Snettisham 2019 - 3: Vacation
September 8-15


Fall at the inlet

Photo Album

It was a good start. I came down on a (mostly) following, or quartering sea, a westerly, worst crossing Taku Inlet to Arden and south of Taku Harbor where the westerly reach opens up below Grand Island. Most of the time we cruised at speed, but slowed to our typical 3800 rpms for the chop down to Seal Rocks. I took the inside route again, having seen no sign of kelp the last time I'd come back that way; it was low tide this time, though, and I passed a few strands of lone kelp and saw clumps closer to shore. Nothing like the last few times I ventured there when there was no going but through dense strands. Just as I was thinking about the Stephen's Passage Group Up, I'd glanced toward Doty Cove to see a cluster of bright white blows there--at least two whales, maybe more, but it was quite far away. The seas calmed and then diminished as we entered the port until we were riding on smooth water into the river mouth. The late summer sun was shining on the trees along shore, lighting them up so I could see the more subtle differences between the two species. Several of them were brilliant green. A little too brilliant...normally the brighter green trees are hemlocks, but these were even brighter, and there were only a couple of them here and there. Surely not, I thought.....but sure enough, there were bright green, elegant cedar trees among the spruces and hemlocks! I think I'll have to investigate this week.

Two loons flew off the river as I crept up on the beach, watching my wake roll over the shallows. It wasn't as low as I'd feared and we were able to nose into the freshet's outlet, but a bit father than I wanted to haul the gear. I tied off the anchor and left it on the beach, carrying up a bag of groceries, my camera, and my backpack. I may as well settle in and wait for the slowly rising tide to bring it closer. We're in a series of mild tide changes, so walking on the flats and exploring upriver may be more challenging. I did the usual opening chores (stove, window newspapers, couch on the porch), unpacked a little, then walked upriver to pick up the motion sensor cards and open Hermit Thrush for later. The number of videos was a bit discouraging--three on the first and eight on the second--despite the fact that the trail the first camera points toward seems definitively worn down. It must be deceptively so, though, as there was only one non-Debbie video, and that was the back of a man who I hope was the U.S. Forest Service inspector come to look at my water line. I was unnerved until I remembered he was going to come here, and I think it was around the right time.

The bird life was already promising. I had a nice look at what was probably an alarming orange-crowned warbler as well as a sparrow in the grass. I heard chickadees and a Steller's jay spent some time making a wonderful array of squeaks and whistles and cries while concealed in the bushes, reminiscent of the magpie I helped. Eventually he flew into the alder upriver and showed himself. Eventually I reluctantly hauled my gear off the boat, leaving the heavier items on the rocks, and anchored the boat. I left Cailey behind for simplicity, but she waded out as far as she could without swimming until I turned back, which is unusual. Seals popped up to watch me. Once anchored I noticed that there was a brisk little chop coming off Gilbert Bay like a little southeasterly. Back on shore I finished hauling gear and, antsy, unpacked my tote of food and gear and packed a bag for the night. Eventually my hunger manifested and I had some snacks and a bowl of soup. Then I finally sat down outside and tried to settle down. It was a very social morning and I felt more strung out than I'd imagined when I finally landed at my much long-for property for this week I've been hungering for. One strange thing is that I haven't been reading very much...life has been so busy with settling into a new life--thank you cards and organizing and picture hanging and delayed maintenance on the house and stolen boats--that leisure time has been scant and, when it comes, I have been crashing on the couch, either entertainmentless or with a television show. It was like I'd forgotten how to read! The last book I finished was the end of a fantasy series that I'd been reading before I went to bed and at choice other moments. Another book I'd abandoned, and another hadn't grabbed me. I knew it would feel right once I started again, but I felt uneasy about it.

It did take a few minutes to relax, but that was more because of the abundance of noseeums than the book. I coaxed Cailey onto the couch with me and covered us both with the quilt that Kira made. It was beautiful and calm and quiet, except for the surprisingly blow of a whale working the inlet, magical in itself. I did get back into a book on the Arctic from my mother, but this was delightfully interrupted by a spritely little weasel. Cailey and I both heard the periodic rustling in the bushes upriver; I thought it was likely a bird given the long pauses between motion, but kept an eye out, and Cailey was definitely paying attention. The noises got closer, and I was keeping an eye on the mink protecting plywood I'd reinstalled over their path. A tiny head popped up from underneath, then ducked below. Then he popped back up onto the top of the plywood (that's not the way it's supposed to work!) and immediately darted under the deck. Soon the rustling renewed in the bushes upriver. Thankfully Cailey, though interested and faintly trembling, was not moved to leave her bed. This little weasel stuck around for at least 45 minutes I'd guess, bopping around the area and scurrying over the plywood many times. He came on deck, running so much like a squirrel I wasn't sure it was him at first until I could recognize the difference in the height of his bow and length of his stride, ducking into the bushes, going under the porch and the lodge, around and around and around. Is that a good hunting strategy? I had many nice looks at him and even managed to snap a few pictures, though it was getting dark and he ran from the flash (only to reappear immediately). Finally he was just too bold and enticing, giving us a wonderful look as he hopped onto and then bounded across the deck, and I couldn't keep Cailey in the couch. She jumped off the couch, but I hung onto her tail so she didn't jump off the porch, then decided not to take a chance on the weasel's life and overexciting Cailey, so I manhandled her into the lodge and left her there while I went back to watch him more. His curiosity and boldness true to his family, he crept up the stairs and peered at me a couple of times over the top step. What a delight.

As it got dark, he finally left for other haunts and a bright object appeared over Gilbert Bay. At first I thought it must be Saturn, which was in that spot last year, until I remembered that of course planets don't follow annual patterns like stars. So what was it? Not being terribly tired, I couldn't come up with a reason not to check it out, so I went inside for the spotting scope. The first thing I noticed was a tiny dot of light to the right of it. A moon. It was Jupiter. Two moons to the right, one to the left, so far away from its planet that it must be the outermost of the Galilean moons. So cool. A bat flew across the meadow. I was very much enjoying the darkening evening, wondering if I should stay and look at stars (and look for aurora) or go to my cabin before it got too late and cold and dark. I lingered, thinking there was something else for me to see. And suddenly, a bright light caught my attention, like a UFO hovering just over the mountains across the inlet. It was almost alarming until I realized it must be the rising moon. So bright! I trained the spotting scope on it and what I saw was right out of E.T. or a photographer's dream of a rising moon. Spectacularly brilliant, it rose behind a row of trees, silhouetted before its brightness. The detail of the branches, drooping hemlocks, scraggly spruces, bonsai branches, was in stark contrast to the moon, which was moving fast behind the trees. It moved much faster to the west than up, so it passed behind many trees along the ridge and almost seemed like it was spinning. Spectacular. I watched until it was well clear of the mountain, then washed my face with a hot washcloth and headed to my cabin in the dark, singing and chatting my way along with a bag of clothes and odds and ends, my laptop, lantern, and bear mace. Along the boardwalk I startled creatures in the bushes on the river side, which flew, probably thrushes, but it was unusual and a bit unnerving to first hear them rustle and then fly a bit. I am looking forward to seeing fall migrants. There have been big groups of robins around the house lately, maybe 20 or more together today.

I found the inside of Hermit Thrush to be warmer than the outside temperature, as I had the lodge, which surprised me. I went ahead and lit a fire anyway, pleased that the system is working without a hitch. I think we both slept pretty well, more than warm enough, and I watched the sun begin to glow from behind the mountain before I got out of my very comfortable bed, dressed, and headed to the lodge. I set myself up on the porch with a cup of jasmine tea from a newly opened bag and instant oatmeal with a spoon of crunchy peanut butter and a nectarine on top. It was delightfully cool on the porch and Cailey shuffled around for a while until she finally laid down in front of me, the only spot with sun. I quickly moved her bed there and she sprawled out. For myself I started to go back through all the photos of scripture I'd taken with the intent to one day go back and write them in my notebook. That strategy was supposed to last only a few days, but that turned into the rest of the summer, then into...a year? Or more? Anyway, I have a backlog and quite enjoyed trying to figure out where passages were from (when I didn't carefully photograph the book and chapter) and what it was I was interested in, despite the awkwardness of shifting between phone, notebook, and bible, and the inevitable sidetracks as I followed the annotations and tried to make sense of things. I also read a chapter on musk ox before I finally got up to go on an adventure. At about 10:45 we climbed aboard the Cheech, my wider kayak, and headed downriver with my phone, camera, binoculars, SPOT, and leatherman. The sun was immediately warmer once I left the porch and I quickly doffed my jacket. The day was mild, mostly sunny at that point, and bird life had been fairly quiet. The river pulled us gently down the coast as silvery seals peered at us. It was very difficult to steer, taking great effort to keep from turning in circles due, presumably, to Cailey's position on the bow. I started thinking what her impact would be, thinking that if she is off center, she must be pushing one side of the bow farther down which affects the direction we travel. I finally figured out that leaning away from the side I want the kayak to turn is a very effective way to reorient and to keep a straight course. As we slowly moved along, I kept peering up at the trees, looking for those distinctive green cedars. What I saw were a lot of very bright green hemlocks. Surely I wasn't off base...? I was beginning to have my doubts when I moved farther off shore for a better vantage and found the cedar tops; with my eyes on one just to the right of what looked like a little stream channel on the steep slope, we went ashore, tied the kayak to an alder, and pushed through the bushes to a sheer cliff dripping with water. We had to walk a little upstream where a steep, but somewhat terraced slope led into the forest so Cailey could manage it. With some persuasion, I convinced her to scramble up several feet of sheer roots, though she would not be able to descend that way without toppling ten or fifteen feet into the water.

From there it was forest similar to the area around the lodge--steep with terraces grown up in berries and false azalea, fallen trees and moss. We clambered up and up and up and spotted the cedar, about 12" in diameter with reddish bark, just to the side of the gully as I'd hoped. I could see another on the other side and, looking upslope, spotted another, much larger, individual. I bade this one farewell with thanks and climbed up to a cedar about 18" in diameter and sat above it for a while enjoying the pleasant, calm forest and peering around. A troop of golden-crowned kinglets piped up nearby and I realized that I was high enough to see the tops of some of the lower trees. As I was considering how cool it would be if some treetop birds like kinglets were to visit the treetops I could see, a smart, brilliant little kinglet flew into the spreading branches at the top of a hemlock over the water; I had a perfect view from a distance. He was fluttering and gleaning. From there, Cailey and I moved upstream a little, then descended to the edge of the cliff to look for a good way down. We quickly found a spot that sort of curved down to the rocky shore at one side of a sheer cliff, then picked our way over the highest rocks on the beach back to the kayak. It was then high tide and it was a bit dodgy in places. Twice Cailey had to wade in the nearly opaque water and once I bouldered along a sheer slab about eight feet wide (and stepped in the water once).  Having achieved my goal (finding one of those unexpected cedars), we pushed off from shore and I considered our options. Return to the cabin, or paddle a little farther? We were tantalizingly close to the turnout of Gilbert Bay (River Point) so I decided to at least poke my head around the corner. On the way I realized that it had been many years since I'd stepped foot into the woods there, since Rory and Kellee were here. Why not take another look?

We pulled up on the narrow sandy beach, covered in tracks and scuffles where someone had dug into the sand. The current was quite swift there and noticeable as it flooded toward the far end of Gilbert Bay. Gray river water had turned the corner toward this beach to meet green sea water coming in the other direction. Where the green water hit a rock just off shore, it split it and the stone protected the gray water it its lee, so the green water made a "V" shape on either side of it. The side close to shore quickly dissipated, the other side evidently crossing the mouth of the inlet. I headed into the woods and onto a welcome gentle slope. I thought we'd probably explored on the river side of this peninsula many years ago, so I veered in the other direction and up the slope of what I imagined to be a gentle ridge between the river and the little creek around the corner. A mild slope, nothing like the ladder-steep slope just a bit farther on. I saw clusters of spruce cones that appeared to have been consolidated, but not yet cached, and the bones of a small animal, vertebrae all lined up, other bones barely scattered. I broke some and looked for tell-tale bird structure and thought I saw it, but the bones were small, and I found no beak or talons. Still, I suspected eaglet and looked up to find what was likely an eagle's nest--perhaps the one that belongs to the eagles that often perch along the river just past our own pair's territory. I soon saw my first cedar tree and, despite not being crazy about bushwhacking upslope, kept pushing upward, finding one reason after another to make it to the next stop, usually cedar trees or an easy path, or just a desire to climb a little higher to see what I could see. There were a lot of cedars! A lot of cedars, mixed in with spruce and hemlock. I gained some height, and the ridge kept ascending. I considered turning back, but up ahead I could see...that something was different, there was space perhaps. Probably northing, but I pressed on and soon found myself at the edge of a meadow! A meadow! Short brown grass grew over a pocket meadow with soft bog moss and one pool in the middle with insects resting and skittering on its surface. It was surrounded by cedars, large and small, and mountain hemlock made an appearance. The edge of this meadow saw the densest concentration of cedars yet, every few trees, with young ones growing at the fringes and with mountain hemlocks in the middle. A secret meadow in what anyone would assume was uninterrupted forest. I reentered the woods on the uphill side into a more open area with a lot of skunk cabbage, then started the descent, choosing my route less carefully and therefore moving somewhat less gracefully! I was soon intrigued by the unfamiliar calls of birds back toward the river, steady chips and then trills. The trees there are tall and I thought I had little chance of finding them, but the calls were loud and insistent and persistent, so I headed in their direction. One of them seemed to move around, but I honed in on the other, stepping on rotting logs and stumbling down into little gullies and over boulders hidden by moss or uncovered by an overturned root wad. I was finally somewhere near or under the calls and glassed trees in the off chance of seeing movement. I didn't have much hope, but then found a very mossy stump that offered a comfortable seat from which I peered up into the trees just upslope of where I thought the bird might be. And suddenly I did see movement! By this time I'd theorized that they were red crossbills based on the calls, and this individual could have been one, but if so was a female or juvenile, brown, with a little marking near the beak, not at an angle from me that allowed me to see the wings very well. Still, very cool to see! Before long, her companion appeared, tantalizingly exposed before zipping to the other side of a tree. I left my perch and changed position and was rewarded by a number of long looks as he perched and called from the tips of dead mossy branches. This bird had a red neck and shoulders, yellower over the rest of the body, with white wing strips. White-winged crossbills! The two continued calling earnestly from neighboring trees. I feared they had lost a member of their group, a parent or a young one, or maybe the rest of the flock. I wished them well and headed down the slope and onto a well-worn game trail above the beach. On the way, I followed another game trail a short distance, just a few inches wide, passing under logs that were low to the ground, and passed by what may have been burrow entrances.

After a while on the well-worn trail I realized that the mountain I was seeing was across the inlet and not across Gilbert Bay and that I'd overshot my beach. We headed down to the water and followed the shore back around the corner to the kayak, now several feet farther from the water. We headed out, and I had a nice look at a merganser carrying something in its mouth as it flew across the inlet. Earlier we'd seen two loons near the same area. Now that I had the technique down, paddling was smoother, though poor Cailey had to brace herself to keep steady quite often, which must have been exhausting. We pulled up on shore about half an hour after leaving the point and at 2:00 I was eating quesadillas on the porch. The bird life picked up in the afternoon, dominated by a flock of chickadees and golden-crowned kinglets that spent a lot of time in the brush downriver while rarely showing themselves. I had definitely heard chickadees, but they and kinglets sound SO MUCH alike that they seem related to me, though they are not. I was tickled that the first bird I did see was a kinglet, after which I verified chickadee with another sighting. They may not have been deliberately traveling together, but it sure seemed like it. A hermit thrush also popped out of the shrubs upriver onto the plywood run and seemed a little surprised at finding himself there. I had a nice look before he took off around the corner of the bushes and back into the woods. A whale exploded as he came into view from beyond the inlet and breathed about eight times before diving and going quiet. For me, I did a little more work in my notebook and started a novel that was given to me. I eventually became hungry and forced myself to eat a more complicated meal: strips of bison roast rolled in spiced flour and fried with slices of broccoli and two pieces of toast. It was cooling off outside and I'm trying to get myself out of the habit of feeling like I have to spent all my time on the porch, so I lit a fire and ate at the table by the picture window and watched an episode of Taskmaster that Crockett had downloaded for me just a few days ago (S08E01). I then put a little cedar on the fire that I'd pulled from a long-dead snag and laid on the couch to begin what is clearly going to be an amazing book by a South African vet. It didn't take long for me to use up all the light inside and to feel very very sleepy. It was 7:30 and the sky was overcast, and I didn't see any reason that I needed to stay at the lodge, despite missing crepuscular activity. I decided that, rather than succumb to sleep so early, or set up outside, I'd retire. So I washed my face, brought all my day gear inside, etc., and arrived at my cabin at 8:00 while it was still light enough not to be scary. If it's clear tomorrow I'll stay later again, but it was a nice change to walk in the dusk. I lit a fire again and heated tea while I started this. Now it's very dark and a good time to tuck in with a book and turn off the puttering fire.

I was up earlier than usual and to the lodge around 7:00, hoping I might encounter early morning birds. I enjoyed breakfast and some decaf coffee on the porch, but it appeared that the crepuscular creatures were already to bed and the birds were maybe not yet out. The sun didn't rise for some time and it was chilly. Cailey curled up next to me and we shared a quilt while I worked on my notebook, then continued my novel. Mid-morning Cailey started heading for the water and I realized she was probably thirsty, as I hadn't brought her water dish outside. I hastened to do so, then wandered down into the new sunshine, reveling in the warmth. She and I wound up wandering upriver along the rocks, found a good spot to plant another cottonwood next spring, and found ourselves on the rocky point, watched by seals. The morning was brilliantly clear and the seal heads were silver droplets on the river. We were so close to the game trail upriver that I decided to go and explore a little. I didn't find anything resembling a path in either place I'd seen wildlife come down to the trail, so I followed the game trail instead, some distance upriver until it hit a big patch of bushes. I looked upslope, ladder-steep, and for some reason decided to climb a little. And, though I really didn't intend to go very far, I just kept going, finding little open areas on depressed shelves along the mountainside, pale orange mushrooms with enormous stems, huge trees, and eventually looked up to see blue sky between the trees, suggesting an opening. It was still a ways up, but there I went, just as I had yesterday. This time the open area, which was the top of one knob of the mountain, appeared to be result of fallen trees, forming an impenetrable barrier. We turned toward the creek and descended in a more haphazard way down very steep slopes. In the middle of one I found a cluster of bones which appeared to be a whole mammal all curled up, a five-fingered hand on the outside and the scull tucked inside. I brought it back but have not inspected it. Eventually we reunited with the trail and returned to the lodge to rest for a short while before heading out to cross the river. We kayaked to the boat and made our way to the grassy beach in about the same place we usually do. We still had over an hour before high tide, so we made a more leisurely and pleasant walk in the sunshine up the beach, noticing about six young eagles all hanging out on a sandbar in the middle of the river past Whiting Point. As we were nearing the end of the alders, one flew out from shore ahead of us and dropped something into the shallow water. I had to check it out and was rewarded with a large salmon head! Species undetermined. I tossed it on the beach in case dropping it was unintentional. Along the way, I'd also noticed a wooly bear writhing in the river just a foot or two from shore, probably a victim of the rising tide. I rescued him and brought him to the alder bushes, surprised to find that most were already dead and brown and few offered what I thought might be nourishing for a caterpillar. I left him in near the best leaves I could find.

While I was looking at trail cam videos (after changing the laptop battery--really glad I'd brought the spare along), I heard a terrible crash and wild thunder from across the river. I rushed out to the edge of the alders and spotted the haze of rock dust below some sheer cliffs across the river and a couple of huge (house sized?) boulders careering down mountains, disappearing into the forest but not stopping that awful rumbling until they must have been near the bottom. I would not have been surprised to see them escape the forest entirely and land on the grassy plain in front. I couldn't tell where the rocks had come from and the whole ravine was filled with dust working its way up. Amazing. Also amazing were the four birds sitting on stalks of grass near me. I figured they were probably sparrows and was surprised and delighted to find that they were yellowthroats!! Gorgeous and wonderful to see them, on migration from farther up river I assume.

We headed back to the boat, following the game trail downriver instead of the beach, winding our way through alder patches and grassy areas beginning to grow up with spruces. It looks like the alders are growing on elevated land, which takes on the appearance of a moraine with lower meadowy areas between the elevated alders and the mountainside. We followed the trail to its terminus where it broke into multiple trails in the grassy meadow, which now took on a more interesting character as I saw that, closer to the mountain, the variety of plants was greater and there was moss beneath them (very familiar), the area only becoming a monoculture beach grass ecosystem closer to the water. To avoid the high grass, I walked as close as possible to shore, startling up a pair of Wilson's snipe, probably the same pair that I'd startled from the same spot on the way up. Very cool. While we were there (about an hour), the glassy calm river had turned chopping with a breeze coming in off Gilbert Bay, though after yesterday I realized that it could be a west wind come from the Speel side turning into the river. We bumped our way out of the inlet where the water smoothed on our way to Sweetheart Creek. Not to fish for sockeyes, and not to go on foot, but to creep our way carefully over the bar and around to the mouth of the creek. We poked our head up into the stream--flooded with the tide--until it got too shallow, then backed out and anchored in deep water (from the side of the boat so I didn't drift too far into shallow water) where I cast for a little while into the fresh or maybe brackish water. My idea was that cohos were getting ready to run up Gilbert Creek and may be waiting for some rain to bring in more water. In the meantime, might they not be circling the bay, waiting? It seemed like a good theory, and it may be right, but I didn't get a nibble and eventually turned and headed out to cruise along the west shore of Gilbert Bay, poking my head into a little beach with a beautiful little stream running down that I hope has a population of cohos in it. We went all the way to Sentinel Point so I could glass in all directions for orcas, then headed home. I again had a late lunch at 2:00, this time a plate of chips, havarti cheese, an apple, and pea pods with a Pacifico, saving tortillas for tacos at dinner. The sun was hot and shining on the deck and I wore a hat and sunscreen. I eventually went inside and laid on the couch with Cailey, taking a very short nap that was fatally interrupted by dry coughing, but still very pleasant. Feeling extremely peaceful and so delighted that I'm not feeling pressured to do any chores, I fetched a piece of plywood from the shed and started on my wolf puzzle, which I've had since Oberlin and which I think will be extremely difficult, as much of the photo is blurred like an impressionist painting--a creek running over rocks, black and green trees, the wolf the only thing really in focus. I made good progress on the border before I finally had an appetite, quickly cooking up some taco filling of bison meat, zucchini, and corn and cooking them in butter. Delicious. My plan all day, ever since I looked up at the cloudless sky this morning, was to settle in for the evening at the lodge to enable me to hang out as night fell and the stars/moon came out. I lit a fire before dinner and came outside after I ate, warmed and eager to enjoy the night. It took a while to settle in because something was skittering around under the porch which was capturing Cailey's attention. It was either the weasel or a squirrel, but fearing the former, I put Cailey inside, then settled down. After a while, I'd neither seen nor heard any sound of the weasel, just birds rustling in the bushes, so I let her out and immediately noises began again under the porch. I'd manhandled her up the stairs the first time, but this time she was on the trail, so I tried pouring some food in her dish, to which she readily responded. I'd wanted to read until it was too dark, which I did but was only a couple of pages. Now I'm sitting in the near dark finishing this up with Jupiter bright over the mountains and a handful of other lights in the sky. No sign of moon glow yet, but I am ready to wait until it is time to go to bed, even sleep here if I have to.

As I kept vigil on the porch, Cailey warm inside, I decided I should check on Jupiter's moons with the spotting scope to see if they'd changed at all. To my great surprise, there were now two moons on the left side and none on the right side! I didn't know they orbited so fast, assuming that's what I'm seeing. I see a wiki rabbit hole in my future. Then another presumed planet caught my eye to the left of Jupiter that I hadn't noticed/seen two nights below. I checked it out and was initially puzzled by its smushed appearance, like it was an oval rather than an orb. Then I laughed out loud: it was Saturn, its telltale rings giving it a flat appearance when out of focus. So cool. And not far from where it was this time last year. Another google will be in order. Soon the moon did appear, climbing out of the trees more rapidly this time (presumably father down the mountain where the slope is greater). I walked down the path toward the water a ways to take a look at the star, remembering to go far enough to see the stars over and between the great spruces flanking the lodge, that favorite of my Alaska winter images--deep blue sky full of stars seen over the tops of towering spruce trees. Classic. I then pondered my options and, despite my reluctance to walk to the cabin in the dark, decided I'd have a much better night's sleep over there, so I steeled myself, got ready, and walked down the path one more time while trying to send an okay SPOT message. Usually it catches the satellites right away, but this time it failed for a long time and I finally gave up. I was grateful for the little solar "moon lamps" lighting the steps to the porch, and for the faint moonlight through the trees on the way to the cabin.

Up a little later than usual, I also slept later and even read quite a while in bed. I emptied my bucket, then, once at the lodge, washed the dishes and made myself a lovely banana pancake. Thus, it was later than usual in the morning (9:30) when I finally sat down on the porch. Just as I was beginning to sip a truly wonderful cup of jasmine tea, a hawk caught my eye flying into a tree downriver. Then I noted the jay calling in that vicinity. I popped up and started scanning the tree with my binoculars, soon watching the bird sort of free fall down through several branches before perching, totally blocked from view. He was restless, though, and flew onto a perch close to the trunk so I could see all of him. Gorgeous. Streaked all over, no head markings that were very distinct, a banded tail tipped in white. What really stood out every time I saw him move was how delicate his wings were, small and.....soundless like an owl, though I was so far away I'm sure I couldn't have been able to tell. He then made a couple of flights hopping downriver and out of sight. Very cool. That day I saw chickadees, thrushes on the mountainside above the creek, and lots of young hermit thrushes coming to sit on the porch and in the bushes nearby. I made a note to write about cottonwood leaves, but I don't now remember what that was about; maybe Nigel Cottonwood was sporting those enormous young leaves that young cottonwoods sometimes do? I think that might be it. It towers above me now.

I returned to my tea and studied/read for some time. Having spent the previous mornings/early afternoons adventuring, I was ready to stay closer to home and Cailey was apparently ready as well. She showed no sign of antsiness all day and when I finally wandered down to the river at high tide to take advantage of the utterly calm water to try some casting, quickly making my way down to the eagle nest point to avoid the grass and have a better chance at passing fish, Cailey slowly followed, but not all the way, and returned before she reached me. I didn't spend long at it, but it seemed like a good idea to try. We played with a stick a little while on the path, then Cailey found an old hoof and tucked in to enjoy it on the porch. There had been rain tickling off the roof all night (I smelled petrichor as I stepped out of Hermit Thrush), but after a couple of early morning showers, the rest of the day was pleasantly overcast and, though it remained fairly bright, a welcome change from the brilliant fall sunshine. Everything seemed a bit stiller and more quiet and peaceful and I enjoyed the lingering raindrops on the leaves of the roses. I was really having quite a nice time, but around 1:00 I decided to start working on the shed, both because I've wanted to thoroughly clean and inventory it for a while and because I hoped that in doing so I would find my jack so I could prop the outhouse off the ground for the winter. After an hour working in there I broke for a quick lunch, then got back at it and worked until 5:15. I've gone through everything but the hardware and I decided I could let that go for this time, as it's rather overwhelming. Or maybe later this week, but it can certainly go into a bucket just as it is for now. Maybe in Rob's wooden tote. Actually, a lot of things could go in there to free up room. I'd started with the odds and ends in the back of the shed, organizing them, then went through the two tote of tools and such, then the shelves, the painting supplies, then the mound of hardware and junk that I'd dropped on the floor. I'm taking a few things to town that I might be able to use there, including the push broom and a swede saw.

I wasn't quite ready for dinner, but thought a dessert other than dark chocolate might be in order. I originally thought of my standard cherry cobbler using the rest of the pancake mix, but I'd had pancakes for breakfast. I did have a crumb cake, which made me think of the dump cakes that Ezra makes, and then it dawned on me--use the cherries in the crumb cake! I added the cherry juice (water) to the mix, which in itself make the batter outrageously delicious, then put a layer of cherries in the bottom and between layers of batter/topping. While that baked I sipped a little wine and watched a Taskmaster on the porch in the stillness. I did have to pause it a few times as birds came through. Today and for the last few days, a surprisingly number of friendly hermit thrushes have come through, bopping around in the bushes on either side and, most surprisingly, popping out to sit on the porch or plywood and having a good look around, or look at me or, anyway. I've had wonderful looks at them and taken some pictures. It occurs to me as I write this that I think I've taken similar pictures in past September trips. Many of them have the appearance of young-of-the-year, including two that stayed close together, but at least one today looked very much like an adult and acted similarly. They are so reserved during the breeding season, or maybe they're just feeding differently. Some I'm very confident were hermit, due to the contrasting coloration on the backs and tails, but it is true that I can't rule out the possibility that there are migrating Swainson's among them as well. There have also been bold, dark fox sparrows, the never-very-far-away Pacific wren, bands of chickadees peeping through, and today there was a pair of juncos! Wildly prolific in Juneau, they are not common here; both used Nigel Cottonwood for perching, which delighted me. I saw another junco on the way back from fishing too.

For dinner I heated up a packet of Indian lentils along with leftover bison/corn/zucchini from dinner last night with a couple pieces of delicious bread and watched an episode of the Twilight Zone on the porch, which I actually didn't quite understand and has left me more puzzled than entertained. I did pause it a couple of times to check on the status of the wooly bear caterpillar (which name I am choosing to use for our new spotted tussock moth caterpillars) that had appeared at my feet, then made its way to the post on the right and part way up. I lost track of it in the end, finding no evidence of it in sight from below, though I did note that there was a cocoon already on the roof. I'd found another on a piece of plastic in the shed and assumed at first that it was empty since it caved in so easily when touched. I kept looking for the hole through which the moth would have escaped, then realized that there was a small body inside--the pupa, I guess, ready to overwinter. I always thought of cocoons as dense, waterproof shelters in which the transformation happens, and maybe they are, but the pupa inside must have the actual protection and is much smaller than the caterpillar. I guess more googling is in order. We had wooly bears here last year for the first time, in much larger quantities than the three I've seen so far this year. In any event, the dessert was delicious. At 7:30 it was getting dim and it didn't seem like there was a good reason to stick around, so we packed up and headed over here, and here we are in Hermit Thrush. Today I spent basically no time inside the lodge except when washing or cooking. The temperature was more stable and I only felt a chill once or twice, just in t-shirt and fleece. I don't think I've ever been so warm here at this time of year. I'm amazed at how different it always is. There is very little eagle activity now, which suggests to me that the excitement is happening elsewhere in the area--upriver, where all those juveniles were, at Sweetheart Creek which had a few, maybe in the other creeks too. I'm looking forward to exploring Sweetheart, but thinking about Friday instead of tomorrow so if I get any fish, they will have a day less in the cooler. But I could change my mind tomorrow. Our (my?) hope is to go on an early morning walk upriver when the tide is low; having the high tide right in the middle of the day has discouraged this so far, so it'll be exciting to see what's up there!

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The little cheeky weasel seems to have really taken residence here and popped up on and off all day. Once I was dubious it was him, as it was mid-morning and I imagined him as crepuscular, but Cailey was interested and was stalking around the wood pile, so I finally got up and peered down to where she was along the side of the lodge. The little weasel appeared on the edge of the firewood there, gazed at her and, as it seemed that he was about to leap across the trail and make for the woods, I scolded him off. These weasels just don't fear Cailey enough. I grabbed her food dish and some kibble, but when I opened the back door she came right in without the enticement. Twice more he toured the porch, running over the plywood (which is supposed to protect his run), peering onto the porch from both sides, running across corners of it, rambling through the wood pile, etc. Both times Cailey was asleep for most of the appearances and I was able to keep her down when she did become aware of him this evening, wrapped up in the quilt with me. I didn't hear the rain all night, but it was raining when I got up, and lovely. I fed Cailey but not myself and immediately got started on a COASST walk. I'd slept fitfully and got up shortly after I woke up to go to the bathroom, surprised to find it somewhat after 8:00. The boat, which I'd anchored father off than usual, was floating not far off shore from a mild cut bank. I'd suited up with jacket and hat, surprised that I'd apparently left my rain gear behind. I was quickly grateful that I hadn't suited up more, though, as the rain stopped and I overheated enough to remove my fleece. Half way to the grassy point I was drawn to a white patch on the rocks that turned out to be most of a tiny starry flounder. Gulls clustered around shallow sandbars in the river and hundreds of harbor seals lay on a sandbar across the river.

After breakfast and finishing the novel I've been reading, I was chilled and decided to come inside and work on my impossibly hard wolf puzzle. I looked through all the pieces, sorting them into four main piles, finding five more edge pieces with which I was nearly able to finish the border. Then I set to work on the wolf, the only clear image in the picture. It was very satisfying to finish him, but then I was left with a pretty daunting puzzle: everything else was running water and an impressionistic black and green forest. Though it pains me not to finish something, I set it aside and decided that, if I was moved to puzzle more on this trip, I'd work on the Mongolia puzzle I have. The wolf puzzle can remain for anyone who wishes to work on it, in the long term. After lunch I finished tidying up the shed, which looks quite nice, then tried and failed to prop up the fallen outhouse. I was pleased to see that most of the door is elevated, the structure being supported by the top and the bottom. I should be able to raise it enough to get the whole thing off the ground with a jack next summer, but I apparently didn't leave one here. The existing tarp was only covering the top third of the building, so I added another tarp to cover the rest of it. There were three tussock moth cocoons on the existing tart and I tried to ensure that there was an escape for them in the spring--I hope they find it. I figured it was better to leave them fixed to their substrate of choice rather than pull them off and risk their capsule blowing away this winter. I then covered, but didn't tie down, the other outhouse, just to get something done.

I was trying to think of why I was loving the rain this morning so much and I think it's partly because it was a calm rain--no wind. Such a pleasure. The inlet remained calm all day, that late morning breeze we've been getting never manifested. It was mostly overcast, with a bit of sun here and there. At one point I got out the spotting scope to check out what I thought might be loons across the river. It's astonishing what is out there that I would otherwise miss! There were at least two black necked loons (common or yellow-billed) and a passel of (presumably) Pacific loons, some obviously adults, other that looked very much like young ones with their pale necks and muted colors. Among them were also a pair of horned grebes in winter plumage! Murrelets too, and gulls that were occasionally diving in groups as though there was a bait ball. After the sun set, I looked up from my perch on the porch and saw a marvelous view of the mountains across the bay with rain showers over them, coloring them in many shades of gray-green. Shortly after that I heard a soft roaring sound. I've been trying to pay attention to what I hear--which is sometimes only the waterfalls at this time of year--so this stood out. There were ripples on the water, was it waves? Then I saw the haze of rain against the trees across the inlet. The noise got louder as the rain got closer until it was unmistakable when it hit the vegetation around me. Marvelous.

The ice in my cooler is nearly gone, most turned to very cold water, so I thought I should take care of my uncooked meat. I placed my piece of sockeye in a pan and surrounded it with chopped zucchini, peas, and broccoli, then filled a pan with chopped broccoli and carrots, the rest of the corn, and the rest of the bison roast, which was a substantial amount. These I marinated in a Tasty Bite tikka masala sauce, cooked in spices and a simmer sauce. The salmon I ate tonight, the rest will be dinner for the next two nights and should keep better than raw meat if I don't replenish the ice from the larger cooler aboard the Ronquil. After dinner I watched a Dark episode, finished with some jiffy pop popcorn. I had some company for the first time this week: a large yacht apparently anchored at the opposite edge of Gilbert Bay. I watched a skiff with five or six people aboard speed off toward Sweetheart Creek, but the anchor light was on as the light dimmed. I put something smoky on the fire to attract their attention. It would be fun to talk to them if they're anchored at Sweetheart tomorrow, but they're a bit out of the way. They'll probably be gone by the time I head over there anyway. (Yes, I have fantasies about taking visitors to Sweetheart to see fish and personal use fishing.) Now I'm in Hermit Thrush about to tuck into a cup of licorice tea with the rain pattering the roof, which started about the time I got here. So cozy.

The rain kept up all night and was a downpour when we emerged from Hermit Thrush this morning. After all the mild weather we've had, it had to be the Sweetheart Creek morning that poured! I knew I'd feel more enthusiastic once I was up and about, which indeed I did. Cailey sniffed something as soon as she emerged from the cabin, looking uphill and sniffing avidly, both in the air and on some devil's club behind the outhouse. We never saw anything, but somebody (can you guess who?) had been on the porch the night before and knocked down the skeleton I'd collected from behind the couch. I quickly saw that the Ronquil was actually aground, but only just, so before I did anything I hastened down there to check on the ice situation. I was a bit disappointed to see how little there was left, one wet chunk floating in water that I thought probably wouldn't last until Sunday. It was disappointing, but good to know. I had none left in my cooler.

Shortly thereafter we went for our upriver walk in the rain. Having failing to find my rain gear, I put on my old bib rainpants and the huge camo rain jacket. It was not a comfortable combination and I soon discovered that my rainpants had decayed in their storage and my pants got soaking wet. The rainpants were so saggy I had to hold them up, made easy by the very odd "pockets" on the jacket, which velcro shut but are actually just slits in the material--no pocket whatsoever. Weird. Cailey found a nice fish head, maybe a sockeye, on the sandbars, but we didn't encounter anything else. Or rather, I didn't. On the way back, I looked back to find Cailey about to roll in something and called her off. I went to check it out but found absolutely nothing that might have caused it (except an old bone in the rocks). But her entire left side was a slick of silt and sand. Thankfully it didn't smell, so she didn't require a bath, only a couple of good rubbings.

I had eaten crumb cake for breakfast (!) and supplemented that with a cup of hot chocolate inside at the window before deciding the tide had risen enough to have a go at Sweetheart Creek. I grabbed a piece of broccoli stem, a bit of dog food, and the salmon skin from last night and walked with an eager Cailey to the cabin; she seemed to understand the situation and did not fret or try to follow me out. I suited up in waders, grabbed my gear (packed yesterday or the day before) and headed out with a walking stick from the handle of a broken hoe. The wind was still, oddly, coming down the river despite the rain, and carried us around the corner. We anchored with no incident, hauled the kayak up to the forest, and began calling loudly as we crossed the peninsula. Upon dropping down onto the flats along the creek I immediately saw a beautiful brown bear picturesquely eating a salmon on a round rock in the middle of the creek. It would have made a beautiful picture if I hadn't been busy trying to let him know I was there as I slinked in the opposite direction. At first I didn't think he'd seen me, but eventually he peered in my direction, seemed to give it some consideration, and then moved to shore. My shore. I thought at first he might head toward me, but I think he was just looking intently and then seemed undecided about whether to bolt into the forest or stay. My retreating form seemed to make up his mind and he was back on the rock when I exited the next forested hump and was able to look back downriver. That's the first late season bear I've seen. The flats were littered with better-than-expected looking pink salmon, and the trails have many fish scraps on them, also a late season oddity. Thankfully I encountered no more bears on the way to my fishing point.

Once there, my first realization was that, of course, the creek was low from all the fair weather we've had, the closest opaque water was probably too far away for me to reach. I could see fish milling below the falls before me, but knew that they become skittish there after the first cast if the water is clear enough to see them. I didn't have very high expectations, but I was a little surprised to find my net empty cast after cast. I eventually caught a single female pink salmon below the falls and, after a "taco" cast, caught one beautiful little silver-bright sockeye jack, which I happily kept and placed (unstrung) in the bleeding cleft, high now above the water. But I caught nothing else, cast after cast. Upriver, a battalion of salmon beat against the falls, so I knew they were thick up there, and I considered hiking up, but I knew (from before) that getting there takes a bit more bushwhacking than the rest of the trails, up and down steep rock, and that fishing there from the cliff is tricky and likely I would not have much success if conditions were similar to what we've seen before. Plus there were clearly bears around and I was entirely alone, more unnerved on their account than usual. I headed downriver to the large cleft and rocky shelf just below the lowest falls. Between me and the white water plunging off the falls, I could see half a dozen large fish milling--one was a big male pink, but the others...well, there was one individual I thought might be a big sockeye. I tried to be non-threatening as I got ready, but they were mostly gone by the time I even threw the net; it came up empty and I never saw another fish there. Empty, empty, empty. I did have one companion, though, who had been with me, flying up and down and across the creek since I'd arrived, a little American dipper. He was never far away and was then sitting on a bulge of rock protruding above the creek in the middle of the falls. He'd flown in there to peck at something on the rock and eat it, I think, but was then singing and singing away, the silver nictitating membrane flashing in the light when he blinked. I left him there with gratitude, grateful for him and the little jack I think he brought me, and yelled my way downstream and to the kayak, not encountering the magnificent brown bear again. I cleaned the jack at the boat, then placed him in the large cooler when I got back to the homestead after removing the bulk of the remaining ice, a small bucket full. I think I'll pan fry him like a trout when I get home. The whole expedition had been about two and a half hours.

After all that rain, I had broken out of the woods onto a dryer scene with bright light coming from Tracy Arm and now a stiff likely southerly coming from that direction. I had to change clothes when I got back, as my fleece and t-shirt were wet from rain, then freed Cailey and ate lunch while watching waves of rain showers pour across the mountains of Gilbert Bay and make their way here. Cailey hopped up on the couch and I grew drowsy and closed my eyes. She of course heard a scampering under the porch and left, twice, but I did wind up actually falling asleep a little right here on the porch! I woke up feeling very good and even excited about doing some close up and other chores for the first time all week. I think I really did need this rest. But not today! The sun came out for a little while before it disappeared behind the mountain and I finished a book about a South African vet, then started a long overdue letter to a friend, and am now puttering away at this, thinking that it's nearly dinner time. That night I found a western toad tucked up next to the lodge and walked upriver on the sandbars on my way to Hermit Thrush.

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First, a couple of bird comments while I'm thinking about it. Conspicuously absent from fall bird life from the porch were the lovely little Lincoln's sparrows which I occasionally hear singing in the spring, and almost always make appearances in the fall along with fox sparrows. I'd seen a couple of the latter (I believe), but it wasn't until yesterday that Lincoln's sparrows made themselves known, at least two. Since then, they have been frequent companions here, nibbling through the ferns and other vegetation in the meadow and apparently enjoying insects as well, as evidenced by their frequent presence in the bushes and, once, seizing what appeared to be a caterpillar! Also, this evening I have heard sooty grouses several times hooting in the distance, which I have on previous fall visits as well. The thrushes continue to be abundant--hermits (presumably) here, varied in the forest (also heard singing from two directions this morning on the walk to the lodge). I wonder if the hermit thrushes are the locals that I hear singing all summer? Or are they migrants who have stopped to feed for a few days on their way south? Or are they a steady stream of migrants coming through? My instincts suggest that they are the same ones each day, but from where I do not know. They are certainly more bold and visible than in the summer when they are flighty on their rare appearances. It's lovely to see so much of them. Bands of chickadees continue to move through often along with kinglets. The Steller's jay call (like a hawk) often upriver and
are heard all along the mountain.

This morning I was up a little earlier and was at the lodge before eight I think, carrying Hermit Thrush's three water filters to put away for the winter. After a little Russian tea with breakfast, we went for a walk on the lowest tide we've seen. More moon jellies today, a couple of smaller, perfectly clear jellies, and one lion's mane. From there I went straight to the upriver camera, where I'd left it, putting in an SD card and carrying rocks from the creek to help solidify it for the winter. I nailed in the plywood around the back porch to protect it from rain and drips, pulled up the moon lights, brought the generator over to the lodge to help protect it from theft, and tidied up the lodge a bit. I had a fire going most of the morning and the early afternoon to dry out my backpack, which got soaked at Sweetheart Creek yesterday. It took setting it on the rocking chair very close to the fire and, once cooled, setting it on the stove itself to really dry out. I did the dishes and eventually hiked up to the water barrel and heaved it out of the creek, taking a new path starting from Hermit Thrush that has promise. On the way down I drained the water from that side of the system at both cabins and wrapped Hermit Thrush's filter heads in tinfoil to protect them. When I got down I was pleased to find that there was still good water flow, which I made good use of until later in the afternoon. In the meantime, I read a bit on the couch, took the time to photograph my Lincoln's sparrow friend, and enjoyed my last full day here. In getting the chance to really inspect the sparrow while nibbling along one of the benches, I was amazed at the variety of colors--the gray and brown feathers of the back, the pale gray of the cheeks, the buffy moustache, and the breast with delicate black streaks. All the characteristics you might read about or see in a bird ID drawing, but almost never see in quick sightings in most light. The weasel was around on and off all day and I hustled Cailey inside several times to avoid a confrontation. Last night I let her out while I washed my face and packed up for the night and was surprised to find her sitting eerily under the porch at the back of the kayaks, waiting apparently. Today I watched in awe as the weasel poked his head out of the wood stack just a few feet from Cailey's face. I took a little video, cut short again because I felt compelled to warn him to back away. I wonder if he finds sport in it! Thankfully, there is no evidence that Cailey has made contact.

After lunch we lounged and dozed on the couch a little bit; inside, it can be utterly quiet until a bird calls, the waterfall sounds muffled by the walls. When I got up I went searching for a place to plant another cottonwood next summer and found a spot between the hedge of berry bushes downriver and the start of the alders, the "path" we once used to haul lumber down to the beach for a bonfire. There were overhanging branches, but not a lot on the ground in this little divot except for what I took at first to be dead alder branches on the ground. I grabbed a pair of clippers and set to work clearing the area for next summer, finding that they were in fact live current branches. I cut them and a number of other current and salmonberry branches and some reaching nettles. It's moist there, but I hope that if I build up a little elevated area and bring in sand to help with drainage it might do okay. Nigel Cottonwood is a bit higher on the slope than this. After a brief respite on the porch, I took those clippers and headed to Hermit Thrush to start clearing a trail up the mountain to the olive barrel, replacing the one that is overgrown and blocked by trees. I couldn't decide where it should start--the obvious place along the water pipe not being a very aesthetic start, or one likely to entice guests, so I bushwhacked about 30 feet until I reached what will obviously be the trail, possibly already used by critters, and worked my way up from there. The result was quite impressive--I love making trails! Remembering that I needed to open the valve to the second set of cabins, I decided to connect that trail to the old trail and recut it to the valve, since I will always need to access it. The trail opened up nicely and, after I opened the valve, I glanced in the direction the trail used to take to the lodge and saw a lot of reddish material on the ground. A dead snag had fallen and crumbled across of swath of ground. Interesting. I prayed that the great matriarch of the property, which leans downhill, will not tumble some day into the lodge. From there I decided to make a loop down the slope to the outhouse, as there is an easy route there--a loop! Emerging back on the main trail, I thought I'd go back to Hermit Thrush and punch through to the where I'd been working, but I couldn't even see it for the dense brush between and would really like to make a more carefully considered decision about where to place it. The whole thing had taken less than 45 minutes--it really helps when there is little more than devil's club to cut.

I heated up the last of the bison curry for dinner with the last of the toast, ate some chocolate, and watched a Taskmaster on the porch as evening came on. The sky had mostly cleared by then, and I lingered a little, but ultimately decided on a cozy last night in Hermit Thrush rather than a nervous walk in the dark, knowing that the moon was soon to rise and must be about full by now. I lit a fire, made some tea, and read until I was sleepy, drifting off relatively early to a very fitful night of aches and nightmares. It was a relief of sorts to get up this morning, though I was not in the best of moods. But I set to work right away, cleaning the cabin, collecting the sheets and the rest of my clothes, which I'd neatly stacked the night before, taking down the smoke stack and closing up the openings. I carried the ladder back to the outhouse then came back for the drill and all my gear. I had breakfast on the porch, but still felt quite out of sorts, short of temper. I didn't have that many tasks ahead and no strict timeline, the tide would be helpfully rising until after 2:00, right up to the path, and I wasn't exactly stressed, just not feeling great. But I did have energy, so I washed the dishes and finished packing, lining the front of the porch with gear. I walked down to the water and piled more stones around the "no hunting" sign to help support it in the winter winds. I thought a spot of tea would be helpful for my mood, but I got so busy cleaning up inside that I didn't use the hot water. I swept, cleaned the tables, etc. When I went to use the outhouse it was 10:01 and I stopped by the shed to hang up the rain coat and grab some WD-40 to spray on the door hardware of the cabins. I made that round first, also closing some curtains, then used the outhouse before wrapping the tarp in line for the winter. Back at the lodge, I took down the smoke stack and covered the hole by 10:24. Pretty efficient. So I finally did break for some Russian tea and began to relax a little as the sun peaked between the branches. A Steller's jay whisper sung from the bushes nearby while Cailey laid in a patch of sunshine below me. I felt better when I got up, carrying most of the gear down to the water, latching the shed, stacking explodable items in the sink, tossing out the bucket collecting wash water since the gray system was dismantled, lubricating the 0-rings on the filters I'd pulled. Or maybe this isn't exactly the order, but at last I was more or less ready and it was nearly noon. I hadn't felt particularly hungry, but I'd made quesadillas earlier knowing that if I left in the early afternoon, I'd probably arrive at the house ravenously hungry which is no way to greet one's husband. And sitting in the sun with a beer, I realized that I was a little peckish, and the timing was right, so I cooked them up and relaxed on the couch in the sun. It was marvelously lovely and I was so pleased to have the Lincoln's sparrow hanging out in the spruce tree, soon joined by another, a dark shadow behind him. Suddenly this second individual popped into the sunshine and shocked me with his brilliant colors. It was a male common yellowthroat!! Spectacular. The second male I've seen at Snettisham--perhaps one of the ones I'd seen across the river a few days earlier, or another migrant. It was a wonderful going away present.

I went inside to give the rest of the spattering of refried beans to Cailey on my plate and put away the cup of jasmine tea I'd planned to have as my parting porch tea when it dawned on me that tea actually sounded very good. Probably because I was in the cool of the lodge and no longer in the sunshine. For the third time that week I made a perfect cup of jasmine tea on my first attempt and sipped it on the porch. It didn't take me long to move into the shade, thoroughly enjoying it. But at last it was time to go. I took the final load of gear down and paddled away, leaving Cailey behind by her choice. I topped off the gas and came in, pulling the kayak up to the lodge and locking it up before loading. Cailey leaped in last after I'd organized everything. It took a little shuffling of jerry jugs on the bow to get the balance right, but we were eventually careening off toward Gilbert Bay. I'd been a little alarmed by a bit of a breeze coming in off Gilbert Bay (but at least not down the river) on and off all morning, but the inlet was calm, as was Gilbert Bay. That all changed as I faced Stephen's Passage and quite large, bunchy seas, the kind that generally bode quite poorly for Stephen's Passage. One would think it was a southeasterly, but it was hard to imagine such a strong breeze on such a clear and beautiful day! What a pleasure it had been loading and closing up in the sun, a stark contrast to the driving rain last year. I didn't know what to make of it, or where exactly it was coming from, as a westerly can also turn into the port to some degree. There were white caps along the east shore. Unnerved, I dug out my handheld radio, but could not get more than a muffled burst of words here and there. From past experience, I don't get a strong enough signal for weather until I'm actually in Stephen's Passage, but I consoled myself that if I did have to turn around there at least it would be on my heels on the way back, and I had plenty of gas. And hearing the forecast would help me decide when to try again. The seas actually improved the closer we got, jumping down a notch with every water color change we passed. They were erratic, but not as bad heading north, and thankfully still coming from behind, though they were popping up so strangely that sometimes it was hard to tell if they were directional at all. I listened to the forecast all the way to Limestone before Stephen's Passage came on, which gave a decent forecast with winds from the southeast, so I kept going, still not sure if I wouldn't hit a Taku in the inlet. At that point I was no longer holding the radio to my ear, so I picked up speed which actually smoothed out the ride a bit. Cailey was standing on the back bench and on the cooler on the port side a lot, and I finally realized that my camping pack had slipped onto her bed. I moved it up front and was pleased when the seas died down even more past Grave Point. There was a hint of a northerly coming down the Taku, and smooth westerly rollers from the back side of Douglas, so I saw it all, but overall it was a decent ride home. I started to think about Sheep Creek. Here I was, in a boat, with a fishing line, in the afternoon--what if there were still fish? Should I stop? There was, in fact, a lot of action, fish popping up everywhere, people in the water all around the arc of submerged dunes, boats at anchor and boats buzzing about. A lot of action. I found a spot near where I've been successful this year and dropped the anchor. I had a fish on in about 20 minutes, but was really struggling to bring it in....sadly it was snagged on the dorsal fin, so not only could I not keep it, but I was wasting precious time dragging her in [at the time I thought snagging was illegal]. Then she went under my anchor line, so I had to thread my pole under it. I finally got her close and pulled on the line with my hands and the lure popped loose. There was so much action it was hard to believe I didn't have another bite, but I finally pulled anchor and left, noting that successful fishermen were catching them on the inside of the dunes where the creek and the flats are exposed at low tide. Interesting.

I texted Ezra from the bridge and he met me at the dock with a cart and helped me with the laborious task of unloading and schlepping up the quite large load of gear I'd returned with. And now I'm sitting on the couch, finishing this, rather amazed that (short of pulling the boat) it is fall. I should feel more exhausted! Having a serious vacation for close up week at Snettisham might be the proper course of action! When I had finished cleaning the lodge, I looked around at its tidiness and kind of wished I could stay, which is a good sign (and also maybe a suggestion to tidy up mid-trip more often).


Getting ready to head home for the winter