Taku 2021 - 4: Taku Point
August 7 - 8


Taku Glacier

Photo Album

Tom Thornton and I headed up the inlet early, gliding over calm water beneath a cloudy sky hinting of sun. I'd loaded the boat with my gear already, so it was a simple matter to arrange the gear and head out, giving us plenty of time to make a few detours along the way. We cruised beneath Was'as'e, the great scar, noting a surprising number of gulls, mostly glaucous-winged, sitting on the cliffs and flying about, all adults. We ate some smoked hooligan that Tom had brought as we approached the river and the Taku began to grow larger. When we reached the lower end of Taku Point, I pointed out the post on the rocks and, given that we were still half an hour from the tide, offered to stop and check it out. It was close to the river and easy to access, scrambling up over wet mossy rocks. Below the post was a barrel wedged between the rocks and at least one rotting board. The purpose of the post was unclear. A few points beyond, we also stopped for the "monument", an obelisk I'd been meaning to check out for some time. We pulled into a nice grassy cove and left Cailey on the boat while we scaled some awkward cliffs. The rocks were beautiful, covered in thick moss and layers of alpine or bog blueberries and crowberries, ripe though not especially sweet. Young/scrubby evergreens representing all local species grew along with Sitka alder, more helpful than not in clambering up and down the slippery rocks. I took some photos of new and potentially new plant species for my index including snake liverwort (which I spotted later that day upriver as well). The obelisk turned out to be a grave marker, or at least a marker for a death. Some of the name was eroded away, but it appeared to be a Tlingit name for someone who had died in 1907.

We did not find our original path down and wound up awkwardly making our way through crevasses and brush beyond the boat and then down to it. It was then around high tide, so we cruised upriver, noting a large assemblage of harbor seals--a dozen or more above the water in one place at a time--along the cliffs above the point. We leisurely made our way across the sandbar against the bank, touching bottom briefly towards the end. The floats were in position just as I'd left them and we quickly tied up and unloaded the boat. We could nearly haul all our gear up to the cabin with just the two of us, but with the addition of the water pump we decided to leave some for the cart. After dropping our first load at the cabin and opening Alder, Tom retrieved the rest of the gear while I opened the cabin, delighted to see sprouts throughout the new garden box. Everything looked in order except that I could not get water to run out of the faucets. When I opened the drain valve, water came out in bursts; perhaps it needed to release more air in the system, but I did not want to take more time to trouble shoot. I unpacked a bit and we decided to have a cup of tea and then head straight upriver. We'd originally intended to stay for two nights, but starting Sunday night, a series of storms was predicated to hit Juneau for several days bringing an atmospheric river and periodic high winds. Although there was a decent forecast for Monday itself, Sunday night and Tuesday were predicted to be grim on the water and there was no way to know once we were there if the timing changed.

Thus, we headed out for a walk upriver before returning to the lodge for Juneauper gin and tonics. We consolidated food for an unusual dinner: I'd brought home made red sauce with bison and Tom had, independently, brought ravioli and gumboots, which we ate fried along with the pasta. I was surprised at how large and hearty they were.

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In the morning I made pancakes for breakfast and then we headed back to the slough to go for a canoe after I filled two 5-gallon jugs of water from the olive barrel. It was another calm, overcast day, and I wanted him to see the meadows and the slough. The bluejoint was over my head in places and Cailey stayed just behind me as we pushed a noticeable trail through the grass. Tom had led canoe trips in Ontario as a youth, so I let him take the stern, which is usually my position. I quickly discovered that I would have to paddle more arduously than I might otherwise lest I fall embarrassingly short of Tom's efforts. And so we made good time up the slough, stopping at the base of the mountain to climb up the rocks where tourists used to go for a view of the valley. The rope was present, though somewhat shorter than it used to be. I was amazed at how agile Cailey was (and later grateful that she didn't come up lame--perhaps her anti-inflammatories are working). I looked for a spot to place a camera but found nothing suitable. From there we continued upstream where we found the beaver dam back above water and fully intact. It looked like half of it might be newer than the other half, and had more water pouring over it. We pulled up and I found my camera to be entirely missing. Since there was no sign of it--no pieces of gnawed strap, nothing awry--I can only assume that it was stolen. It was in a prominent position for boaters to discover. I swallowed my disappointment and we pulled the canoe over the dam and continued up, as Tom was interested to see what was beyond. The slough was quite lovely, bordered by patches of purple asters. We pushed ducks and sandpipers ahead of us, none of which I saw well enough to identify. At one point I could hear rushing water nearby and we soon passed a tiny tributary slough with a dam about two feet wide maybe 20 feet up it. Kind of adorable for a dam. We were making good time along the cliff face, keeping any eye out for anything cave-like along the rocks, but eventually I called it and suggested we turn around, just as we came to a spot with a good view of Hole-in-the-Wall Glacier.

As we approached the bend away from the mountain on the way back, a mother duck and fuzzy ducklings erupted from the bank and disappeared around the corner. So tiny for this time of year! It'll be fall when they fledge. When we came around the corner, the ducklings were nowhere to be seen, but the mother was drawing us away by taking short, awkward flights, perhaps a wounded bird strategy. Presumably the young ones were tucked into the bank somewhere safe. When we neared the landing, we poked into the tributary slough to the dam there, which was a couple of feet above water; feeling a bit frazzled, I opted not to cross it, but Tom urged me on, and I was glad he did. The water on the other side was crystal clear. We saw no sign of the salmonid fry I'd seen there at other times and we mused about whether the dam was blocking their use.

Back at the cabin we packed up and I made quesadillas for lunch, enjoying the kelp salsa that Tom had brought, which was rquite good. With everything clean and packed up, Tom took the gear to the landing while I closed the cabin and wrote an extremely short entry in the log. While I put the cart away and locked up Alder, Tom stowed and tarped our gear and pumped all the water out of the bilge, which was a treat. It was a lovely afternoon and we moved slowly downriver over the sandbar and then sped up just around the corner until we reached Hut Point. I nosed the Ronquil onto a small grassy section and Tom tied it up. I left Cailey on board and we climbed the rocks to explore the cabins left behind by Taku Point fishermen. The first thing we discovered was a net washing basin, still stained blue-green from the chemicals and with a wooden roller tucked to the side. Just next to it was a large pile of collapsing cabins, with more just a little farther downriver, one with an old net rotting on top of it and a box spring and one whole back wall leaning against the rock behind it. I climbed farther up and found two other cabin locations as well as more beautiful pools of water. The wind was picking up by then and Cailey's ears stood straight up as she watched me from the back of the boat. I got back down just in time to hold it off the rocks as a boat wake hit it, and then we took off downriver and back to town, passing close to a harbor porpoise between Flat and Jaw points, and getting a good look at another grave marker below Scow Cove. The seas picked up as we rounded Cooper and were about three feet high off of Bishop. Ezra met us at the harbor with two carts and by the time we were home, the trees were bent sideways in a sudden rainy gale. It felt very good to be home, though we both wished we'd had more time on the river.

Beautiful Taku Point