Snettisham 2018 - 3: Sunshine
June 16-21


We encounter an ice berg at the edge of the port

Photo Album

[Immediately following a trip up the Taku.] I have to admit that as I passed Point Bishop in the middle of the inlet, I was sorely tempted to turn right to a hot shower just half an hour or 40 minutes away. Instead, with the sun beating down through the windows to my right, I turned left and into a gauntlet of gillnetters. I usually enjoy avoiding nets, but yesterday was a rare exception: I just wasn't in the mood! Nevertheless, I wove my way through without having to slow down too much, encountering a handful of lone fishermen isolated all the way down Stephen's Passage beyond. The southerly swells that rolled us a little in Taku Inlet turned into a northerly going down Stephen's Passage such that I was probably grateful to be in the bigger boat, though I think I would have made it alright in the Ronquil. At 6:15--the high tide--I was turning into the port and thinking that I should probably offload the furniture as soon as I arrived rather than have to fetch the boat again the next day on a slightly smaller tide in the evening. The Kathy M shoaled out about eight feet from the edge of the log and I jumped into the shallow water to pull the stern in. I'd already stopped off shore to pack up and untie the tarp from around the furniture, so everything was ready for as quick an offload as possible. The couch had, predictably, come apart in several pieces and continued to fall apart as I grabbed at it and tossed it to shore. The table was too heavy for me to pick up by myself, so I lifted up one end and scooted it over the rail, then tipped the rest of it up and pushed until one end was in shallow water on end.  Making sure the boat was still floating, I hopped back aboard, dumped all my gear in the back deck, carried it to shore, then tipped the table upright (in the water) from which it was an easy lever to get it onto the grass. I carried a couple of items up to the lodge, grabbed the kayak, and anchored up, paddling back with several items I'd forgotten including the weed whacker. After one load to the lodge, I got the systems going and started some water heating so I could bathe when I was finished packing. I had to turn it off before I got to hauling the table, which I mostly walked up the path side to side a few feet at a time. It end-for-ended up the stairs and into the lodge to sit upside down on the floor. So then I had gear and furniture scattered everywhere. I did a modicum of tidying up, then took a lovely spit bath in the kitchen, much relieved to be clean after two days of sweat and dirt and deet. I was also pretty hungry, and, having eaten mostly starch and cheese all day (I had a snack of bread and cheese, pre-sliced, on the ride down), I heated up some tomato soup with a generous helping of canned peas. I managed to clean the bottom of the table before righting it and cleaning/drying the top of it, stashed some food haphazardly on shelves, and filled the hummingbird feeders, but most of the cabin was left in relative disarray when I packed up to head to the cabin. Cailey had characteristically refused to come in, choosing instead to lurk under the lodge (I'm not sure why she does this when we arrive) but thankfully she was staying off the bear bones sitting next to the cabin as I'd told her to. She did join me for the trek to Hermit Thrush, alarming me by the interested way she took smells on the way. I was bear-alert on the overgrown paths. The cabin smelled musky when I came in, which I eventually narrowed down to the carpet, but it didn't stop me from enjoying a little stretch to help my aching muscles relax followed by reading and watching part of the latest Colony before falling asleep. It was a somewhat fitful rest again as I struggled with pain in both shoulders, but I woke up feeling alert and well. Cailey had slept deeply, I think, right next to me all night.


By 8:00 I was up and breakfasting. I knew it was going to be a quiet and unproductive day, and it has been so far! I've put more of the lodge in order, though it's going to be some work to arrange the new table. After breakfast I fought the new couch until I managed to put it back together. Since it was on the porch, I sat in it to read and....oh....I love it. The scoop seats ought to be terrible on my sciatica, but it is extremely comfortable, and the front corner post was a perfect stand for the jasmine tea I made, not to mention how nice it is to have an extra seat to put books, binoculars, etc., on so I don't have to reach for the ground every time. I've really been living the low life with a folding chair! I spent much of the rest of morning there reading, grateful that at this time of year the sun rises so far upriver that the spruce boughs keep the porch in shade. I could smell that the day was hot, but was comfortable on the porch. At about 11:00, Cailey and I went for a walk on the already low tide, first carrying two jerry jugs of last year's gas to the boat to swap out with newer ones. An eagle had landed out there recently and picked up a small, slender sliver fish in its mouth, so I looked for more but didn't find any. We walked downriver much farther than usual, checking out something an eagle had been eating which turned out to be a small dungeness crab, mostly devoured as far as I could tell (maybe not the legs). As we turned around, one eagle was in the nest and the other swooped down onto the mud just upriver of the nest and carried away a flounder! Too bad we'd missed it on the way down. I wonder if he'd killed it and left it for later or whether it was stranded? There was soon screeching and, as the eagle carried the flounder to a branch near the nest, his mate chased off a transition eagle away! This happened again as I passed beneath them--really interesting to see one eagle defend her mate's catch when the one with the fish is hardly in a position to do so. I may have taken some nice shots of them. Upriver, the same eagle was chased into a tree before the adult turned and headed back downriver. Upriver I was pleased to see a pair of semi-palmated plovers (maybe they've nested nearby!?) as well as a beautiful spotted sandpiper.


When I got back it was lunch time, perfect Snettisham quesadillas with a beer on the porch. I lingered to read and then began to write this before the dappled sunlight finally got too hot and led me to strip into underwear. It eventually became direct and I shifted the couch down the porch to avoid it, then put more sunscreen on and covered my head, but finally I couldn't take it any longer and moved into the shade where I am now at the top of the stairs. Very pleasant here. I've been hearing Townsend's warblers, a couple of sooty grouse, and hermit thrushes, one of which flew into the bushes at the base of the satellite dish and collapsed into what looked like a brooding position! I peered at him as he peered at me, but he soon stood and started preening. Maybe he was sunbathing? He flew off and a few minutes later I heard him singing close by. At least two hummingbirds are coming to the feeder, but mostly one at a time. One of them is named Mirabella, a beautiful slender girl. I wonder if their broods have fledged? Oh! Just now a male started doing territorial displays, the first male I've seen this year here! He perched a couple of times in the top of the young spruce I intend to trim that is growing in the meadow. It is so hot I am considering a dip in the water when it gets closer.

Though I wasn't exactly the picture of energy in the afternoon, for some reason I managed to haul Joanie (my little generator) to the porch (after checking the oil) and started weed whacking the path to the river. Following Rob's suggestion last summer, I cut around the outside of the lower patches of irises, but instead of just cutting a path around them, I made the whole path that wide. For some reason, this surprised me when I turned around and saw what a large cut area I'd made by the water. I loved it and immediately wanted to lounge around there. Closer to the porch the cutting was more intense and more difficult; not only is the vegetation much thicker and wetter there, but the intense amount of trampling there left a lot of the tall grass horizontal (as well as some of the iris clumps), which made weed whacking them tidily nearly impossible. It was hot, sweaty work, but I kept at it, and when the front area was done, I carried Joanie to the back of the lodge to cut the path to the outhouse, then to middle of the boardwalk (I'd already cut as much as I could reach when the generator was on the porch), after which I took a break and left Joanie on the porch to Cottonwood. It was time for that dip in the river, but by then the sun was behind a thin layer of clouds and nearly behind the mountain and I was not as hot as I had been earlier. Still, I trekked to the river with some liquid soap smeared on key points to quickly bathe. Dry and clean and dressed again, I started working on arranging Rob's cedar table, putting it more or less in place against the upriver wall, the only sensible place for it in the lodge that I could come up with. But what to do with the existing shelves? One would fit under the table, but I wasn't sure about the other. I tried putting it between the dishes table and the new table (it tucked underneath it about a food), but that didn't look very good. I also didn't like the higher cabinet to its right. So I tried that between the kitchen table and the cedar table, which I also didn't like. Without resolving that issue, I changed back into my work clothes and finished weed whacking all the paths except the little section at the very end that joins Hermit Thrush with the trail upriver of the bridge. It would have required repositioning Joanie again and it just didn't seem worth it. I broke for dinner, eaten on the porch, now in the shade overlooking a serene inlet (the stiff breeze of the morning had died away) and enjoying the smell of mosquito coils to keep the bugs at bay. It made me think what a lovely evening it would be for camping and that made me nostalgic for curling up in a tent and, of all things, watching a TV show on a laptop. So I pulled out my tablet and watched the last ten minutes of the Colony episode I'd started the night before followed by the season finale of The Expanse, all sitting on the porch. To my surprise and delight, Cailey came right up on the couch next to me and snuggled in while I watched--another bonus to the couch! The Colony episode took place in Seattle and had a lot of outdoor scenes with ambient bird songs and there were several times I thought they were local birds! Before bed I did finally settle on a furniture arrangement that satisfied me: the second set of food shelves and the cabinet are now next to the wood box, which makes that area look very cozy, and the cedar table is dominating the opposite wall with a food shelf beneath. I don't want to store very much on the table itself, but with the loss of the top of the food shelf under the table, I found myself without room for hot drinks. Perhaps I could make a little hot drink section on that corner and, to that end, I washed a piece of linoleum I'd found under a shelf earlier to put it on. It looked to be perfectly sized.


I slept better overnight and got going around 8:00 again, indulging in a cup of Russian tea on the couch in the cool of the morning shade with Cailey next to me again. When that was finished and I'd read a little more about Carthage, I decided to give satellite internet a try. It turns out that my network cable just barely allows my laptop to sit on the porch just outside the door; while I can't see it clearly from the dish, I thought I could at least see if anything dramatically changed. I started by readjusting the polarity, just because I knew it was off, though apparently it is more associated with the transmitting side of things. Then I swung the dish back and forth, thinking that the angle was about where it had always been when I'd tightened it last time. To my surprise and disappointment, I could not see any significant change from my vantage or when I checked close up. So I readjusted the angle a little, thinking I could see a mark where it had been, but no luck. I then freely tilted it up and down, but never saw the signal change, finally trying to put it on exactly 23.5 degrees, which is not quite where it had been. Then back to swinging the dish back and forth, all to no avail. I followed Brian's instructions and uploaded the configuration file he sent me (I even took a screen shot to prove it to him), but I have a feeling he didn't tell me everything I needed to do. I remember setting it up before, and the numbers had swung dramatically and easily and should have been green and in the 70s-90s.


Disappointed, I put everything away and moved the ladder to the young spruce growing in the meadow and beginning to alarmingly block the view. Coming from the Taku, I felt more confident that I needed to trim it, though sad, as it is a beautiful little tree and favored by birds now and again, and because I've watched it grow all these years (probably its entire life). I took clippers to it and, over a few minutes and a lot of squeezing, lopping off the top seven feet or so, leaving several strong tiers below. Then I gathered some rocks to help support the no hunting sign near the log, which was leaning over. I wedged it in with a narrow rock and piled a few others around it. The sign closest to the rocky point is missing altogether, probably floated away as it was the least secure of the three on posts. Then I took some care planting the two rose plants I'd dug up the Taku, the tall one of which has been wilting and not recovered. The areas to either side of the surviving rose from a couple of years ago are much lower and not ideal, so I took some care with the planting. First I hacked out the layer of moss and most vegetation in two circles, then dug up some nice forest dirt from near the shed and built up the level a little using rocks. When they were planted, I put moss over the top of the dirt again, just to help keep the moisture in while the plants are, hopefully, recovering. Then I took my shirt off for the heat, put on sunscreen (I discovered that my shoulders are burnt and my arms a little too) and set to raking the path, never a fun job. Overnight, a spider had woven a web between the rake and the porch and was actively dealing with a fly kill when I was forced to disrupt it to use the rake. I was happy when the last bundle of vegetation was thrown below the log, and the top of the spruce tree too. A whale worked the inlet and sometimes I could hear both the exhale and the inhale.


On and off I played sticks with Cailey, having found one of her favorites by the path. Inside, I moved some of the food between the two shelves and put together the hot drink section on the cedar table; first I folded a pillowcase to protect the table from the linoleum, then tidily arrayed all my teas and coffee. Finally I was able to sweep the lodge and had everything in order again, a relief and a delight. I really really love the way the new table looks, wine on one end, hot drinks on the other, and lots of space in between. The tide was low so I went out to the Kathy M where I moved the anchor out to deeper water for a low tide departure tomorrow and put fifteen gallons of gas in the tank. I was pleased that one of the jerry jugs I'd brought had the nozzle I'd learned how to use (and liked!) at the cabin, so I was able to use that one on all three cans. Well, two and a fifth maybe. The contraption requires you to press a little plastic flap situated half way down the nozzle against the edge of the tank to release gas; it's brilliant, because you can point the nozzle without anything leaking and release the flow only once the end is safety inside just by gently pressing this tab. However, not every receptacle is designed with an edge that is easily grabbed by the tab, which is quite small (maybe a quarter inch wide). On the third jerry jug, it slipped off and the nozzle plunged into the tank and broke in half, unrecoverable. I used a small funnel to pour the rest in and hope that the nozzle doesn't cause a problem with the fuel flow...


I cleaned up and was happy to put clothes back on, taking a moment to clip the devil's club leaves and a few salmonberry stalks from the area I want to build a gazebo for my forested sit spot, and finally ate lunch on a chair in front of the door to escape the encroaching sunlight. I kept trying to read, but not sticking with it for very long but eventually got up and set up the motion sensor cameras before trying out my new sit spot. Instead of reading there, though, I wound up tearing into a long-stashed package of Trader Joe's partially popped popcorn and devouring a good deal of it before coming inside. Directly above the spot is a nice view into the branches of the large spruce tree nearby laced with licorice ferns. Cailey was struggling with the heat and came into the relative coolness of the lodge willingly. I read for a bit, had half a cup of Russian tea, and got this up to date. The bushes continue to be pretty quiet. I've seen and heard wrens, heard some chickadee tittering (I think), had a couple of jays come through solo, and twice I have seen a flycatcher in the bushes downriver, once last night chattering in a way that sounded like more than one bird, and once today, though I didn't have a great look. The one last night hawked; he had the flycatcher crest, white eye ring, and two bars on the wings. I wonder if he is my Pacific slope or an alder? A Townsend's warbler has been singing a lot and I do hear a Pacific slope flycatcher now and again as well. Once today while sitting on the couch I heard a tapping sound which Cailey ignored and noticed that a hummingbird feeder was swaying. A bird soon flew off of it, but not a hummingbird, a songbird! And it flew to the other feeder and started tapping there, then gave a siskin call and peered down at me. A siskin, which I had not even heard recently here! He flew into the bushes, then onto the spruce upriver, and back again to that feeder where I got a picture of his rump before he disappeared. How strange! That evening I sat on the porch for dinner, but the mosquitoes were worse and Cailey didn't feel like joining me on the couch. I think I wound up watching the latest episode of The Expanse in bed instead.


I woke up feeling a little cranky, which lasted most of the day, in part because I'd evidently burned my arms and chest again with cow parsnip juice from carrying the bales of cut grass to the river. I suppose I thought it would be okay after a day, and much of the stems had already been tossed aside when I cut them by hand, but apparently there was plenty there and every time I got warm I got itchy. The dregs of an ancient bottle of noxcema helped ease the itching, but it was a restless and incomplete night of sleep. I cleaned up the cabin, had a quick breakfast, and puttered around but couldn't bring myself to do any real chores. I was so grumpy I finally laid down inside and watched an episode of Taskmaster. It was late in the morning and I thought a nap was a possibility, so I closed my eyes with Cailey curled up at my feet, but a brisk little front was coming in off Gilbert Bay and the downriver spruce branch that leans over the front of the gable roof was thumping and scratching too often. I've been meaning to look into it for a year or two and I finally crankily got up to see about it; noises aside, it probably isn't doing my roof any good to be thus rubbed. From the lower deck, it was actually a cozy and attractive sight, two long boughs from the trees on either side of the porch almost wrap the lodge in an embrace. I got some line from the shed and tried to throw it over the offending bough from the upper porch, as it would be far too tall to reach with anything but the very long ladder, and I wasn't up to doing that by myself. This strategy didn't work until I tied a knot in the end of the rope which was able to stick in the branches enough for me to pull it down until I could hold it with my hand. I then tied one end of the line to the branch and the other to the porch support post; from a stepladder on the side of the lodge I clipped all the small, vertical boughs that looked like they might make contact and let the bough go. I never heard another scratch while I was there. I have a note here that I saw an eagle drinking in the river, but can't remember much more than that.


By that time it was after noon and I decided I may as well just get ready to go. It was good timing, for by the time I had finished cleaning and packing up it was1:30 or 2:00 and the boat was aground if still surrounded by water. I figured it would take about four loads of gear, and it did, all the way out to the edge of the nearest channel, a long ways across the slippery rocks and mud. The first load was the tote and my bag, then chainsaw, weed whacker, gas can, and a few other items.
Finally, my backpack and garbage for the final trip. When everything was on the flats near the boat, I took my boots off to load barefoot and avoid the inevitable flooding of my leaky xtratuffs. As usual, it was a relief to get all the gear loaded and the anchor in the boat, and then Cailey. I also put another five gallons in the tank just to be on the safe side, using the last full jerry jug of overwintered gas. It was 3:00, half an hour past high tide, and I was really pleased with where the boat had ended up from moving the anchor the night before, probably getting me half an hour to an hour earlier departure. My goal was to leave no later than 4:00 in order to make it to a 7:00 gathering. As I got the boat ship shape, I realized that I'd left Cailey's blankets inside the lodge where I'd used them for an alternate bed for her; since the tide still had some distance to go before it would be even to my knees, let alone floating the boat, and because I also remembered that I hadn't turned on the motion sensor camera on the porch, I hustled myself back up there, grabbed the blankets and, spontaneously, a plastic cup of wine, and hustled back to the boat. Only to realize some minutes later than I'd still forgotten to turn the camera on. Rolling my eyes at myself, I went back one more time to turn the camera on. The water was then over my ankles and creeping in fast, but I had some leisure time in the hot sun on the deck yet before the boat floated. It was very hot and the big flies and yellow jackets that had been visiting us were not making much trouble, so I took of my shirt and read for a little bit until a boat came in the river and I made myself decent. I was sitting on the gunwale when I felt the boat shift a little and it was fun to feel it right itself, then roll over on my side, then come back to center all within a minute as the tide lifted it. Soon I was able to push us out into deep water and lower the engine. It was 3:46 when I headed out of the inlet, bumping against a brisk chop in the port and then turning around a large ice berg at the entrance to put the rolling seas behind us. I hit the dock around 5:18 and was home by 6:00 for a hasty shower before heading out the road, the timing absolutely perfect.



New furniture on the way up to the lodge