Taku 2019 - 1: Opening
June 15-16

Irises in bloom

Photo Album

I didn't write this trip report at the time, as it was an overnight and Mom and I stayed up late chatting and then crashed for the night. I'd opened up Snetty earlier in the month and found myself hoping to go up the Taku once before the wedding, just for an overnight, as I had no time and little leave. Everything worked out perfectly: I had the Saturday-Sunday I needed, Mom was surprisingly able to make it without a fuss and with no requirement to take a bigger boat, the tides were perfect, and the weather quite cooperative. It really felt like everything fell into place, and we had a lovely time. We left late in the morning on Saturday and made it up the river without incident, deciding to take the known route along the grassy shoreline south of the slough rather than risking the unknown passage farther out that other boats were taking. The water was high enough that we only touched bottom briefly and we anchored up without a problem. My mom made us havarti and Italian bread sandwiches on the way up, and the day was young when we arrived, so we walked upriver and then behind the cabin to pick up camera cards. That afternoon before dinner we tackled the wood splitter, one of our primary goals for the weekend. My mother had described cleaning the rust off of...something, but I didn't really understand what we would be doing. We made room for ourselves to move around the splitter in Alder, started the large generator for lights, and set about removing the engine cover so we could work on the big smooth wheel inside that has something to do with a magnet and running the engine. The goal was to clean the rust off. We took turns with an emery cloth, lightly sanding away until we thought we'd done about as much as we could. The wheel was considerably smoother than it had been. Then we secured the case again, changed the spark plug, added some fresh fuel, and tried to start it, with no luck. I was dubious about the whole thing. We looked for the fuel additive that rejuvenates old fuel, all over the place, to no avail. Then we took off the spark plug and poured some fuel in, and tried again. And it started to catch! It was so dark I couldn't find the choke in time to turn it off, but after a few tries we had the engine going. My mother remarked on my utterly shocked expression. Amazing! I couldn't believe it! We ran it for a few minutes, moved the wedge down and back a few times, then broke for dinner. Cailey had surreptitiously eaten the corn casserole my mother had generously made just behind us on the boat as we pulled out of the harbor, so we ate cans of chili that had been sitting in the cabin for a couple of years, and the wine that we'd brought. It had been a good afternoon.

We had similar luck the next day. My mom got the other generator started and we decided to also try the water pump, which first required us to hook it up in its little house. I was surprised and uncertain about the fact that the house itself had to be moved a foot or two toward the well, but we figured somehow it had gotten moved in the two years since it had been set up. We found grease for the connection and pipe wrenches and soon had it hooked up. Then we primed it and...it started on the first pull or so. Amazing! There's a gap of about an hour and a half before I took the next picture, so I'm not sure what happened, but it may have involved trying to start the 4-wheeler, which is where we failed. The battery was apparently dead and hooking it up to the charger (while the generator ran) didn't work. We wanted to take it out, but it is awkwardly tucked under the metal basket on the back and we decided not to fight with it on this trip. Still, four of five engines started on a short trip was pretty good.

So we rewarded ourselves with the trip I really wanted to take, a canoe ride up the slough. It was mid-June and prime time to see singing birds, including the common yellowthroats I'd discovered back there a couple of years ago that had intriugued my mother. I was pretty confident we'd find them, if only we spent some time back in the slough, especially around the most upriver of the slough islands which I'd thought about calling "Yellowthroat Island" for seeing them around there. We headed downriver from the landing and turned into the lovely slough, hearing savanna sparrows in the grasses and, soon enough, yellowthroats! We heard them on both sides of the slough as we turned upriver, but the bushes were separated from the water by low sedges there and so we didn't take too much time to hunt them out. Instead we continued upriver, seeing occasional Lincoln's sparrows and both watching and seeing (for the first time for me) winnowing snipes. I've heard them many times over the meadows, but this time we could seem them diving in the sky to make their magical sounds. And eventually we made our way to the island and came ashore, after being frustrated several times by other illusive warblers. My mother had left her good binoculars behind, so I'd traded her old pair for my new pair in my desperation for her to see them. We had one there on the island with us, and not far away, but it kept ducking into the grass and bushes. Finally, across the water, a male yellowthroat sat on the branch of a dead tree and sang and we both watched him, his yellow throat shining in the sun. And another, duller but still beautiful bird flew along, probably his mate. Yellowthroats! As we got back in the canoe and paddled around the island, we realized how small it was, and decided it was a good name if one regularly found a home there. I may have been more satisfied than my mother, as I get overly attached to the idea of other people seeing critters that I enjoy. We left the canoe in its usual place, ate quesadillas for lunch (which I'd made that morning) while my mother filled the water tank (which took longer than usual because the valve to the ground that we use to drain the tank was still open), and then closed up, sadly, and headed to town, leaving the hummingbirds to their nectar. It was a very good quick trip. My mother would return later that week with my dad and my brother's family and Kyle, but I would not be able to make it, as I was heading to the Kuskokwim for work the following Monday. But at least we knew that we needed toilet paper! This report was written a month and a half after the fact, so I'm sure that many details are missing.

Taku meadows