Taku 2023 - 1: Midnight Adventures
June 3 - 6



Taku Glacier from the lower meadows

Photo Album

The cabin’s inaugural fire was lit about an hour ago and the cabin has long been cozy and warm; the three of us are content following a simple dinner (sockeye, green beans, stuffing). We’ve been here for less than 24 hours, having once again gambled on the water levels in the river and lost. This time we were more aware (or perhaps more certain) of the danger than last year, and eminently prepared. From a high of about 50,000 cfs last week, the discharge of the Taku had dropped dramatically to 17,200 by the time we left. Last year we came up on about 14,000 cfs and the same tide (~15’). Would the extra several thousand cfs coming three weeks later in the season make a difference? I think it did, just not quite enough.

The four of us left the harbor just after noon for a 2:06 tide at Taku Point. Sadly, my mom was not among the crew, for she was struggling with a bad and lingering case of COVID-19 and did not have the energy even to convalesce on the Taku. But Jia Jia and Guo Zhong were still up for it and they quickly loaded the cart load of gear to the boat while I returned to the house for my forgotten backpack. I’d already brought two loads of items to the boat the day before, so it was an efficient departure. Ezra saw us off and away we went down a calm channel that turned choppy as soon as we turned around Salisbury. In fact, we fought swells or chops until we were in the river, always quartering them off the bow no matter which direction we were turned. We had to slow down, causing some anxiety about making it to the bars on the tide, but we had plenty of time. Curiously, as we left the point beyond Scow and crossed the river, several boats were heading straight down closer to the other side; another seemed to be hugging the far shore while going up. Has the channel changed? Perhaps so.

We wound up right behind the skiff heading upriver and slowed to match their pace, following them from the point just above the USFS cabin and out into the middle of the river, one point earlier than I would have. They were going at what seemed like a cautious pace and I slowed down to match, then eventually tried to pass them when they seemed to be getting much closer to the glacier shore than the point shore. And we promptly went aground, limping upriver until we met the outflow from the cliffs above the point where we picked up speed again. Perhaps the channel is farther over than I had thought. I was initially heartened when the skiff turned to hug the meadow shoreline as we intended rather than taking the inside channel, but these hopes were soon thwarted when they nosed into shore and stopped. As we crept by, I opened the window to chat and learned, as suspected, that they were hunters. I told them where we were going and confessed that we were probably about to go aground. This proved to be true, perhaps 100 yards beyond them. I hadn’t really wanted an audience for that, especially one that was likely to linger in the area as we were. I hastily donned my waders and pulled the boat for a bit until the sound of the sand on the hull precipitated a full stop. Guo Zhong and Jia Jia came onto the bow to help relieve weight from the stern and that’s where we were when the skiff came by to offer help, as the tide was about to fall. I assured them that we were expecting this, had everything we needed, and would escape on the midnight tide.

And so we did. They headed out into the middle of the river where they lingered for a while before disappearing, never returning to our shoreline. We soon escaped our bar (which was at the mouth of the slough where we anchored the boat last time) when I realized that the engine wasn’t all the way up. We went aground again and again and again, and each time I rocked the boat and pulled us a few more feet, or a few yards, or more. At one point I was ready to give up, but went to the back of the boat and amazingly pushed, with Guo Zhong poling, quite a long distance over the last big bar towards the end of the danger zone. We pushed through a very shallow area and had only a couple of riffles ahead when we could go no further. We were, perhaps, 100 yards from freedom and deep water.

Thankfully, the day had gone from mostly overcast to mostly sunny and we were warm and the scenery was spectacular. Plus, I’d managed to pull the stern close enough to the bank that everyone was able to make a big step onto the meadow and I was able to shift Cailey from the edge of the boat, accessed by the steps, onto the bank without too much trouble. I anchored the boat to the shore in front of us and we went for a short walk across the wet meadow, covered in 8” grass/sedge and blooming marsh marigolds, past a couple of large bleached logs and to the edge of a large slough. It would have been a glorious time to follow the slough back to the mountain, but with Cailey’s leg, I couldn’t go farther. As I approached, an animal slid into the water—evidenced by waving sweet gale and ripples in the water. There was a deep, very narrow slide where he had gone in, so I thought maybe otter, but instead a beaver showed up downstream and lingered for quite a while before quietly diving and disappearing.

We returned to the boat as the tide dropped and chatted and ate snacks (pringles and cheesy puffs) inside the cabin, both doors open, until everyone except me took a nap, GZ in the copilot’s seat and Jia Jia and Cailey on their respective benches. I remembered the previous year in which everyone had fallen asleep the afternoon we canoed/hiked to the cabin while I worked on putting together the water system! I read my book for a bit until everyone woke up and then we chatted some more, GZ giving us an impressive overview of Chinese dynasties. While Cailey was contentedly asleep, I left for a brief solo expedition to go to the bathroom and explore the sandbars which had emerged around us. We’d seen short-billed gulls scanning them and diving on prey that was devoured before I could identify them, so I was looking for more, but found nothing. Still, it was so pleasant to walk around in the sun, especially not overheating in waders as I had been on our first walk. At some point, perhaps around 5:00, we had “cocktails” which involved a beer for Jia Jia (sort of chilled in the river within the mesh bag that came with my waders, but at low tide most of the water had gone), wine for me, and a bubbly for Guo Zhong. I had brought my camping stove along and Russian tea figuring we might need warm drinks as we huddled in the chill, but instead we were all quite content! The mugs and sporks I brought, though, were convenient for eating the delicious spicy chicken fried rice that Jia Jia had made that morning. We eat had two mugs full and it was amazing.

After dinner I took Cailey for her evening walk and then moved the tote inside the cabin to act as a table for playing Uno. By the time the naps were over (4:40ish?), the boat was dry except for a trickle of water, and listing on its starboard side, so Cailey and Jia Jia switched sides so Cailey didn’t slide off her bench. I put the tote on my foot so it was a relatively flat surface and Jia Jia and Guo Zhong braced themselves on the uphill side. Whenever I leaned back in my seat, I accidently touched the engine tilt control and jolted us all with its sudden humming sound. We were surrounded by sandbars and it was fascinating to watch them form. There were pools of shallow water, a large one just downriver, but we were obviously in the middle of a large bar. The sand reached the bank at the area where I suspected was the edge of deep water, but it was clear that we’d only needed a few more inches and we would have made it. To my surprise, the flat bar touched the cut bank just a couple of feet from the top whereas I thought it would be deeper there. Still, it was obvious all along that bank that the deepest channel was, indeed, right against shore (within 10 feet) just as my dad had always said.

I promptly won the first round of Uno, then Jia Jia, then Guo Zhong. A couple more quick games ensued and then the game that never ended. I think we had to reshuffle the deck four times (which means we had to switch hands four time) before Guo Zhong finally ended it. By then then sun had set behind the Brassiere Hills, the air had turned chilly, we’d closed the doors, and my two solar lannters—accidentally brought from Snettisham—had turned on for the dim lighting. Time had passed very quickly. A planet shone in the sky over Taku Glacier. For hours I had been glancing downriver waiting for the time when the dry land separating the pool from deeper water behind the bar flooded with the rising tide. 10:00—two hours after low—11:00…nothing. No change. On the coast, you’d be able to watch the tide rise once beyond the lull around the highs and lows. But here, no change for hours. Although in my mind, I understood that the tide dynamics on the river are different and could almost grasp why that would be, indeed had watched it happen, it was still the most shaken I’ve ever felt regarding the potential failure of the world to act as it should. What if the tide WASN’T GOING TO RISE!? There in the falling light, over half way to the high tide, it seemed a terrifying possibility.

And then it was 11:11. Too dark to see the bar downriver anymore, but I looked forward and suddenly saw no sandbar ahead. I sounded the alert, and Guo Zhong and Jia Jia looked out at the river and confirmed that there were no bars (being on the low/landward side of the boat, I could not see out the opposite window). This had all happened in just a few minutes. We were all floored at the rapidly of the rise. It wasn’t long before the boat began to float and we were once more on a level plain. Jia Jia thought we were free before I did and, though I was dubious, suggested she pull on the anchor and see what happened. We moved! It was 12:06 and the high tide was to be 1:38 at Taku Point. I dropped the engine just enough to propel us (any more was in the mud) and we crept forward until we passed out of the danger zone and could drop it properly. It was clear that the stick placed on the bank which used to have a soda can on it was indeed marking the transit from the central deep channel to shore.

We could see where the sun was behind the mountains upriver by a faint glow, and it was light enough that only a few stars shone in the sky, but still difficult to see for any distance. Thankfully, the sky to the north reflected in the river, so the bright whitish reflection was always just in front of us, though it ever seemed that we would drive through it and into the reflection of the dark mountains. It did get a little unnerving when we approached the slough, for it was unclear at first when I should leave the bank to cross the entrance, after which we were out in the dark with only a dim view of where we were going and no shore to follow. I wound up too close in the slough and touched bottom (I think) on the bar at its entrance, but quickly recovered. Once we returned to shore and passed Warbler Nest Meadow, I felt secure in terms of water, but then again, what if the shoreline had further eroded and set up new obstacles? I had glassed the area earlier and seen overhanging trees with upturned tops, indicating that they’d been in that position for a while, so hoped that was the case all the way along. Guo Zhong tried using Jia Jia’s phone flashlight to illuminate the shore, but it wasn’t strong enough, and my rechargeable light, though charged, failed to turn on. It was eery and disconcerting to creep along the forested shoreline searching for a landing we weren’t sure had overwintered, not know what we’d find anywhere on the property, but I soon spotted the landing, intact and with a shelf of sand below it.

On the way, I had formulated a plan to anchor the boat with all on board and then use the engine to pull us to the landing. I anchored two downed trees above the landing but had to motor back as the rising tide was carrying us upriver. It took a few repositionings, but we did manage to get the stern to shore. I’d already reorganized all the perishable and essentials into my small tote, so we quickly unloaded that, my backpack, two beers, Cailey’s cone, Jia Jia’s bag, and Guo Zhong’s backpack, then I tied off the stern line to the dead tree by the landing, hopped on board to help the boat out into the river, then pulled myself back in, hopped off (by this time the tide had risen enough that I could jump straight from the boat to the landing), pushed it off, and away we went. Actually, Cailey was off first, and GZ’s job was to hang out with her up at the top of the ramp. We set off for the cabin around 1:00 am, guided by Jia Jia’s phone’s flashlight. What a relief to find the cabin in perfect condition, just about exactly as we left her with the exception of a couple of fallen pieces of firewood and pollen dust all over the porches. I opened the propane tank and the cabin while the others opened up the shutters and we were soon inside. I lit a kerosene light and a candle, unpacked what little I had brought, lit the pilots on the stove, and then moved to the fridge. The ignitor worked eight or ten times and the pilot flared once, then I no longer saw a spark, so, despair rising in my exhausted mind, I found the rechargable, extended lighter on top of the fridge, turned it on, and asked GZ to shine a light on the pilot so I could see where to aim it. While pushing on the starter button, I clicked for a spark and it lit beautifully, staying so after I released the gas after about 15 seconds. Wonderful.

Then I headed upstairs to set up the bed for Jia Jia and Guo Zhong and Cailey thundered up behind us. I’d intended to sleep downstairs so she didn’t have to navitage the steps in the morning, but since she was already up there, I locked her in my room and then found fresh sheets for the king bed while the others stripped the sheets that were still on it from my m om using it the previous fall. While I worked on getting my own bed ready (involving the harrowing task of installing the clean comforter cover on my comforter), Jia Jia and Guo Zhong tucked in. I heated a little water and washed up, used the outhouse, and finally crashed around 2:00 after reading just a few minutes with my phone’s flashlight to calm my mind. Certainly a strange way to arrive for opening, but we were very happy to be there! It was chilly and we hadn’t lit a fire, so I added two blankets to my comforter and Cailey slept under one as well.

-----------------------------------

I probably woke up around 8:45, lingered, and finally got up a little after 9:15, hastily dressing and heading downstairs. I washed up, took care of Cailey (including a walk to make sure the boat was doing well) and did some odds and ends, then headed out to work around 10:00. The first task, of course, was water. The day was hazy overcast, pretty nice working conditions, although our hopes for a mosquito-free trip based on the complete lack of mosquitoes during our sandbar sojourn were dashed as they swarmed me, and deet was a necessity. I found the pump behind the cart in Alder and hooked it up using the white pipe grease. Once I was confident which was was “on” for the choke, I got all the levers in the right place (remembering to turn the fuel on), and primed the pump using the water in the jug behind Alder, there for just that purpose, and the little pitcher, also there for that purpose. To my dismay, water streamed out of the pump housing just on the well side of it. A gasket to the fitting there had apparently failed and the water I’d poured in was quickly escaping. Nevertheless, I gave the engine and try and it started up quite nicely, and water stopped escaping (noticeabely anyway) from the gasket. Still, despite my patience, no water was being pumped. I checked the connection with the well pipe and found it loose, so tightened that, but the result was the same. I tried perhaps six times, each time trying to screw the cap on the priming tank as quickly as possible before starting the engine to minimize the time water leaked from the gasket, but although the engine ran beautifully, water never pumped through. I tried until I ran out of water in the jug for priming and I could think of no other thing to try. We’ll take it back for maintenance. Although I can’t say for certain that the gasket issue is the problem, it seems likely and, in any event, it obviously needs to be fixed and I can’t imagine we want to try to tackle that here.

Rather disappointed, I turned my attention to assembling the water tower, I managed to fit all four pieces of plywood on the top—easier than I expected—and shifted them until I was happy with how they fit together. At that point I needed to screw them in, but of course the drill was on the Kathy M, so with nothing else to do, I took the cart down to the boat and pulled it in with ease. Since I was already there and had no need to hurry, I went ahead and unloaded the boat, stacking everything onto the landing and then pushing the boat out as well as I could, though it wanted to hug the shore. I took half the goods, including all I needed for lunch and the 4-wheeler battery—up to the cabin with the cart, then screwed in the water tower protection platform. I brought the olive barrel outside, but to do more I’d have to fetch the catchment from upstairs. So I went in and unloaded the supplies I’d just brought back, chagrined to find that I had apparently not brought the cheese. How did that happen? I had it all ready in the refrigerator drawer with all the other perishables, but apparently it had somehow escaped my last minute attention.

By then, Jia Jia had come downstairs and Guo Zhong soon followed, surprised to find that it was nearly noon. They wound up having ramen for lunch and I ate oatmeal and peanut butter, having eaten no breakfast, chased by a cup of café francais with a little bit of instant coffee. Around 2:00, we headed down to the boat to go fetch the floats. Jia Jia and I decided to not bring the tools to separate the floats into different pieces, confident that the three of us could drag it to the water at high tide. Guo Zhong and I got the line ready for the floats at the landing, me walking it along the beach and handing it up to him, then tying it around the tree with plenty of slack for tying to the floats looped around the dead tree by the landing. In other words, hopefully we’d be able to just motor the floats into place and immediately tie them up. I could then instruct GZ to take up the slack at the tree, retie, and it would be in place with the boat already tied up.

Despite it being only half an hour to a 15.5’ tide, the water in the slough was pretty low and we touched bottom a number of times getting into it. Once the water was clear, not far inside, navigating was easier, but it was mostly shallow and we crept along, the water getting deep as we neared the property line. To my alarm, the floats were far from the water and there was a cut bank of about a foot at the bottom of the flood plain they were on. We pulled up and anchored, then investigated the floats. One fence post that had been driven through the floats was several feet from them on the water side, indicating that high water after we left last fall had floated them off and over it and shifted them higher and to the side of where they had been. The other fence post, which had been inverted so the flared end was above the floats so they couldn’t simply float off, had been badly bent but still in place. We found that there was no way we could slide them toward the water with the three of us.

So we decided to leave the Kathy M there and come back tomorrow on the tide, dividing the floats into multiple manageable pieces to move them. I anchored her up and then sent an okay message to family back home while the others searched for the missing “no hunting” sign from the post nearby. Amazingly, GZ found it maybe 15 yards inland, and I temporarily resecured it using the remains of the electrical wiring on it. The wires had not torn through the sign, as I had hoped they wouldn't, but they had themselves succumbed and broken.

We walked inland looking in vain for the next post I'd left along the boundary, then behind the small clump of spruces (where I saw a yellow warbler, yellow-rumped warbler, and orange-crowned warbler and let out a yelp as I startled a snipe) where I saw yet another fence post without signage. I soon found the sign, though—or what I thought was a sign—but when I lifted it up, it was already attached to a fence post, the one I’d replaced last year as I could find no trace of it!

Poor Cailey, left behind at the cabin due to her healing leg and inside her cone to keep her from licking her medicated tail, was happy to see us. I presented to my crew the various things I’d like to do over the next few days (bird watch in the morning, prepare the garden, walk the loop trail, and take the canoe back to the slough/birdwatch) to see what they might like to do with the rest of the day. They opted for the canoe adventure, so after perhaps half an hour rest, we headed out with paddles, tools to separate the floats, a spool of line for a middle canoe seat, a throw for a seat cusion, and the cart for the rest of the gear at the landing. The Taku Teal slid into the water without a hitch and the ride to the slough was quick and smooth with only one boat wake to contend with. Shortly inside, Jia Jia and I switched places so I could bird watch from the middle seat without paddling, and the two of them eased us down the slough to beyond Yellowthroat Island and back while I recorded the birds I saw and heard. Most of the expected folks were there, but the highlight was a male hooded merganser who flew in to join three female goldeneyes beyond the last island. Only the second one I’ve seen, he was spectacular.

By then the wind had picked up in the slough and it was a bit chilly. We put the Teal in its usual place, then divided the floats into the three sections before heading back to the cabin. Jia Jia and Guo Zhong fetched the rest of the gear from the boat while I started dinner. Jia Jia and I had beers and I unpacked the bag Nai Nai had sent up and made hummingbird nectar while everything cooked and then we feasted and everyone else fell asleep while I started this. It’s now nearly 9:00, and I will probably head to bed soon as the others are waking up. All in all, it’s been an interesting opening; overall, everything is in great shape. Tomorrow I hope to rise early for a bird watch in Warbler Meadow and, in the afternoon, we plan to reassemble the floats in the slough and bring them out on the high tide. Who knows what else is in store!

----------------------------------------

I probably shouldn’t end an entry like that. I made it to bed around 10:30 and read for a bit while my mind was turning. I was thinking about the Kathy M and my “brilliant” idea to leave it in the slough. But the tide that night was going to be an 18+ which means that it could wind up high and dry on the flood plain on our meager 15+ tide the next day. And I hadn’t helped matters by placing the anchor perpendicular to the slough, so if the breeze that had pushed us around in the slough persisted, it would probably float over the flood plain well away from deep water. I agonized about it, tried to convince myself it wouldn’t happen, then went to talk to GZ and Jia Jia watching anime next door. We had two choices—head to the meadow right then to anchor the boat in the slough or hope for the best with the potential to have to rescue the Kathy M on the midnight tide the next night. We opted to head out. I left Cailey in her bed (her first night on Hank’s old dog bed) and we headed out in the dark, guided by two phone flashlights. I hoped the endeavor would go smoothly, but first I struggled to anchor in the slough while lining up the stern of the boat where there was a tree to tie to, and then the anchor wouldn’t set. It was dark and overcast. Jia Jia came on the boat with me to help light anything I needed while Guo Zhong walked along the shore carrying the stern line. We thought to use the mountain alders where the canoe was to tie the stern off, so I crept upstream, threw the anchor and was forced to motor backwards as the wind or tide or something was pushing me toward shore. It was all very awkward. The first time we were too far upstream (I didn’t want to let out too much anchor line), so I had to pull it and drop it a little farther down, dealing with the same awkwardness of needing to back down in the dark after hitting the bank. I tried to set the anchor, but just kept dragging it, so clambored up to the bow to let out more line and eventually gave up setting it since it was unlikely to pull anchor in the slough and we would have a stern line for back up. By then the stern was adjacent to the middle of the alder patch by the canoe, so Jia Jia and I hopped ashore and I tied the line around an alder and pushed her off. She drifted back in and then back out and we left her, having run out of things to do. Traveling back over the meadow in the dark was interesting, and when I approached tree line I suddenly found myself in the wrong spot. Thankfully, I recognized it as Warbler Meadow where I’d had such a lovely time birdwatching last June and knew that we just had to backtrack between the willow patches and just upriver for the trail. All the way to and from we chatted loudly with a bit of whistling and singing to alert any wildlife of our presence. It was amiable chatter, but I did wind up with a bit of a sore throat afterwards.

We were back in the cabin and to bed shortly after midnight, having made another middle-of-the-night excursion less than 24 hours after the last one. Cailey was, amazingly, still under her blanket. It took me a while to get to sleep, but the cabin was warmer and I slept reasonably well despite leg pain, and was up again around 8:45. Again I laid in bed, feeling surprisingly well given the late bedtime and finally got up around 9:15. My intent had been to head out to Warbler Meadow for birdwatching, but the day was overcast and it was late, and I decided instead to walk the loop trail. I was eager to move, and walking through the well-groomed trail was a pleasure. It’s in good shape, needing minimal work right up until the junction with the boundary area—the place of devastation last year. It is even worse this year with several spruces all snapped off for inexplicable reasons crossing the trail. I avoided the mess by slipping out into the meadow as I’d planned anyway, and thence to Devastation Alley.

From there I crossed to the lower “no hunting” sign and resecured it to the fence post with the remaining wire and a zip tie I’d brought along.
At the other end of the loop, I detoured to check out the boat. I was initially pleased to see the top of it, but found it aground as we’d feared near where the stern line was tied. It was just a couple feet from water and I had hope that it would float with the tide. Just about then, the on and off drizzle that had followed me turned into a downpour, but I did linger long enough to make a short bird survey in honor of the mixed flock of swallows across the slough. There must have been a couple dozen all swooping and diving and, in the case of the barn swallows, perching in groups, but the most exciting part was the presence of brown swallows with pale breasts and prominent brown breast bands—bank swallows! Another first for my eBird surveys. I was also happy to hear an alder flycatcher which I had a nice look at when I headed up into the willows.

By the time I got back to the cabin, my pants were pretty wet and I longed to change, but decided to do a few chores first. I was all set up with supplies to clean the water catchment, so I rinsed it off, surprised at how much spruce pollen had accumualed in one day, then sloshed some bleach onto wet papertowels, rubbed it down, and poured a bit through the filter. I left it to soak while unhooking the water pump, placing it in the entrance to Alder, and replacing and covering its house. Then I put one of the 2021 batteries in the 4-wheeler and started her up. Finally, I returned to the back deck to and rinsed off the catchment, attached it to the olive barrel and tied it in place on top of its tower. I also attached the water hose but remembered that it would be too easy for a bear to grab it, so took it back to the porch. Finally, I came inside, lit a fire, and changed into pajama pants to let my regular pants dry along with my binoculars (whose cover I’d lost near the boat) and the trail camera.

Jia Jia and Guo Zhong joined me and ate Vietnamese pho while I had more oatmeal and peanut butter for second breakfast (following the roll I ate on my walk). It was, again, not quite noon, and the rain was coming down steadily. I wasn’t feeling very motivated to go out, so read a little bit while GZ did the same and Jia Jia played solitarire. Eventually I gave Cailey a walk and got ready, then rallied the others to join, and we trekked out to the floats around 3:00. The boat was still high aground but the water was rising, so we set about pushing/pulling the three sets of floats into the water. It was all quite easy, and so was, surprisingly, putting them back together while floating. The first two went together with no trouble at all and the second was only a little harder, as we had to push the final segment under the middle one and one of the corner pieces was reluctant to come up to meet its mate. A little shuffling and jumping and wiggling with Big Charlie and everything was together. We tied and coiled the lines where they’d need to be on the float and, finally, went to the Kathy M. Just a foot from deep water but sitting on a shelf, it did not look good. The others pushed on the hull and we spent long minutes staring at the edge of the slough to see that it was still rising, which it was although past high tide, and we waited. And waited. The rain had stopped just as we were getting ready to go, which was a pleasure, but it began again as we waiting and the wind, blowing down the slough again, picked up. As a last ditch delaying action, we went for a walk along the bank nearby to look for the boundary marker which, to my great surprise, I found, rather farther down the beach and about even with the downstream end of the island. I took a waypoint and then we returned to the boat to find it still rising. And so we lingered a little longer, but I finally called it. Although there were a couple of inches of water under the bottom corner, there was no sign of the boat lifting and it seemed very unlikely it would rise enough to make a difference. My good natured companions claimed they had no problem with the impending mid-night excursion, but I was less pleased. This was the result of two bad decisions: not bringing the tool to separate the floats on our first excursion and then deciding to leave the boat in the slough. All I had to do was stop by Alder to grab the tool and we’d have had the floats in yesterday instead of tomorrow morning. So far I have handled the late night adventures okay, but I know it will take its toll.

Back at the cabin, I let Cailey out for a few minutes while I removed the moss from the garden box. It came up in compact sheets, so I just peeled it off and left it in a pile nearby. The soil underneath looked great. I rallied the others to pick up some more soil materials from Fox Hole and they opted to use the cart instead of hand carrying or trying the 4-wheeler. I spontaneously had them add the dead 12-volt battery from inside the cabin and ran to bring over the water pump as they rolled by. We dropped these at the landing then proceeded to pick up one of the two bags of peat moss and one of the two bags of vermiculite in Fox Hole. Guo Zhong wheeled those back along with the short 2x4s I’d brought and Jia Jia and I each carried two 8’ 2x4s up to the cabin. We dumped the amendments into the garden box and came inside for cocktails. At least I had a cocktail; the others cooked noodles and heated up the bison spaghetti sauce that Jia Jia had made and we feasted on a hearty, delicious meal while chatting (I suspect that they had collaborated secretly on making me dinner that night). The cabin was still warm from the earlier fire that I’d banked and the others fell asleep shortly after. Our plan is to be at the boat at 3:00 for a 3:57 18.3’ tide. At least it should be pretty light by then for navigating out of the slough and actually setting up the floats.

----------------------------

That's apparently all I wrote last summer about this trip. Now it's December, so I'll briefly fill in a few highlights. We left for our third mid-night adventure on time and, given that it was only a few weeks until solstice, only needed flashlights through the forested portion of the walk. Once in the meadow, it was easily light enough to find our way, and the first birds of the day were singing. The boat was floating peacefully, just as it was supposed to, and in no time we'd tied on the floats and were puttering down the slough. A very brisk wind coming from Taku Point kicked up seas on the river, so we moved quite slowly to the landing at 11000 RPM. I don't remember much of the tying up process other than that, after the initial securing was finished (I think that knot on the floats was quite trying for me), it was angling toward the bank and I had a hard time getting it to sit where I thought it should, adding two lines to the stern. My niece and nephew were very patient with me! Eventually I realized it wasn't going anywhere and we headed back to the cabin where I heard a reward on the way to the outhouse: a bubbling song unfamiliar to me came from the alders meadow behind the spruces. I had a suspicion that Merlin immediately confirmed: northern waterthrush, a bird I'd very much hoped to encounter this summer, especially during breeding season!  But, though it was light by then, I was not in any condition to go chasing down a bird in the dense vegetation from which he sang.

Instead, my bed was calling. I finally got to sleep around 6:00 am and slept very late. I believe that day I went for a bird walk and, shortly beyond the bridge across the little slough behind the cabin, I was drawn to the slough by the waterthrush again. I stood patiently at the edge of the marsh marigolds and muck while the thrush was silent; as I waited, he sang a couple of times, then appeared out of nowhere bobbing along the muddy slough a short distance away. I had an excellent, if brief, look, and counted myself lucky. I think I continued surveying out in Warbler Meadow, but nothing surprassed the waterthrush encounter. That afternoon I planted the garden and the potato pot by the river with seeds a couple of lettuce starts. The next day, the crew helped me tilt up the outhouse and place a 4x4 underneath the back of it to level the floor a bit. It's now leaning slightly forward, but is a strong improvement. I'm afraid the photos and my memory don't yield much beyond that, but it was an adventurous and successful opening!

Team Taku 2023