northerly out of the Taku). Thankfully, the weather still has it as a SE system in the morning, turning to the NW in the afternoon. I may leave a little earlier than the noon I had planned to try to beat the switch. After breakfast I started work right away, first neatly stacking all the lumber on the deck that needs to be cut into firewood next summer, then nailing in the pieces of plywood around the back porch that keep the rain splatter from soaking the porch in the winter, then put the tarp over the lodge outhouse, then over the cabin outhouse (and also tied that one up for the winter), then grabbed the filters from Hermit Thrush, then hauled all the lumber I wanted to burn or keep that I'd found in the pile of PT lumber and stacked it or put it next to the lodge to put underneath. So, lots of little projects out of the way. Before I took a break to check on the weather, I also took care of the gray water system, which is probably my least favorite closing up task even though it only took about ten minutes. Suited up in rain pants, rubber gloves, and boots, I emptied the barrel and cut off the disgusting filters. Having spaghetti the night before I did that was probably not a great idea! After a little bit of a break and a delicious cup of mint tea, I trekked up the path to the creek with Cailey and moved the olive barrel into its winter quarters against a log nearby. Before I did that, I made a cursory effort to redam its hollow and get more water to run through, as it looks like the channel right around the outlet hose had broken through and that's why the water had stopped. In the end, I settled for lifting up the barrel and hopefully forcing the water remaining in it down the system to the lodge. I'd noticed that water pressure was dropping yesterday morning and became more and more convinced of it as the day went on until I finally panicked and filled both my large soup pots with water to last the rest of the stay. My strategy worked, and I still have some low flow water coming in again. Before I broke, I made the rounds of all the cabins, draining the water out of all the valves and covering them with tinfoil. I then grabbed my laptop and took a look at the test videos I've been making on the cameras and decided that they were both in good places. Finally, I pulled down a huge branch that was poised to go over the upriver end of the bridge and might have damaged both the bridge and the camera mount when it did. I finally had some soup for lunch and most of the last of the bread, then a cup of hot chocolate.
When suddenly I looked up and the inlet was covered with little rain ripples, I decided it was time to wrap things up. I grabbed a nice looking Costco blue tarp from the lumber area and doubled it over the top of the future firewood pile on the lower deck, weighing it down with heavy boards and rocks. Then I did the same for the pile of PT lumber still in the old lumber area as well as for the pile of rotten plywood that I'd tossed next to the stack of rounds by the shed (I'd decided not to try to move them this time). The more intact pieces that I'd leaned against the shed I now leaned against the other side of the rounds pile and used some to help hold down the new tarp. Then I folded up the remaining three tarps and stashed them behind the PT lumber and raked the area, finding a few more saturated 2x4s that are now holding tarps down. I feel pretty good about having that project done, wasted rotten lumber notwithstanding. Then I took Cailey on the promised walk. She took some persuasion to follow me, as she probably thought I was either going to lock her up or do more boring errands. When I'd gone inside to get lunch, I'd invited, then commanded her to follow so she could get treats, but instead she actually jumped off the side of the high porch to escape.
Cailey and I walked to the creek inlet and discovered that the tide wasn't low enough to walk around the rocks yet, so we explored inside the woods upriver of the creek, following the game trail until I could see that there was beach below us. It was still and peaceful in the woods, all yellow devil's club and green hemlock, and turning false azalea. Then we walked back to the creek and up to the grassy point where we disturbed crows, some of which were on the rock where I'd left some of the salmon carcasses; two backbones were nearby, but no heads or eggs. There was nothing left on the rock farther upriver where I'd deposited the rest. On a sandbar separated from beach by two channels, one of the fledglings was sitting on a fish and since he and his sibling (in the trees) and one of the adults flew away when I was still on the point, I went to investigate. It didn't look silver bright from a distance, but I went out anyway and found a big, spawned out chum salmon with burgundy bars. This time the head was intact, but there was a large gouge of flesh taken from the gills back. I didn't see any wounds on it, so I think it may have washed up. Then this. To my surprise, I discovered after logging on my laptop for a bit that it was 4:30; I let Cailey in, whose tummy was rumbling with hunger, fed her, lit a fire (for I was quite chilled by then), and started bopping around with packing up chores, putting away clothes, picking out food to take home, and greasing the o-rings on the cabin filters. I wanted to close that project down by taking down the lodge's filters and unscrewing the connections under the sink, but I still have water coming out of the tap and it's so much more convenient to use than that dipping out of a tub that I am letting it go until tomorrow morning. When everything was tidy I cooked the last of the bison and finished the bottle of wine. Then I washed the dishes, pleased that I could use tap water to rinse everything, and read until I drank the last of the wine. The fire has been warming the place nicely and I feel quite cozy. After the initial sprinkles that spurred me to tarp the lumber, it dried out again, but recently started back up, enhancing the coziness of the place. I just looked through the week's photos and I'd completely forgotten how hard it was raining on the way down here. I think this has been the longest stretch of dry weather we've had since the beginning of August. How lucky I am.
Evidently I never wrote the rest of this trip report, and it's now two months later. I believe I celebrated my last evening at Snettisham for the year with jiffy pop popcorn, a beer, and probably watching something on my laptop. My departure, if I remember correctly, went fairly smoothly, and I carefully stepped over the myriad slugs that were circling the roe I'd left on the stone walkway when carrying my gear down to the water which, while offputting, were at least making use of that offering. There was also a spider with a big white abdomen on the path. The inlet was green and beautiful and the ride up Stephen's Passage to Taku Inlet pleasant; it got a bit stiff coming out of the north as we crossed the Taku, but it was tolerable, if quite splashy, and soon enough we were pulling into the harbor for one last time. For only about the third time this summer, I ordered traditional Bullwinkles pizza for a well-deserved feast after my also well-deserved shower.