Snettisham 2021 - 6: A Week at the End of Summer
September 19 - 25


Stephen's Passage on the ride down

Photo Album

It's nearly 7:00 pm, which means I'll find Hermit Thrush chilly when I arrive there later this evening. I brought a water bottle along this time, though, a spontaneous purchase from a few weeks ago, and plan to take it to take the chill off the bed while the cabin heats up! We closed up the Taku cabin last weekend and I secretly hoped that the weather this weekend would prohibit travel so I could have a weekend off. Although I was less tired the second weekend at the Taku, I was still pretty worn out, running on adrenaline, a little afraid to stop lest I grind to a halt and be unable to start again. I looked back and realized that I'd spent two weekends in Juneau since mid-June. But it's September, and in September you need to take weather windows where they appear and, as the week diminished, Sunday shone as a clear invitation to be on the water. Saturday was gorgeous--sunny and warm, a lovely fall day--but the breeze out of the Taku and the need to prepare and the better forecast on Sunday kept me in town. It was a mellow day, mostly getting ready for the trip, but with some leisure and a nice walk on the wetlands with Ezra thrown in. Having most of the day on Friday off of work was very helpful in getting a little rest.

And so this morning I took off at 10:00 on an utterly calm channel under a low overcast sky. I'd expected sunshine, but the clouds hovered well over the mountain tops, providing some stunning scenes on the way where the sun shone through. I thoroughly expected flat calm seas all the way, so I was a little taken aback to encounter seas at the end of the channel. I soon discerned that they were coming from the Taku and, sure enough, turned behind me at Arden and mellowed as we approached Taku Harbor, the lingering effects of yesterday's wind. I saw gulls and probably a pair of murres, but again not a single whale. I've seen so few whales this year. Perhaps they are all partying in the relative quiet of Glacier Bay and its lack of cruise ships for most of the summer. As we turned into the port, a new breeze came in from behind us, which was surprising, and pulled into the port in a strong breeze coming in off Gilbert Bay. I was grateful I hadn't waited any longer to leave! Perhaps the storm scheduled for tomorrow was coming early. The tide was high and we pulled up about five feet from the log, unloading on the handy rocks that Rob placed earlier in the summer.

The sun was shining as I unloaded the boat and anchored up. I used the silly new 2-wheel cart for one load and found it not as unhelpful as I expected. Everything was just as I left it and I soon had the lodge open and was partially unpacked. Unfortunately, I found that we were low on water, but I was so hungry that I stopped for a simple lunch of havarti, bread, and potato chips and a little rest on the porch before hiking up to the water barrel with Cailey and a hoe. I found that the creek was simply lower, and the section of dam just behind the olive barrel washed out. While I worked, Cailey took her usual position sitting on the trail nearby and watching downhill. I started with the simple approach of shoring up the dam, but try as I might I could not get water to flow through the hose. Exasperated, I finally pulled the barrel to the side and scraped out its hollow and, finally, the whole hose was submerged. Still I could not get water to flow, but I decided I'd see if it was a matter of letting the hose breathe, so I descended to Hermit Thrush and opened the valve there to a satisfying and endless gush of water. I opened up Hermit Thrush and returned to the lodge where I cozied up on the porch and, at last, turned to my book. I'd been half hoping to savor the moment when Belgarion is revealed as the king of Riva while sitting on the porch, and so I did (re-enjoying a novel from my middle school days). The sun was surprisingly hot and the breeze, though causing strange lapping sounds where the waves hit the shore, didn't seem to hit the porch, and I was hot. Wearing three layers on top and two on the bottom, I soon began to shed them and, eventually, wound up in nothing but my underwear. As soon as the sun slid behind a cloud, however, which was only a few minutes after the last layer went off, the chill returned and I began relayering. Meanwhile, I was progressing in my book and enjoying the periodic arrival of fall birds. First a wren chipped from the upriver bushes, then some lively chickadees came through, later a golden-crowned kinglet made a rare lingering appearance in the bushes, and a pair of ducks paused briefly in the flooded grasses. The most mysterious visitor sang quietly in the berries, snippets of whisper songs. At first I thought it might be a young song sparrow doing a fall song, but I kept hearing bits of ruby-crowned kinglet song in there until I determined that it could be none other. I caught one glimpse that revealed the right body size and white wing bars. I've never heard a ruby-crowned kinglet whisper sing in the fall! He also let out a number of characteristic chips between songs.

Eventually I grew weary and curled up in my blanket, managing to unexpectedly doze for a while. Eventually I got up to make a rice and beans packet for dinner and light a fire, finishing unpacking and working on trip report photos while it cooked. Now I'm back on the porch as the light rapidly fades. The wind has totally died and I'm looking out at a dim, calm inlet at low tide while birds occasionally sweep by in the dusk. Given the forecast, this is probably the evening to sit up late and wait for the night to come, though I know it'll be chilly in the cabin. Although, tomorrow I can sleep in!

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It was a quiet evening as it darkened--surprisingly early! But the event I'd been waiting for did happen, just as it did the last time I stayed up on the porch in August. A raptor flew by from upriver into or around the trees at the eagle nest with steady wingbeats. Do I really have a resident owl? Could a hawk or falcon be heading home consistently at dusk to a night time perch? But no such raptor I've seen here has such steady beats.  And with that encounter I filled my hot water bottle and trudged to Hermit Thrush carrying my bag of clothes, bear mace, backpack, and lantern. Before long I was tucked in bed reading with my hot water bottle while the cabin heated up. Eventually I grew tired of the two books I'd brought and turned to my phone on which I'd started Stranger in a Strange Land, and that straight-forward old school science fiction did the trick until I was sleepy enough for bed. I slept reasonably well, and warm, and apparently Cailey did too. We got up at 8:30 and soon headed out for a COASST walk on a very low tide. Seals rested on the sandbar across the river and
upriver the flats seemed to stretch forever. It had started lightly raining shortly after I'd gone to bed, but I don't think it started steadily coming down until around the time we got up. The forecasted wind I was expecting had not yet manifested, but the rain was quite steady. I found that a bit of the bank upriver of the grassy point had recovered, so the channel wasn't quite as close to the rocks, and enjoyed the incised channels over the mud on the way. Otherwise it was a quiet walk. I had breakfast as I watched--instant oatmeal and a nectarine I had high hopes for but which turned out to be starting to rot inside. Then, the long-awaited jasmine tea on the porch with a book. The tide was rapidly rising and the boat was well afloat and I was enjoying myself, though the tea was a bit on the weak and bitter side. About half way through it, I paused in my reading and glanced out over the inlet and saw the unmistakable fin of a killer whale descending beneath the surface across the river. .....! I watched for several minutes as I hastily finished my tea, seeing the orca a few times at the mouth of the river. Hunting seals? Hunting cohos? I gathered binoculars, camera, leatherman, SPOT, fishing pole, and a couple of boat blankets for Cailey and we paddled out to the Ronquil. As we went, the orca in the river was rapidly moving out to Gilbert Bay, splashing each time as though porpoising. Was I missing a hunt?? I caught up with them just inside Gilbert Bay, a large male and female/juvenile (I'll just call them females from here on out). They were angling across Gilbert Bay toward the back corner. I tried to get a few pictures of the large male, who had a tall, wavy, unmarked dorsal fin (as far as I could tell). Photographing was tricky, as the rain was coming down steadily and everything was wet and got wet as soon as it was exposed. I had one wad of dry toilet paper and cleaned the lens as well as I could every time I used it, but it was getting progressively soggy.

The wind, however, was dead calm, and I was very grateful for that. The behavior of the orcas was very similar to the way the pod I saw last September behaved--spread out around Gilbert Bay, moving erratically, very had to pin down. Were they trying to avoid me, or were they moving for another reason? I saw at least six individuals in various places including what I thought were two additional males, but only got decent looks at the first male and one female. One tail slapped a few times and rolled on her side, some distance in front of me. I finally found myself at the back of Gilbert Bay and encountered a cow and calf moving along shore who soon turned back toward the river mouth and picked up speed. No other orcas were in sight, while before I'd seen them on and off in the distance, so I figured they were the tail end of the group. I tried to take a few pictures while giving them their space, never sure if I was just capturing a smudge of rainwater, and then picked up speed and cruised straight out toward Sentinel Point, wondering if there were more orcas there that they might be meeting up with, including the other large male I'd seen from a distance. I stopped and waited for a while, but saw and heard nothing, so headed back toward the river. And there I found the group, at the mouth, and suddenly there were orcas everywhere milling around. As I got a few photos of the second male, the rest suddenly turned and headed in my direction to pass by River Point. On the dead calm, green water covered in raindrops just beyond the point, the elusive orcas suddenly turned congenial. Mostly in pairs, they turned from shore and swam all around me, one amazing female coming right along the boat a couple of times while I was shut down. A small orca porpoised and then the first large male (I think) breached in my direction and I had a momentary glimpse of him sideways in the air, facing me. It was magical and exciting. Perhaps they'd had their fill of coho in the river and were feeling more relaxed? They were certainly close together again, unlike their time in Gilbert Bay, three females together and the first large male taking up the rear [maybe AG24]. There was also the cow and calf, a lone orca with a triangular-shaped fin, another pair including one with a distinct nick in the bottom of her dorsal fin [possibly AG32], and the other large male. I would call them about a dozen. None had obvious markings in their saddle patches to name them resident or transient, but the size and behavior suggests resident to me. After they passed, I decided to head down the coast to see if I could track down the source of a blow I'd seen several times in the distance, a large blow that I figured was from another large male well ahead of the others. I zoomed alone, beginning to think that my quarry had probably rounded the point and was out of sight, when I spotted a blow fading closer to shore on my right. I stopped and waited until he came up again....wait....is that two orcas next to each other? But only one has a fin and it's very small.... aha! It was a humpback, my first in Snettisham all summer! He or she arched high and dove. Hoping to see them again, I stayed put, only to have the orcas catch up to me, now somewhat more disbursed. Several turned over toward shore where they milled around a little while the others moved on. Were they looking for cohos going to those little streams? One can hope! As they neared the point on the way to Speel Arm, I reluctantly left them on the placid sea and turned for home, never having seen the humpback again. My hands were nearly numb and Cailey was soaked to the skin, and my equipment was badly in need of drying! We returned to find a very brisk northerly coming down the river, rocking us more than a little as we anchored the boat and paddled to shore, which was very curious.

And that was our adventure for the day. I was pleased at how warm I was on the water and how enjoyable it was once I was suited up despite the steady, heavy rain, a good sign for getting things done later in this rainy week. After lighting a fire and taking care of my equipment, I ate some mac and cheese that had expired in 2014 and then picked up some dry clothes from Hermit Thrush, as nearly everything I had on was wet enough to warrant changing. It took days to dray everything out around the stove. After sending some happy emails and drinking a cup of cafe francais, I curled up on the couch with Cailey and read for a good long time. It was a wonderful time, an adventure behind me and no obligations. I could hear the rain clearly on the roof now as I haven't in a long time now that the rooftop forest has been removed. Later, I downloaded all the photos off my phone since early August, sorted out all the ones I want for trip reports, and resized them. Perhaps I'll get trip reports up a little earlier this year. Oh, and I also downloaded and perused the orca photos off my camera, which were surprisingly good, even capturing the face of the friendly female while still beneath the water. Magnificent. Now I'm on the porch at dusk as the breeze is picking up and the rain seems to be getting heavier. A huge log that's been lurking in the river appears to be stranded on a sandbar, but the high tide tonight will no doubt shift it off. It's actually raining so hard now it's a little alarming as the dark intensifies. About an hour ago I started the stove in Hermit Thrush in an attempt to dry it out, as the windows and walls were covered with condensation this morning. My hope is to open the windows when I get there--and periodically this evening--to try to release some of the wet air. It's now 7:19 and getting quite dark, so I think I'll retire to Hermit Thrush for the night. I'm feeling strangely uneasy out here in the rain and the dark.

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The storm finally arrived mid-afternoon, following some of the heaviest rain I have ever experienced. Not only was it unceasing but, at its mildest, it was heavy and at its heaviest it was a downpour. I woke up around 8:00 and, since it's my vacation and the rain was heavy on the roof, I went back to bed and finished one of my vacation books. So I started my day a little later than yesterday and by the time I fed Cailey and hastened down to the boat, the tide was rising rapidly. The Ronquil had been pulled as usual to the edge of the cut bank and was hanging over it at an angle that caused the water to pool up in the back, flooding a whole corner of the main floor as well as the fuel tank well. All suited up for the drenching rain, I watched the water course out of the scupper and into the water in the channel below for a while and then wandered downriver to the end of the flats and back. It took about eight minutes for the water to drain and by then the river was only a few inches from the hole rather than the foot or so it started at. I was pleased to see the boat floating high and riding the seas coming down the river well shortly thereafter.

In the meantime, I'd decided on pancakes for breakfast. I often avoid these for the extra trouble they are and today's experience didn't help that general impression. First I mixed buttermilk pancake mix with a buckwheat mix in an effort to use up the latter, which was a mistake, as buckwheat seems to suck flavor out of everything. I used the juice in a can of cherries and added half the fruit to the mix as well as milk powder, baking soda, and sugar, but the results were not only somewhat bland but also rather soggy. And I'd made so much that it took a long time to cook them all and there are many leftovers for snacks. While they cooked I coaxed out some of the rock-like instant decaf coffee goo and, after I ate two pancakes inside, I frothed the coffee goo (soaked in hot water to dissolve it) with some evaporated milk and sugar and added more water to make a passable coffee drink, enjoyed on the porch with my book. It was pleasant sitting out there tucked under a quilt with Cailey next to me tucked under a blanket as the wet world became wetter. I saw and heard a wren and few other birds chirped and flew by including a small hawk who landed briefly upriver in the woods before moving on. Sharp-shinned? A couple of eagles soared unexpectedly over the inlet in the pouring rain.

When I was chilled I came inside and lit a fire and enjoyed a quesadilla for lunch (having decided that the mac and cheese from yesterday was too stale when eaten cold), which had a satisfying warmth and familiarity to it. Despite being a bit cold, I had a delicious beer with lunch and noted with interest that the mist in the inlet had cleared off and I could see mountaintops at the same time that that inexplicable north wind had ceased. By the time I'd suited up to work outside, though, the rain had descended again and the visibility diminished. I thought I might just putter around and do odds and ends that needed to be done, and this I did for a couple of hours, getting my rain gear very wet and dirty but staying mostly dry myself with the exception of my hair, which was once again soaking wet. In no particular order, I added a gallon or more of diesel to the fuel tank at Hermit Thrush, pulled the tarp over Schist outhouse, cleared the season's debris from around both outhouses and all the cabins so it doesn't build up to saturate the walls, cleared the stream channel around the shed to drain the water, clipped overhanging vegetation here and there around the property, trimmed the spruce branches around the upriver no hunting sign, drilled holes in a new no hunting sign and placed it just upslope from the existing one (hopefully one will survive the winter), scrubbed the benches of both outhouses with a hot simple green solution (the seat and bench in Schist was covered in a thick layer of brown fungus, which I'd begun removing with handiwipes this morning), and picked up the water filters from Harbor Seal. All in all, it was a good set of chores and I was pleased, and pleased to return to the lodge where the wood I'd left in the stove was still simmering. Before I came inside I rewarded my efforts with a passionfruit LaCroix from the freshet (somewhat flat) and some more gratuitous reading. Around 4:00 I came inside, turned on the inverter, wrote a few emails and began a letter to a friend while my laptop charged. For dinner I made tiki masala from a Tasty Bite packet of spices, marinade, and simmer sauce with bison, carrots, broccoli, and green beans and toast, which was delicious with a few small glasses of red wine.

The south wind had started blowing in shortly after I finished my outside work and now the couch outside is covered in rain, which is why I'm inside writing this by the picture window. Strangely, the storm has also diminished the rain recently and I can now see what appears to be cloudless sky over the mountains of the Snettisham Peninsula, or at least high overcast. At 6:30 I went over to Hermit Thrush to start the stove and continue to dry it out. Last night I got up several times to wipe the condensation off the windows, which returned each time I did so, though less so as the evening went on. I tossed the damp paper towels outside. I was very pleased to find that only about 30% of the windows were fogged over this morning, which is a vast improvement, so I am going to repeat the process tonight. As I was waiting for the fuel to flow into the stove and then waiting to make sure the fire had taken hold, I sat by the upslope window and read a little by the light of an electric candle and, when I got up, I felt like my pants were damp. I think it's possible that the whole down comforter is a bit damp from contact with the walls and I might carry it to the lodge tomorrow to dry out a little. Thankfully, it is still warm at night, apparently for both Cailey on top and myself underneath. It's really funny running out of daylight at 7:30 and going to "bed", thinking about how our lives changed with electricity. Last night I brought my tablet along and tried to watch the end of a Taskmaster episode, but the roaring of the rain on the roof was too loud to hear it well. I wound up watching an Archer, barely able to hear its audio, and eventually finished the Taskmaster episode by holding it up to my ear to hear. Tonight I'm not feeling nearly as anxious about the impending darkness as I was last night, perhaps because of this bright sky over Gilbert Bay, and might stay here a little longer. Maybe I'll see if I can find a dry towel for the couch outside and enjoy this unexpected sky as it darkens.

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I did spend a little time outside, watching the great grey clouds rush across the sky, changing shape as they intruded upon the clear sky between the mountains. A few stars flickered into view above me, seen through a gap in the spruce boughs, but as the sky darkened the clouds covered more of the sky toward Gilbert Bay. And then, just as I'd hoped, a huge star appeared over the ridge across the river--unblinking, it was surely a planet. I fetched the spotting scope and identified Saturn with its rings. Tickled, I watched it for a while and took a couple of photos through the scope, then packed up my things and headed to Hermit Thrush under a rainless sky.

At 8:45 I'd just picked up my novel to read, the cabin lit only by an oil lamp and the flashlight in my lap. It was dark outside. Suddenly, there was a bright flash outside the windows on the river side. Either someone had just flashed a strobe light at the cabin or.....lightening! Could it be? Sure enough, thunder soon boomed through the cabin, alarming poor Cailey from her doze beside me. I've heard thunder only a handful of times in Alaska, and not for maybe eight years, and never here. I pulled on a hoody and boots and headed to the point. On the way, another flash through the trees and thunder about ten seconds later. On the point I extinguished my flashlight and stood there on the dark river, only able to see vague outlines of the river and mountains. I was looking toward Gilbert Bay when the third flash came; I saw no lightning streak, but it was light a large flash bulb had gone off in my eyes--everything was silver white for a moment, and a great rumbling boom followed, to Cailey's consternation, who went to a nearby crevasse. I waited for several minutes for another flash, then headed back to the cabin, to Cailey's relief. Instead of coming back on the bed, she laid down on the rug on the floor and wouldn't budge. A fourth and final flash came maybe 10 minutes later. So cool!

The rest of the night was colder than usual. My initial optimism about the drying cabin diminished when I found all windows fogged up upon arrival that night, after the stove had been on for an hour and a half or more, and kept refogging when I tried to dry them off. I was chilly all night and remained so even after washing the dishes when I got to the lodge, my cold hands eagerly cupping the jasmine tea I drank on the porch afterwards. I was just thinking that it was time to go in and light a fire when I realized that the tide was rapidly rising and if I wanted to give Cailey a walk on the flats, now was the time, since I was planning to leave her behind on a potential fishing trip in the afternoon. Suited up, it was pleasant walking upriver, revisiting the grassy point and listening to chickadees on the way back. Before I unsuited, I did a few errands including nailing on the plywood around the back porch to protect it from splashes all winter, planting the forget-me-not plants I'd brought down in the hope of flowers next summer, and digging the potatoes, which was very satisfying. The accidental potato that had planted itself after the bear knocked over the pot produced one large and one medium potato--not bad! The single potato in the pot along the rocky path produced several large potatoes and a handful of medium and tiny potatoes.

After that I did come inside, had a quesadilla and Pacifico, and then got ready for fishing. I'd picked up all the gear I needed to try fishing with eggs in the river and set about making little egg sacs from fine netting, miracle thread, and sockeye eggs. This was fun and seemed to work pretty well, and I packed my tackle box with a ziplock of about eight little egg sacs and secured some to hooks on my fishing rod. After I tucked Cailey in the cabin, pre-warmed, I kayaked out on the rocky river to the boat and puttered over to a deep channel, or what I thought was one, in the middle of the river. The tackle seemed to work pretty well, but I quickly became bored and disillusioned. There was no nibble for ten minutes and the river was very brown with runoff from the heavy rain, so I headed across a very choppy Gilbert Bay to Upsidedown Horse Creek, the mouth of which I found to be totally flooded by the high tide. I pulled in and anchored in the tannin water coming out, dropping my eggs overboard after squeezing them a bit to bring out more juices. It was a lovely spot, and I noticed that there's a single cottonwood tree growing along the banks which I hadn't noticed before, but I grew bored again. I guess fishing with bait is just not my cup of tea. I left my rod where I could keep an eye on it and starting casting with my other one, which was a lot more fun, but had similar results. So I abandoned the operation and got in the kayak, paddling up the creek as far as I could until the rocks and the current stopped me, just next to the flood plain that I'd found populated with paintbrush of divers colors in July. A charming dipper sat upon the rocks in the middle of the creek and, after watching me a while, moved to a side channel and ducked his face in the water a few times. It looks like wonderful habitat for him.

I did note that not far upstream a large cluster of huge logs blocked the creek, which dissuaded me from the idea of hiking up. Instead, I glided back to the mouth of the creek and paddled over to Daisy Beach, which was almost entirely flooded, looking for but not finding daisy plants underwater. Lots of silverweed in fall colors, though. On the way back I decided to go ashore and see if I could access the creek beyond the deadfall by cutting through the peninsula of land on the left side of the creek, since it makes a sharp left turn not far from the beach. I drug my kayak up onto shore, tied it to an alder, and plunged into the forest. It was fairly easy going over flat land, a flood plain perhaps, with large spruces and devil's club, easy to step through in rain gear. The characteristic Southeast Alaska shoreline cliffs rose to my left but this whole area was delightfully flat. I passed a couple of large pools of water, one which seemed seasonal since the vegetation underneath was the same as on the dry forest floor, the other of which was inhabited by skunk cabbage. As I neared the creek I merged with a bear trail with lots of scat and, soon, lots of decomposed fish heads. Lots of them. When I broke out of the forest it was onto a ledge of grass that was wholly trompled by bear feet and covered with old pink heads. It was next to a relatively mellow riffle that had seen a lot of fishing activity. Upstream, the creek gained a little elevation and flowed more swiftly. I took a few pictures and retreated, finding areas around the base of trees that had been heavily dug up, the reasons unclear. I had been making a lot of noise and continued to do so, and I admit to a certain relief in gaining the beach again, though it's clear that the pink fishing is long over. I wonder if they ever fish for cohos, and if they already came through, or not yet?

On the way to the boat I popped the depth sounder back in position off the stern and hopped aboard. The wind had died down, so I zoomed up Gilbert Bay with the idea of halibut fishing for a few minutes on the way back. I stopped when the kayak seemed eager to slide off the boat, and that happened to be in 100 feet of water, which is more or less what I was after. Not eager to pull up an anchor from 100 or 150 or 300 feet of water, I was going to drift, so I repositioned into 90 feet of water after I managed to get a chunk of sockeye head and a large clump of eggs onto the halibut line. Dropping it down was fun, but I quickly grew bored and irritated as I continually had to let out line as I drifted. I know that's not the way to do it, but I'm just not up for doing it the right way, and I soon hauled it up. Similarly, the idea of being obligated to come back to Gilbert Bay tomorrow to check a personal use line was enough to turn me away from that idea, though setting it would only have taken a moment. If the weather were warmer, the wind calmer, the days longer, I think I could be persuaded, but it's fall and cold and windy and I either have to take Cailey on a boring, wet, cold boat ride or tuck her away in Hermit Thrush. Most of the time I was out it was dry and I could see termination dust on the mountain above the avalanche across the river, on the top of the mountain above Upsidedown Horse Creek, and quite a lot on a mountain just up the Whiting River. It feels like yesterday saw a shift to cooler temperatures. It's hard to believe I had to strip to bear the sunshine just three days ago! Although the fishing was disappointing and made me feel stupid and foolish, I did enjoy the uneasy foray to the creek, the paddle, the view of the yellow alpine on the mountaintops, and a blow from that lone humpback out toward the entrance to the port.

Cailey was happy to see me when I got back. It was 4:30 and we were both hungry, so I fed her (including half the leftover mac and cheese) and finished the curry from last night, chased by a couple pieces of toast while I worked on my Mongolia puzzle, and then a cup of hot chocolate, which I'm still working on. I have a roaring fire going for the first time this week, not that I need it (though my hands are still recovering from the fishing trip), but to work on that down comforter, which I'd fetched when I picked up Cailey. I have it hanging just in front of the open door in the front between the couch and the rocking chair and for a while it was steaming heavily. Perhaps this will help the dampness and chill in the cabin.

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In fact, the windows in the cabin were inexplicably mist-free when we arrived and the whole place felt drier. I was so warm during the night that I almost considered taking my pajamas off. I woke up at 7:00 and went back to bed, totally reveling in the warmth of the comforter (now with blanket over the top) and the cozy morning. The rain had returned in earnest and the windows were fogged over, but it was oh so comfortable and felt like a vacation. Things didn't go particularly well after I woke up, and I wound up returning to the cabin for dry clothes after I make a trip down to the Ronquil, once again perched on the side of a gully (this time a stream bed), to drain the water out. It only too six minutes this time, but by then my pants were about 2/3rds wet from the driving rain and splashing mud. Foolish of me to go down there without rainpaints, but I thought it would be a short trip.

After that I pretty much settled into my rainy day off! I had an instant breakfast and then continued work on my trip reports. For the last several years, it's been mid-winter by the time I post them, but since I have internet here and plenty of time, I thought it would be fun to get a head start. Earlier in the week I selected and resized all the photos, so today I sat in my internet chair under the windows, uploaded them all into google photo albums, captioned them, and inserted links to the albums and a couple of pictures into each trip report. I actually did that in a couple of stages, not finishing until about 3:00 this afternoon and finally came close to draining the first of the batteries. It stopped briefly, then started up again and ran for maybe 20 minutes or half an hour after I unplugged the laptop, so I switched batteries at the very end. Meanwhile, I managed the fire all day, burning up the dregs of the woodbox that has accumulated since it was installed, including many small bits of wood, grass, what might have been a mouse nest, and a lot of wood dust that had occupied the bottom three inches or so of the box. This afternoon I refilled it once I'd burned everything away and took a walk with Cailey around the property, forcing myself to pull all the little hemlocks and spruces growing just upriver of the bridge. I've never seen the paths so torn up by the rain and traffic, especially the path to Schist House. Strategic rocks are definitely on the list for a less rainy trip. Below Cottonwood, there were arcs of needles indicated that the path had been running with water overnight. I've also been progressing on my challenging Mongolian puzzle, including glueing the pictures back onto several pictures with flour-water glue. I also finally read outside for a little bit, but it was chilly. The bird life has been pretty consistent in the bushes--thrushes, wrens, and chickadees being most common and mostly only heard or seen in a quick flash of flight. I did see what I believe was a Lincoln's sparrow at the water's edge yesterday, and I'm sure mixed flocks are about, but the rain is hampering them. I haven't felt the slightest bit guilty about staying inside all day, which is a pleasure. The forecast is now calling for NE winds on Sunday, so I may have to pack it in early to avoid a fall crossing of Taku Inlet with the wind whipping out. The week has gone altogether too fast, but I'd had a nice time and am finally not dreading close up, which after all is not so hard when one is well-rested and relaxed. And the tide is in the afternoon.

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The windows inexplicably didn't mist up much overnight, driving home the fact that I really don't understand what is causing it. At some point after I went to sleep, the rain came down harder than I ever remember hearing it. Not just pounding on the roof, but attacking it. I don't know how long I lay awake in the dark listening to its crash. On and off all night I heard its intense charge and didn't wake up until about 8:30. I decided I was too hungry to do anything before breakfast, so I wound up washing the dishes and then checking the weather with breakfast before I headed outside. The whole front porch was wet, including the entire couch and Cailey's dog bed. I found the Ronquil resting on flat silt for once, which actually made it a little difficult to pull the plug and let it drain, as I had to excavate a cavity to extract it. I think it took longer than the other two times, even though it had only accumulated 24 hours of rain. While it was draining, I cut the bicycle lock that's been securing the fuel tank to the boat, which took about as long as the water draining did, but at least it's free now (the lock had corroded too much for the key). Then Cailey and I walked up to the grassy meadow, noting some strange bundles of tan grass here and there on the flats like talismans. At the point, we startled an adult eagle and a dark, possibly YOY eagle. The latter made loops up along the mountainside until it was harassed by what I think was a hawk. I thought at first it was a jay, but when I watched with binoculars it did not fly like a jay.

It wasn't raining when I got back, so I decided to see if I could get the chainsaw going and work on the fallen log above the lodge, having failed to get anyone else to do it this summer! I added some gas to the chainsaw and, after some effort, got it started. I'd already cut most of the branches off the section of log along the trail, so I had little to do in that department. I started from the top and worked my way down, rolling each round up onto its end after it was cut to expose any buried branches that needed cutting. It went extremely well, and I was even less tired than usual since I could squat for most of the cuts instead of bending over. I think the whole thing took not much more than 20 minutes. I had thought ahead enough to remove all my warm clothes, but it was dealing with the rounds that cost me the most energy. I rolled them down the slope, using a salmonberry bush and natural indentations in the ground to point them toward the back of the lodge near the water filters, tossing the smaller ones. I wound up stacking them all along the back of the lodge and part of the porch and covered them with a tarp.

By that time it was nearly noon, so I tidied up inside while a quesadilla cooked, and then Cailey and I relaxed together on the couch outside, sharing my quilt. By then there was a great big patch of blue sky over Gilbert Bay and, as I read, the sun suddenly shone out and I went from being chilled and huddling under the quilt to being quite warm. This lasted for a brief time before clouds covered the sky, the rain descended again in droves, and the wind pushed it over us and onto my book. I had been out long enough to see more birds, most of which were charming hermit thrushes. But the weather seemed to suggest that lounging on the couch was no longer the best option. I filled the kettle, a pot, and the pitcher with water, washed the morning's dishes, then suited up and headed to the olive barrel. I wrangled it out of the channel, opened the valves at Hermit Thrush, took its filters to the lodge, opened the valves and removed the filters there (and covered them with tinfoil), then returned to Harbor Seal and Hermit Thrush to finish draining and covering filters heads and valves there. Along the way I also made sure all the faucets were open, opened the valve to the lower cabins, and sprayed all the door knobs and hinges with WD-40. With that done, I read for a little bit on the porch, Cailey back inside, then cleaned the scum out of the grease trap and emptied about 3/4 of its water and came inside. I finished cleaning off some of the food shelves and the book nook, then heated up baked beans and bread for dinner while I cleaned the filters from Hermit Thrush and the lodge and greased all the o-rings.

Progresing on puzzle, flour glue on Thursday.

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We got to Hermit Thrush early last night and tucked in for another comfortable night of sleep after reading and indulging in a little media from my tablet. Cailey seemed particularly sleepy and relaxed. I woke up earlier than usual (perhaps I'm starting to catch up on sleep) to find the windows completely fogged over. I guess it's a much more complex problem than I realized. I packed and cleaned the cabin up for the winter, stripping the bed and packing away the down comforter to take to town. Before I made a first trip to the lodge with gear, I took down the smoke stack and covered the air inlet with an extra piece of tinfoil. Having dropped off the ladder at Schist House on the way over, I wrapped it up for the winter before locking the cabin and bringing the linens back to the lodge. I ate some breakfast, checked the weather (yep, today is definitely the day to go), did a little cleaning, and then sat for a really lovely cup of jasmine tea on the porch. Cailey's outside bed was still wet from the storm two nights ago, so I urged her up on the couch with me and we snuggled in. I read a bit, listened to the wrens, saw a beautiful hermit thrush in the bushes, and enjoyed the view over a partly cloudy inlet. This was a very relaxing time, but it was all too soon interrupted as I returned to tasks, and I am only now really getting back to it at 1:00. Though there were few large chores, there were so many little ones--taking down the smoke stack, covering the windows, thoroughly sweeping, washing the dishes, bringing the work bench inside, putting the liquids in the sink, returning to Hermit Thrush for my raingear, all punctuated by too many trips to the waterfront to bring the boat in incrementally, just so I didn't have to kayak out to it and drag it all the way up the beach later. I definitely spent much more time and effort doing that than I would have with the kayak, but I was committed once I started. Somewhere in the middle I had a quesadilla, took down the radio off the satellite dish, wrapped up Gneiss House, and hauled most of my gear to the log. The Ronquil is rising just in front now with the tide, its anchor near my gear, and I'm looking out over an utterly serene inlet under a high overcast sky with a few billowy clouds over Gilbert Bay. It looks like a supremely nice day to be on the water, and it's so quiet the only thing I hear is the waterfall downriver. Soon it'll be time for my final cup of Russian tea and then....I will drive north toward Fall.

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The trip home was spectacular and I never encountered anything more than ripples, a marvelous day for the final boat ride of the year. I saw two whales near the entrance to the port (separate), a murre in summer clothing off Seal Rocks, and significant termination dust in Taku Inlet. Ezra met me at the boat house where we barely fit my gear into two harbor carts and I headed toward a shower, an expired box of pasta from the emergency food stores I'd brought to town for dinner, and winter life.


Goodbye for the summer, Snettisham