I've been here for just over 24 hours and am now resting my feet on Cailey's back legs as we relax on the couch in the lodge. The sun set about an hour ago (around 4:15) but the chill has yet to creep in; it was cold enough this morning to warrant four layers (t-shirt, sweater, fleece, vest), and warm enough to work shirtless in the early afternoon. Usually September is predominantly raining and cloudy, with a handful (two or four or occasionally more) of stunning blue sky days, often dead calm, yellow light blazing on the flukes of humpbacks, termination dust on the mountaintops. This September is just the opposite. I think so far we've had about three days of rain and the rest has been perpetual sun, the forecast pushing the next rainy day back over and over and over again. And with the sun came the Takus, eventually, building and diminishing and building again. After a weekend in Juneau, my first in a month, I had plans to make a quick trip up the Taku to close up, partly to ease the sunshine anxiety I was experiencing (I had obligations in town the next week, so couldn't start close up yet), and in part because I wanted to post the property for hunting before moose season started. But by the time my day came around, they were calling four foot seas or so in Taku Inlet. And so this weekend came, my hopeful week for close up, and I thought I might slip up the Taku for a night on the way, missing only the first day of the season. Mid-week, the wind was mild, only 1-2 foot seas in the forecast, but by Wednesday, the forecast was again for 4-5 footers on Saturday. Although this diminished to three footers by Friday, I know what seas are like coming out of the Taku and I really didn't want to slam into three footers just a couple of feet apart. Sunday was better, 2-3 in the inlet, two to cross, but by then the tides were dropping such that heading upriver, especially with water levels extremely low, would be hazardous. Instead, I cruised right past the river and down to Snettisham after what felt like a marathon of preparation. It seems like most of what I've been doing for the last two weeks was get ready for this; I think that's partly spreading out the shopping and chores over the entire period, partly getting ready for a lot of little tasks, partly delaying it repeatedly, and partly that I also did a lot of work around the house to prepare it for fall in town (repairing the porcupine feeders, for example)!
Saturday morning I took three loads of gear down to the harbor so loading on Sunday would be easier. After some last minute housecleaning, I headed out around 1:30 and took the dog and an overloaded cart down to the boat. As I approached the Kathy M I realized that I'd left the boat key at home. Frustration. I took the kicker off the Ronquil and put it on the Kathy M, per my father's orders (he wouldn't let me borrow the Kathy M without it); it was not nearly as difficult as expected. Then I loaded everything on board, left Cailey inside to guard it, and ran home for the key. I left the harbor at 2:10, had a pleasant and leisurely fill up at the fuel dock (the very nice attendant brought Cailey a cookie and gave it to her through the window) and soon enough I was heading down the channel eating popcorn and drinking a cold beer, thankful that the popcorn was fresh since I hadn't managed to eat very much lunch. The forecast had dropped to two foot seas, it was gorgeous, and I was feeling very grateful.
The ride down was very easy in the Kathy M, a little westerly from the back side of Douglas and some small seas out of the Taku; the worst of it was past Grave Point where a westerly did actually build to two footers. Overall, though, it was very pleasant, probably not even too bad in the Ronquil, though Cailey's despondent looks suggested otherwise. We pulled in shortly after four and I donned waders to unload before anchoring out. By the time I had everything unloaded and set up, I was pretty hungry, and stumbled onto an instant noodle dish as I was unpacking food. It turns out that it's meant to be microwaved, which I discovered after reading that you're only supposed to put two tablespoons of water in the dish before heating it. So much for just using boiling water! I put more hot water in than that, so it was rather watery, but it did the job. That gave me the strength to march myself and a bag of tools and clothes for the next day to Hermit Thrush to see if I could fix the leak in the fuel system. Apparently I hadn't left the wrenches there like I thought, so I had to come back for them. First I unscrewed the nut on the tank end of the fuel filter, put fresh sealant on, and screwed it back in. That one was a littel awkward because separating the line made fuel leak back out as it bent toward the tank. But the leak appeared to stop, so that was progress. I did the same for the nut at the tank valve and it, too, seemed to stop. Tickled both that I had the energy for the task and that it was, apparently, successful, I cleaned the area up, carrying back another wad of diesel rags. While I was at it, I also decided to put on the last part of the smoke stack, hoping that it would make the stove more efficient or productive. I had to return for my leatherman first and ladder to cut off the zip tie that was holding hardware cloth over the open horizontal stack piece. The upright piece felt very heavy, but it stayed in place reasonably well. Securing it to the cabin was trickier. The stack had come with a collar in two pieces that secure together with long bolts; my idea was to incorporate a metal strap inside the outer half of the collar, secure it with the bolts, and then screw the straps to the wooden flashing under the eaves. But the bolts didn't come with nuts. I went back to the shed to see if I could find nuts that fit. I didn't, but I did find other bolts and nuts that worked. Unfortunately, I really needed LONG bolts, because the collar is too short to fit around the pipe tightly to the two ends wind up far apart instead of touching. In the end, I abandoned the collar altogether and just wrapped the strap around the chimney. I used roofing screws to secure it, about level, to the flashing, which required another trip to the shed, as the driver was just a little too big for those screw heads. I didn't even know that roofing screw heads came in different sizes, but thankfully I had a brand new driver to try which worked. By the end, I'd made at least five different trips to and from the cabin, but both tasks were complete and I'd have a functional stove for the night. I held my solar lantern over the stove and waited long enough to see fuel come in, to my relief.
It was 6:30 by then and I spent the next hour bundled up and reading on the porch, Cailey in the couch outside next to me under her blanket. I read until it got a little too dim for comfort, then just sat in the quiet inlet and watched the moon creep over the mountains and Gilbert Bay. At 8:00 I retired to Hermit Thrush and lit the stove, reading until about 9:15 when I reluctantly turned the stove off, still not quite warm, and fell asleep, possibly with a blanket over my head. To my surprise, the cabin never really warmed up, though stepping outside did reveal that it was considerably warmer inside than it was out there. But I did sleep quite comfortably, as did Cailey, in her jacket most of the night but rarely more. When I'd left, there had been a frost advisory from 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.!
I woke up at seven and lingered a little in bed, then hastily dressed and took off for the lodge. After feeding Cailey and washing my face, I decided I wanted something warm and interesting for breakfast, settling on cherry cobbler since I hadn't brought butter for pancakes. Since that was going to take a little longer than usual, I decided to do an undesirable task first; checking on the water system. I'd noticed that when I turned on the water valve on the lodge, there was no dramatic swoosh and bubbles like there usually is when the system is functioning; instead, there didn't appear to be much pressure in the system. I was not surprised, given the recent drought. Rather than run out of water first, I decided to be proactive, and wove my way through devil's club to the water barrel on the mountainside, dishwashing gloves in hand. To my delight and relief, the outlet hose was very much underwater and the dam intact; the top of the barrel was angling toward the bank, but only a little push and it was back in place in its hollow and it soon felt like water was flowing again. Taking extra care in the spring has really paid off! Or maybe our ridiculously dry summer has protected the dam and hollow from washout and debris.
Back at the lodge I put on the cobbler, using most of the rest of the Redmill biscuit mix, and did a few local tasks, putting together the two new motion sensor cameras, filling the kerosene lamp with oil, hanging the cross picture by the door and deciding where to put the quilted hanging I'd found the other day, which requires a rod to hand from. Breakfast on the porch, then jasmine tea and some very pleasant reading. The wren frequently chittered from the bushes and a lovely, cute even, hermit thrush lingered on the porch and in the bushes nearby long enough for me to pull out my camera and try for a photo. Two juvenile eagles circled together overhead, one with very white underwings and black flight feathers like a red-tailed hawk and the other with a white tale banded in black at the end. This year's eaglets?? In the afternoon, one sat in a tree near the nest crying on and off for a long time and when he flew away, I saw a very similar white tail.
After tea I carried the six paving stones to the back of the shed and moved the windows and plywood stashed back there away from the wall: I was going to try to level the building, which badly sank down in the back, having been placed on mucky, poor foundations. I dug a little under the middle of the wall until I could fit the jack from my truck under it and began cranking. It was stiffer than I expected, but with a lot of cranking and nearly the entire height of the jack, the left side was high enough that I could slide a paving stone under it. The other side was not! I took the jack out intending to start again from a higher level and, since the right side hadn't come up as much, I put the jack over on that side this time instead of in the middle. This time there was no stiffness and the jack fairly flew upward as I turned. I put a second stone under that side, but then either the rock under the jack shifted or the jack slid and the whole building shifted to the right several inches. I couldn't think of any way to shift it back without risking its falling off its foundations entirely, so I quickly lowered the jack and let the building rest on the paving stones again. It was alarming, and not ideal, but both corners were still sitting solidly on their foundations, to my relief. The building was considerably more level then, but still sloped back quite a lot, so I decided to try for one more layer of stones. This time I carefully dug out a nice hole in the exact center of the back wall and laid down one of the paving stones as a foundation for the jack. This time both ends went up evenly and I was able to slide another paving stone under each. I am very pleased with the results! The floor no doubt still slopes, but I don't think it would come to mind at all just from stepping inside.
I shoved a rock under the upriver wall in the hopes for some added support and built up a middle foundation in the back, which, though touching the 4x4 under the wall, will probably only function as the corner foundations sink again (if they do). I put everything back in place and, instead of stopping for lunch which I kind of wanted to (though it was only 10:40), I was strangely moved to take a walk, downriver of all places! By now the sun had risen (it had only crested the mountain around 9:00) and was on the lower porch and it was warm enough that I soon regretted the light sweater I was wearing over my t-shirt. As I hit the rocks on the beach I took a few minutes to pile a few substantial rocks around the bottom of the no hunting sign to help shore it up for surviving a winter until spring bear hunting season. Then Cailey and I walked down the beach on the sun-dried rocks below the eagle's nest, past Garnet Rock, and on. Crossing one low point, I startled a small bird from the shore into a nearby alder and was tickled to watch it sun-dappled in the leaves, a gorgeous little savanna sparrow. A little later another sparrow launched from the rocks into the bushes, this time a dark-eyed, alert little song sparrow. I was looking for a place to sit awhile and look over the green inlet and passed over a smooth, sloping bedrock projection with its many natural indentations smoothed by water or ice in favor of the next big point down. Stepping up onto the last big rock I heard movement under the overhanging alders nearby--bigger than I thought a bird would make, though that seemed the most likely culprit. But, instead, a lovely brown mink head popped up and peered at me. Though I wanted to see more, I told it to run and grabbed Cailey, who was not yet alert to it. When it appeared again, I grabbed her bodily and prevented her from chasing it, though how much she knew then I'm not sure. I had a good look of a loping body before I focused on Cailey. With apology and warning, I turned Cailey back upriver and we retreated back to the previous rock where I'd just gotten comfortable and was enjoying the view, with my sweater off now, when the mink showed up again. Oh, those wonderfully bold and curious mink! I could surely have had a nice time with him and probably taken some wonderful pictures, but this time I didn't grab Cailey in time and she took off after him when he moved. He was up under the brush and I hoped he had a place to hide. I followed her through the enormously thick horizontal trunks of Sitka alder where she was avidly sniffing the entrance to a mink-sized burrow. Not trusting the mink to stay hidden and seeing several other possible openings, I climbed up and managed, with a little effort, to push Cailey back down to the beach. I think we were all happy with the outcome--the mink was safe and Cailey had had a little exciting hunting. As we approached the porch again, a Lincoln's sparrow flew into the little spruce tree. Who knows what other critters I'd have seen if we'd continued on!
By then I was quite hungry and enjoyed quesadillas in the sunshine with a very cold beer. And after started a new book, I got to work on a task I have been dreading for almost exactly a year: I figured I'd better start cutting the hopeless lumber that's been stacked on the porch this whole time. Using a skilsaw is not something I enjoy, and this would be a huge task. Perhaps if I did a little at a time, I could finish it this week. I set up the sawhorses, got little Joanie going like a champ, and started cutting. It actually went pretty well, perhaps thanks to my new blade! Exhausting though, holding that heavy machine and pushing it through lumber over and over again. I was generally able to do every board I stacked at once on the sawhorses, then was grateful to use other muscles less strenuously to stack more. When the pile of firewood grew as high as the sawhorses so they had nowhere to fall, I moved to a new location, by the end making four piles of firewood. To my surprise, the whole task took only an hour and ten minutes! What a relief! I was quite sweaty by then, though I'd done most of the job shirtless, so I cleaned up and then took Cailey on a walk upriver, started at the rocky point as the low tide today was about 5' and it was already rising. Though the shoreline downriver of the grassy point was fairly narrow, the river is so low that the sandbars above were exposed and I could walk much farther than usual, far above the usual turning around point. And everywhere there were jellyfish, mostly the big burgundy lion's mane jellies that dotted the beach in September several years ago. They were in various states of decay, some of them with "windows" in them to a burgundy or orange colored center that looked like jello or stained glass. Several were white. I lost count after a dozen, but they were everywhere I looked, dry, in channels, in pools, everywhere. I even stepped on one by accident on the way back!
On the way up, I trained my binoculars on a plane flying in my direction from Gilbert Bay; I'd heard others earlier, but this one was coming overhead, so I looked to see who it was. It was blue, and to my surprise, I soon saw the words "State Trooper", one on the underside of each wing! Huh! As he came overhead, he waggled his wings just a little and I waved back. He flew upriver and around the corner, returning shortly. I read in the sun for a while then, wearing a hat to keep it off my face, and then made an early dinner of Sweetheart sockeye, broccoli, and rolls, watched the first episode of season 5 of The Last Ship, and here I am! I'm actually quite surprised that I'm not freezing by now, but the expected fire tonight may not happen if I don't go outside and freeze. I may light the oil stove early tonight in the idea that it might then be warm when I arrive instead of starting in in the chill.
It's 8:21 p.m., long past sunset, and I'm at the table in the lodge, warm from a fire earlier, with the light of a waxing gibbous moon casting an anvil shaped streak of dancing glitter on the river. I can't remember ever seeing moonlight reflected so on the water. Just as yesterday, I woke to a north wind, but today's wind was much fiercer, rocking the Kathy M at anchor, slapping waves against her hull. And, just like yesterday, it died around noon. It's a fall pattern I'm starting to recognize. Last night I did go over to light the oil stove around 7:00, but I was too nervous to leave it for long and returned five or ten minutes later to find no smoke coming out of the chimney and no flame in the stove, only a pool of oil. I guess that's why the instructions say to make sure the fire is going well before opening the valve to let more oil in. This time I lingered for fifteen minutes, reading next to the stove, to make sure it wasn't going to go out. By that time it was after 7:30, so I headed back to the lodge to do little more than wash my face and get everything ready for the night. When I came back, I put a mugful of water in the kettle and let it simmer while I rested my toes on the edge of the stove and continued to read; half an hour later, the water was boiling, so I drank a cup of licorice tea before realizing that I'd never sent the promised SPOT message that day and headed back to the lodge with the bonus of being able to look at the stars while there, the moon hovering over the mountains, but close enough to the horizon that I could see a lot of stars and perhaps even a hint of the Milky Way. I got up around 4:00 a.m. and glanced out the window, surprised to see bright stars through the trees. I could not muster the courage to walk down to the point though, and went back to bed!
This morning I ate the rest of the cherry cobbler for breakfast followed by a cup of almond milk hot chocolate, going through two new sets of batteries before I could get the little aero latte mixer to work. I put on tights and wool socks to help stay warm in the shade on the deck with the north wind coming in, and bundled Cailey up beside me when she sat down. After the sun hit the deck, I climbed down and started moving the newly cut firewood under the deck. First I pulled out all the cut spruce branches that are too long to fit in the wood stove to make more room, then filled in the very first row against the deck. Then I filled in the second row after taking a load inside, then created a whole new row and a half behind that after restacking all the lumber I'd used to hold up the oil tank at Hermit Thrush. I'd haul over four or five loads and dump them underneath, then crawl under the deck and stack it neatly. The piles on the deck diminished slowly, but it was not unpleasant work, if hard on the back. I swept off the deck and stacked the handful of pieces that still needed to be cut on the sawhorses--it was a vast improvement. I also began to fold up the tarp that had been protecting the lumber (quite well, I was surprised to find, as only the center two rows were wet) and discovered another cacoon like one I'd found in Juneau last week. It caught my attention because it looked like a large porcupine scat, or a small moose, but slightly furry. I had touched the one in Juneau and was slightly horrified to find that it was as soft as pudding. Then I had poked it and found that it was hollow inside with a black grub that was much too small for the space. My ignorance about local insects is a great shame, and I have no idea what it could be, or why it would make a cacoon mostly filled with air. How does that work? Afraid that I'd ruined his home, I'd moved the rock it was on off the trail and left it there. Some days later I gently lifted it again and was surprised to see a grub in there, but larger and orange! The Snettisham cacoon (if it is a cacoon) I left intact and carefully folded the tarp so it was undisturbed and it's currently sitting by the lodge. (I now believe they are wooly bear/Isabella tiger moth cacoons).
It was lunch time then, so I had some madras lentils, a cold beer, and some cookies, while looking out over the inlet. Not for the first time I noticed a flock of gulls on the river energetically diving in a tight group--there are apparently schools of something enticing out there. Dark shapes on the water were intriguing, so I fetched the spotting scope and was thrilled to see what I'm pretty sure were loons of uncertain species and quite clearly a pair of horned grebes in winter plumage! I often see a grebe here in the spring, but I don't think I've ever seen one on winter migration. There were quite a few loons, making me wonder if the flock I'd seen yesterday that I assumed were mergansers were actually these loons. I then went for a walk upriver with Cailey, now in a tank top and sunscreen. An hour and a half before a six foot low tide, we had just enough beach to make it around the point beyond the outlet of the creek and a narrow stretch of beach half way to the grassy point. There were several jellies on the way, and this time fresh mink tracks right on the edge of the point, and this time I could count all five toes. I lingered on a rock at the edge of the first channel watching gulls diving in the river until Cailey's avid attention downriver caught mine. I was worried there was a mink, but the movement turned out to be a squirrel in an alder tree who appeared to be nibbling on leaves. Or nibbling on cones, which was causing leaves to fall? He came down to the ground once, making me wonder if he was collecting cones as he would from a spruce. Very curious. Once he saw me looking, though, he stopped his activity. Back at the lodge I thought that, while I had the generator set up, I'd also cut the trim for the picture window, another task carried over from last September. Plus I had a handful of firewood pieces that were still too long that could use a trim. I pulled out the long 1x12 rough cut cedar plank from below the lodge, grabbed a tape and speed square from the shed, and started taking measurements of the window and deciding how much overlap I wanted on the top and bottom. I mimicked the style I used inside the lodge, but slightly longer and wider. Although I hate all the prep work and multi-step process, I ripped the board properly, using a c-clamp to hold it in place. Because the shutters over the window are bolted into blocks that hold them out far enough to meet the front of the window (the window frame sticks out from the wall), I opted not to try to actually install the trim, since that would require unbolting the heavy shutters and, more importantly, holding them back up and bolting them in place by myself. At least they're ready the next time I have help. It was so hot in the sunshine that I allowed myself to go inside and beat the sunshine anxiety that told me I needed to be out in it as much as possible. Laying on the couch and reading, so cool inside that I needed the quilt to be comfortable, was a great relief and very peaceful. Before starting dinner I uncovered the pile of pressure treated tidbits that I'd neatly stacked last September and tossed them about ten feet to the far side of a log close to the lodge, but more or less out of sight. I need to tidy them up and cover them for the winter, but in the meantime, the ground where the lumber was (and my future gazebo will be) is now clear. I then uncovered my stack of rounds that are next to the shed and, to my surprise found them dry. And probably rotting too, judging by the fact that I could easily pick every one of them up and toss them onto the trail. My idea was to move them up near the clearing, or near it, onto drier ground so wouldn't be water logged as I'd found them the last time I'd uncovered them. Apparently that is no longer a concern, but I'll move them anyway. Unfortunately, that also uncovered all the wet and rotting plywood I'd stashed next to them last fall, so I have to deal with that as well. Perhaps it was a mistake, we'll see! Sadly, those logs will probably all rot before I have a way to cut them and, honestly, before I have a need, given the huge supply of cut lumber I now have to burn.
For dinner I made a bison/carrot/broccoli curry with a Tasty Bite pack of marinade, spices, and simmering sauce. While it cooked I washed the dishes, including most of the hummingbird feeders, and mopped the floor where some hummingbird nectar had spilled (I had to wash the bottoms of my slippers twice to get the stickiness off). Then I relaxed with some media and here I am, looking out the window to my left at the moon and the planet that appeared some time ago, and Mars which rose more recently. I think it's time to bring in everything sensitive from outside and see what the celestial bodies look like through a spotting scope!
Could it be that the spotting scope has a better magnification than my
telescope...? I found Mars first, a big orb, then tuned to the moon
by tracking its brightness as I moved the scope around. It very nearly
filled the field of vision! Much bigger, much clearer than in the
telescope I think. It was there in such stunning detail, the deep pocks
of craters, the shadows cast on the edge of the gibbous curve, the hazy
outlines of more ancient craters. I could hardly take my eyes away! I
might have to bring that back for the winter. From there I found the
other planet, the one that is first to show up in the night sky over
the Snettisham Peninsula mountains. I found it and my jaw dropped;
there it was, unmistakably Saturn. No one could miss those bold rings.
In my telescope I have to concentrate to see them, and I do, but here
there was no escaping it. Clear, clear rings! I was looking at the
rings of Saturn! What a delight.
for stars, I decided to spend the night at the lodge. Despite
Cailey spending half the night facing me and taking up more than a
necessary amount of space on the couch, I slept fairly well. After
burning through the first fire, I put just a little more paper and wood
in right before bed as it had cooled off a little. Consequently, I
slept in a t-shirt and was too hot until about midnight when I added my
fleece. Around 2:00 a.m. I went outside to see the stars, which were
spectacular. My favorite view was looking back toward the mountain
behind the cabin from out on the stone path; the stars were densest
there with the Milky Way overhead and the dramatic spruce trees jutting
out among them. It is a vision I hold clearly in my head. I saw two
shooting stars while out. After that, Cailey curled up as she usually
does with her head on the arm of the couch and I had a little room, and
slept through until about 8:00 with just the quilt for warmth.
Today's breakfast was oatmeal and peanut butter followed by a cup of Russian tea on the porch. The morning was cold, the light north wind building to a steady breeze by the time the sun hit the porch around 9:00 (and, as usual, it was dead calm by noon). I read for a while as usual, then go to work continuing the project I started yesterday afternoon. I moved the PT 2x6s that had been under the pile of rounds by the shed to the new storage area upslope and then stacked the rounds on top, covering them with the same two tarps tidily and weighing it all down with natural branches and boles only. Two rounds seemed soft and knot-less enough to try splitting, so I did, though they fell apart from rot more than splitting. Still, there was no easy place for them on the stack, so it was worth the effort. This left all the ugly pieces of plywood, a couple of folded tarps, a wet round, and some leftover metal roofing next to shed so I determined to take care of them. Everything but the plywood went behind the shed, and the plywood I laboriously carried to the front of the deck with the idea that I could burn them at low tide that night. It was dirty and sweaty work. One of these days it would be nice to have a productive day that doesn't involve getting really sweaty! When everything was moved, I raked the area, now just a nice clear patch of dirt, very tidy.
I also did a few odds and ends including tightening the nuts on the lodge outhouse toilet seat and hanging my picture of kitchen mice in the kitchen next to the quilt hanging. Earlier this morning I'd had the thought that I could really use some interesting large wildlife and, as I stepped up onto the upper deck, I spotted movement on the beach just this side of the eagle nest. It was weasel-like but seemed very big to be a mink. Sure enough, it was an otter!! I'm not sure I've seen an otter here before, though I've seen plenty of tracks. She was in and out of the water and, when I trained the spotting scope on her beautiful sleekness, she was standing at the edge of the water with her head submerged, looking or feeling around. She disappeared into the water and before I knew it, she was back out with a silvery fish flopping from her mouth! She bounded up the beach and hurried into the woods with it. Wow! Inspired by her success, I took my fishing pole and headed down to the water, casting just a couple of times before the otter showed back up again, even swimming in our directly. This time Cailey spotted her, though, and took off down the beach, and I shouted. The otter popped up far from shore and then spyhopped high out of the water for a long time watching Cailey. I almost managed to get my camera out and trained on her before she dove and wisely disappeared.
I walked down the beach to where she was fishing and cast for a little while until I got my lure stuck on a rock and couldn't dislodge it. Knowing that the tide was about to turn, I left my pole there to pick up later when I could dislodge the lure by hand. When I got back I grabbed the hoe and recreated the channel running alongside the shed, which was filled in by all the shed raising and clearing activity. I had noticed before that when I clean out this channel and let the water run for a while, the bottom of the channel is sandy with bits of shale-like rock, not muddy like everything around it. When digging out the hole in back to place the jack a few days earlier, I had also hit sand about six or eight inches down. A thin layer of organics on beach substrate?
It was hard to know if I was making the channel deep enough for flow, but I think it'll work, and I rerouted the end away from all the items I now have stacked up back there. Then I excavated again in front of the shed, using clippers to make a wider channel big enough for the hoe. I thought I should probably make an annual event of excavating the trenches around the cabins, so walked the hoe over to Cottonwood and did a tiny bit there, then left it at Mink for work in the future. At that point I think I broke for an early lunch of quesadillas, after which I returned to work on the cabins. Starting with Cottonwood, I made the rounds to each of them, spraying WD-40 on the door hardware, removing the water filters, covering the filters and valves with tinfoil, opening the faucets, and excavating with a hand tool where needed. It's much more pleasant to do the latter when the ground is dry! Of course, I didn't remove the filters at Hermit Thrush and still need to drain the system at Harbor Seal, but most of it is done and the filters inside the lodge. Most of those filters were never even used this year. It was very pleasant working in the woods.
During a break on the porch I realized that it was already 3:00 and the tide was just low enough for a walk. I wasn't really in the mood, though, and Cailey for her part had volunteered to go inside and made no move to come out with me multiple times when I went in, sleeping on her side of the couch. Instead, I continued my tidying process, moving the two blue barrels and the huge deflated buoy that have sat next to the lodge to the growing storage area behind the shed, having failed to find a place for the latter under the lodge. There was a tarp on the ground in that area which took an unnecessary amount of effort to remove, given that nothing was apparently on top of it except accumulated duff. I mean, I got really sweaty again just inching it out from under the twigs and spruce cones and dirt! I had to dig at it with my hands! Eventually, with a lot of grumpy effort, I drew the final corner from under a root and pulled it away to cover the nearby bear bones to discourage Cailey from going after them (she had delighted in finding again the hip bone left by Harbor Seal). Under part of the tarp was an empty paint bucket and the pink tote that had been left on the property before I started coming here, full of.....tiny pieces of pressure treated lumber. Ha! So from there I restacked my huge pile of PT lumber where I'd tossed it, adding some of the smaller bits to this tote which I'll bring to town. That just leaves the big ugly blue torn tarp that is covering the plywood stacked on either side of the log there. And that is really the eyesore, though it'll have to wait for another time.
Some point earlier I'd carried all the plywood I wanted to burn either to the intertidal zone or to the bottom of the stone walk. I realized that the low tide was coming up pretty fast and that I'd better get to it, so I piled up a bunch of cardboard and other paper products, stuffed it with the diesel soaked paper towels I'd accumulated from working on my cabin, added some dryer pieces of lumber, and set it afire. Long story short, as I started to add plywood it became apparently that what I really needed was a very very hot fire to burn those waterlogged pieces and, to do that, I needed to be burning something other than that plywood. Oh! It sounds like the water in my tea kettle is boiling, so I'd better take a break and make some licorice tea, though Cailey won't be happy that I'm getting off the bed again...
*sip* So I grabbed a handful of dry pieces of firewood and put those in the middle to get it burning nicely. When those seemed to be burning through, I came back with more, eventually switching to the long branch rounds that don't fit in the fireplace for more staying power, so they wouldn't just stoke the fire, but would continue burning under the plywood. The plywood was burning ever so slowly and it was evident that I was not going to be able to burn it all that night. My final strategy, which worked quite well, was to layer the plywood and logs. So, there was a core of burning logs with plywood over it, then logs on that, then more plywood, and so on. I guess in the end I only made two or three layers of logs, but it worked, and the wind that was suddenly coming in off Gilbert Bay fed it oxygen nicely. I'd brought a camp chair down there and spent a little time reading and drinking a tiny bottle of wine when the fire was first going, but mostly I carried firewood down, interspersed with making and eating dinner (a packet of talak paneer and rolls), drinking some hot chocolate, casting gasoline on the fire (you'd need a steady source to make any difference on this wood) and, finally, carrying the larger pieces of plywood BACK up the path and to the side of lodge as the tide crept up on the undiminishing bonfire. Still, all the little pieces were on there and I decided that whatever was left after the water came in could just float away tonight. The top of the bare mountain across the river was rose with the setting sun. To my pleasure, a humpback was blowing way out in Gilbert bay and, near as I can tell, there was a second whale in the inlet that I never saw, making me wonder if it was a minke. Every time I saw the other whale blow, I didn't hear it, but this other whale seemed closer, the sound was small, and I never saw a blow. I kept looking toward where the gulls and loons were congregated across the river, but never saw anything.
I was all packed up and ready to go to the cabin at 7:30 and the river was still a couple of feet from the bonfire, so I let Cailey sleep inside while I finished a book and then walked down to the water to watch the coals die. I waited until about half the bonfire was submerged before calling it good and heading here. So somehow the day is over, and though I did my usual reading breaks, it feels like most of the time I was puttering. There was persistent scratching in the shrubs around the porch which I think was a sparrow (who kept giving me glimpses, but I never had a good look). A hermit thrush came around and the ubiquitous wren whisper sang from its sanctuary of salmonberries. I heard chickadees again and jays and kinglets. Yesterday I was sitting on the porch when I heard what sounded like kinglets approaching from upriver and sure enough, a bird showed up gleaning insects from the spruce boughs, a tiny, perfect, brightly colored little golden-crowned kinglet. A flock of mergansers flew by while I was at the bonfire and I watched the flock of loons diving among the gulls again, with the spotting scope but still unable to suggest species. Yesterday a thrush hit a lodge window and flew away and twice more today birds hit windows. What is going on? Are these flighty birds unfamiliar with the place (migrants) or have the UV stickers faded? Also at the bonfire, I heard the tell-tale screams of a fledgling eage from upriver and watched one land over the point with something in its talons.
I was thinking yesterday about how I might enjoy a day without manual labor, a day of leisure to let my body relax and avoid sweating profusely. I had that day (mostly)! There were no obligations and I enjoyed it fully. First, I slept in. Not intentionally, exactly, but I made no effort not to and it happened naturally. Thus, it was nearly 9:00 I think when I got out of bed, emptied my coffee tub, and headed to the lodge for a breakfast of oatmeal, peanut butter, and the last soft banana, which turned out of be a delicious combination. I had decaf coffee on the porch, noting that the lower deck was already in sunshine. Cailey started chewing on a cow hoof down there so I threw down her bed and she curled up to chew in the sunshine while I read. Which is pretty much all I did for an hour and a half. I got chilled on the upper deck, so moved down to the front steps of the porch to read in the sunshine and warm up. At close to 11:00 I looked at the tides and realized that high tide was just half an hour away and I'd better leave right away if I wanted to comfortably get upriver and back; my vague plan was to set a motion sensor camera up at Whiting Point, and this seemed like the day to do it. A north wind had been blowing, noticeable but not hard, but had already died down. I scurried around to grab my backpack, leatherman, spot, fishing pole, and motion sensor camera, and drug the kayak to the water. Boarding was delayed when I discovered a wooly bear on the seat of the kayak--the first I've seen at Snettisham, though they've been around Juneau in abundance the last two years. I moved him up to a bench and kayaked with Cailey to the boat. I put oil in the engine and started it up, then tried fruitlessly to pull the anchor; the strong north wind had set it securely and no human effort (mine at least) was going to budge it. I wasn't sure the engine was going to either, after the first few tries, and I was envisioning me having to cut the line when I left. Thankfully, the anchor finally gave and we started puttering upriver. I left the engine down, thinking that if I ran into sand, I knew I'd be able to get off by raising it. I reached the bottom of the grassy shoreline downriver of the point and saw a wash of sandbars above; if I were to reach Whiting Point by water, it would have to be by crossing the river to the other side first and doubling back, not a prospect I wanted to attempt as the tide was about to turn in a very low river.
Instead, I crept to shore along the grassy bank, which seemed to have a fairly steep drop off into deeper water. I anchored the boat in the grass and pushed if off a little, then raced upriver. Or, what I could do to race anyway. There wasn't much of a beach exposed there and what there was curved away from shore, lengthening the distance I had to cover, so I ran at first through the grass along a dry slough where the sedge was laid down. When that ran out I ran through some short grass areas, then had to slog through standing sedge on my way to the beach. There was a narrow strip of sand there which soon gave way to a wide fringe of sandbar that is normally submerged. It was really neat, actually, and would have been fun to explore in more detail. Sparrows zipped above the grasses. When I left the grassy area behind, the sand became wetter. Here the sandbar extended from the rocky shoreline about 25 feet. Soon I reached the point, only to realize, as I've realized in the past, that it's not Whiting Point, but is actually some distance downriver from my goal. It's one of a couple of "false points" where the true goal is hidden around a corner. There were sandbars, increasing wide, connecting us to Whiting Point, but it was still quite a distance away. I weighed my options. It was already past high tide; how long until the boat went hopelessly aground on the beach? Probably not for a while, but if it did I would be there until midnight. I did have my emergency kit with food and the boat to stay in, but.... Well, I went for it anyway, at least for a while, as I didn't think there were other options for the camera in that area, the forest going pretty much straight up from the beach. I ran as much as I could, my left ankle painfully chafing in my xtratuff. So much for not sweating today! Soon I was on the rocky shore, cut off from the main sandbar by an inlet which angled in from the river to the rocks. I could probably wade it at some point, though it was deepest right by the rocks, but I finally decided I didn't want to take the risk of going aground and that pool made the decision easier. I turned around and walk-ran back toward the boat.
When I reached the corner of the grassy area, which was a foot or two higher than the intertidal sandbars, whitish sand showing along its edges, I peered into the forested mountain again in case there was anything that could possibly be a game trail for my camera. In that area, there seemed to be a step in the steepness, which was not exactly sheer, and I decided to check it out just in case I could find an alternate spot on that side of the river. After all, the sandbar was not always an option and wildlife moved along that shoreline regardless. The only way to find out was to scramble through the alder fringe and up to an almost ledge-like shelf in the steep slope; and there, as hoped, was a very clear game trail, parts covered in squirrel dander. I very hastily chose a tree that looked down the path, broke off some false azalea branches that were close in view along with some ferns, set the camera, and left, not taking the time to either test it or even take a picture of where it is. From there I ran-walked along the edge of the grassy shoreline, eschewing the grassy interior. To my relief, the boat was just as I left it and we pushed off easily, stirring up mud for about 20 yards out until we reached deeper water. I puttered downstream on the green river along the shoreline until we got close to a point near where I often see groups of gulls feeding. Of course, nothing seemed to be going on on the river at that time, but I drifted there and cast into the river while seals began to congregate and watch me. It's a delight to be watched by seals! They occasionally splashed noisily, I think when I startled them by casting, and in my fishing mindset I imagined for half a second that it was a coho jumping. It certainly reminded me of Pavlof and how much I enjoy fishing quietly. But there was no action, not suprisingly, so I started up the motor again and cruised out to Gilbert Bay, passing a calm cluster of loons and gulls near River Point, which enabled me to see the pale gray necks of the loons more clearly than I had before. I also saw what I think was a common murre in winter plumage. I did a turn around toward the center of the port and then back to anchor and head in.
I did a couple of chores then, covering the stack of PT cuttings with a tarp and taking down the satellite transmitter, adding its set of cable ends to the ones already tucked away in a baggie for the winter. I had lunch in the bower, then curled up with Cailey in the lodge and had a lovely little nap. I rejoiced every time I realized that there really was nothing I had to do that day, no obligations at all. For dinner I had Sheep Creek coho, delicious, with the last of the carrots and broccoli, and a toasted sesame bun and finished an episode of The Deuce at Hermit Thrush. After the battery ran out on my laptop (my spare was in the lodge), I read the rest of the evening in bed, drinking another cup of licorice tea. I think the stove is doing a better job of heating the cabin (and water) now. Around 9:00 I wrapped a blanket around me and walked down to the point to see the moon sparkling on the water, not yet full.
When I woke up this morning around 7:30 I wondered if the sky had clouded over. The sun was not yet up and the sky looked awfully white, maybe the mottled white of clouds. I could hear gusts of wind swooshing in the trees, though the branches didn't seem to be responding to the swells of wind, and I thought perhaps a southeasterly had at last come in. I laid in bed for quite a while, just enjoying the serenity of the cabin and its beautiful walls and the calm out the window, hearing an occasional varied thrush, not for the first time this trip. When I got up, the sky was just as blue as it has been all week; have I even seen a single cloud for days? The north wind was raging the shrubs on the slope downriver, though the river itself only showed a mild swell. It built through the morning though, then finally died away by 1:00 again. I wonder if that pattern is in any way mirrored on the Taku? We may find out in a couple of days. I washed the dishes before breakfast, drank some jasmine tea, then puttered around with close up chores, what little I can do today (tomorrow will be the push). I delivered tarp and/or line to the outhouses, nailed up plywood around the back porch to prevent rain splatter, got the motion sensor cameras set up and, in one case, swapped out so the one that shudders in the daylight comes to town with me, and also hung three pictures, one in each of the other cabins. The cabins are looking quite nice with real art on the walls. After I returned the card to the downriver camera, I walked back up to where the bear carcass had been and continued up the slope, soon finding its remains on the shelf above, not far away. I picked through then and decided to take a couple of vertebrae and a rib bone for my collection and gathered a couple of others to put in front of the cameras a in case they attract any attention. Cailey was delighted to find the stash and brought a vertebrae of her own down, which she chewed contentedly on the porch. I also tackled another fun little task that's been on my mind: cleaning off the roof of the shed, which was almost entirely covered by a thick layer of duff and growing plants. Starting on the higher end, I took the large push broom and found that the two inches or so of material was rooted and/or stuck together and came up in big strips when lifted up by the broom handle. I was able to loosen and then push it down about a third of the way down the roof. From the river side, I moved some of it down farther, and from the upriver side, I was able to sweep it all down to me (and over me) and to the ground, with one additional return to the opposite side to push some of the pile down a little farther. I raked it all away and now I have a shed that looks like it's maintained!
I enjoyed a beer in the sunshine and read a little, then cleaned off the ladder and took it inside to clean out and inventory the attic. It was not a task I looked forward to, but it needed to be done. I've forgotten most of what is up there, and a lot of it is better stored in the shed now. A number of items (e.g., painting supplies, hardware) I moved to the shed and I threw away a few things too. The rest I pushed back from the entry so there is room put more things, or access existing things, in the future. And at least I have a list now. I'm not sure I'll inventory the shed on this trip, but that sounds like a more pleasant task, if a larger one. Then I had dal masala for lunch and now I'm sitting down by the riverboat to work on this, escaping the sun behind the satellite dish.
I heard a varied thrush a little bit ago behind me and have seen at least one this week. The second morning I'm quite sure I heard one quietly several times as I was half asleep, though I can't say for certain that it wasn't a dream. In addition to quiet calls of different pitches was a kind of soft warbly call. I heard a winter wren whisper singing this morning from bed too, and at least twice since. Today I also had a nice look again at a flycatcher hawking his way around the shrubs, beautiful and charming (the other was several days ago). The eaglets have been using perches upriver, just like the adults do at this time of year, and I'm fairly certain I've seen both. Yesterday evening as I glassed one of them I was immediately reminded of the nickname I'd given one of the eagles spontaneously in the nest: Monster. Indeed, when he flew away, his tail was not white. Thus, White-Tail and Monster. Maybe not the most original names, but they are young and only need short-term monikers. In a couple of hours I hope to make a walking adventure upriver to see if I can wade farther up toward Ox Point. After our nap yesterday, the tide looked for the first time like it was actually low, so we went for an early evening walk up past the grassy point and it looked like it might be possible with the river so low; I think it's worth a try.
I read for about 40 minutes, continuing to absorb myself in the novel that has taken over my non-scriptural readings over the last few days, a delightful indulgence, then heading out shortly before 4:00 upriver with Cailey. It was still two hours before low tide, but it would fall as we wandered upriver and, it seemed that beyond the grassy point, it didn't make nearly as much of a difference. At the end of the sand above the point, we waded across the first of several channels, or rather, the same channel snaking back and forth along this side of the river. They were wide crossings, swift but shallow, except for a few inexplicable places where my feet sank in to my knees. Otherwise, the water was mid-calf and cold, which felt alternately painful and good on the chafe I'd received running in xtratuffs with short socks the day before. The last big crossing we made was probably 20 yards across, with a narrow green channel against the far shore. Only a narrow isthus of riffle joined the two, and I angled upstream to meet it, having to call Cailey away from the green water she was skirting, too low I think to see the difference. It was a good example of how a deep water channel can become a bank-to-bank riffle in a glacial system; sometimes there just isn't a deep channel. More jellyfish, some truly huge, dotted the sandbars up there, but nothing else stood out. I wasn't too far downriver from the upriver end of the grass shore on the other side and it was certainly the farthest upriver I've gone with the likely exception of the February trip years ago; that said, we weren't actually that far from our grassy point! I could see what I think was Ox Point or near it, which is normally hidden from view, but it was still some distance out. There were a few more sandbars I could have gained and might have been able to, but the channels looked deeper than I wanted to ford and it didn't seem worth it. So, it wasn't a grand adventure exactly, but a fun excursion and Cailey romped joyfully on the sandbars every time we finished a wade. Back at the lodge I cooked a tender steak for dinner with pea pods and a sesame bun and ate it at the window inside with a tiny fire going, light on the inlet dwindling outside. Cailey and I curled up on the couch on the porch then to enjoy the oncoming dusk, me reading until I could hardly see the print. It was mostly quiet, with the exception of a new and wonderful call from the forest downriver. It sounded like the wing beats of a scoter, only softer and ending it a hoot! It happened twice, then stopped as I got out my phone to record it, then a few minutes later (after I'd put it away) came again even longer. I listened to owl vocalizations on my app and it closely resembled the calls of a boreal owl. VERY cool.
We retired to Hermit Thrush around 7:30 I think, and I had to encourage Cailey off the couch. I stretched in front of the oil stove and then watched a Fear the Walking Dead and a little Deuce before tucking in for the night, with moonlight coming through the windows. I asked for and received a very restful night of sleep. I was up three times I think to go to the bathroom, but when I opened my eyes, sunlight was coming through the windows. That meant it was quite late, and after lingering in bed a little longer, found to my surprise that it was 9:50! I probably slept about 12 hours, and Cailey seemed quite happy to as well. It's a good thing I wasn't planning to leave today! I think I'd better set an alarm for tomorrow just in case, as my plan is to leave around 10:00. With that in mind, I got right to work on a pre-ordered list of tasks after I had breakfast. First: remove the olive barrel from the creek (after I washed the dishes and filled two large pots with water). This went fairly well, though I struggled to pull the barrel full of water from the creek. I was so pleased to see it sitting as deeply as it ever does in front of its dam, in its little hollow; I wonder if the low water (lack of rain) actually aided it this summer by minimizing the influx of rocks and washout potential? As soon as I rolled the barrel toward the bank I found an unexpected hangeron: there was a column of grit clinging to the side of the barrel! It looked like a tube worm, but with course sand covering it. Whatever it was would be scraped off and, if not, presumably wouldn't survive outside the water, so I plucked it off and looked inside. It wasn't clear exactly what was there, but I'm guessing a kind of tube worm. What an odd spot for one! I will have to do research. I put it in the water, finished manhandling the barrel onto shore (which required freeing the hose from being hooked on a log), then went back and tried to place the worm on rocks in a position that might allow it to regrasp substrate, if it is something that can be done once pried loose.
Back at the lodge I opened the hose valve to let the system drain, removed the filters (one required a light tap with a hammer) and covered both with tinfoil. Then I went ahead and removed the smoke stack, since fires this week have been really unnecessary and the more I do today, the less I have to do in the morning. From there, on to the cabins, first to Hermit Thrush, originally to drain the water from the hose valve, but instead I started with the smoke stack, carrying the ladder from the outhouse to access it. I unscrewed the metal strap supporting the upright section and took it down. I tried to pull out the two foot piece where it joins the piece exiting the wall thimble, but it wouldn't budge. In the end, I decided to leave the stack complete up to the 90 degree angle piece so I could use it tonight and then stop it up with tinfoil and the hardware cloth tomorrow. I thought the tinfoil might help keep out unwanted drafts. I can do that first thing in the morning, then carry the ladder to the outhouse and wrap it up. So from there I covered the hose valve with tinfoil, walked back to the outhouse where I dropped off the drill and the partial jerry jug of diesel (to fill it for next summer and in case I could use it at the Tiger Olsen cabin tomorrow), climbed up to the turn on the water valve to the first two cabins, then went to Harbor Seal to drain the water there and cover the hose valve. While there I went to close the curtains for the winter and decided they were mildewy enough to really warrant a washing, and I may as well do that over the winter than leave them for next summer. It really would be nice to have guests again in these beautiful little cabins. I dropped off tools at the shed and carried over the two jerry jugs of gas along with the drill for taking out tomorrow.
I felt like a cup of tea then, so I heated up some water while cleaning and greasing the o-rings on all the water filters. Tea was somewhat delayed by that, and by dropping several items behind the stove which required pulling the stove out to fetch, but eventually I was back on the porch before noon enjoying, for the first time all week, a mid-day read without sweltering in the sun or wearing a hat to keep the sun off my face. The last few days I've been avoiding it altogether, spending such time in the shade if I wanted to relax and read. So, yes, the weather appears to be changing. There was a light north wind blowing this morning, but for the first time all week, a hazy overcast covered the sky. By 11:30 the inlet was glassy calm and everything was very, very quiet, the first time it's begun to feel like that fall "closing in" that I like so well. All I could hear most of the time was the little waterfall downriver.
I read Esther and then had a last lunch of quesadillas, by which time light seas from Gilbert Bay were coming in, creating the murmur of waves lapping along the shoreline as the tide rose. A sparrow chipped from an exposed current branch for long enough that I both had a good look with binoculars and took some pictures of him; I guessed song sparrow and soon he interspersed some short warbly song between the chips, the fall song sparrow song I learned about after hearing it here for the first time a year ago. Other than that, just distant bird calls here and there, mostly quiet. I was very sad to see that a fox sparrow died, probably this morning, hitting the downriver window. I wonder if all the sun this summer has diminished the effectiveness of the window decals early? It is an awful lot of window strikes and I don't remember it being an issue during migration in the past.
As I was writing this a little bit ago, from here on the porch couch, Cailey abruptly raised her nose and sniffed downriver, quickly getting up off her bed and staring intently at the beach. She walked to the porch, then all the way to the water, sniffing and watching. Something was down there, but what or where I could not tell. She came back to the porch and laid down eventually and I went back to writing. Maybe ten minutes later or so, a mink shot out of the bushes downriver of the porch and disappeared beneath. Cailey did not miss it and immediately sprang down the deck and into the bushes upriver. I had immediately started screaming warnings at the mink, then went after Cailey in the hopes that I could wrangle her before she did any harm. Instead she plunged into the bushes where the mink had emerged and crashed her way through them downriver for some distance, just as she did for another mink encounter a few days ago. I could see the bushes waving and hear the rocks clacking as she hunted. I thought I heard movement from under the deck, but never saw anything. I have no idea if the mink turned around and she was actually following it, or had gone upriver or somewhere else while Cailey followed its scent backwards. Regardless, it was with great relief that Cailey came back, happy but unscathed. I am considering building a tunnel on the mink trail from the bushes under the porch. I think Cailey may not know he was there if hidden from view. That same trail has been used pretty much as long as this deck has been here I think, very consistently, and I want no more mink deaths.
A chickadee just came in from upriver and then went quiet. The other day I heard one singing from behind the lodge, the song that so perplexed me when I first heard it, unlike chickadee calls, the one I first saw a chickadee sing behind the Taku cabin in the middle of winter. Before that, a squirrel was in the spruce boughs near the satellite dish with something in its mouth. My first thought was that it had a mushroom to stash, as it seemed an odd place to be roaming with a spruce cone to eat. Then I though maybe he was going after peanuts, which I'd placed on top of the bird box attached to the dish pole, though they remained undisturbed. The squirrel turned around and dropped to the ground in the shrubs, but then I noticed that there is a full, medium sized mushroom stuck in the bracket that connects the dish to the pole! Upright, perfectly placed. I think I would have noticed it when removing the radio a few days ago, so I'm guessing it's fairly new. Hee hee, a squirrel drying mushrooms! It's now nearly three, and the sun will disappear from this haziness in less than an hour and a half. The wind is dying again and the serenity of this morning is beginning to return. I think I may regret taking down the smoke stack tonight, possibly the first night I'll really want a fire! But of course there is Hermit Thrush to retreat to. I've already begun gathering the food that I want to take back with me, and mostly intend to pack and organize things today. I will be ready for days at Taku Harbor (though this change in the weather may mean that's less likely) and also pack for an overnight at the Taku cabin in case I make it up there. It'll be a lot to take back what with old and new paint cans, the tote of PT tidbits, the bucket of bear bones, the jerry jugs, the food, the linens, but the tide will be half way up and rising, so I'm not worried.
As an aside, the white socks that have been fierce near the water, but nonexistent up here, have come in hordes! Now it's 6:30 and I've finished some cleaning chores inside, ones that I normally do right before I leave (window coverings, sweeping), but I figure the lodge will get little used in the morning, and the more I do now, the more time I'll have for my traditional final cup of tea on the porch before I go. My intent was to be underway at 10:00, three hours before the high tide, but some study of the point-specific tides on my phone push back the high tide at Taku Point to 1:30, so even if it takes three hours to get there (which it shouldn't), a 10:30 departure would do it. The tide at Taku Point, according to my app, is 15 minutes later than Point Greely and 43 minutes later than Juneau, and almost three feet higher. I forgot to mention that as I was sitting in the late afternoon out here on the porch, a hermit thrush spent some time in the bushes, interspersing sweet calls with....what I can only describe as very quiet, very diminutive songs. I heard the same thing from bed this morning, so quiet and unassuming that it's almost just a forgotten shadow of summer, but there's a part of me that sparks when I hear it, as I do when I hear them sing fully. And I heard the varied thrush call songs and warbles this morning again from bed. So, hermit thrushes, varied thrushes, Pacific wrens, and song sparrows all whisper singing this fall at Snettisham. Jays have also been making a wide variety of fascinating calls.
I fed Cailey around 4:15, packed most of the food and other items to go back that I won't use tomorrow, then decided to take one more upriver walk to the grassy point. On the way down to the beach I realized that I had not yet taken my official COASST survey (in part because the tide has been too low to start the walk from in front of the lodge and go downriver). We took off just before 5:00, trundled down under the eagle tree (I was too chilly at that point to want to go barefoot so I was in double bandaids and wood socks in xtratuffs), and then back up to the point. As I walked up through the grass I realized that I do have a nice sandy, grassy beach on this side of the river, it's just isolated at higher tides, not that the one across the river isn't. Maybe over time it will widen. I startled White Tail to fly upriver and into a tree, occupied by another juvenile eagle and overlooked by an adult. Monster and White Tail in the same tree? Maybe so! The adult flew off, which may or may not have been a parent (it was in another eagle's territory), but I kept far enough clear of the young ones not to force them to leave. Eagles are surprisingly touchy when you walk beneath them. I bid them a good winter and returned downriver as the first drops of long-absent rain trickled down. Back at the lodge I ate a small dinner of smoked hooligan warmed over the stove in a toasted sesame bun, which was delicious, and snap peas, after which I continued packing and cleaning, and now I'm on the porch again for my (likely) last evening here this year, listening to gulls scream and the steady patter of a light rain on these very dry leaves. I have a cup of weak hot chocolate using most of the last of the almond milk and the rest of my wine from dinner (not together) and am feeling warm and comfortable and content. When I first came into the lodge earlier and found it far chillier than it was outside and not expecting to do a lot of exercise, I put a fresh can of propane on my little buddy heater, which I had out to bring home with me, and set it aglow, which quickly warmed up the whole lodge. To get the long hose for the larger tank off, though I had to fetch my pipe wrench from the shed, as the fitting is round, of all things, and I could not get a grip with my smooth small wrench. I think I'll linger here a while, then as it darkens head to Hermit Thrush (maybe with a raincoat this time?) for a last cup of licorice tea in bed as I tuck in. Cailey is curled up on her two stacked beds where I left them earlier after shaking them out.
I forgot to bring my tablet to bed, so after stretching I read until sleep, listening to the gentle pings of rain on the roof as the stove burned through the last fuel in its tube. It picked up intensity during the night until it was steady downpour when I woke up at 6:30. It was so cozy and there was no rush (my alarm was set for 7:30) that I lounged in bed until after 7:00 and then set about my chores. I cleaned and swept the cabin, folded up all the linens that stayed and that came back to the lodge with me, emptied and rinsed my coffee can, turned on the motion sensor cameras and dropped bear bones in front of each, and closed up the chimney, managing to remove the two foot horizontal piece so very little of the remaining piece sticks beyond the eves. It has tinfoil inside, hardware cloth zip tied around it, and then tinfoil on the outside. It was raining steadily and I hadn't brought rain gear, so instead of putting on the fresh clothes I'd brought over, I wore the clothes I'd been wearing so I could change into dry clean clothes at the lodge. I left Cailey in Hermit Thrush for most of this puttering so she didn't have to stand around in the rain waiting for breakfast. Finally, I grabbed the garbage out of the outhouse and wrapped it up with the ladder, returned for all my gear, and trundled over to the lodge with it, turning on the downriver camera before heading inside. It was the start of a very, very long and stressful day. So many little chores to do, last minute packing, all the last minute tasks. Outhouse, shed, grabbing nails for securing no hunting signs on the Taku, all the multitudinous gear to take down to the water. The Kathy M was still very much aground at 8:00, so I decided to just keep pulling the anchor closer to shore as the tide rose instead of kayaking out to it. I packed all the gear down to the bottom of the path that I didn't mind getting wet (jerry jugs, PT lumber tub, paint, cooler) and put the rest of it on the end of the porch on the other side of the couch, which I pulled toward the door for that purpose. And between that and the close up chores, I was running down to the boat every 15 minutes to pull the anchor up, painstakingly slowly. At about 9:30 I was finally at a stopping point and managed to sit on the porch for one relatively peaceful cup of sweet, delicious jasmine tea before starting to really load everything. After the first trip to move the anchor, I'd donned my waders to ensure staying dry and because I knew I'd need them to load the Kathy M wherever it wound up when I needed to go. It was coming up so slowly I was really grateful at 10:00 when it was finally floating in close to the outlet of the little freshet on the beach, a reasonable distance to carry gear down the rocks. I'd lingered so long at the lodge, though, that I couldn't find the anchor in the water and wandered around getting close to the boat which I was pretty sure was in water too deep to wade. Thankfully I was shuffling around with my soft wader feet and found the line which I followed back to the anchor; at that point, I brought the boat in close, put the anchor inside, and started loading the nearby gear, pulling the boat closer in to shore every time as the tide rapidly rose. There were sparrows down there, and ravens overhead.
When that gear was inside, I started back to the lodge, bringing the gear all the way to the boat each time. I think I made about four trips that way, giving the tide more of a chance to rise each time. On about the third trip, I had a large load and my backpack on my back (which I'd forgotten to take off after the previous load), the water was deep, and I slipped with my hands full, thoroughly dunking my little buddy propane heater, my backpack, and getting water down the back of my waders. Not my finest moment. Back at the lodge I unlocked the front door for the second or third time to grab some small towels to dry my laptop and tuck into the bottom of the backpack, which was still largely dry. Everything seemed okay and I don't even think my tablet got wet. To avoid getting the floor wet and muddy, I put my slippers on over my wader feet, which I forgot to take off, which required me to open up the front door again. All the while it was raining steadily. Cailey and I were on board around 10:30 and I drifted right from there as I got the boat ship shape, changed out of my waders, and put on dry shirts. We took off at 10:38 with a tiny sea coming down the river on our tail. It was dead calm in the middle of the port, but the engine was acting strangely, revving up and then down as though it was getting conflicting signals from the throttle. I looked it over and didn't see any issues with the fuel line or anything, so sped up and kept it up to speed for a while and I never had the problem again. At the entrance, seas built up until we were into two and three footers out into Stephen's Passage, which followed us all the way north. It did not appear that I was going to run into a Taku, but I was very very glad for the Kathy M; I'm not sure whether I'd have made it today in the Ronquil.
I was pleased to see about a dozen sea lions on the Circle Point haul out, including what looked to be at least one big male. Just past there I got a signal and called Ezra to say hello and see if he could pull up a weather forecast faster than I could with a weak signal; they were calling for 2-3 footers at Point Bishop, which encouraged me to continue up the Taku...