to wonder if prepping for a trip over a long period of time is actually
more stressful than frantically cramming it all
into the last days and morning. I keep thinking "If I do this, I'll be
that much closer to being ready!" but those things seem to never end
and I wind up with low grade stress the entire time. Add on top of that
(probably the real culprit) a lot of work for the church this week and
I really felt like I needed a break. I'd considered coming down last
weekend, but my weather forecast app showed a wall of rain all
weekend; if I stayed in town, I would feel better about heading down
this weekend on a Friday, then spending a whole three-day weekend here
before my guests arrive on Monday (rather than heading down the day
before). I got to see my niece before she headed off to college and
when an October-style storm raged alarmingly on Sunday, I was doubly
grateful I'd remained behind. The torrential rainfall predicted for the
weekend didn't disappoint and was accompanied by gale force winds that
raged through the trees and left twigs and branches and leaves all over
the driveway. But, having done my final vacuuming at 9:00 last night,
there wasn't very much to do this morning, other than a few dishes,
last minute packing, and feeding the raven. Although the anxiety of
waiting to get underway was ever present, I managed to keep it under
wraps and even allowed myself to make a batch of cookie dough as I was
about to drive away, as I was reminded to do when I checked my
to-do/shopping list of a few days before. Finally I took off for Taku
Fisheries, filled my coolers with flake ice, and drove to the harbor.
It's the first day of the derby, so I was not surprised to find no
harbor carts to be found, although there was no activity I could see. I
a cart down a branch of the docks about to be demolished just at the
bottom of the ramp and, seeing no activity, commandeered it. Ezra met
as I was approaching the boat. We loaded that gear, brought everything
in from the boat house, then went back for the large cooler of ice and
the dog. All the while I managed to keep my cool despite the time
ticking by and the anxiousness to get underway. After adding a flannel
to my outfit and exchanging my thin rain coat with the rubber kind,
Ezra kicked me off the dock at 9:20 and Cailey and I
puttered out of the harbor in the steady rain on glass-calm water.
what pleasant water that channel was! Perhaps the nicest water I've
seen all summer, I told Cailey. The forecast earlier in the week had
called for partly cloudy skies today (now rain) and the marine forecast
predicted NE winds in the morning shifting to SE in the afternoon. Part
of my anxiety was that I was afraid that the rain indicated an earlier
shift to the wind and that I might come against a southeasterly on the
way down. I could not have been more wrong. Rolling seas beyond the
channel hinted at what was to come--another Taku, I thought, choppy
around Arden and then on my stern down toward Grand. Still, better than
a southeasterly. For once I managed to come up on Point Arden some
distance out, having steered for Slocum Inlet, and was cheery enough
when first encountering those Taku seas to sing a little song; I called
it "Down in the trough", sung to the tune of "Under the sea". We slid
around while Cailey got increasingly nervous, but I only made it
a few poorly crafted verses before the seas began to get a little more
serious. It didn't help that the boat had a heavy load on the bow, so I
was already closer to the water than I'd have liked as those two, and
some three, foot seas
grabbed my freeboard and pulled me up against their slope. Solid white
spray splashed over the side of the boat as I hit the curving tops of
the seas. It was grim. I fought it for a while, knowing that if I could
last long enough it would finally turn behind me and then peter out as
I escaped the opening of the river inlet. I finally gave up. It was too
consistently scary and dangerous, the bow just too close to being
flooded while the boat was at an angle on the seas. I turned and put it
on my stern, heading toward Admiralty and, I hoped, the shelter of the
back side of Grand Island. It was immediately better, but still on and
off scary. Every time I tried to turn a little toward Grand (I was
still somewhat north of it), the seas dragged me broadside into the
trough again and pulled me sideways. Even when I kept it directly off
the stern, the larger seas would pick me up and then drop me into the
swell in front, once pushing the bow down until the top of it was even
with the surface of the water. I could hear that the engine was working
and, to make matters more stressful, a rattling vibration sounded from
the stern. I was pretty sure it was the metal funnel bouncing against
the transom, but it was unnerving. For a long time. A man in
a lund was beating his way up the channel, the bow of his boat
comically sticking into the air at about a 45 degree angle. Just the
bottom quarter or third of the skiff was in the water. They cut a
striking image in the rain and the whitecaps bouncing through the seas
and I wondered what it was like for him out there and whether he felt
the fear I did. His boat, though, was obviously not heavily loaded!
Finally the seas diminished just enough that I was able to turn and get
behind the tip of Grand, the inlet a sea of tight green seas curled in
white tips, wind whipping the rain before them. My phone, usually safe
from rain under the windshield, was covered in rain drops. I could feel
the wind lashing at me from behind as I escaped against the rocks,
stopping about half way down the island to regroup. My phone was dried
and tucked into my pocket, the gear that had fallen was tucked back
away, I checked on the level of the gas, turned Cailey's bed over so it
was drier when she laid back down, used the bucket, and we were on our
Our respite from the seas was brief, but beyond Grand they were more reasonable, still two footers, but no longer scary. I originally thought I'd make my way straight to Snettisham, the shortest distance possible, but as I came again under the influence of the Taku on the other side of Grand I decided that both Cailey and I needed a break and so I angled over toward Grave Point hoping to get a little shelter closer to shore. Somewhere south of Taku Harbor we abruptly hit a streak of glassy calm water, separated from another by tiny waves, and then it was flat. What a huge relief! I hadn't made it all the way to shore yet, so I angled straight for the misty point that I thought was Styleman at the entrance to the port. The rain was constant, the mist and low clouds obscuring everything around us. I'm sure that helped with the impression that we were all alone out there. I'd seen a boat just beyond the channel, a cluster of what looked like commercial fishing boats in Doty Cove, and the lund, and nobody else, though it was the start of the derby.
Our respite was luxurious but all too brief. As we neared the port, a wild chop popped up, turning quickly into nasty one and two foot seas, that beat us up, coming out of the port. It was so bad that there was no question about beating into it; instead I steered across the port to seek shelter against the shore. It kicked us to pieces on the way over there and Cailey abandoned her bed to sit unhappily and endure. It was a lot to take after the Taku crossing. Was this another north wind, coming out of the Whiting? Without line of sight from there, it seemed unlikely. Thankfully, the shoreline did offer relief by the time we made it to Doc Fuche's Cove and we desperately sped toward the river. Several hundred yards from Point Sentinel was a vivid water change from the green we were on to the gray-brown of the river, which surprised me since it was not even an hour past high tide; it looked like the brown water was calm but I assumed it was an allusion. But no, the chop abruptly halted at the water change. So where was that wind coming from? It was as though it dropped straight from the sky before pushing the water ahead of it into calm Stephen's Passage. I suppose in a way it was--I think it must have been coming down off the mountains behind my property. The crossing to the river was calm, but the river itself was kicking out tight swells that again made the going rough as we fought against it toward the lodge, which looked mercifully intact. All this in the drenching rain. Only the last 20 feet from shore was relatively calm. It had been 2 hours and 25 minutes en route, the first hour and a half of that on the way to shelter behind Grand. We were worn out, wet, and beat up. I unloaded all our gear, immediately feeling better out of the wind and on the ground, enjoying the smells of the grass and the unusual smell of low tide and seaweed, very relieved and happy to be back. The idea of anchoring had been so unappealing as I beat against the north wind coming down the river that I'd almost hoped the boat would go aground while I was unloading and I could leave it there for the night. But by the time I'd carried my backpack and clothes back and camera to the porch and grabbed the kayak and unloaded all the rest of the gear, I felt better about it. Anchoring was more of a challenge than usual as the boat rocked wildly in the seas and I struggled to get the anchor to catch. It started to, then would keep dragging, while the kayak floundered and banged around in the seas. I eventually pulled the anchor back in and tried again and, while it never caught quite as decisively as I would have liked, it definitely started to catch and was holding in the bouncing seas. I was glad I had my life jacket on as I nearly lost my balance a few times on the pitching bow.
The paddle back in was probably in the choppiest water I've seen in a kayak. But eventually I had it up on the beach and all my gear spread out on the porch. Before going inside I picked up all the motion sensor cards and opened Hermit Thrush, pleased to see all the cabins intact. There are always such a lot of little things to do when I arrive, but as I started to take the newspapers off the windows I realized I was pretty hungry. It was approaching 1:00 and I'd been running on a muffin and a small banana all morning. I made a quesadilla and let it cook while I puttered around with the windows, feeding Cailey (who'd skipped breakfast as she knew I was heading out on a trip), starting a fire, and draped wet gear around it. When it was done, I left it in the pan and hurried to the freshet to grab a beer, which sounded delicious, and drop in the large bottle of champagne I'd brought to share. The freshet was crystal clear, which is unusual, and free of debris, but only had four beers inside. Where were the other beers and sodas? I found a few about 20 feet downstream against a bank of debris, perhaps washed out in a flood from the rains last weekend. I wish I could have seen that! I'd noticed when I turned the water valve at the lodge on that it did not "whoosh" like it usually does as the pressure from the system fills the filters, which made me concerned that the barrel was out of the creek, perhaps washed out in the same flood.
For dessert I finished the beer and ate the peas from my garden at home, a few dried mangos, and a bit of chocolate, then curled under my quilt on the couch in the warming lodge and watched an episode of The 100 on my table with Cailey curled up at my feet. We both needed a rest. Poor Cailey, who was soaking wet on top of everything else! She seemed to sleep luxuriously and soundly, as did I after reading a little bit. I only slept for 40 minutes at most, but I was so warm and comfortable; I woke up before opening my eyes and didn't know where I was. But instead of the panic that I usually feel as I try to sort it out, I was only curious and went over several possibilities at home before I remembered with surprise and pleasure that I was at Snettisham. Out the window I could see that the northerly had died, the
river calm, the boat no longer pulling at its anchor. I can't say that I did anything very productive this afternoon, but it was good to curl up in the warmth and security of the lodge. The porch couch can wait until tomorrow! Glancing out the window I could see the solid steady downpour of rain through the branches downriver.
After that I decided I might make another go at internet. I'd avoided it earlier partly because I was worn out and partly because I didn't feel like another failure just yet. But I'd gained back a little energy, so got everything plugged in and set up in the lodge, then checked the oil on the generator and got it started, ran the extension cord carefully up to the door, only paying out what I needed, and plugged everything in. The moment of truth. The modem sprang to life. I clicked install as usual, got the pointing page which showed a signal of 106 (not bad considering the steady rain), and clicked "Next." And then "re-install"--the key step that I may or may not have tried to do in the past. I think I did once, but chickened out when it asked me if I really wanted to reinstall the modem! This time I said yes and waiting anxiously as I got a "if this page doesn't reload in two minutes, refresh your browser" message. The modem lights went out, then, slowly, one by one they ticked on, and a screen appeared as promised with the coordinates of my dish. They were way off from what they should be, but I knew what to do this time. I entered in the coordinates Joe had given me and clicked "Submit", which took me back to the registration screen. Would it range successfully? Circling, circling circling....yes, it ranged! One green check, then another, then another. The modem was talking to the satellite, or whatever it was supposed to talk to, and I tentatively clicked on gmail--15 new messages. And I could read one! And respond! I had internet. At last.
I wrote a few emails, edited a church letter, IMed Ezra and, finally, checked amazon streaming to see if it would work. The first thing I discovered was that Stargate SG-1 is apparently not available here (!); this was a little disappointing, as watching SG-1 was my playful and longed for goal when I got internet going, but other things were available. I pulled up TNG and held my breath while it tried to load. It did take a little while to come up, and for each episode to load (it took me a while to accept that it had given me the next one in my queue), but once streaming, it was perfect, no pauses at all. Huzzah! What a relief! I wasn't really enjoying the episode that much, but watched the whole thing anyway while eating some chili for dinner and doing some stretching.
I washed my face with steaming hot water, which felt wonderful, gathered my things, and headed to Hermit Thrush around 7:30 and here I am, listening to the endless steady rain on the roof of the cabin. I noticed mildew in the lodge, both specks on the card table like sand and whole patches on the end table. Hermit Thrush smells a bit damp, and I wonder if it is the result of the constant moisture and the lack of warm, dry days. Fires in both places are probably good for them. This one has been going for an hour and a half now as I write this and has not boiled the water, though I might not be able to hear it simmering from the rain. I certainly couldn't hear any media right now!
It rained steadily all night, diminishing somewhat as I lay in my cozy bed in the morning, warming the day's clothes next to me. When I first opened my eyes I thought that the day was extremely misty, as fog shrouded everything around the cabin. I soon realized that the fog was actually condensation on the insides of the windows just like it used to do when I was burning propane and/or water was seeping in through the knots in the pine--both problems which have long been solved. When I got up, I inspected all the walls and the floor to look for leaks and found none; perhaps it has been such a persistently damp summer that the moisture has crept in despite a water-proofed building. It would fit with the other indicators I'd seen. I didn't think it was a good sign that an earth worm was wiggling around on the top of one of the windows (on the inside)!
The inlet was a little brighter when I arrived at the lodge than it had been the day before and spoke of promise. I freshened up, then put some water on for breakfast and tea but soon turned it off, distracted by a bunch of little chores. Among other things, I scooped the accumulation of ashes out of the wood stove and put in a fire for later. The wet gear from the boat ride were not yet fully dry, so more heat would be necessary later. I ate my oatmeal/peanut butter/nectarine breakfast while jasmine tea steeped and by the time I sat on the porch to drink it, the rain had stopped and the inlet was calm and serene. It had rained so hard in the night (with perhaps some breeze) that the porch was wetter much farther in than usual and the front of the couch was so wet I had to cover it with a towel when I sat down. I watched a sparrow in the meadow peeking from behind stalks of grass, but not well enough to identify him. A wren chipped and stopped by the edge of the berries for a few moments. It was good to finally just sit and soak it in and observe, something I've had a hard time doing lately.
After reading for a bit, I decided to suit up and wander around a little, enticed by the sliver of rock at the bottom of the beach and the wide plume of brown water in the river from the normally-mild seep on the beach. It took me a few tries to get going, as my first pair of rainpants were still wet from the boat ride, but eventually Cailey and I were walking toward Hermit Thrush and the new trail to the olive barrel. Though there'd been no further signs of a water shortage, I wanted to check on it. I was gratified to find most of the trail easy to follow, if overgrown with reaching ferns and devil's club in a few places; it's an easier trail to follow than the other even when it wasn't blocked by fallen trees. I found the creek swollen and rushing and the olive barrel in place, the outlet hose well below the level of the water and the dam largely washed out. While there, I noted that there are two large, standing dead trees downriver. Satisfied that we'd have plenty of water in the near future, I headed back down, noticing lovely mushrooms on the way. I stopped by Hermit Thrush and dried the windows with paper towels, taking those away with me to help dry the cabin in case it's not saturated. Then I turned downhill and headed to the freshet, opening and checking on cute, bright Harbor Seal on the way. At the freshet, I rescued all the beer bottles and soda cans that had floated downstream, one of which was entrained about four inches above the current water level (still flowing, though only from the chilling pool). One was only half full so we should be cautious with the others! I checked on Mink, also in good condition, then walked down and around the beach near the lodge, appreciating how swift the seep was running and the pools created by rocks and logs. I ended at the new cottonwood tree, which I was afraid had been washed away. Indeed, there was a rushing little stream next to where it was planted and almost all the sand that I'd carried up there to give it soil was washed away. What remained was a mound of dirt, apparently the original soil the cottonwood had come in, surrounded by a trickle of water from behind and flanked by the relative torrent. I made plans to create a dam behind it to divert the water from around it into the main channel. It looked really good! I plucked away some overhanging ferns to allow it a little more light before fall. I grabbed a pair of clippers from the shed, discovering that there was water leaking in. I couldn't see any leaks on the ceiling, but there was a lot of water on and around one of the stain cans and some on the generator as well. I spread out the painting visqueen over the left side of the shed and a paper bag over the generators. I returned to the lodge and cut a few cranberry stalks and many branches off the hemlock tree that grows right next to the porch stairs landing and has, in the last few years, started to reach out over the stairs, not to mention blocking my usual route to the outhouse. With some sorry and apology, I clipped back the reaching, stretching branches, glad that I left a significant number of bright green boughs. I collected most of the ones I cut and placed them on the edge of the porch to help with dam building. Then I worked on the salmonberries and currents and ferns overhanging the path by the stairs to the meadow and along the side of the porch, and those that were sticking up between the porch boards, as well as the small cow parsnip growing back on the paths. I also studied some of the plants in the meadow, determined to identify at least a few of them and try to distinguish the types of carrots growing there. I took pictures and a few samples for later.
I spent the rest of the morning reading and enjoying the porch until I grew a little hungry. Around noon I ate a quesadilla outside and watching the rain come down. Oh yes, it had started again within half an hour of stepping outside for tea and came down ferociously at times. Eventually I remembered the damp gear and, noting Cailey's wet coat (so wet it got the blanket I was covering her with wet), I went inside and lit a fire for us. Once the fire was lit, I discovered that I was quite chilled. Cailey had already laid down in her dog bed by the fire, so I pulled up a chair and began studying my plant book for the characters I'd seen outside. I managed to identify one conclusively, but the other(s) have several contenders that require me to look at them more closely. I would have done so later in the day, but the rain was so steady I was dissuaded. When I ran out of steam on that project, I read a book for a while, then decided to try sending some marco polo videos with wifi, as it was about the time that I've had zoom meetings with Katie and Rob on their Sunday mornings. I saw some spatters on the top of the generator and a spot of water on top of the visqueen, which led me to see that water was dripping off one of the hemlock siding boards beneath the roofing, so the hole must be above the board, dripping onto it. At least it seems to be a single spot for now and only obvious in heavy rain. I will leave it covered, as the floor probably can't handle much more moisture.
I filled up the fuel tank on the generator; it started without a hitch, as did internet. So pleasant for that to work so well, and so smoothly! I turned wifi on my phone, surprised to see it ding with messages, including a couple from Katie and Rob themselves! I wrote some emails, checked in with Ezra, then send a video message to Katie and Rob and to Jeannette--at least I think I did. Marco Polo gave my video a smilie face, so I think that means it worked! By then it was well and truly hot inside, so I retreated to the porch to read a third book for the day and enjoy slightly more bird activity. A jay called and flew by, a juvenile Wilson's warbler worked through the berry bushes and the spruce tree, more sparrows showed themselves briefly from their refuge in the grasses, and a shaggy hermit thrush perched on the porch for a few moments. A large bird launched itself from the mountainside downriver and its flight pattern immediately registered as exciting--a hawk! I watched him soar in circles over the river a number of times until it disappeared upriver. I could see each primary feather stretched out separately as it glided and the banding in the tail. Flying with short bursts of flaps interspersed with soaring, perhaps it is the same goshawk from my videos. Other birds flew by too fast to identify. Yesterday on some brief interludes on the porch, I saw a small bird fly by with stark white outer tail feathers--presumably a junco, rare around here. I also saw a small, greenish bird at the edge of the berries just off the downriver side of the porch with white eye rings who almost gave me enough time to grab the binoculars, my friend the Pacific slope flycatcher I think.
As I sat there, cooling off, the afternoon brightened and there were periods when it stopped raining. Although it always came back, I eventually talked myself into going for a boat ride to pick up the game camera cards from offshore. Grabbing binoculars, camera, leatherman, SPOT, some of the drying pads to keep my seat and camera dry, and a blanket for Cailey to sit on (not yet dry), we kayaked out to the boat, taking off at 4:26. It was only then that I realized it was a low tide falling tide, not the ideal time to go ashore! But it was only an hour or so until low tide on a tide with a small difference and I figured I'd play it by ear. It was wonderful cruising on the glassy calm water in less than a downpour. I followed the shoreline around the corner from River Point, admiring how large the three streams are that are cataloged for coho, so small when I've visited them. What I assume to be a pair of otters slid off the rocks and into the sea. My plans at Dipper Creek, though, were thwarted, but I did creep up in the hopes of seeing if there were any sign of pink salmon in the creek. There was a cluster of gulls on the beach and one young eagles, but no carcasses that I could see. From there I stopped by Whigg Creek to pick up that camera but found the way impassable both because of the low tide, which would have required scaling a steep slope of barnacle-covered rocks, and because the creek was raging and covering most of said rocks. So, I didn't make landfall at all! I did cruise the shoreline on the far side of Gilbert Bay to check out the mouth of the creek that is listed for salmon there. I assumed the first large creek was it, but quickly saw my mistake, as a huge white waterfall crashed down just inside the trees--the one I can see from the homestead. A similarly sized creek was just a little father on the other side of an intertidal spit and curved tantalizingly away, a good place to explore with or without a survey.
By then it was raining steadily again and the bay was misting in. Four boats were at anchor at Sweetheart and another one was leaving. At least one other had already left, but I'd heard engine noise earlier when it was too misty to see anything. I was quite hungry by then, so immediately put some zataran's yellow rice on to cook, adding chopped carrots, broccoli, and peas, and readied some salmon to cook a little later. To help the time pass, I sipped a small glass of wine and started an episode of The 100, interrupting it periodically to check on the food. Cailey very sweetly followed me from the couch to the fire and laid down wherever I paused. Dinner was amazing. I retired to Hermit Thrush at 7:30 to get the fire started and try to dry the place out a bit and work on this. Now I have a hot cup of tea to enjoy with whatever entertainment I fancy. The rain may have stopped for a time, as I'm only getting the occasional patter of rain from falling drops. I look forward to a COASST walk tomorrow; low tide today, which was barely low enough to make it upriver I think, was just as we were returning.
I had a somewhat fitful night of sleep, but got up at a reasonable hour feeling fairly well rested. I hurriedly packed up, pausing only to wipe the fog on the window off, and headed to the lodge, noting that there was more beach visible than I've seen yet. Enough to take a COASST walk, although it was nearly three hours past low tide. I ate a nectarine, cleaned up, and then headed down to the water. Since my beach was limited and the tide rising, I decided to forgo the usual downriver portion until this evening, but I glassed it just in case and raised my eyes to the eagle's nest as well. It had been so quiet that I was afraid the nest may have failed, but there was a young eagle sitting on the edge of the nest overlooking his domain. He had a black hood that extended down his chest that reminded me of a condor. So, Condor it is. Maybe I'll see him flying around in September.
It was raining steadily, but not hard, and the silt was hard packed and easy to walk on. I wondered if all the rain had washed away the sticky mud? Mew gulls and Bonaparte's gulls flew away at our approach near the grassy point. There were ancient tracks on the sand above, but nothing recent that I could tell. By the time we got back to the rocky point, the tide was too far in to stay on the beach, so we went inland and back to the lodge. I ate a banana pancake and lingered on the porch just long enough to let my stomach settle before suiting up and doing chores. My first round was rubbing down the furniture that had mildewed with pledge (another testament to how wet it's been, as I'd done the same just a month ago), and scraping the accumulated duff from against the siding on the cabins/outhouse. I at first despaired of the latter task, as I hadn't found the hand rake tool and only had a hoe, and the trenches I'd made around Mink cabin weren't quite wide enough for it. But once I got down on my knees and starting pulling out litter with my hands, I discovered that this was all that was needed. The hoe was handy in just a couple of areas, like against the upriver side of Harbor Seal's porch, but in most places I was able to simply paw away the fresh dirt and pine cones and bark chips with my hands. In fact, it was rather gratifying to see that in the two years (?) since I first unearthed the buried buildings, this was all the maintenance that was needed. The whole project did not take long. I made the cabin rounds with the clippers then, just picking off the hanging vegetation reaching here and there from the sides of the trails, and the small salmonberry canes that were coming up from where I clipped earlier this summer. Finally, I did a last round with the broom and swept all the porches, stairs, and bridge.
Back at the lodge I turned my attention in the other direction and built a dam behind the new cottonwood tree. I made a layer of hemlock boughs in back against the berry bushes behind the tree, added some wadded ferns in front of that, and then big clumps of moss. With the slight diminishment in rain, water wasn't then trickling around the cottonwood, and hopefully this dam and the trenches I dug to help drain the water from up there will help in the future. The clump of dirt around its roots looked rather forlorn on its own, so I decided to build up the dirt around it more to help protect it. First I grabbed some rotting logs from nearby to help keep the main channel from sneaking toward the cottonwood, then planned to fill in with sand and moss around that to help prevent it washing away again. I dropped off clumps of moss (or possibly liverwort) but the tide was too high for sand, so I put that project on hold. Then I clipped off the ends of the spruce boughs on the tree in the meadow that were starting to turn upward and swept the lodge porches and stairs. I was so hot by the time I started sweeping again that I stripped and wound up doing this short task nude from the waist up! Rain on my back is a novel experience. I was inclined to sit outside for a while after that, but a front was coming in with winds off of Gilbert Bay driving rain well up onto the couch, which meant onto my quilt and book. It seemed like a good time to come inside. I ate the rest of my pancake and the rice from last night and tidied up the lodge a little, putting away the cardboard box I'd ripped up for fire starter this morning (which had carried the frame of the shark poster I brought down from my anniversary) and stashing some of the gear that had dried out but won't be needed until we leave. I like tidier much better! Finally I started the fire and made myself a coffee drink, opening a can of evaporated milk and whipping it with the instant coffee before adding water and sugar, which resulted in a smooth and creamy drink infinitely better that what I usually do (which leaves powdered milk clumps in the bottom of the cup). I sat on the double camping chair and sipped decaf coffee and read a little as the fire perked up and the wind whipped, which felt like a perfect Sunday activity. Now the rain has stopped and the day is brighter; the front seems to have passed, but water is still rippling from Gilbert Bay. We'll see what the rest of the day holds.
What happened next is that Cailey and I lounged on the couch while I finished a book, drank another cup of decaf coffee, and noted with astonishment that the weather outside remained dry. When I emerged from the lodge, the porch and deck were already starting to dry out, or at least not have water on the surface of them--I think they'll remain saturated for a while. Still, what relief and hope springs with a break in the rain! The relentless rain has been a lot like winter; you don't quite know you have winter blues and you're not actually depressed, but when spring comes there is a upwelling of relief and joy and hope that wasn't there before. I ran a couple of errands around the cabins (hanging the shark poster in Mink Cabin, tapping in a nail to hang some keys on), so pleased to be walking around dry without rain gear! The tide had dropped, so I filled a pot with sand and finished filling in the area around the cottonwood tree, covering the sand with moss to help protect it. It looks like a much more protected spot now, though that is probably in part because the flooding has subsided. I could probably use a log or a rock at the bottom to help hold it in place, but otherwise I think it looks pretty good. I wonder if the roots will change that area when the tree gets larger? It was cocktail hour then, so I was very slowly sipping a glass of wine while partly reading and partly enjoying the dry afternoon, such a contrast from the driving rain earlier. I made another inspection of plants in the meadow and identified one familiar from the Taku (western dock), but the carrots still somewhat elude me. I'm leaning toward kneeling angelica for the other common umbrela flowering plant, but there are several possibilities. I expected the bird life to blossom with the break in the weather, but it was very quiet; perhaps they were reluctant to come out of shelter! I'd had one hummingbird feeder up since yesterday, but had no takers, and wished for their ebullient company. There really wasn't much to encourage them to stick around this year, so perhaps it's not surprising if they've left a little early. I'd heard chickadees come by a couple of times and startled up sparrows, finally catching one in the spruce tree that allowed me close, if somewhat shrouded, looks. The buffy streaks gave him away: Lincoln's sparrow. And then as I sat there reading, a familiar buzz sounded and a hummingbird flew up! What a surprise! I watched him search and search for the nectar, poking at the top of the feeder, the bottom, and the bottoms of the blossoms, but not in the flowers. Surely, then, this was a young-of-the-year, and this his very first feeder. He swept away and perched in the spruce tree, then returned to his exploration. He was consistently going to the bottom of the flower closest to me, so I think he must have been getting nectar there, and I cheered inwardly when, after several attempts, he took a sip or two from a flower. Apparently it wasn't good enough, though, and he continued to feed from or search other areas. Each time he left he would go back to the spruce tree or another convenient perch and I thanked him silently for coming by and keeping me company. I hope this will help nourish him and serve him well as he heads south and finds more feeders awaiting him. Cheeping from upriver caught me attention at one point, leading me to a greenish bird perched in plain view. I willed him to remain and he did, revealing a perfect little Pacific slope flycatcher bobbing his tail and tracking something until he flew after it out of sight.
Or that may have happened after dinner. Eventually I got hungry and made myself a stir fry of bison steak and veggies and a toasted dinner roll, all scrumptious. Then I checked email and messages and the weather, and even read a little news. Earlier I'd tidied up the wires around the modem and power strip and was pleased with the results--a very neat looking area now where it was once messy. I will finally take the old radio and the old power adapter back to town this time. I'd also carried the gazebo kit out to the shed to clear the lodge and made some other improvements for my guests. By then the tide was low and the evening fine, so I walked down the beach to the end of the sandbars and tied two pieces of survey tape to a dead tree there to help the survey crew anchor. I invited Cailey, but she preferred to remain laying inside on the rugs, so I left her there. Bonaparte's gulls, most in winter plumage or transitioning, were clustered around the mouth of the seep with a handful of mew gulls. When I got back, I returned to the porch to watch the rest of The 100 episode that I'd started over dinner and lingered there for a second episode; they weren't so engaging that I couldn't enjoy the surroundings and the peace of the inlet. I definitely feel better than I have all weekend, whether because of the chore I accomplished today or because of the weather or both I don't know. Around 8:00 I carried my gear to the cabin and unpacked a little, and cleaned out the toiletries bucket that was gooey with some camping body wash that had leaked on everything. Settling in. And it still hasn't rained again.
The rain started sometime in the night and has been steady since. I was cheered somewhat by the fact that there were fog-free edges to some of the windows this morning, which I'd like to think means that we are drying things out there a little with the Nordic stove. I slept better, read in bed a little, cleaned up with the offending bottle of body wash that had gummed up my tub, and headed to the lodge to wash my hair, shift a few things around for guests, and lay down on the couch to attempt to ameliorate a strange morning stomach ache. At 10:00, I started a fire, having gotten chilled, then started the generator and filled the wood box on the way back in. When I tried to go online, first my keyboard didn't work (a problem which quickly resolved), then there was no internet on the computer (via network cable) or the phone (via wifi). Day 4! Things had been going so well for those first 48 hours...! Not feeling great, the extent of my troubleshooting was to turn the power off and on again, but the result was the same. After that I shifted outside with a cup of Russian tea and continued to read until afternoon, still with an uneasy stomach, glancing up every couple of minutes to see if the boat was rounding the point. A hummingbird was coming by, acting a little differently from the one last evening. He was trying the perches more and not going for the spot under the flower that yesterday's favored. I wondered if it was a new one.
Eventually I headed back inside where I buckled down to continue work on my index of Snettisham and Taku plants. After glancing through the book again, identifying or clarifying the identity of a couple of plants, I entered all the notes I'd taken on paper into a Word doc. At 1:30 or so I stopped waiting for the boat to arrive and had a lunch of smoked salmon and potato chips, then continued my plant identification work. It's a big ID book to go through! It had rained in the morning, but by then the rain had stopped and the inlet was calm and misty. I rested a little bit, feeling generally drained and tired, then got up and tried for internet again. This time I tried two more troubleshooting ideas: a different network cable and resetting the modem by pressing in the reset button on the back and the WPS button on the front until the modem turned off and then the lights came back on again. Neither made a difference. The latter was a little challenging because the button on the back looks like a headphone jack hole and you have to get something into it. I used the two ends of a twisty tie twisted together. I couldn't think of anything else to try.
So I went back to today's project: plants. I scoured the meadow looking at the different carrot plants, even cutting into the bottom of the stalks to see if they had chambers. I finally determined that we have Douglas's water hemlock, the really poisonous one, and kneeling angelica. Perhaps there are others, but those are the common ones along with cow parsnip. I took some moss samples, but have officially given up on moss identification along with grasses, sedges, and rushes.
Having made complicated cooked dinners the last two nights, I enjoyed the simplicity of heating up an Indian dinner in a pouch (heated IN the pouch so I didn't dirty a pan) and ate it on the porch in the fine evening with a buttery toasted roll. It really is a fine evening and I am on the porch still. At 5:30 I started the Nordic stove in Hermit Thrush in an effort to dry the place out, which smells a little musty; I wonder how warm it will feel when we get there? The bird life has been similarly quiet, but I did see some interesting things. An adult Wilson's warbler is around, an eagle flew right toward me with a whole salmon (pausing for about 10 minute in a tree above me before taking it to the nest), and a juvenile goshawk (or similar hawk) flew across the meadow in front of me about ten feet off the ground. BREAKING NEWS: As I finished that sentence, a hawk crashed into the salmonberries just to my right, about ten feet away, then pivoted out and banked right in front of me, just off the front of the porch, and flew downriver. The hummingbird who'd been buzzing merrily went silent--everything went silent--and I saw him hovering high in the air. I don't know what the hawk's target was--could have been warbler, hummingbird, sparrow, or wren easily. Wow. I wonder where he was perched? It was lightening quick and momentarily terrifying and I let out a huge gasp. I had a good if fleeting look at him and it looked like the same brown and streaky fellow I've been seeing, though much smaller than I would have put the others. Could it be a sharp-shinned hawk? I've heard of accipiter attacks on birds at feeders before, but this was very startling. I've been torn between staying here as the evening wans and going to my cabin, and I'm glad I stayed for that. Now Cailey is sniffing off the porch downriver and I wonder who else is about.
It's two days later, 8:40 in the morning, and the AWC crew is just now pulling out of inlet on their way to do surveys. What am I doing at the lodge writing this? Great question. If you could see what I see, you'd notice my boat aground at the edge of the sandbars and a wide flowing river beyond, stretching almost uninterrupted to the far shore. But look closer and you'll see white water at the lip of the river as it enters salt water and a couple of sandbars covered in seals. Look downriver from my boat and there are more standing waves and a two-foot cliff of black mud exposed where the last peninsula of muddy shoreline extends from the first of the rocky promontories. What you can't see is that that shelf of vertical, calving mud extends from above my boat all the way down there alongside sections of two foot standing waves. It's no wonder that Jesse, in a kayak, chose an over-sandbar route to get to the landing craft this morning rather than take the main channel. The rest of us hiked down, and I found myself quite surprised that the last mud shelf where I expected to be picked up was far from the drop off and, while the channel water may have been deep enough there for the boat, the two or maybe even three foot standing seas just offshore were a barrier. The nearest place he could get was a few points farther down. We'd already come some distance on the rocks and Cailey was working harder on the slippery rocks than I was hoping to put her through today, and I wasn't sure she could get over the next hump. I sent the others on and told them I'd catch up later in the morning as soon my boat floated. Cailey and I did make one effort to get over the hump and made it, just above the overhanding alders, but I liked the idea of having the independence of my own boat. It was going to be a long day, walking up long streams and possibly stopping by Sweetheart at the end of the day, where I am reluctant to take Cailey. So here I am, watching their boat floating around the inlet and wondering what they're up to.
Yesterday was also a long day, and I didn't get started until noon. To my amazement, the morning was dry, the inlet filled with the white fog that hinted at a sunny day if it burnt off. A sailboat came and anchored at the bottom of the sandbars, close enough on my side to make me wonder if the occupants were coming to visit me. All three got into a canoe and started to paddle and I got ready to greet them, but they continued straight up the river! Around that time I spotted a critter making an unusual wake in the main channel and discovered a beaver, a rare sight in the river. He was making his way upstream, so I grabbed my phone and binoculars and ran down the trail to the other side of the property to catch up to him. He was pretty easy going and I was able to tag along behind him on the mud flats. I hoped that the occupants of the canoe realized what I was doing, as it could have looked like I was watching and photographing them. Before he made it to the grassy point, the main channel the beaver was swimming in shallowed and sandbars reached out from the edge of the beach. The beaver turned and dove and I waited to see where he would come up, perhaps searching for a deeper channel farther out. When he didn't emerge in sight, I headed back toward the lodge, only to see a strangely shaped log floating back in the channel farther down. Could it be? Sure enough, it was the beaver, motionless, his snout and entire back and tail exposed. It was a fascinating look, and he looked to be a good sized animal, not the young migrant I would have expected (though I don't have enough experience with beavers to know). I think we gazed at each other, his large nose and expressionless face and slicked back fur making him appear inanimate. He let me look at him with binoculars and take phone photos for some time, but dove and slapped his tail when I tried for a telephoto shot. He reappeared farther downriver and I let him be, hoping he made a good journey to a new home. Perhaps the heavy rains had encouraged him to find a different home?
Cailey and I had already gone for a walk that morning, first upriver where we saw four female blue-winged teal (I'm pretty sure), and then downriver to see the exposed shelf of mud where I'd encountered so many spoon worms and little red worms the year before. To my surprise, I found none of the one and only a couple of the other, but I did notice that the top several inches of mud were densely inhabited by macoma clams. Upriver we'd seen what looked like a feeding station or macoma clam midden where hundreds of them lay clustered, many with holes through their shells.
So it was kind of a manic morning. I was just settling back on the porch to relax when I saw a boat emerge from the fog. The sailboat had already been obscured, so I thought it might be the fog lifting around it, but it turned out to be a small landing craft. The crew had arrived. I hastily put my porch gear inside and walked down to meet them where they were coming ashore somewhat unnecessarily downstream. Without much of a greeting, I suggested they go back out on the other side of my boat and come straight in for the lodge to avoid hauling gear father than necessary. And there I met Dylan, Jesse, Claire, and Nicole as they unloaded. We went on a quick tour of the property as they dropped their gear at cabins, ate some lunch in the sunshine on the porch (the fog had melted away by then), and then we took off for our first surveys, around the corner in the tiny streams I've been so curious about. We wound up surveying about seven streams along that shore, three of which were in the catalog but with no backup information and anadromy extending impossibly high in elevation. Four of us were dropped off on the first long grassy beach and Dylan, Nicole and I headed up one stream while Jesse anchored the boat and kayaked in to meet Claire to survey the other two (turned three). This was a rough stream for Cailey, fast moving, canyonized in the upper stretch we surveyed, and rushing madly. On a more normal summer it would have been a different survey. In the fast moving pools we caught dollies and cutthroat and sculpin. That is, Dylan did while Nicole managed the electrofisher; the only fish I caught were accidental and I hadn't even seen them go in my net! We went up for quite some distance, but the elevation started getting steeper and we stopped finding fish, so we called it. No coho, which means that this stream will probably be delisted from the catalog. Meanwhile, the other team had surveyed three streams and found one coho in the stream that leads to the big pool and lovely waterfall, but otherwise only trout (if I remember right, maybe there was another stream with coho).
continued along that shoreline and split up once more, after which the
crew took turns walking up streams and watching the boat. I surveyed
the next stream with Jesse and Claire and we caught a coho in a tiny
stream just inside the woods, and another one followed. It was not a
stream in the catalog, so it will now be protected. Very exciting!
After heading up as far as reasonable, we quickly surveyed an adjacent
stream, a tiny but beautiful little trickle that flowed through a
typical flat shelf just inside the treeline and ended in a beautiful
little waterfall. Claire caught a dolly sweeping the water but without
using the electrofisher, which means the little stream will be
classified as a resident fish stream, which comes with some
Good news! The other streams were similarly small; I've lost track of
them all now, but we may have caught more coho. In the last stream on
that shoreline we found a barrel-like object against the stream and
what may have been a man-made dam that was likely blocking fish
passage. It not tall--three feet max--but vertical and with no jumping
It was all quick, wonderful fun. The incredible warm, sunny day didn't hurt, and I enjoyed every minute of the sunshine. Having been working so hard on my plant index this weekend, I was excited to find species not found on the property--mountain hemlock, lovage, a fern, a stream-side phlox, and several others that I took samples of and tucked into my waders to identify later. By then it was after 4:00, so we turned and headed toward Gilbert Bay to survey the streams around the corner from the river. The first was another bouldery, rushing stream that proved even more challenging for the poor exhausted Cailey as she had to balance on the slippery rocks, hopping from one to the other along the shoreline or when crossing the swift current whenever the canyonized walls prevented further passage. We caught coho toward the bottom along with sculpins, dollies, and cutthroat and made our way pretty far up before it became steep and we stopped catching residents. After helping her navigate back down the upper area with little in the way of rocks to choose from, Cailey headed to the boat as quickly as she could. By then it waa 5:30, a brisk wind had given the folks on the boat a chill, and we were tired, so we called it a day, pulling up a couple of personal use halibut lines in the inlet and resetting them on the way. I lit a little fire, swapped my wet flannel for a dry hoodie, and opened a beer. Dylan made deer tacos and I indulged in one of those for part of my dinner--a delicious meal topped with the chocolate chip cookies I baked while he cooked. We chatted in the lodge while the crew charged their iPads and other electronics, then went our separate ways at 9:00. Cailey and I were both pretty whooped, and we planned to get underway at 7:00 which meant I'd have to set my alarm, a rare requirement at Snettisham! In the end, I didn't need it, and woke up feeling well-rested, surprised by how warm I was overnight, even as soon as I went to bed, given that I hadn't lit the stove. Cailey appeared to be in good spirits and I gave her another aspirin for the day.
Now the shelf of mud I can see down the river is only about a foot high, so the tide is rapidly turning. Soon enough, we'll be out looking for the team, and I'll be pleased to be in my own boat. Cailey is zonked out on her dog bed on the deck where there was sunshine when she laid down (mostly overcast now). I just saw a fox sparrow and a hummingbird came by earlier, though not to the feeder. It's just awfully nice to be sitting out here, surrounded by dry wood, in a t-shirt even, having gotten very overheated walking around the beach. It had started raining by midnight last night, not surprising given the brisk SE breeze that came in last night, but had stopped by morning.
I just stepped back onto the porch and suddenly there's been a shift from the high overcast, calm morning; I think this is a thin rain dimming the view and the berry leaves are beginning to tremble. I found the boat this morning is an unnerving location; from the lodge, it appeared to be right on the edge of the cut bank, lower than the top of it. Was it about to slide off into the current of another low tide (-3.4)? I thought I'd better check it out. To my surprise, it was floating at the edge of the main current, perfectly positioned. I could have departed right then! The morning was so mild I considered it briefly, but I did have my heart set on a pleasant morning on the porch to end a rigorous week, and it would have meant at least three full loads of gear across the wide expanse of mud. I have to admit, I've had enough of sliding around on the mud for one week! But that weather was tempting. I hope that this light rain will at least mean less of a chance to meet a Taku, though I recall that the trip down had a combination of driving rain AND a NE wind. I feel optimistic; perhaps the trip will go well, and I plan to stop by Dipper Creek on the way to reset the camera there.
So it's Friday, two days since the last entry. Cailey and I were on board the Ronquil around 10: 30 that morning; after hiking down there and dropping off gear, I remembered that I needed a kayak, so we wound up floating down to the boat, which had started floating amazingly fast with the rising tide. We sped over to Gilbert Bay and found the landing craft at anchor, unoccupied, although a float coat hung in the wheelhouse suggested otherwise. I tried to hail them on channel 10 as agreed, but they were evidently out of range or not monitoring, not surprisingly. The tide was flooding the wetlands, formerly exposed land sending up sizzling bubbles to alert me to their shoals. I puttered in and thought I might try to navigate up the stream on the right side of the bay, thinking I might meet the crew on their way back and offer them a ride so they didn't have to hike back or bring the landing craft in. I picked my way up for a while, weaving back and forth to find the "channel", but eventually there was no longer a channel, only a bottom of small cobbles just too shallow for my boat. Well, having nothing else to do, I thought I might kayak up and come back for the boat when there was more water; it was still three hours to high tide. I made it about 50 yards before the channel became one big riffle that was too shallow even for the kayak. I gave up and retreated and turned my attention to the mouth of Gilbert Creek with the same idea in mind. But by then, the route of the sinuous channel was masked by the rising tide and I didn't feel like picking my way up. Instead I puttered over to the outlet of Sweetheart Creek where pink salmon were endlessly finning. I gently ran into a barnacle encrusted log on the way as the swift current pushed me sideways, then I put out a short anchor among the pinks and took up position on the bow to watch them. They were finning all around me, but it took a long time for them to come close to the boat. Eventually I was able to pick out schools underwater a couple of times, but the rapidly flowing current obscured them.
At 12:45, still with no word from the crew, I decided to make better use of my time and go pick up the cameras from Whigg and Dipper creeks. To my surprise, I found a vigorous chop coming down the bay from the river that was unpleasant, then was met with equally unpleasant seas coming in from Stephen's Passage! How is that fair? We picked our way across to Whigg and found a new downed tree crossing the creek from the left, but the tide was high enough to make an easy landing. I left Cailey aboard and picked up the camera with over 300 videos stored. Then around the corner to Dipper Creek. I pulled up to the gravel and jumped out, grabbing the anchor to pull it up the beach, only to plunge thigh deep on the other side of the mound we'd landed on. I hadn't realized it was one of those undulating beaches. My plan to bring Cailey changed, as she'd have had to swim to get to shore. I hastened into the woods and found the camera face down under its tree. After scooping it up, I walked to the creek outside the trees where it was above tidal influence, gratified to see salmon holding in the shallows. The glare was such that it took some squinting to verify species (pink). I took a quick picture, then hastened back to the boat where I was relieved to find that the trough I had to walk through was still below my waders, as the boat still wouldn't pull across the dune it was on. Everything that day was seeming like a lot of work! By then in was approaching 2:00, so I hurried back to Gilbert Bay as fast as I could given the persistent wind. When I got back to the landing craft I glassed the shoreline and thought I spotted people standing at the top of a narrow beach half way up the creek on the left. I hailed the crew and they responded--Dylan and Nicole, who asked for a ride. I picked up them and their kayak, but not before letting Cailey off on their little beach; she'd then been on the boat for nearly four hours, I was surprised to realize. When she peed and sniffed around a little, I dropped them off on the landing craft. They were planning to go pick up the other crew from Gilbert Creek, but the others weren't back to the mouth yet, and I knew the whole operation would take some time, so I offered to survey one of the next creeks on the list with Nicole while Dylan did that. They had been on a marathon hike through beaver dam complexes and were clearly beat, but Nicole hopped aboard with her electrofisher and off we went to the left side of Gilbert Bay and a creek coming down the first big cleft this side of Sweetheart. The first creek we found in that area was just a little trickle coming down a surprisingly deep gorge. I anchored off shore and kayaked in, and while Nicole took a waypoint, I poked around for entrance to the creek. The high, sheer side of the outlet gorge and dense vegetation on our side caused me to search for an entrance into the woods farther down the beach where we discovered a much larger creek, clearly our intended destination. This was a pretty creek with a gentle grade and flatter rocks than some of the others we'd encountered. Cailey impressed me so much in how much she'd obviously learned about creek walking from navigating them the day before. Her confidence hopping from rock to rock and wading fast currents were impressive--she seemed downright nonchalant after the anxiety of the day before. It was an easier stream, but still required crossing multiple times and navigating slippery rocks. We caught sculpin and young cutthroat trout on the way up, then encountered several rock and log jams in front of a huge waterfall. Nicole scrambled up there to take pictures of it and I remained behind with Cailey, who probably couldn't have ascended them. I looked for new plants, photographing a saxifrage to add to the index, and enjoyed the scenery.
When Nicole and I were approaching the bottom stretch of stream (but not yet to the beach), she suggested we find the little trickle we'd first found by walking overland. It seemed like a reasonable thing to do, so I plunged into some extremely dense salmonberries, calling for bears with a voice that was getting hoarse. This area had deadfalls galore which we navigated over, under, around, plunging down the trough of a deep seasonal stream, past a large tree, and into dense currents. We kept thinking that we must be approaching that stream as the vegetation just grew thicker. A ridge loomed ahead, which had to be one side of the stream, though it seemed like we'd traveled much farther than the handful of yards that separated the stream mouths. We found wet ground there, skunk cabbage, but no stream, and so headed to the beach, getting tangled in such a mess of branches from downed trees and berry bushes that at times we were entirely stalled. Eventually we broke free to the beach and found that we were much closer to the landing craft at anchor than the Ronquil. The stream, it turned out, is not very long, and we'd crossed above its extent. The tide had dropped enough that we could walk over the stream at the bottom of the gorge through which it outlets and followed it up into the brush electrofishing. We stunned two little fish (Nicole's guess was small cutthroat), but didn't catch any, and stopped when the trickle did maybe 50 yards up. I fetched the boat, then Nicole, and then met up with the other crew who'd just finished surveying a neighboring stream. The afternoon was calm, hot, and sunny, and it felt like the end of a long day. More so for the crews who had made marathon treks through brushy marsh following streams through beaver country, catching coho and watching spawning pinks--exciting for all the additional streams and polygons to be added to the AWC, but rough walking. I was very glad I hadn't tried to take Cailey through that. I felt ashamed at my own exhausted, having surveyed just one stream, and some awe at the endurance of the crew. I admit I was a little relieved to hear them talking about heading back to the lodge so they could gather most of their gear before the tide dropped too low so they wouldn't have much to haul down the beach for a low tide departure early in the morning. But then Sweetheart resurfaced, which would mean they'd miss the chance at anything above low tide on the flats at the homestead. I wasn't much in the mood for fishing, but I did have all the gear, and figured I could at least guide them down the trails and to fishing spots, as none of them had been there before.
It was 4:30 and, by the time we'd all mustered at the shore and hiked to my fishing spot, it was after 5:00. I made several casts into the fast water in the usual spot to sort of demonstrate my technique and told them where I recommended fishing, etc. Then I climbed back up and, in a rare Sweetheart moment, got to do some bear watching. The edge of the falls upstream was occupied by a solitary animal when we got there, but not for long. Soon a sow with a very bristly forehead appeared on the top of the rocks and moved slowly and deliberately down the edge of the falls, pushing out the occupant who moved to the point downstream of us. She and her two young-of-the year cubs took up residence and she caught a few fish while we watched. A very serious looking boar was sitting on his haunches just across the creek and another fished downriver. It looked like the other folks wanted to stay and fish (they'd caught a few already) and Nicole and I were beat, so I left my net with the fishermen and she and I headed out. We encountered a brown bear walking our way on the second of the two riparian meadows on the way back and, after some discussion, decided to retreat up the trail, but he found a fish and headed into the woods to eat it. Before we entered the woods to cross the peninsula ourselves, we counted four bears visible farther downstream. That was at least nine total.
The three of us arrived back at the lodge around 7:20. We had quick dinners and some wine and called it a night just after the others got back close to 9:00. Everyone had caught some fish, 14 total.
I'd left before they'd finalized plans for the morning. Their original thought had been to leave at 6:00 am to avoid the low tide debacle of that morning and take off when their surveys were finished. Nicole suggested a more modest departure for surveys and a return mid-day to pick up gear on the rising tide and also help me with moving the outhouse, my secret request which I'd hastily shared as soon as they'd asked if they could help me with anything. When I woke up it was 7:00 and I felt reasonably well rested, so I got dressed and headed to the lodge. I didn't really expect them to still be there, but they were still breakfasting and getting ready to go. They'd opted for Nicole's idea and I'd been wrong about the time; it was 6:00 when I got up. After they left I walked the sandbars, upriver and then downriver, finding the vertical shelf up to five feet high at the far end. Cailey lingered behind, though she'd sprung out of bed enthusiastically in the morning.
The crew came back around 10:30 and we knocked out the outhouse project in short order, several of us pushing and shifting on one side while the others helped from the opposite side. We inched it forward and to the side several times until it was in its old position, then removed a couple of rocks from under one side and added a rock and a piece of lumber under the other side until it was magically level. My outhouse is back in business! Later I came back to close the gaps exposed on the sides with rocks. It's a relief to have that small project done. The crew packed up quickly after that and headed out, bringing the landing craft to the edge of the flats in front of the lodge. They were, understandably, anxious to get underway in case the weather kicked up, with much to do once back in town. I sent them with five gallons of gas just in case they needed it and told that that at least the wind wasn't yet really coming down the river, which would indicate a strong Taku wind. As it was, the forecast was calling for the same NE wind that had kicked me on the way down.
It was with some relief that I watched the crew take off. Like any guests, it was wonderful to have them there and not unpleasant to see them go! I ate a quesadilla and then came inside for a nap with Cailey on the couch. She looked as content and worn out as I did! When I woke up, the tide was high and the wind was raging down the river like it had been when I'd arrived. Big swells arced down the water and the Ronquil was rocking up and down at anchor. I felt badly for the crew out there! I'd psyched myself up for a Sweetheart run that morning, but I admit that the wind and the idea of kayaking through it decreased my enthusiasm and I reconsidered calling it for the year as I'd thought about in my more exhausted moments in the previous few days. But I did still have ice (I'd checked that morning) and, if the crew had caught some yesterday, there was a chance I would as well. Six fish would be a nice little addition to the freezer if I could pull that off. I took Cailey to Hermit Thrush with a bowl of dog food and a peanut-buttered hoof at 3:30, donned my waders, and paddled out to the boat. The paddling was easy, entering the rocking boat a little trickier. Thankfully those wicked winds were behind me, white capping at the end of the inlet and following me all the way to the end of Gilbert Bay. The crew had watched the two boats at anchor there this morning depart, so I was disappointed to see another at anchor and an inflatable rounding the peninsula into the creek. Perhaps they were fishing the lower creek? Maybe I'd beat them to my point? The latter hope diminished when I neared the shore and realized that I'd left the bear mace back on the boat. Everything else was tucked inside my dry bag, but I had that out so I could carry it as soon as I got to shore, but it hadn't made it to the kayak. I'd anchored conservatively, so was pretty far out and I was now paddling against those steady seas.
But in all it was only about a six minute detour. I kayaked up almost to the edge of the woods and left my kayak in the grass, trekking across the peninsula calling to the bears with my increasingly hoarse voice. I found the inflatable at the ADF&G sign on the creek and the owners at my fishing spot. Shucks. There were four guys there, one of whom was on bear watch on the top of the point. He was very pleasant and we chatted a while about their day on the creek and the weather (I warned him about Taku Inlet based on the winds I'd just seen) and then I gently asked how long he thought they might be there. They'd already caught about 85 fish and were steadily catching more, so he thought maybe 5:00. It was then 4:15, so that was a reasonable wait. Again I got down to some serious bear watching. Bristles the sow was on her same ledge and another sow with twin young-of-the-year cubs was on the point downriver, the cubs so golden they looked like little grizzlies. While I waited, a very serious bear came over our point and stopped about 20 feet away when I yelled, standing in profile and not looking at me. His whole demeanor suggested that he was intensely frustrated and perhaps at the edge of breaking. I could easily imagine him turning to me and huffing impatiently. He stood there immobile for some time, then turned and headed in the opposite direction. As I waited for him to reappear on the other side of the point, I alerted the group who were dealing with their mess of fish on the little ledge on the downstream side, which bears often visit. He continued to the next point downriver, though, and soon he was one of three individual bears there that replaced the sow and cubs.
At 5:00 they let me know I could fish. Two of them left while I got ready to fish and the other two stood on the ledge downstream, probably waiting for a sign from the others, though I wasn't paying close enough attention to tell. I got everything ready--mace, bonker, stringer, knife, and made my first tentative and not very good cast into the green pool. I'd watched the others catching regularly--all sockeyes it seemed--and was at least optimistic there were fish there if this group was still catching after taking about 100 out, plus whatever the two groups before them had caught. Amazingly, the pinks just weren't there as they almost always are in great numbers at this time of year. My three casts of the day before had been bust...but this first cast was not. It held three silvery sockeyes, which were soon bled and strung and sitting in the bleeding hole. I smiled at the two guys and said it was a good start. It was! I was half way to my vague goal of six fish. On the second cast I caught two sockeyes, in the third cast, one sockeye. So I had my six! Much as I loathed the thought of carrying them out, it was impossible to stop there and not go for my maximum of ten (based on what I can reasonably carry our). The fourth cast was empty, the fifth had one sockeye and a pink, the sixth a jack (which I let go), the seventh a sockeye. As I made the eighth cast, which was one of my better ones, I thought that if I got two sockeye, I would be done! But I had three fish....including a pink. I had my ten sockeyes. It had been 30 minutes. Amazing! I was stringing the last two fish when the two guys finally left. I bled the last two for a little while, clipped their fins, filled out my permit, slid them into my dry bag, and packed everything else into my little backpack to put across my front. I couldn't believe how fortunate I was. Had the water dropped a little overnight? Had a big group of sockeyes come in in the last 24 hours? With eight casts, I hardly had time to get back into the groove of casting and improve my throws, so I suspect than in another half an hour I probably would have limited out. Some day I'll have to do, when I have more hauling power!
I had plenty as it was. I slung both backpacks on and started up the
crevasse to the top of the point. Close to where it begins to level
my right foot slipped on the wet ground over bedrock and my left shin
slammed down on a root. It took a few moments for the pain to ease and
for me to gain enough balance and strength to get back up. Yelling for
the bears, I crept up the trail, resting briefly on the two logs I had
to straddle, and noticing the sow and two cubs eating fish in the woods
just upstream. I felt no concern at all in passing them so closely; the
mother was clearly confident and in control. The rest of the way was
torture, the bag pulling down on my aching shoulders. My breath became
increasingly short until I found that my bear yelling was getting
sparser and softer. It felt like all I could do to trudge the last few
meters to my kayak and slump the bag to the ground. It didn't help that
I was hot and drenched in sweat, having put on a fleece and raincoat to
combat the chill and the drizzle as I'd waited for the group to leave.
I hadn't taken it off while fishing, and didn't think to do so for the
hike back. I stripped down to a t-shirt and rested a few moments before
packing everything in the kayak and heading for the water. The tide had
dropped dramatically in the two hours I'd been gone and I gratefully
accepted the help of one of the guys who'd been waiting by the water
for a pickup. He carried the back half of the kayak while I pulled from
and soon enough I was wishing them good luck on the trip back and
paddling on the now-calm Gilbert Bay to my boat. I hoped that the
stillness was a good portent for their trip. I was certainly pleased to
have the seas laying down.
arrived back at the boat at 6:00 and started cleaning fish, eventually
making use of the bathmat I had on board to prevent the slipping. It
brilliantly. Much of the ice was slushy by then, so I bathed the fish
in slush and filled their bellies with ice. I think I was back at the
homestead by 7:00, eager to clean up and have a feast of chili and
wine. Cailey was happy to see me. I sat out on the porch overlooking
the still inlet and ate my supper, pretty utterly content and so glad
that I'd made it to Sweetheart again. I was feeling so celebratory that
I used one of the big wine glasses, but, as I feared, it didn't
balance as well on the corner of the porch couch and eventually fell
when I shifted, splashing wine on my quilt. But that didn't impede my
contentedness and I went to bed happily. It
felt good to get back to reading and my usual Snettisham life,
especially after convincing myself that I can, in fact, still go
adventuring on my own! I confess that part of my motivation for going
back to Sweetheart Creek was to prove to myself that I still had
adventure game in me after watching the intimidating energy of the AWC
crew (most of whom were, admittedly, in their 20s).
Surprisingly, I didn't sleep in too much the next morning. For once, there was no last-day anxiousness. I had plenty of time, the chores were unthreatening. It probably didn't hurt that it was Friday and I'd have a weekend at home when I got back, but I think it was mostly that I'd been there for sufficient time to feel settled. Like I'd lived there, like closing up was just a little more cleaning to tidy the place before I got back. I even have a list now of closing chores so I don't forget anything. So I cleaned up Hermit Thrush, leaving the windows and door open to continue airing things out. I'd done the same the day before until Cailey came over and was disappointed to see no less fog on the windows that morning, but it still seemed like a good idea. At the lodge I stopped myself from doing too much cleaning before making breakfast and tea. I did go to visit the boat, though, as it was sitting at the edge of the sandbars, but somewhat lower than the top of the sandbar it seemed to be on. Was it hanging off? Sliding in? It seemed level, but definitely bore checking out. And that's when I found my perfect boat laying gently at anchor against the cut bank (only about a foot tall there). The inlet was still as can be, the sky a high overcast. Who knows what weather would come up later in the day. It was tempting, but I opted against an early departure.
And so I had a perfectly pleasant time on the porch, if still a little eerily quiet in terms of bird life. Here are the notes I took while sitting there before my battery died: I watched a plump juvenile hermit thrush--his head as well as his breast spotted--grab a big blue current and fly away with her prize. Twice yesterday I watched a mouse climbing in the same branches on the downriver side of the porch for the same purpose, though my movement scared him away both times before I saw him pick any. One of the crew saw a mouse on the porch a few nights ago, which makes sense since I'm sure I leave crumbs here. Interested to know, though, since I see them so rarely. I finally saw a couple chickadees this morning, which I've been hearing on and off, and the flycatcher has charmingly stopped by a few times. I'd seen a hummingbird a few days earlier again, but not at the feeder, and hadn't seen any since the crew arrived.
Later in the morning I covered those gaps on the sides of the outhouse and then decided to take their doors off. Refinishing them was on the agenda this summer, but it was never dry enough, especially the door that had lain on the ground so long. My mother had made gorgeous signs for them (Schist and Gneiss) to match the signs on the cabins, but I didn't want to put them up until the refinishing was done. I grabbed my socket set and unscrewed the lag screws that held the two hinges to the lodge's outhouse and carried it inside, replacing it with a piece of old plywood tied on. I did the same for the other outhouse. Hopefully they'll be dry enough the next time I'm there to sand and stain on the porch if the weather is wet.
For lunch I made an enormous quesadilla with the huge tortillas the crew left behind, figuring I would need fuel for a long ride home, and drank a last cold beer from the cooler. While it cooked I did more closing chores, including packing up the nonfunctional modem to take back to town. When I stepped back onto the porch, I was taken aback by the shift in the weather. A strong and gusty breeze was coming in off Gilbert Bay, shaking the berry bushes and showing the pale undersides of Nigel Cottonwood's leaves. It was not a great sign. In the hopes that the front would be the worst part and that the gusts might diminish, I lingered another hour before heading out.
And that is the last thing I wrote for that trip, so I don't recall what the trip back was like. I think it was okay, though!
Here there be