Taku 2023 - 4: Off-Leash
August 30 - September 3



Sandbag embankment

Photo Album

I've just lit a little fire and there were so many paper plates and bowls in there--along with a bag of sugar I think I put in there last time--that I think my mom and Roger must not have lit a fire when they were here the last time. Summer is wonderful. Everything here is still lush, but the air has a hint of fall in it and the meadow is a shade yellower than it was last month. I left the house at 11:30 am and pulled out of the boat house around noon after frantically looking around for my phone and boat house key (one tucked behind the windshield and the other stashed in the glove box where I'd tossed it accidentally with Cailey's leash). I'd taken down one load of gear, in order to pick up empty jerry jugs, the day before, then later returned and delivered them full of gas, but I still brought a cart today as I had just a little too much to carry in one go. I left Cailey on the boat while I returned the cart to the ramp--the first time in a long time that I've left without a sendoff, as I'd taken Ezra to the airport at 1:00 am this morning.

The channel had a teeny chop that didn't slow us down and the inlet was dead calm, a cloudy, dry, beautiful trip. A boat passed us at Jaw Point after I used the bucket and I noted that they passed along the rocks there farther off shore than I usually do and that they never crossed the river beyond Scow Cove, taking a somewhat sinuous route up to the front of the glacier instead. I was curious, but decided to take my usual path toward the Forest Service cabin, discovering that I could approach it farther downstream than I usually do (that sandbar must be gone). I was in between 6 and 11 feet most of the way, obviously in and out of the main channel, but never in any danger of touching bottom.

On my way down five weeks ago, I'd taken the time to figure out how to stay in deep water in front of the glacier, so reversed that route upon reaching the east shore, leaving the Hut Point side of the river at the very first point upriver of the USFS cabin and heading straight over to the mouth of the Norris River, then turning upriver, but following the bank close in until meeting up with the current rushing across the river from the deep channel along the cliffs beyond Hut Point. I came alarmingly close to a grounded log at the mouth of the river, but remained in about ten feet of water.

I did lose my way a little along the meadow, unsure where to turn in to shore, and wound up getting into very shallow water and even touching for a moment before realizing I was right at the crossing to shore and needed to turn sharply. I'm not sure if I was too far inland or too far downriver, but in no time I was across the shallows and cruising upriver along the bank to the landing, sitting in its characteristic angle this year (not entirely perpendicular to the river). Landing went smoothly and, in no time, I was opening up and unloading, loving that I could leave the door open while bringing things inside through the new screen I'd installed in early July. In fact, it was warmer outside than inside, so I left the door open for some time. I did a few opening chores before dealing with the propane appliances, so the stove lit right up and so did the refrigerator. The ignitor didn't work at first, but I kept trying and, on the second spark, the fridge lit. I checked the water level in the tank and saw that it was maybe two thirds or three quarters of the way to empty, plenty for a little while, but probably going to go dry during my hoped-for five days here. I hate waking up to no water, which is usually how it goes down, and am not keen on pumping water anyway (probably trauma from the last few years of mechanical issues with the pump and the tarp nemesis), so I decided to just do it right away. It took a few pulls to keep the engine turning over, as I shut off the choke too soon (worried about flooding it as I have before this summer), but it was soon going beautifully and water was pumping. I sent an inreach OK message from the point with my mom's device (mine having not returned from Pavlof Harbor), then hooked up the hose to the water barrel--definitely satisfyingly full this time--and started filling jugs. While waiting, I saw a blueberry bush waving suspiciously and walked over to discover a jay sitting in it, apparently plucking berries!

When all the jugs were full and tucked away, I finished unpacking and settling in, had a quick glass of wine on the porch while reading my mom's log from a month ago, then walked up to Debbie's Meadow with clippers. AND CAILEY. This was Cailey's first fully off-leash Taku walk, and she seemed happy to come along, stopping to sniff along the way and then catching up. As I've walked through Debbie's Meadow this summer (and last summer, really), I've noted the clusters of alders growing up along with plenty of spruces, but I'm always on my way somewhere else. It needed a little dedicated attention, so I spent some time pulling out as many alders as I could and cutting down the rest and did a quick sweep for young spruces as well. Cailey, meanwhile, was very excited to go back to the cabin and pranced in that direction every time I got up or moved. I checked on the riverboat and found the bank there even further eroded and the corner of the bow over the edge. It's just amazing how damaging the bank so long ago has had such lasting effects on erosion. Finally, to Cailey's relief, we headed back to the cabin, though I made her wait for what I assume was her hoped-for dinner. I was amazed at how energetic I felt. My body (especially my legs) felt great, and it was a lovely mild afternoon and, unlike the other times I've arrived, I didn't feel like crashing right away.

So, I did one of the small tasks I had in mind this trip--putting asphalt shingles on the new boardwalk behind the cabin. I'd gone to Home Depot yesterday looking for roofing starter strips, which I discovered last year (they don't have the corrugation of regular shingles), but the whole area was in disarray and I despaired of finding any, even though they supposedly had quite a few in stock. But then my eye caught a roll of something, and it turned out to be a starter strip roll, half the width of regular strips (which can be separated into two via the perforation in the center) and with adhesive backing. This looked perfect! And, so far anyway, I'm a fan. I opened up Alder, grabbed tin snips and a hammer, picked up the bag of nails I'd found in my drill kit on the boat when we landed (which has handily been there since the last trip here), and headed back. It took less than half an hour to cut the roll into four strips, one per board, peel the backing off, and nail them in. It's' hard to know if there's been a change since installation, and the ground is quite dry. When I was finished, I poked my head into the beautiful meadow and walked down the nearby trail a few turns before taking pity on Cailey and heading back to the cabin.

Having had only a beer on the boat and a few snacks for lunch, I was ready for dinner myself, and heated up some home made broccoli soup, toast, and baked beans for dinner and watched a Taskmaster while a fire chassed away the late summer chill.

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I finished "Master and Man" (Tolstoy) while cozied up in bed and slept warmly all night on my feather bed and foam pad; Cailey also seemed to sleep well. I woke up around 7:00, but stayed in bed for a little longer. It had started raining around dinner last night and rained through much of the night, but the morning was overcast and I decided it was an opportunity to canoe on a dry day that I didn't want to pass up. I washed up and then thought I'd take Cailey down to the landing to check on the boat, but immediately discovered the ptarmigan family under the middle spruce tree on the downriver side of the meadow and tucked her back inside. It seemed like there were a couple of rusty heads and breasts, even some of the chicks seemed a bit rusty. Papa ptarmigan kept the lookout as usual, his belly now white and breast flecked with golden feathers. I skirted around them trying to get a good look, but it was more challenging this time as they were sheltering in the open ground under the spruce branches. I counted six--it must be the same family I spent time with in July!

Eventually I leashed Cailey until we were past the family, fetched my work gloves from the boat, and then took off for the meadow with backpack and camera bag, leaving Cailey to nap on the couch. There was a little breeze when I first slid into the slough which swept me downstream until I got settled, so I took the back side of the island and it soon dissipated and the slough became flat calm. I saw a trio of mergansers, probably young ones, but couldn't discern species from a distance, another duck kept her distance and flew long before I could get details, and I soon became frustrated. This disappointment also soon dissipated as I came onto several Lincoln's sparrows and common yellowthroats in the grass and bushes at the edge of the slough who were noisy and accomodatingly flew into sight.

Up at Big Bend the action got exciting again with Lincoln's sparrows on either side of the slough, softly singing occasionally, and a lively group of at least four yellowthroats bopping all around willow shrubs right over the water. They were all in non-breeding plumage or some transition, but their yellow bellies and coverts were vibrant and they didn't move from a favorite bush even when the bow of my canoe hit the shore just beneath it. I eventually left this festive group (and there were many more I never had a good look at farther up) and continued toward the mountain, pushed ahead of me a small female/immature duck who let me get slightly closer before she flew each time. This happened over and over again until I could finally discern a few details--green speculum, little beige patch and, in flight, the markings of a green-winged teal.

Along the shore I found a small decomposing pink salmon and, a little farther on, the tail of another up on the shore on a mat of sedge. I still suspect there may be some that spawn at the bottom of the avalanche there. I turned the corner, saw a lot of activity around the beaver lodge, went up one of the clear water sloughs coming from the avalanche, and then turned round and cruised back to the landing. I'd thought I might go ashore and check out the berry situation behind the cottonwood, but I'd been out a couple of hours already and was wearing out.
I heard a red-tailed hawk call several times and saw what was probably a glimpse of him once, soaring immediately out of sight, but didn't log it as I couldn't say for absolute certainty it wasn't a jay. I also saw a flock of 11 robins fly overhead and a group of at least 16 barn swallows cavorted around the slough.

Back at the lodge, it was about 11:15, so I made a quesadilla for an early lunch and ate it with a frosty beer (there was a little ice developing in it!) on the porch while Cailey enjoyed her hoof. Then we took off upriver on the trail and discovered that Roger had in fact cut the big spruce that was blocking the trail. I'd brought the swede saw along for that purpose, but used it instead to trim the branches off those that were still leaning into the trail and cut a smaller spruce farther along the trail. It looks like there weren't as many trees down as I thought, but the first one was quite large. The berries in Boundary Meadow were few and far between, as they had been in the back meadow, so I went on to Devastation Alley. The berries are somewhat more abundant there, though not as I'd hoped, but I should be able to pick some. I wasn't really in the mood for it, though, so wandered around the area with its fall colors starting to mingle in elegant combinations, then took Cailey across the slough through the tall grass and onto the loop where I stumbled into the edge of a mixed flock of birds including a Lincoln's sparrow, orange-crowned warbler, and at least three ruby-crowned kinglets, one of which was softly singing. I'd also heard what sounded like an orange-crowned warbler singing over and over again close to the mountain while canoeing, but it seemed so unexpected, I hadn't logged it. On the way, I was moved as I always am by the exquisite fall colors in the meadow vegetation--yellow goldenrods, purple asters, burgundy fireweed leaves, all in achingly beautiful combinations.

At this time of year, pushing through the meadows is as slog, so I was at last worn out by the time we reached the forest and curious to see how Cailey would handle it. The longest walks she's done since her last improvement have been flume walks, maybe COASST walks at Snettisham, but nothing this long or, perhaps more importantly, nothing this intense, over uneven ground and leaping through the tall grass like a deer. But, so far so good! She does not seem to be limping at all, which is fantastic. This was a real pressure test and if she can do this, she can do about anything here within reason.

So we were both ready for a break when we got back and snuggled in under blankets on the couch. Cailey napped while I continued studying about the Galapagos wildlife and geology, getting up once to investigate when I heard a boat motor close by come to an abrupt stop. No one was as the dock, but there was a boat paddling out in the river adjacent to us. In the meantime, the wiggling blueberry bushes I'd seen in the yard did indeed turn out to the ptarmigan family again! I eventually drifted off into a nap myself before Cailey's belly woke me up for dinner. I've just lit a little fire for the evening and have some more soup for dinner.

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Whew, what a day! I either dreamed or actually heard the storm hit in the middle of the night, the swing creaking, the shutters tapping the wall, debris hitting the roof. I definitely heard the latter on and off all night, and the wind was indeed raging up the river, but it was surprisingly dry--not a drop had fallen and there were patches of sunshine here and there. It was a tea day and I had intended to enjoy a cup before heading out, but instead felt energetic and eager to get to work. To get Cailey a little walk, I headed out to a primitive trail nearby with the intent to find a good place for a game camera. It was one of the clearest game trails around and a pleasure to follow through the open forest, mostly rotten alders, cranberries, and the occasional blueberry blocking the route. It seemed to end in a beautiful little brushy meadow, which I marked as a potentially good birdwatching site as the shrubs are low enough to see over, but no trail seemed to enter it. I realized that I'd veered off, and the trail continued to a much smaller meadow of lady ferns, then through a couple of young spruces, and to open meadow. Which meadow? The meadow where the loop, from the south, leaves the wood and enters the meadow with the slough through it! This could easily become a little loop in itself with very little meadow to push through.

Once back at the cabin, Cailey seemed interested in coming with me again when I headed out, but I left her in the cabin as I was going to work on the landing bank and thought she'd be anxious and bored. I'd originally thought to fill the burlap sandbags I'd bought somewhere along the bank where I could nose the Ronquil in and carry them back on the bow. This seemed the easiest solution, and I was considering the beach below the main point here, but hoped I could find another site. However, the big rollers on the river dissuaded me from what might otherwise have been a fun adventure and instead settled on using the beach just downriver of the landing where we'd considered putting in the new landing for its nice open beach. With the trees around it cut and others which had already fallen in the river, it was no longer accessible by boat, so I reconciled myself to hauling the sand bags up the bank and to the landing.

It didn't take long to fill each sandbag, but it was tough on the back and tiring. I had to crouch and hold the bag open with one hand while using the tiny spade to dump wet sand inside about a dozen times until it was maybe half full (as much as I wanted to handle). After eight bags were full, I hefted them a few at time onto ledges in the bank formed by roots and then hauled them up from there. None of this was very good for erosion--I was not only taking away the sand on the beach (which would encourage new sand from the bank to replace it), but also damaging the moss and roots covering the near-vertical slope. But I did soon find the stable places to step and the right place to stage the bags, and became both more efficient and less damaging.

So hauling the bags the short distance to the landing and down the steps was not fun either, but also not very time consuming. I took the last nine bags over in five minutes. For some reason, tying string around the bags was my least favorite part and felt exhausting even though I was sitting down! The most fun part and, with some exceptions, least strenuous part, was actually placing the bags. It seems like every time I look under the bank there it looks different. Today the sand beneath the landing itself gently sloped up to a five-inch cut bank about 18" behind the edge of the mat of roots that used to be the forest floor. Behind that, the sand sloped up steeply. My first move was to place sand bags against the cut bank, then bags in front of them to support the first row and another bag on top of this, making a barrier about six inches above the cut bank. I did the downriver side with the first batch, the upriver side with the second batch and, with the third batch, rolled bags over the barrier wall to fill the gap I'd left behind. I hope that this will reduce the contact of high water on the loose sand and thus reduce its trickling down. I used all 30 bags in an arc all around behind the root mat a couple of feet to either side of the landing platform, everywhere I could access (where the root mat had been damaged). I think it might be a good idea to cover the whole beach beneath the landing with sand bags to help maintain the sand there since I'm afraid it will wash away and now won't have anything to replace it, which might undermine the new bags. Shoring it up isn't a bad idea anyway, as I don't have much confidence in the string ties I used on the burlap!

All in all, the project went pretty well, but it did take a toll on my left shoulder as well as my back and sciatica. Placing a number of the bags on the upriver side required me to crawl under the root mat, and trying to manhandle bags of wet side in limited space is like...well, I kept think it was really like manhandling! Soft, heavy, moist bags. I also discovered when I got back to the cabin that my hair was extremely dirty and I shook a ridiculous amount of dirt into the sink just by running my fingers through it. I had worked for about two and a quarter hours, but still wasn't quite ready for a break and felt more like beer or soda than tea, so I took Cailey back to the trail I'd worked on earlier along with the clippers and the camera. Actually, Cailey stayed behind on her own, but I finished clipping most of the trail and then set the camera. She was ecstatic to see me when I got back. This time I made a quesadilla and ate it on the porch with a cold beer and looked out over the waving trees and mostly cloudy sky. It had sprinkled just a little here and there while I worked, but had remained mostly dry, and the breeze was actually a pleasure to cool me down. Several times I'd considered taking a break to finish the project later, but the excellent working conditions and imagining doing the same thing in the pouring rain, which was supposed to accompany the wind, encouraged me to see it to the end in one go.

After lunch I snuggled in with Cailey and read until 2:00, then decided it was time to go on my adventure for the day--bringing the canoe back to the cabin. I'm not sure if I'll be back this year and I think I'll be okay with not having the canoe in the slough if I do, plus this way I can paddle up to the slough above the cabin before I bring it up the bank. I headed out in full rain gear with a life jacket, drill and related accoutrements so I could install the last two braces on the no hunting sign on the island.

But of course it was windy. I gathered up all the no hunting signs on fence posts that I'd collected when replacing them, stashed nearby, picked up the one still standing on the edge of the slough, and then began an insane trip to the river. The wind wasn't hard to canoe against in itself, and I could make good progress when I could keep the canoe straight into it, but getting off track just the slightest bit caused the canoe to swing crazily broadside, the only recourse wildly paddling to the nearest shore to stop the slide back upstream. I made it the short distance to the island, stepped out into the flooded point, and realized I hadn't brought the hammer. I pushed one of the two stakes in the ground a few inches and screwed it and the other two that were already there into the uprights and I think it'll stabilize it even if it isn't too far in the ground. I decided to keep the other one for another sign that only had one.

Then it got hard, almost impossible, to canoe. Conditions were still pleasant in that the clouds were bright and not dropping rain, and I had a really beautiful look at a hawk souring on the breeze (no red tail, but that would be my guess), but paddling was nearly impossible. I would make good headway, but lose some of it as well as some of my patience as the wind would whip me sideways and send me back time and again. I kept thinking that as soon as I turned the corner to the river I would no longer be fighting it, and the breeze would send me right up to the landing with no problem. And so I fought on, literally a paddle at a time, as I wound up moving most of the distance to the turn toward the river within the flooded sedge at the edge of the slough, pulling through the vegetation more than paddling. I also moved to the front seat, as I had more control over the bow that way and was much better positioned to reorient when I started to go astray. This took a huge toll on my already-damaged shoulder.

When I did turn the corner to the river, following the northernmost channel, it did get easier, but was still a struggle. Thankfully, the edge of the meadow at the corner with the river was flooded enough to float the canoe, so I didn't have to turn downriver again to get out to the main slough entrance. However, the wind had turned up a notch since I'd worked at the landing, and the rollers were now white-capped. I was beginning to doubt my plan as I imaged trying to maneuver in 1-2 seas around the downed trees in the river. As soon as turned into the actual river, I was splashed with seas slapping the sides of the canoe as it pushed me against shore. Yeah, there was no way I was going out in that.

And so I did wind up leaving the canoe behind at the very end of the meadow, its bow tucked between and tied to a couple of willows. I followed game trails through the edge of the meadows, enjoying the vision of purple asters against burgundy fireweed, until I got stuck at the slough just shy of the property line. A large log in it alerted me to the possibility that it was connected to the main slough, and so might be affected by this 19+ foot tide that was also supposed to carry me up the river. I wound up turning inland and crossing near where the sign was that I wanted to add the stake to. I pushed the stake in as I had the other one, secured it, and eagerly headed home. Now I'm cleaned up with a little fire burning and the wind still rages outside. I hope for the safety of the canoe and think that maybe tomorrow will be the day for a cozy morning tea.

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I think I had the perfect day. I woke up at 6:30, used the restroom, and went back to bed despite assuming I was up for the day. Instead, I fell into a lovely morning doze and when I did get myself up it was after 9:00, I felt wonderful. It was the best night of sleep I've had in a long time and I felt whole, perhaps the continuation of the way I felt last evening when everything was right. Even my shoulder, after yesterday's abuse, felt better than it has since it was injured! I finally had my cup of tea (jasmine) with yogurt and rolled oats for breakfast while Cailey aggressively pawed and head butted and, apparently, wanted pets and attention on the couch, something she doesn't often do. I headed out with Cailey at ten to ten to go up to Devastation Alley to pick some nagoonberries. The area was quite picked over, so it may once have held the bumper crop I thought it would, but the remaining berries were mostly overripe or underripe, and after picking a handful of not great berries, I decided to move on.

Cailey, for her part, was on the edge of great excitement. While still on the trail she had sniffed a critter that must have passed by recently and was thrown into high alert, even quivering a little when we got to Devastation Alley. She continued to hunt while I picked berries, then I took off her jacket and got her to take some selfies with me in the lovely meadow with the mountains in the background. It had been raining on and off and I expected more, but the sun was peeking out and the early fall colors with the backdrop of stark blue mountains was spectacular. We made our way through the colorful meadows and down the loop trail, Cailey on a non-stop bound. She would bound ahead, turn around, bound back, bound ahead again, only occasionally following at heel through the dense brush. She seemed full of energy and enthusiasm and never came up lame. With as little exercise as she's had this summer, I keep thinking she must be getting a bit muscle sore, but you wouldn't know it for her endless bounding.

It was only 11:00 when we got back, so I put her inside and wandered around the meadow clipping or pulling the myriad alders that have grown up along with a handful of spruces. I'd done this casually before, but this was the first time this year that I made a dedicated search with clippers and believe I got most them. In doing so, I noticed that there were a number of blueberries on the bushes near the river, so I came back with small tub and picked about a cup as the rain started to come down steadily. I wasn't very hungry, so I had some chips and a couple of babybel cheeses for lunch, then hung out on the porch with Cailey and read for a little bit, wrapped in a blanket. When the sun came out, it was suddenly very pleasant, but otherwise a little chilly.

At 2:00 I decided to head out for the canoe, though the tide wasn't until 3:53. I could take my time, maybe explore the area downriver a little, and if the current was strong, I could always wait for it to progress.

Instead of sticking to the meadow side of the forest, I crossed the first slough downriver somewhat inland and went up the rise beyond, stepping out onto a dry wonderland of asters, meadow rue, irises, and goldenrod. It was a huge meadow I don't think I've ever seen before, ringed in a fringe of shrubs at the edge of the forest. I think it would be spectacular birdwatching. There's a whole series of meadows back there that I wove through before the spaces between spruce stands thickened with willows. I pushed through one small section of cranberries, then into a spruce copse via a trail and to a very open area with a network of trails, a little like Glen. Exiting the other end put me in meadows again and I turned toward the river.

Shortly before I'd entered the woods, tittering from a large clump of willows drew my attention and I had soon started a bird survey. Out in the meadows there were at least two Townsend's warblers and four yellow-rumped warblers, though I think there were at least twice as many of both. The latter were all through the bushes, gorgeous in their non-breeding plumage. I eventually logged a couple of ruby-crowned kinglets as well--one softly singing as I'd heard yesterday--a chickadee, a yellowthroat, and an orange-crowned warbler who I almost mistook for a Tennessee warbler for her very gray head. One or two hawks circled, but again I could not tell species for sure, though everything but the red tail is suggestive of a red-tail. I lingered as I kept hearing the finch flock that's been around the property all trip who made a couple of quick flybys and stops that I missed. Finally the full flock came and landed on spruces at the edge of the forest. I crept up closer and saw their white wing bars and watched them feed. Merlin agreed that they were white-winged crossbills, my second flock this year. Totally delighted, and having wiled away over an hour getting there, I made my way to the canoe, finding a man-made (or man-tramped) trail from the beach through the fireweed patch which started around Warbler Nest Meadow.

When I got to the canoe--thankfully unmolested--a song sparrow came by and I saw what I thought was a Lincoln's sparrow and then a common yellowthroat, plus two or three shaggy juveniles which I could not place. They had faint sparrow markings on their faces, but rather plain, unstreaked bellies and chestnut wings and I couldn't log them on my spontaneous eBird survey. Thankfully, one of them, presumably the one I thought originally was a Lincoln's, flew into a nearby a shrub and I had an excellent look at what turned out to be a savanna sparrow. There may also have been a Lincoln's, but I didn't see it after that if there was.

Before I ended the survey, I took a quick sweep of the slough and river since I was right at the edge of it and added a couple of eagles and saw a flock of about 18 ducks along a grassy sandbar in the middle of the river. They had a lot of white and maybe one had a chestnut head, but it was much too far away to tell. Nothing for it but to go find them! So I launched the canoe onto the small chop of the river, thankful that paddling wasn't too difficult, though the wind did want to push me sideways sometimes. I got close enough to identify them as common mergansers, then turned upriver. Paddling was a little slow, but easy, and I never felt that the current was trying to send me back downriver. As I passed the Ronquil at a distance I decided to try for the slough upriver--after all, I had no other agenda for the rest of the day and no reason to hurry. I found the river shallow leading into it for some distance, so the channel that used to run there has definitely shifted. And when I entered the slough, full of river water, the current was coursing into it! It was then about high tide (19.4') and it felt like a dam had broken. I was swept pleasantly along by the current and let it carry me down the main channel and around the corner until it got too narrow to turn around. I ducked into the sedge, swung the bow around, and started the somewhat more arduous paddle back out. I had seen one duck in a side slough, all dark, and a flock of about five ducks land near the shore, about what I expected, but none close enough to identify. Still, it's nice to know they're in there.

Close to the entrance, the wind once again wanted to turn the bow toward shore and I had to fight it hard a couple of times to keep pointed downriver, learning that shifting my weight to the opposite side from where the wind wanted to blow it helped keep it straight. It was then half an hour past high tide and the current was still flowing into the slough, though the pace had diminished.

The river was a little choppy, but I didn't have any trouble keeping the bow pointing downstream once I reached it and I didn't feel like I was fighting the current there. I had to paddle enough just to keep the bow straight that I couldn't completely lose momentum to see where I would drift with the current. On arrival at the landing, I hopped off on the corner of the float and pulled the canoe up, finding that the float walkway had drifted up onto the landing which was then under about three inches of water. The water level was about even with the bottom of the sandbags and I was very happy they were there. I definitely think we want to cover the rest of the beach there. I carried the sign posts and carpet pieces and my own gear to the top, then pulled up the canoe with ease. From the float sitting on the landing, there were only about five steps left to pull it. I lifted the bow onto each one individually, then heaved at the top and the canoe slid onto the bank and up without any trouble, and I soon had it in the same place as last winter, tucked into the trees on the downriver side of the trail with the concrete block supporting the center on one side, a root on the other.

Immensely pleased with the day, I came back and visited with Cailey and, after sending an inreach message to Ezra in Dallas, finally felt hungry and heated up some chili with toast which I ate with a G&T. A perfect, perfect day. This has been such a lovely trip. I think that four nights is a good length and I'm so excited to have walked around so much and to have met a friend out there.

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The next morning was dry again, with patches of blue sky showing here and there through clusters of clouds. Cailey and I headed back to the meadow and walked through the newly-discovered short-grass meadow where movement in a clump of willow caught my eye and I had a good, long look at a white-crowned sparrow and a few decent photographs. That started my bird survey over the rest of the walk, though bird life was fairly sparse that morning. For her part, Cailey did not seem eager to be there and bounded back toward the cabin every time I paused or turned or took a step back to look at something. Practically every movement was a huge bound and she covered much more ground than I did by enthusiastically bounding away and then returning when I did not follow. I found it a little disturbing and wondered why she was so eager to return.

From the end of the inland meadows, we exited through the woods and curved back around upriver, becoming more familiar with the sinuous slough in that area which prohibits crossing until farther inland. It's depressed in the meadow significantly and just a little too wide to jump. I wondered if it exits into the slough at one of the slough mouths I passed while arduously paddling a couple days before, giving a brief reprieve from the friction of the bordering sedge. I saw a white-crowned sparrow again along with a number of Lincoln's sparrows and other song birds while walking along the border to the slough to look for water birds. I was a bit concerned about Cailey's leg, as the bounding was so constant and we were staying out longer than we had the previous two walks, but I really wanted to see if anything was about on the low tide of the morning. There were a few ducks, but too far away to identify, and more songbirds in the willows. I took a plunge in a tiny slough while walking and birdwatching at the same time, but I was out before much water got in my boot.

From there we returned to the trail via the iris meadow as I'm beginning to do to avoid some of the tall bluejoint, and back to the cabin. Cailey's leg was perfect and I was elated--if she could do that walk, she must be nearly healed. Back at the cabin, I filled the water jug I'd emptied, cleaned up, and had lunch, then returned to the new loop trail and finished clearing it. Unfortunately, I was sloppy and not paying attention and wound up clearing it to the wrong section of fern meadow which I realized when I encountered a large horizontal willow blocking the trail, much too big for clippers. As I'd encountered no obstruction when walking it previously, I backtracked and found that I had diverted from the main trail about 20 feet from the edge of the woods, so redirected and was soon through to the main meadow with the slough running through it. I continued judiciously clipping shrubs and occasional sweet gale until there was a decent trail to the loop entrance into the woods.

Around 3:00 we headed out in the Ronquil and escaped the river with no issues, though still more shallow than I would have liked along the meadows. The seas weren't bad, though Cailey still looked sea sick, and we made good time to the harbor. It was a little odd to arrive without a greeting party! I dropped Cailey off at the car, drove it to short term parking, used the portapotty then hauled all my gear up easily in one load after finding a bunch of carts at the first emergency station south of the boat house (glad I didn't have to go too far for one). Though I'd certainly like to return this year to help close up, with my canoe ready for winter, my bedding in town to wash, a week in Anchorage for work coming up, and an uncertain schedule to close Snettisham, I am comfortable with leaving it for the year if need be.

Off leash at last!