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We thoroughly enjoyed wandering in the old town of Sitka on our own, at our own pace, stopping to talk to the locals and trying to get a feel for this outpost of civilisation.

P1140587

P1140587 © JT of jtdytravels

Most of the old town consists of just one street; clean and tidy. Time to check out the windows and stop for a chat with the shop keepers. A very pleasant afternoon.

P1130037 © DY of jtdytravels

P1130037 © DY of jtdytravels

Two old men sat outside a shop filled with bric-a-brac and Tlingit souveneirs. There was a third chair; vacant. So where was the third of this trio? …. gone fishing, of course! As soon as we told them that we were Australian, they warned us that we wouldn’t be able to buy anything from them as we wouldn’t get it through customs back home. True. But they invited us to go in for a look anyway and went back to watching their ‘world’ go by from their plastic chairs. Such friendliness! And trust!

P1140698 © JT of jtdytravels

P1140698 © JT of jtdytravels

Their office was a bit higgledy piggledy… to put it mildly.

P1140697 © JT of jtdytravels

P1140697 © JT of jtdytravels

Many artefacts were made from whale bone or walrus tusks; fascinating but certainly not for taking back to Australia.

P1130036 © DY of jtdytravels

P1130036 © DY of jtdytravels

More carved and painted tusks.

P1140700 © JT of jtdytravels

P1140700 © JT of jtdytravels

A stylised symbol made from shell buttons.

P1140701 © JT of jtdytravels

P1140701 © JT of jtdytravels

An embroidered Tlingit raven symbol… loved the eyes! But you wouldn’t want to have this on the wall at home… you’d feel those eyes watching you all the time.

P1140702 © JT of jtdytravels

P1140702 © JT of jtdytravels

I think this is supposed to represent a baby seal.

P1140703 © JT of jtdytravels

P1140703 © JT of jtdytravels

And would you want this on your lounge room wall?

It was a delightful visit to an unusual shop.

P1140715 © JT of jtdytravels

P1140715 © JT of jtdytravels

A little further down the street, I saw this sign… a very true saying!

P1140704 © JT of jtdytravels

P1140704 © JT of jtdytravels

And this bear shows why! David was glad that it was a stuffed version.

P1140710 © JT of jtdytravels

P1140710 © JT of jtdytravels

I believe this was the fur of a wolf but am not certain.

P1140711 © JT of jtdytravels

P1140711 © JT of jtdytravels

David ‘ummed and ahhed’ over this but decided not to buy!

P1140707 © JT of jtdytravels

P1140707 © JT of jtdytravels

At the end of the main street was a hedge of roses.

P1140708

P1140708 © JT of jtdytravels

And behind the hedge, was an inviting path that lead to ‘The Pioneer Home’, one of Sitka’s many historic structures. It’s an aged peoples home. I found notes about it on the site of the Alaskan Department of Health and Social Services. It’s an interesting story. I quote:

“The Sitka Pioneer Home has a rich history that is woven into the state and territorial story of Alaska. The home had humble beginnings as a log barracks that had been built by the Russians in the 1800’s.

A contingent of the U.S. Marines was stationed in Sitka in 1879, and until 1892 the men were quartered in the Russian built log barracks. Buildings were added in subsequent years. The base had expanded, but was closed in 1912 and the buildings stood idle. The people of Sitka were anxious to have a home for the increasing number of pioneers, prospectors, and others who were no longer able to care for themselves.

Alaska became a Territory in 1912 and in August of that year a bill was introduced by Sitka’s Representative, Arthur G. Shoup, to appropriate $10,000 and establish the Alaska Pioneer Home at Sitka. The Navy Department gave permission to use the old barracks for that purpose and the Home opened in September 1913.

Only indigent men were admitted to the Home in the early years. By the early 1930s, in addition to being something of a fire trap, the buildings were becoming dilapidated and expensive to maintain. Congress enacted a law granting the former Naval Reserve to the Territory of Alaska.”

P1130038

P1130038 © JT of jtdytravels

 

“It was at this time that the present concrete building was constructed. The new building housed 170 men but there were no facilities for women. The 1949 Legislature provided funds for a women’s Home, and a former church, adjoining the Pioneer Home, was purchased for that purpose. The arrangement was not wholly satisfactory and in 1956 the new North Wing was added to the main building. It housed women and married couples at first, and later was occupied by single men and women, as well. The building has since undergone remodeling and renovations. The most recent renovation was to add a living space in the North Wing to provide care for residents with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia.

Today’s Sitka Pioneer Home has a capacity to serve 75 men and women and provides care at three different levels:

  • Level I (independent)
  • Level II (basic assistance)
  • Level III (24-hour care for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders and comprehensive services)

The Sitka Pioneer Home is an Eden Alternative® Registered Home. The home is committed to providing compassionate care to residents, staff, family and community in a home that nurtures the human body, mind and spirit while preserving dignity and individuality.” ​​

P1140692

P1140692 © JT of jtdytravels

The garden there was bright with flowers. A nice touch.

P1140705 © JT of jtdytravels

P1140705 © JT of jtdytravels

Wandering back up the other side of the street, we noticed this jeweller’s shop display… crystals representing the water drops off a whales tail… very effective.

Several of the shops here had a very Russian ‘flavour’; many people are descendants of those early Russian settlers. Our Christmas baubles from here were very Russian.

P1140712 © JT of jtdytravels

P1140712 © JT of jtdytravels

An example of modern art in an old town.

P1140691 © JT of jtdytravels

P1140691 © JT of jtdytravels

We loved these no smoking signs… first noticed them in Juneau. It appears that they have had a development in style over the years. This one’s copyright date is 1983.

P1140696 © JT of jtdytravels

P1140696 © JT of jtdytravels

And this is a 2006 version.

P1140714 © JT of jtdytravels

P1140714 © JT of jtdytravels

But this was a real no nonsense sign!

P1140716 © JT of jtdytravels

P1140716 © JT of jtdytravels

I liked the message on this sign… one we can all take heed of no matter where we live.

P1140589

P1140589 © JT of jtdytravels

And so almost back to the hotel and time to try out the Sitka coffee and cakes! We sat in the bay window in old well worn arm chairs and had our turn at watching Sitka go by! And very relaxing it was too… not a lot to stress about here.

We had time to muse about our fantastic experience in this part of the world, exploring the Inside Passage and the Tongass National Park aboard the good ship ‘Sea Lion”. But, as usual, holidays and good times have a habit of coming to an end. We would soon enough trade this quiet little town for the bustle of Seattle. But first we had to get there and that meant hoping that our plane would not be fogged in, rained in or otherwise have a reason to not depart on the morrow! Nothing is ever certain in Sitka. More of that anon.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

www.jtdytravels.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

www.dymusings.com

More of our travel photos are on

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

 

 

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The next stop on our ‘Tour of the Town’ of Sitka was at the Raptor Centre. Here, up to 200 injured birds a year are taken in for treatment. The aim is to restore the birds, if possible, to the wilderness.

P1140592 © JT of jtdytravels

P1140592 © JT of jtdytravels

Raptors are meat or fish eating birds that hunt for their food. They need to be healthy to hunt and survive on their own in the wild. Some of the birds being treated are kept in this large room where they can safely begin to learn to fly again. They may have had broken wings or other bones, gunshot wounds or have been poisoned, usually unintentionally.

We were told that about 85% of the injuries treated at the centre are due to human  intervention in the natural habitat of the birds. Most injuries are caused by collisions with power lines, cars and other man-made objects. Poisonous chemicals at dumps and those used on lawns and gardens can cause poisoning if what the birds eat is polluted. Birds become scavengers… its an easy way to hunt! Others are caught in fishing lines and tackle left lying around. One of the centre’s aims is to make us all aware of the consequences of our actions, on birds in particular, and the environment in general.

P1140597 © JT of jtdytravels

P1140597 © JT of jtdytravels

The Raptor Centre’s symbol is the American Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus Leucocephalus, the bird adopted as the national bird symbol of the United States of America in 1782. It was chosen for its majestic beauty, great strength, long life, and because it’s native to the USA. This symbol is on many of the gift shop souveneirs, the sale of which helps pay for the recovery of the birds. We chose a glass bauble with an eagle for our Christmas tree collection.

P1140599 © JT of jtdytravels

P1140599 © JT of jtdytravels

One eagle, which can’t be returned to the wild because of his injuries, has been trained to be the ‘meet and greet’ bird at lectures given at the Centre. He was so well behaved!

P1140606 © JT of jtdytravels

P1140606 © JT of jtdytravels

It was amazing to be able to get up fairly close and personal with such a bird. He showed off the main characteristics of all raptors; sharp eyesight, a hooked, sharp beak and strong feet with sharp talons. They are not birds to be played with!

P1140608 © JT of jtdytravels

P1140608 © JT of jtdytravels

Even though the bald eagles are a well known symbol of USA, they were for many years on the list of endangered US birds. Why? In the ‘lower 48 states of the USA, the bald eagle populations were almost wiped out by DDT, heavy metal poisoning and loss of habitat. By the time DDT was banned in 1972, there were fewer than 450 breeding pairs left in all of the continental United States. It was on the Endangered Species List from 1978 until July 1999 when it was down listed to ‘threatened’. Now, the bald eagle population is estimated to be about 100,000. Half of those are found in Alaska.

Although never a threatened species in Alaska, there was a bounty on bald eagles from the early 1900s to 1950. As a species of sea eagles, the main diet of bald eagles is fish; salmon and herring in particular. The bounty was placed because the birds were thought to be in competition with local fishermen for the live salmon. They were! But the fishermen have had to learn that they must live with the wildlife of the area and that includes eagles, seals and whales. It is we who have invaded their habitat.

P1140615

P1140615  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

The bald eagles, like these two, that have been treated satisfactorily at the centre, go through various stages of rehabilitation until they can be released back into the wild.

But some cannot be released for a variety reasons. Those birds may be placed in captive breeding facilities around the country so that their offspring can be released to help restore wild populations. Others are placed in zoos and other educational organisations to help educate the public about raptors.

P1140620 © DY of jtdytravels

P1140620 © DY of jtdytravels

This bird, in an outer enclosure, showed off its extremely sharp talons and its not so pleasant personality. ‘Leave me alone, or else…’ seemed to be the message! It’s a sign of good rehabilitation as it needs to be wary and wild to survive in the forest. The white head and tail mark this bird as an adult. Immature bald eagles are a mottled brown.

P1140623 © JT of jtdytravels

P1140623 © JT of jtdytravels

A bald eagle has about 7,000 feathers, fluffed out here for our closer inspection!

P1140624 © JT of jtdytravels

P1140624 © JT of jtdytravels

An even closer look at those head feathers.

P1140627 © DY of jtdytravels

P1140627 © DY of jtdytravels

And that’s some wingspan!

P1140626 © JT of jtdytravels

P1140626 © JT of jtdytravels

The large outer forest area of the Centre is the final stage in rehabilitation where the birds practice life ‘in the wild’ before being released to fend for themselves. Eagles can live for thirty years or more… so, hopefully, these birds will survive for many years to come.

P1140638

P1140638 © JT of jtdytravels

This Red Tailed Hawk, Buteo Jamaicensis, was one of the raptors in the rehabilitation area. These hawks are found in every US state except for Hawaii. They play a very important role in the management of the rodent population. That beady eye can spot a mouse more than 30 m (100 ft) away. One hawk can eat more than 1,000 mice a year. That makes these birds more efficient than pesticides and far less harmful to the environment and other birds.

There are two main groups of raptors. The diurnal raptors, like eagles, hawks, falcons and kites, hunt during the day. But nocturnal raptors hunt at night. These include most of the owls. In the USA, there are 34 diurnal raptor species and 19 species of owls.

P1140633 © JT of jtdytravels

P1140633 © JT of jtdytravels

One of the owls being cared for at the Centre was this Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus. It’s common name is a bit of a misnomer! The tufts on top of its head are not horns, just feather tufts. This is one of the largest owls in the USA and can survive in habitats as vastly different as the hot, dry, desert canyons of Arizona or the cold, wet rain forests of Alaska. Like most owls, their feather design allows them to fly almost silently, enabling them to stealthily hunt for prey such as mice, squirrels and frogs.

P1140645.JPG

P1140645  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

My favourite owl was the the Great Grey Owl, Strix nebulosa. How could you not fall in love with that wonderful face? I was keen to learn more about this bird.

The Great Grey Owl is one of the world’s largest owls and has the largest facial disc of any owl. It has asymmetrical ear openings that are surrounded by feathers which help to funnel sound towards the ear. This allows the bird to detect the slightest noise made by prey such as voles and mice (This is another bird that is rodent destroyer!)

Great Grey Owls are forest dwellers and have a circumpolar distribution ranging from Alaska to Easter Canada and across the northern forests of Europe and Asia. They are very reclusive and rarely seen in the wild so it was special to see one up so close.

Like most owls, Great Grey Owls don’t usually build their own nests. In Alaska, they often use abandoned Northern Goshawk nests. The success of the owls raising their clutch of one to nine eggs is highly dependent on food source that year. In low food years, no eggs may be laid at all. The male provides food for the female during the 30 days that she sits on the eggs, and also for the nestlings for three weeks after hatching. It surprised me to learn that the young owlets are proficient climbers! They leave the nest and climb around in the trees for several weeks before they learn to fly. Even after they finally fledge at about eight weeks, they may stay near to the nest for several months.

I spent so much time learning about this owl that I almost missed the bus! So whatever was left for me to see at the Raptor Centre will remain a mystery to me. We were soon on our way to our next centre of interest, the Sitka Totem museum.

But, if you’d like to learn more about these magnificent owls, follow this link!

http://www.coniferousforest.com/great-grey-owl.htm

There you’ll find some really great photos. I can’t compete with them! You have to be a dedicated, professional bird photographer with excellent gear to get shots like these.

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 11.50.07 AM.png

Great Grey Owlets on a twig nest.

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 11.50.30 AM

Female Great Grey Owl with young on nest.

Isn’t it great that, via the web, we can see such excellent nature photography.

More anon

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

www.jtdytravels.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

www.dymusings.com

More of our travel photos are on

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

 

 

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Our last afternoon in the Inside Passage was spent in a delightful bay… waiting. Our destination for the day was the town of Sitka out on the western coast of this part of Alaska. And to get there, we had to negotiate Peril Strait. As it’s name suggests its not the easiest place to navigate with tide changes up to 7m through the narrows.

P1110917

P1110917 © DY of jtdytravels

So we waited for the right time to sail towards the narrow passage and had an interesting afternoon checking out each others photos. Everyone was asked to add three photos to the pool and it proved to be fascinating to see what each person added.

P1140539  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1140539 © JT of jtdytravels

Later, as we moved towards the passage, we did a side trip into a wide bay which seemed to be full of whales. Having taken many whale photos, this time we just enjoyed them. One or two performed amazing breeches right out of the water, but most were just feeding.

P1100262.JPG

After a while, I decided to get my camera. Lucky! As I left our room, a whale came right up beside the ship and gave me a wonderful wave of the tail. Then it, and most of the other whales, seemed to vanish. It was as if this one was saying good bye.  We sailed on.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110906

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110906

Dusk was gathering as we entered a more narrow passage of water. All seemed very still.

BUT the water way ahead of us was treacherous; the tide coming in and going out very rapidly and all ship’s captains have to be especially vigilant in these waters.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140543

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140543

The ship glided slowly towards our appointed time to go through Peril Strait. There is a definite process to be followed and our Captain had applied for our specific time.

The Tlingit natives had a name for this strait- Haat xhishxhaak.  Haat meaning tide, rapids, whirlpool or back-eddy; and xhishxhaak meaning, appropriately, to sit down! They would pull there canoes to the bank to wait for the tide to be just right.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140550

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140550

The view back from the rail outside our room. Night approached.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140551

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140551

There was a strange eeriness about these waters. And many have perished here. One story tells of some native Aleut seal hunters who pulled in here to await the tide change. While waiting they had a feast of shellfish. Unfortunately for them, the shellfish were poisonous and about one hundred and fifty of these men died. Where they died is now called Poison Cove and Deadman’s Reach.  Not the best of bed time stories!

P1140547  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1140547 © JT of jtdytravels

After watching the moving shapes in the waters for some time, I finally turned in for some shut eye, trusting the Captain and his crew to get us safely to Sitka.

map of trip

The map shows where we had travelled on this wilderness adventure.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140555

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140555

I woke to the sound of the engines slowing down. We had arrived. Dawn was breaking.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140557

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140557

The clouds were mirrored in the still waters of Sitka Harbour.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140558

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140558

Looking out from our room was our first sight of a Sitka residence.

P1140559  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1140559 © JT of jtdytravels

We made our way under the bridge to the dock. This is a big bridge that takes a road to almost nowhere. Fir the only way into Sitka is by sea or by air. There are only 22.5 km or (14 ml) of road in this town; half go east-west and half go north-south. We had chosen to stay here for an extra night. Was that wise in such a small town of only 9,000 people?

P1140564  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1140564 © JT of jtdytravels

It’s always hectic when a ship comes into its final port. Bags have to be out by 7 am; breakfast is earlier than usual; everyone must leave the ship by 8am. But while I waited, I took some time to check out the harbour around us. It’s a busy fishing port.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140562

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140562

Fishing boats of all sizes were moored near the fish co-op.

P1140561  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1140561 © JT of jtdytravels

In deeper water, a larger ship unloaded its cargo. These ships are the life line for the townspeople bringing in cargo from the larger cities.

P1140563  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1140563 © JT of jtdytravels

The tide was well out. Its just as well they have variable gangways up to the docks.

P1140566  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1140566 © JT of jtdytravels

It was time to farewell our good ship ‘Sea Lion’ and our Captain and crew. They had all been wonderful.  What would we find here in Sitka? We had read that in March 2013, the Smithsonian Magazine named Sitka as #9 in its top ten towns in the USA! That’s quite some call… so we looked forward to exploring here for a couple of days.

And we’ll share that with you all anon.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

www.jtdytravels.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

www.dymusings.com

More of our travel photos are on

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

 

 

.

 

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

www.jtdytravels.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

www.dymusings.com

More of our travel photos are on

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

 

 

.

.

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The morning of our last day in the Tongass National Park wilderness was overcast and misty. There was talk of rain. We hoped not.

P1140473.JPG

P1140473 ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

After breakfast, the clouds began to rise revealing the mountains.

P1140469.JPG

P1140469 ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

The crew dropped the kayaks into the water and everyone geared up for our last day in this pristine, wonderful part of the world… walking, kayaking or floating about in the DIBS (inflatables known as Zodiacs in Australia).

P1140474

P1140474 ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

What a beautiful place! There was great anticipation amongst the walkers (David included) that this might just be the day that they would encounter a bear on their walk. The area is known for its bears and the salmon run was about to start in streams around this bay.

P1110775 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110775 © DY of jtdytravels

Several interesting jelly fish floated by as we were preparing to climb into the DIBs to go ashore. This one was the Lion’s Mane Jellyfish, Cyanea capillata.

Like all jellyfish, this one is ‘diploblastic’ which means it has two primary layers: the ectoderm, the inner layer of tissue associated with the gut, and the endoderm, the outer layer, which includes the nervous tissue.  The animal’s radial symmetry allows it to reach out in all directions from the centre, assisting their feeding.

But this jellyfish has some specialised characteristics. It doesn’t have a brain or eyes so it has to rely on nerve cells to sense and react to either food or danger. Some of its eight lobes have organs used for sensing odor and balance. And at the end of some of the lobes there are primitive light receptors!  It’s understood that these sensing organs tell the jellyfish whether they are heading up or down, and into the light or away from it.

Most of us know to beware of jellyfish and their stings; and the Lion’s Mane jellyfish is no exception. As you can see in the photo, there are many tentacles. In fact these animals can have up to 8 clusters each with 150 tentacles; Now, how’s your maths? I make that add  up to  1,200 tentacles per jellyfish… AND… one researcher recorded a  Cyanea capillata‘s tentacle at almost over 6 metres (200 ft) long… AND every single one of these enormous tentacles are lined with large amount of cnidocytes, the stuff that stings if you touch it. That’s impressive! One of the effects of the venom of the Lion’s Mane is ‘hemolysis’; the destruction of red blood cells. So stay well clear of these beauties.

And we did; we watched and waited until they floated by. But they don’t really float. They propel themselves using special muscles called coronal muscles which are embedded on the underside of the bell. These muscles push water out of the hollow bell. Then, as water is pushed in one direction, the jellyfish moves in the opposite direction.

Learning about them from our marine biologist was fascinating.

 

 

P1110780  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110780 © DY of jtdytravels

By the time we got to shore, the kayaks were lined up ready for those wanting to paddle their way around the calm waters of this bay.

P1110782  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110782 © DY of jtdytravels

David and his group began their walk, going by this tree that was just clinging to the rock face.

P1110787  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110787 © DY of jtdytravels

Another tree had a squirrel’s cache of pine cones in a hole at its base.

P1110789.JPG

P1110789  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

Nearby was a lovely example of the Narrow Beech Fern;  Thelypteris phegopteris.

P1110794  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110794 © DY of jtdytravels

This Coralroot Orchid, Corallorhiza maculata, is named the spotted orchid for its spotted lip. But it’s named coral root because it has no roots; it has, instead, hard, branched rhizomes that look like coral. It’s a parasitic orchid deriving its nutrients from mycorrhizal fungi in the deep, damp humus and soils in the understory of coniferous forests.

P1110812  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110812 © DY of jtdytravels

An Native of the Alaskan mountain forests,  Clintonia uniflora is a member of the lily family. It’s common names are bride’s bonnet and queen’s cup… neither of which seem to be very apt to me. 

You have to look in the understory of the coniferous forests to find this delightful small white flower.  Two or three long, wide leaves are located at the base of the stem.

P1110808

P1110808 © DY of jtdytravels

This flower will be replaced by just one round, blue berry, up to one centimetre wide.

P1110862.JPG

P1110862  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

Dying petals look very delicate, almost translucent, adorned as they are with raindrops.

P1110863.JPG

P1110863  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

The forest canopy reflected in a raindrop; one of the joys of a walking in the rain!

P1110814  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110814 © DY of jtdytravels

As usual in these forests, fungi abound, some like this one are very ‘architectural’.

P1110815  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110815 © DY of jtdytravels

A rain collector!

P1110821  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110821 © DY of jtdytravels

While David wandered on his flower spotting way through the forest, I was meandering in a DIB around the streams that run into the bay.

P1110837.JPG

P111o837  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

Every now and then we spotted each other through the trees. These streams are spawning grounds for salmon and I was enjoying Jason’s stories of the salmon as we floated along.

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P1140513  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

It was a delightful way to spend my last day in the Tongass National Forest.

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P1140516  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

The reflections were perfect… if we sat still enough in the boat.

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P1140499  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

We found a pair of eagles to watch. They were watching for salmon!

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P1140528 ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

After a dive into the water (no fish on this occasion) it dried its wings.

We watched it… it watched us. We wondered what it thought!

They are such a magnificent birds !

P1110825  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110825 © DY of jtdytravels

David walked on further into the forest but still following the stream.

P1110831  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110831 © DY of jtdytravels

The delightful red paintbrush flower; we’d seen it several times before.

P1110833  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110833 © DY of jtdytravels

Always well worth a closer inspection.

P1110839  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110839 © DY of jtdytravels

We had seen many example of the Black Lily or Chocolate Lily, Fritillaria camschatcensis, on our forest walks. The name denotes that it is native to Kamchatka on the far east Russian Peninsular where David had trekked a couple of years before. (Those stories are written up on www.dymusings.com)

I think I mentioned in an earlier post that this lily looks lovely but it has a really bad smell which it uses that to attract flies as pollinators. Before rice became available in quantity in these parts, the local native people of Alaska used the plant’s clusters of rice like, tiny white bulbs as food hence the other common names of Indian Rice or Eskimo Potato. Nowadays, the art of harvesting and cooking the lily roots has all but disappeared.   

P1110887  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110887 © DY of jtdytravels

A good example of bracket fungi, a woody fungi that grows on tree trunks.

P1110886  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110886 © DY of jtdytravels

Further upstream away from the larger pond, the walkers had to cross a stream.

P1110891  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110891 © DY of jtdytravels

And not long after that, they were stopped in their tracks. What are they looking at?

P1110895  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110895 © DY of jtdytravels

A bear! Yes, they actually came across a bear. Stand still. Don’t move. That’s the rule.

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But the bear was not interested in them. It was looking to see if any salmon had come up the stream yet. The salmon spawning run was about to begin and this bear was ready!

And you can imagine the excitement back on the ship. Last walk. Last chance. A BEAR!

And so the forest walks ended on a very high, very satisfying note. But once the bear was seen, it was not wise to stay in that part of the forest, so it was back to the ship- quietly.

But once on board, the lunch room was a buzz of excited bear chatter. And after lunch, it was time to weigh anchor and sail for Sitka, our final port of call on this adventure through the waterways of the Tongass National Forest and the Inside Passage of Alaska.

More of Sitka anon

.Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass this site onto others

www.jtdytravels.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

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More of our travel photos are on

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Welcome back to this site after our diversion to www.dymusings.com for photos and stories of David’s treks and explorations of parts of China and Mongolia. We hope our regular readers have enjoyed those posts and thank you for joining David for his journeys.

He’s having a rest from travel at the moment and will be off again later in the year.

So to keep all of our armchair travellers out and about and exploring the world, we’ll now return to my journey with David through Alaska’s Inside Passage adventure in June 2015 with National Geographic/ Lindblad expeditions on our small ship Sea Lion. Of course, as I write this from the heat of an Australian summer, Alaska is in the midst of deep winter. But no matter; we can still enjoy more of this amazing part of the world together. I will be posting on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for those who wish to follow these post.

In the last post that I published on this site, (#23 in this Alaskan series), we sailed north through Glacier Bay National Park towards the glaciers that give the park its name. In this post we’ll add photos of some of those majestic glaciers which can only be viewed from the ship… no landings are permitted within this National Park.

Glacier Map

Glacier Map

Glacier Bay needs a full day’s sailing to explore; it covers 3,280.198 acres and we only saw the part visible from our good ship as it meandered its way up through the mountains.

As we sailed, our National Park guide reminded us that when Capt. George Vancouver sailed the Alaska coast in 1794, Glacier Bay did not exist. It lay beneath a sheet of glacial ice several miles wide and thousands of feet thick. Since then, in one of the fastest glacial retreats on record, the ice has shrunk back the 65 miles of our sailing. As it has shrunk, it has unveiled new land and a new bay. It’s as if this area is returning to life after a long winter’s sleep.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110593

Approaching Margerie Glacier © DY of jtdytravels; P1110593

The first glacier we approached was the Margerie Glacier in the Tarr Inlet. This glacier is about 1.6 km (1 mile) wide and it’s height at the face is about 110m (350 ft) ; that includes the ice that extends underwater for a depth of 30m (100 feet). Although at this point the glacier still looked far away and not too large, it grew in grandeur as we approached. 

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140228

Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140228

Margerie Glacier extends up into the mountains for a length of 34 km (21 miles) to its source on the southern slopes of Mount Root.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1110602

Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1110602

We were able to clearly see the black lines of moraine… the dirt and rocks that are carried down with the ice towards the terminus.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110605

Margerie Glacier © DY of jtdytravels; P1110605

We were able to get close enough to see the deep blues in the fissures in the ice.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140231

Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140231

We were told that an iceberg’s colour often reveals its makeup; dense bergs are blue, while those filled with trapped air bubbles are white.

© JT od jtdytravels; P1140235

Margerie Glacier © JT od jtdytravels; P1140235

There were many wonderful ice sculptures to hold our attention.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140253

Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140253

Some seemed to be on the verge of breaking away to calve into the bay.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140255

Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140255

Ice has been a major force in the Glacier Bay region for at least the last seven million years. However, the glaciers we gazed at with such awe, are remnants of ‘ The Little Ice Age”… a general ice advance that began about 4,000 years ago.  The ice here reached its maximum extent about 1750, when general melting began.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140219

Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140219

This is a good example of the layering effect of a glacier… layer upon layer of ice with layers of moraine trapped in the ice for perhaps centuries.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140258

Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140258

We were lucky enough to see several calvings of ice from the face of the glacier. It’s just difficult to get your timing right for photos! You can be watching one end of the face, when with a loud creak and crash, the ice falls from another part. But you always hear them. When the ice hits the water it sounds like a cannon shot. “White thunder,” the Tlingit called it, ‘the awesome voice of glacial ice’.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140252

Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140252

The remains of a calving break up into various sized icebergs that float off down the bay. Blocks of ice up to 200 feet high sometimes break loose and crash into the water.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140294

John Hopkins Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140294

Without doubt, the most majestic glacier in Glacier bay National Park is the John Hopkins Glacier. It’s 19 km (12 m) long and cannot be approached too closely by ships… the bergs that carve here are too large for safety. And, anyway, this is a favourite safe haul out for harbour seals… well away away from predators, especially when they are pupping.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140303

John Hopkins Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140303

With a long distance lens, the ‘roads of moraine’ are clearly visible.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140299

John Hopkins Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140299

John Hopkins is one of the several huge tidewater glaciers that flow out of from these mountains and down to the sea.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140327

A retreating glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140327

Our guide told us that scientists come here regularly to study glacial retreat; this area is called by some “a living laboratory for the grand processes of glacial retreat, plant succession, and animal dynamics. It is an open book on the last ice age.”

As we sailed between glaciers, we saw that much of the very rugged, more recently deglaciated land was beginning to host some vegetation.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140324

A retreating glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140324

Several glaciers were continuing their retreat back into the mountains.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140353

Lamplugh Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140353

Lamplugh Glacier was my favourite of all the glaciers. It rises 45 to 55 m (150-180 ft) above the waterline and goes down 3 to 12 m (10-40 ft) below. The Lamplugh is immense; almost 1.2 km (3/4 ml) wide. It flows for 26 km (16 ml) from its source at a rate of 365 m (1200 ft) per year. They are pretty impressive statistics; but not as impressive as being there, right there… close up to such grandeur!

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140335

Lamplugh Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140335

While we were enjoying the spectacle of such a wonderful glacier, our guide gave us brief explanation of the formation of a glacier. Up in the high mountains, at the source of the glacier, it’s so cold that none of the snow melts even in the summer… so the snowfall exceeds snowmelt. Over time, that snow pack builds up until the weight of the upper, newer, layers of snow press down on previous layers of snow, deforming the flakes beneath and changing them into granular snow, like round ice grains. I was amazed to learn that individual crystals can sometimes grow the size of a football. Air trapped between the snowflakes is also frozen into the ice at this immense pressure.  Eventually the granular snow becomes solid ice, many, many meters thick.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140339

Lamplugh Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140339

The ice near the bottom of the glacier is under such tremendous pressure that it flows almost like plastic over the rock beneath. Friction between the glacier and the bedrock produces meltwater which also allows the ice to slide. In places, you can see a cave like section under the glacier where the lowest layer of ice has melted away.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140349

Lamplugh Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140349

It’s fascinating to watch large chunks of the ice calve off forming icebergs, some so large they might last a week or more as they deteriorate and melt way. Icebergs provide perches for bald eagles, cormorants, and gulls, as well as haul-outs for seals.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140352

Lamplugh Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140352

We heard the mighty crash and splash as more ice fell into the bay. Spectacular! But it was also a timely reminder that icebergs are in retreat in many places around the world… and that’s not a good scenario for rising sea levels.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140359

Lamplugh Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140359

Here, we were able to witness the start of an iceberg’s journey down towards the sea. Earlier in our journey, we’d had the privilege of getting up very close to icebergs in our inflatables. Then, we’d actually heard the crackles and pops as ancient, long-trapped air was released from the ice.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140314 2

Retreating Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140314 2

Too soon, it was time to sail back south away from the glaciers. There, on slopes which had been deglaciated 50 to 100 years ago, we saw alder and willow growing in the moraine close down to the shore. Rocky areas and cliffs, exposed within the last 30 years, had patches of pioneering plant life such as mosses, mountain avens and dwarf fireweed. And on the crest of the view was the last vestige of yet another retreating glacier.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110591

Leaving the glacier zone © DY of jtdytravels; P1110591

The further down the bay we sailed, the more vegetation we saw. This new vegetation has created habitats for wolves, moose, mountain goats, black bears, brown bears, ptarmigan, and other wildlife; all in an environment less than 200 years old. Our park ranger guide told us stories of her camping trips in the wild here and of her contact with some of these animals… up close and personal! A little too close and personal for my liking!

The sea here also supports a wide variety of life; salmon, bald eagles, harbour seals, harbour porpoises, killer whales and humpback whales… and its the story of one particular whale that will be the centre of our next Alaska posting.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass this site onto others

www.jtdytravels.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

www.dymusings.com

More of our travel photos are on

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

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A much anticipated day was our visit to Glacier Bay National Park.

Glacier Bay map

Glacier Bay map

This area, at the northern end of Tongass National Forest on the Alaskan Panhandle is very special. As far back as February 25th, 1925, the uniqueness of this area was noted. It needed to preserved as true wilderness. In a far sighted act, the then US President, Calvin Coolidge, proclaimed it a ‘National Monument under the Antiquities Act’.

In total, the wilderness area of Glacier Bay National Park covers 10,784 km² (4,164 mi²). There’s also a large extension to the park that’s called a preserve, where hunting can be undertaken, but only under special licence. I’ve never been able to fathom the need for people to hunt and shoot wild animals for ‘trophies’ but that’s the way it is in these parts.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140458

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140458

The entrance to Glacier Bay is close to the entrance of the Inside Passage. The big Cruise Ships come in from the Gulf of Alaska via Icy Strait, away from the rolling sea, as I remember it from my last visit here in 2001, and into much calmer waters. On this visit to Alaska, in 2015, I’d spent the night asleep on board our small ship ‘Sea Lion” in the calm waters of one of the nearby coves. In the morning, we only had to sail across the strait to the National Park  headquarters to pick up our guide, Nicole. Every ship, large or small, must take on board a Park Ranger. Their task is to check that no rules are broken and also to act as the NP guide for the day.

Many of the glaciers in this famous Bay, owe their existence to the largest of all mountains in the area, Mt Fairweather. Storms blow in from the ocean and dump their icy waters as snow on and over the Mt Fairweather area. Over centuries, glaciers form from the compacted snow.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140456

Tlingit Totem symbol © JT of jtdytravels; P1140456

In the 1800’s, this area became a fishing place for the native Huna Tlingit. Their name for the highest mountain in the area was Tsalxhaan.  When Captain James Cook saw it, on a fine day in 1778, he named it Mt Fairweather… not really an apt description as it’s not often seen for cloud and is not known for fair weather. Regardless of that, Cook’s naming has been kept.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140448

Glacier Bay in 1750 © JT of jtdytravels; P1140448

The story of Glacier Bay in recorded history is one of fast, spectacular retreat. In Tlingit memory, a huge glacier protruded out into Icy Strait. The first European to mention this area was French explorer La Perouse in 1786. Then, when George Vancouver’s expedition came this way in 1794, they found Icy Strait choked with ice…. hence the name. The area we now know as Glacier Bay was in fact just one tidewater glacier. By 1879, just 85 years later, the famous naturalist John Muir found that the glacier had retreated up the bay by 77km (48mi). And by 1916, the ‘Grand Pacific Glacier’ had retreated 105km (65mi) from the mouth of the bay. This was the fastest recorded iceberg retreat and has been studied by scientists ever since.

The most dramatic example of glacier retreat in the last century was that of the glacier named after John Muir. The calving face of Muir Glacier was 3.2 km (2mi) wide and 81 m (265 ft) high. By the 1990’s, it was no longer calving into the bay. It had retreated back into the ice sheet in the mountains. One wonders what Muir would have made of that!

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140452

Tlingit summer fishing camp © JT of jtdytravels; P1140452

In the late 1800’s, John Muir found the Tlingit people living in their summer camps near the mouth of the bay. They came here to fish and hunt. These people travelled in their dug out canoes throughout these waters, fishing, hunting and visiting other clans for weddings and for ‘potlatch’ ceremonies in which gifts were exchanged to keep peace between the various clans. Maybe we could learn something from this ‘potlatch’ tradition today to help maintain peace instead of resorting to seemingly endless wars! A tradition of giving rather than taking!

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140425

Tlingit canoe © JT of jtdytravels; P1140425

This example of a Tlingit canoe was built, in the traditional way using an adze, by craftsmen in 1987.  It’s made from a single spruce tree and is on show at the Ranger’s headquarters.

After picking up our Park guide Nicole and her understudy, Jenny, we sailed on into the bay in search of wildlife. This was the distinct advantage of being on such a small ship. The large cruise ships sail straight up the bay to see the glaciers and then straight back down again. We had the priviledge of taking our time, of exploring around small islands, of slowing right down when animals were sighted and of getting in close to bays and beaches and cliffs. But we stayed on board. There were no off ship excursions or activities. That was not permitted.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110474

Stellar Sea Lions hauled out on a rock © DY of jtdytravels; P1110474

Small rocks we passed were often covered in Steller sea lions. They are named after Georg Wilhelm Steller who first described them as a distinct type of sea lion in 1741. They are the largest of the eared seals and like other sea lions, they are thigmotactic; they like to cuddle up close together!

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110503

Steller Sea Lions © DY of jtdytravels; P1110503

Steller sea lions are, for some as yet unexplained reason, declining in numbers in Alaska. They are the object of much debate by Alaskan scientists, fishermen and politicians. The reason for the decline is likely to be a complex web of factors including less available fish due to over fishing. With less fatty fish like herring available, sea lions eat more of the leaner fish like pollock and flounder. This limits the amount of fat in the diet, a necessary requirement for survival in these cold waters. Other reasons put forward for this decline in numbers are: shooting by fishermen who see the sea lions as a threat to their own livelihoods, changes in climate, contaminants in waters and increased predation by orcas. The latter I find hard to believe. We did not see one Orca on the whole expedition.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140041

Steller Sea Lion defending territory © JT of jtdytravels; P1140041

The big bull Steller sea lions constantly defend their chosen territory. They are polygynous but, unlike the sea lion species we had seen in Galapagos, these Stella sea lions don’t have harems of females. Instead the bulls control a space where females can come and go but no other male is welcome. We watched this big fellow see off several intruders.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110498

Cormorants © DY of jtdytravels; P1110498

These cormorants seemed to be doing the impossible; standing on a steeply sloping rock face. But they do more than just stand on the slopes; they nest on narrow ledges and shallow depressions on the steepest slopes they can find on the cliffs of rocky islands like this one. The nests are made of anything they can find such as marine algae, grass, moss, sticks and flotsam and debris. They use their excrement to cement these bits and pieces together. All that work is not wasted as the nests are reused year after year. These birds are great divers and feed mostly on bottom feeding fish and invertebrates.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140074

Puffin © JT of jtdytravels; P1140074

It was wonderful to see quite a lot of puffins in these waters near the small islands. But they are very small and so hard to photograph. And they are endlessly diving for small fish. Their large colourful bills are more colourful in the summer nesting season than in winter when the bill’s outer layers are shed. Their black and white plumage is referred to in their genus name  Fratercula, which is derived from the Latin meaning ‘little brother’. It was thought that their plumage resembles monastic robes. Once again, perhaps some imagination is required!

In general, puffins nest underground but at rocky sites like these islands, they do nest on cliff faces. The female lays just one whitish egg and then both parents take turns in the important tasks of incubating the egg and going out to fish. The chick is hatched in July or early August, and then the parents take turns in caring for and feeding the chick. At about five days old, the chick has to fend for itself on that ledge whilst both parents go out to find food.  As the colder weather comes in, the birds leave to spend the winter in the Ocean and never venturing back to the land until the next breeding season. So we were very lucky to see them at nesting time.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140105

Braided stream © JT of jtdytravels; P1140105

In several places we saw braided streams coming down through old glacial valleys. Here, the pioneer plants like Alder were in evidence, re-establishing land previously covered in ice.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140116

Snow and ice covered mountains ahead. © JT of jtdytravels; P1140116

Ice covered mountains came into sight the further north we sailed up the bay.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140147

Rocky cliffs scoured by glacial action © JT of jtdytravels; P1140147

Only lichens and mosses could grow on these cliff faces.

© JY of jtdytravels; P1140166

Grizzly Bear © JY of jtdytravels; P1140166

The cry of “BEAR! BEAR!” soon had everyone rushing to the side of the ship. Because we were on such a small ship, the captain was able to edge closer to the shore and hold position while we watched the bear graze and wander through the grasses. It took absolutely no notice of us.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110543

An old glacial valley © DY of jtdytravels; P1110543

We sailed by several of these very picturesque old glacial valleys, testament to the time when this bay was covered in ice… and that just over two hundred years ago… not millennia!

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140168

A beach of glacial murrain © JT of jtdytravels; P1140168

Gravel brought down by the stream from this mountain had formed a beach.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140204

Wolves © JT of jtdytravels; P1140204

And it was on that beach that we saw wolves (Canis lupus). This caused great excitement. Many of our crew had never seen them and the Captain said it was most unusual to find them in this area. They are usually much more secretive. But on this day, these two chose to wander along the beach and were in view for at least twenty minutes. We just slowly followed them along the beach… from the safety of the ship, of course.

These wolves had very dark pelts, much darker than those found in northern parts of Alaska where, I suppose, they need to be able to ‘melt into’ the colours of a very different landscape. But the pelt colour of Alaskan wolves ranges from black to nearly white, with every shade of grey and brown in between although grey or black wolves like these are the most common.

Wolves can be legally hunted and trapped in Alaska, outside of the area of the National Park. They are classified as both big game animals and as furbearers and are deemed to be not endangered in Alaska. We were told that between 1994 and 2005 more than 14,000 wolves were reported to have been killed or trapped by hunters… and probably as many as that were not reported. We were glad that these two had the protection of a National Park.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110565

Mountain goats © DY of jtdytravels; P1110565

Mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus), as their name suggests, inhabit rugged habitats. They are the only North American representative of mountain ‘ungulates’ or rock goats. And they need to live in an environment like this where wolves can’t easily get to them. To survive here, their hooves are specially designed for climbing on steep, slippery slopes. Their feet have a hard keratinous sheath with an imbedded soft pad which enables them grip the maximum surface area on even the smallest rock or crevice. It was fascinating to watch these three gamble about on this cliff, grazing, but ever watchful.

They have another survival adaptation that allows them to live in the extreme conditions of South East Alaska; in winter they grow a long, shaggy coat. They would need it!

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110572

Sailing ever closer to those remaining glaciers © DY of jtdytravels; P1110572

We left our search for wild life and sailed on towards the glaciers,

still quite a way to go to the head of the bay.

So time out for lunch.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140314

The ice shelf visible above an old valley © JT of jtdytravels; P1140314

After lunch the terrain around had changed somewhat.

Now we could see evidence of the ice shelf in the heights above a valley.

Stunning scenery all around us.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140322

Small ice flows in the water © JT of jtdytravels; P1140322

Finally, the glaciers were heralded by sightings of small ice flows in the water.

And the glaciers that ice came from is the subject of our next post.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

www.jtdytravels.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

www.dymusings.com

More of our travel photos are on

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

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Having explored the beach, the group now turned their attention to a walk that followed Fox Creek into the depths of the conifer forest. Here, they hoped to find plants that thrive in the under story in the moist, mossy areas alongside streams. This too, is the favourite haunt of grizzly bears, especially at the time of the salmon run in these creeks.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110400

Bear footprints © DY of jtdytravels; P1110400

As they entered the forest, the group soon found evidence of bears in the area.  Apparently, bears choose to regularly walk in these old bear prints. No-one really knows why. But, the size of the prints and the spaces between them show just how big these animals are! Hopefully none were out and about in the forest! But the thought always added an edge of excitement to forest walks in the Tongass. So, time out for bear drill!  Stay together. Talk while you walk. Bears don’t like to be surprised. And if you do see a bear? The first rule is simple, but it may be difficult; DO NOT RUN! A bear can reach speeds of 60km/h and you can’t. Stay still, slowly raise your arms to make yourself look taller, and slowly retreat. With luck the bear is more interested in berries than in you.

Now, what about those stream side plants?

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110401

Platanthera stricta © DY of jtdytravels; P1110401

Almost lost in the lush green undergrowth of the forest, the Slender Rein Orchid; Platanthera stricta, can easily be overlooked. It looks so elegant against the rough bark of a conifer.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110411

Boschniakia rossica © DY of jtdytravels; P1110411

Also in this moist, moss covered soil were several of the parasitic Northern Groundcone, Boschniakia rossica, which David had previously found growing under Alders. Here they were gaining their nutrients from Sitka Spruce.

© DY of jtdtravels; P1110405

Oplopanax horridus © DY of jtdtravels; P1110405

One plant to be especially wary of is the well named Devil’s Club; Oplopanax horridus.  Those thorns are horrid; the species name says it all! Despite that, this plant has been used by the native peoples for centuries for its medicinal properties. The roots and inner bark have been used to treat ailments such as arthritis and diabetes, ulcers and stomach upsets. Just getting to the inner bark must have been a daunting process. The stems were also used as fish lures. Some groups believed that charcoal made from burning the stems would protect the wearer from evil powers if used as face paint for ceremonial occasions.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110426

Oplopanax horridus © DY of jtdytravels; P1110426

The pyramidal terminal head of buds that forms the “Devil’s Club’ becomes a rather attractive head of white flowers. These are followed by bright red berries which aren’t edible for humans but are a favourite food for bears…. and this forest is known to be home to many bears.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110416

Arnica latifolia © DY of jtdytravels; P1110416

Making a showy statement in the green of the forest was this bright and cheerful, yellow daisy, Mountain Arnica; Arnica latifolia. How can anyone resist the temptation to take a photo of such a flower? 

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110419

Arnica Latifolia © DY of jtdytravels; P1110419

A closer look, shows many tiny flowers bursting out from buds which are clustered on the central disc. Those yellow bracts are strikingly veined. So intricate… and yet so many people often pass them by as ‘just a daisy’!

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110421

A fallen tree over the creek © DY of jtdytravels; P1110421

A tree, fallen across the creek, its trunk now covered in moss, was surrounded by lush growth. When a tree falls, it opens up the canopy allowing light into the understory and that gives a chance for the forest floor plants to grow stronger.

Orthilia secunda © DY of jtdytravels; P1110422

Orthilia secunda © DY of jtdytravels; P1110422

A fairly common plant found growing in moss covered, moist soils alongside a stream is the delightful Orthilia secunda, an evergreen perennial with deeply veined elliptical leaves. These leaves contain an acid that has been used very effectively, we were told, to treat skin sores. The white to pale green, nodding bell-shaped flowers are all directed to one side of the plant. This has given the plant its common name, One-sided Wintergreen.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110425

The forest at Fox Creek © DY of jtdytravels; P1110425

This forest was the most dense and lush that David had experienced on the trip.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110428

Lysichiton americanum © DY of jtdytravels; P1110428

As usual in the wet areas of these forests, Lysichiton americanum, Skunk Cabbage, was in evidence. It also has the name of Swamp Lantern. Why?

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Swamp Lantern from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A search on images on the internet supplied the answer! Lovely, isn’t it?

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110430

Pinguicula vulgaris © DY of jtdytravels; P1110430

A close up of the flower of the carnivorous plant Common Butterwort, Pinguicula vulgaris. This photo clearly shows the 2-lobed upper lip and the 3-lobed lower lip with a white ‘path’ of spots in the throat to lead a pollinator into the flower.

It grows in damp environs such as bogs and swamps in places that have cold winters; in the northern parts of Russia, Canada and northern parts of the United States including in Alaska. At the beginning of autumn the plant forms winter buds so that it can survive being frozen.

(More about the carnivorous habit of this plant in #20 Georges Island walk.)

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110436

Aquilegia formosa © DY of jtdytravels; P1110436

One of my favourite wild flowers is Aquilegia formosa or Red Columbine. The common name apparently comes from the Latin, columbina, meaning ‘dove like’. The petals and spurs supposedly represent five doves gathered around a feeding spot. That thought had never occurred to me! The spurs attract sphinx moths, the plant’s main pollinators.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110440

Crossing Fox Creek © DY of jtdytravels; P1110440

Here, crossing the creek, was the most likely spot to encounter a bear.

But not on this walk.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110441

Tiarella trifoliata © DY of jtdytravels; P1110441

Tiarella trifoliata is a small perennial herb. The tall leafless, panicle of bell-shaped, white flowers rises above the basal leaves which are trifoliate. It always grows on a north facing slope in the understory.  Common names are many: Three-leaf Foam Flower, Lace Flower, False Mitrewort, Coolwort or Sugar Scoop; take your pick. The last name needs a bit of imagination! This is another example of the need to use scientific names.

Toadstools © DY of jtdytravels; P1110444

Toadstools © DY of jtdytravels; P1110444

Moist, mossy areas; toadstools and fungi are a common find.

Moneses uniflora © DY of jtdytravels; P1110447

Moneses uniflora © DY of jtdytravels; P1110447

The Shy Maiden; Moneses uniflora seemed to be present on every walk.

Moss © DY of jtdytravels; P1110451

Moss © DY of jtdytravels; P1110451

One of the many varieties of moss; each important to the ecology of the forest.

Back to the Beach © DY of jtdytravels; P1110453

Back to the Beach © DY of jtdytravels; P1110453

The creek path lead the group back to the beach.

This is obviously a much larger outflow when it rains heavily

or when the spring thaw brings water down from the mountains.

‘Sea Lion” was almost lost in the soft ‘mizzle’ that had begun to fall.

Heracleum lanatum © DY of jtdytravels; P1110454

Heracleum lanatum © DY of jtdytravels; P1110454

Alongside the creek, after leaving the cover of the forest, Heracleum lanatum, or Cow Parsley, grew amongst the grasses. This large perennial plant was used as a green vegetable by many native peoples. However, because handling Heracleum stems can cause severe skin problems and blisters, only the very young stalks and leaf stems were eaten and only after they had been peeled. They were also occasionally boiled.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110457

Rhinanthus minor © DY of jtdytravels; P1110457

Rhinanthus minor or Rattlebox was also growing amongst the grasses along the creek edge but outside of the fringes of the forest. The yellow flowers, protected by green bracts, have two lips; the upper one being hooded. This plant’s scientific name, Rhinanthus, comes from the Greek and refers to the unusual shape of the flower; rhin meaning snout and anthos meaning flower. The common name of Rattlebox refers to the noise that the numerous, winged seeds make as they rattle around in the seed box before they are expelled to the air.        

Potentilla anserina ssp. pacifica © DY of jtdytravels; P1110458

Potentilla anserina ssp. pacifica © DY of jtdytravels; P1110458

A delightful, small, ground hugging plant, Potentilla anserina ssp. pacifica, or Silverweed, grew in soft, wet, sandy spots beside the stream. This is the only one of the cinquefoils which has runners and single flowers borne on leafless flowering stalks. The roots of this plant are of two types; long fleshy taproots holding them firmly in the ground, and short curly roots near the surface. Although bitter to the taste, the roots were boiled as a vegetable.

The clouds descend! © DY of jtdytravels; P1110468

The clouds descend! © DY of jtdytravels; P1110468

As the ‘mizzle’ turned to drizzled and the clouds came down ever lower, it was time to return to the ship, dry out, enjoy some lunch and share stories of the day with new found friends.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110470

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110470

A quick look outside confirmed the decision to stay on board for the afternoon!

There was to be a lecture on current whale research

and a briefing about Glacier Bay National Park, our next destination.

More of that very special place anon.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

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