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The famous American wilderness explorer, John Muir, once said, “To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world.” And it is indeed amazing… especially when you have the privilege, as I did at Pond Island, to just float quietly on still waters taking in the beauty that surrounds you. Let me share it with you.

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Pond Island © JT of jtdytravels; P1130927

Much of the time, as we moved slowly along the shoreline, we just enjoyed the peace and the beauty of the wilderness that surrounded us, especially the reflections in still waters.  That peace was only broken when we saw wildlife along the way. Then Jason would quietly tell us something about each one as we observed their behaviour in the wild.

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Shoreline reflection 1 ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130928

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Shoreline reflections 2 ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130930

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Kayaks afloat on Pond Island Bay ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130934

This was the first day on this expedition that the kayaks were in use.

The conditions were perfect for that activity.

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Kayaking fun ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130936

Some of our group, like David, had chosen to walk, some to kayak and some, like me, to explore by DIB. We all enjoyed the beauty of this wilderness area in our own way.

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Small island of conifers ©  JT  of  jtdytravels;  P1130939

At one end of the bay was a rocky island, a perfect example of a conifer forest surrounded by the deeper green of the much smaller Sitka alders.

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Pair of Bald Eagles ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130942

The island provided a great look out point for a pair of bald eagles. It’s hard to tell which is male and which female, they look so similar. The female is, in fact, slightly larger.

Bald eagles are the national bird of USA, indeed it’s the only bird unique to North America. Its scientific name is  Haliaeetus leucocephalus; from Greek hali “sea”, aiētos “eagle”, leuco “white” and cephalos “head”. About half of the world’s 70,000 bald eagles live in Alaska so it’s not a surprise to see them here. In this bay, the eagles were on the look out for salmon as the annual salmon run was just beginning. They will eat both dead and dying fish.

It was good to watch the eagles in the wild away from human habitation. Further south in the ‘Lower 48’ states, bald eagles and other birds of prey such as kites and hawks, are vulnerable to toxic chemicals in the environment. Because these birds are at the top of the food chain, each link in that food chain tends to concentrate chemicals from the lower link. Here, in  the wilds of South East Alaska, they are free from that danger.

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Salmon run creek ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130944

We gradually made our way towards a small creek where salmon were beginning to congregate for the start of their annual spawning run. Five types of salmon occur in Alaska, easily remembered by looking at your fingers! Thumb = Chum; Pointer = Sockeye ( a bit obscure but it helps to have a bit of imagination!); Middle finger = King; Ring finger = Silver; and Pinky finger = Pink.  In general, adult salmon eat other fish, squid, eels, and shrimp. However Sockeye salmon has a diet that consists almost entirely of plankton.

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Indian Paintbrush flowers and grasses ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130950

Another small, rocky island had no trees,

just grasses and the delightful red paintbrush, Castilleja miniata.

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If we had been able to have a closer look at the red paintbrush plant, as David did while walking on the shore, we would have seen that the red parts are actually modified leaves, or bracts.  The flower is tiny, protected by the bracts.

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Nature’s abstract art ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130947

I loved the reflections of this island; another example of nature’s abstract art!

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Inside salmon pool ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130952

As we turned the corner, we came into a small pool where the salmon collect before their final spawning run. Alaskan salmon are anadromous, meaning they are born in freshwater (rivers or streams) before they travel to and live much of their lives in salt water. They then return to freshwater to spawn. It has long been believed that salmon return to the exact spot where they were born in order to spawn. Recent tracking studies have shown this to be mostly true although some do stray and spawn in different freshwater systems. Such homing behaviour is quite an amazing phenomenon and has been shown to depend on olfactory memory.

When the female reaches the place where she will lay her eggs, she makes a depression in the river or creek bed with her tail, and then deposits some of her eggs.  She then waits for males to fertilise the eggs before covering the depression. She then moves on to make another depression. Females will make as many depressions as they need in order to lay all of their eggs; that may be up to seven depressions.

After spawning, the adults die and thus provide more food for bears and eagles.

Young salmon will stay for six months to three years in their natal stream.  Only 10% of all salmon eggs are estimated to survive that period. As they prepare to leave the creeks for the ocean, their  body chemistry changes, thus allowing them to live in saltwater.  They will then spend about one to five years (depending on the species) in the open ocean.  There they gradually become sexually mature and prepare to return to the creeks of their birth. It’s another of the wonderful stories of nature.

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Shore reflections 3  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130962

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Mergus Merganser ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130967

As we sat quietly in this pool area, enjoying the reflections, we noticed movement. A female merganser was moving along beside the shore. She was very watchful of us, as we were of her! We stayed very still and she seemed to accept our presence.

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Baby Mergansers © JT of jtdytravels; P1130969

She was followed by her brood of ducklings. They are similar to their mother except for a short black-edged white stripe between the eye and bill. They were wonderfully camouflaged against the barnacles, rocks and sea weeds. We stayed our distance and watched them.

These birds, Mergus Merganser, need nesting holes in the mature trees of these forests for breeding. The female lays usually 8 to 12 white to yellowish eggs and raises one brood each season. This one had five ducklings with her; maybe others had fallen prey to predators. As soon as the eggs hatch, the female takes the ducklings in her bill down to the pool or river. They feed on freshwater invertebrates and small fish fry. They are fully fledged when 60–70 days old but are not sexually mature until they are two years old.

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View back from salmon pool ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130971

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Island view ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130973

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Pair of marbled murrelets © DY of jtdytravels; P110025

Back out in the main bay we saw a pair of Marbled murrelets, very small sea birds with a very long Latin name: Brachyramphus marmoratus. They’re difficult to photograph partly because of their size and partly because they are very busy little birds, constantly diving to feed on sand eels, herrings and other small fish. They feed in pairs and we saw them often as we sailed in the waters of the Inside Passage where they are never far from a forest.

Old growth forests are especially important to Marbled murrelets. Unlike other sea birds, these little birds nest on the mossy branches of old trees, particularly the hemlock and the spruce so prevalent in these forests. This habit of nesting in trees, rather than on cliffs and rock ledges or in burrows like other sea birds, was not documented until 1974 when a tree climber found a nest. It was a rather remarkable finding and has had important implications for the logging of old growth forests in the area. In many places on their habitat range, this species of murrelet has declined in numbers because of logging.

Marbled murrelet (courtesy Wikepedia)

Marbled murrelet (courtesy Wikepedia)

Even without the pressure of the logging of their nesting trees, murrelets are hard pressed to succeed in the breeding process. After choosing a tree with lots of moss and lichen on the branches and with plenty of cover from predators, the female murrelet lays just one egg on a platform of lichen and moss. After a month of incubation, the chick hatches and is fed for about forty days until it’s able to fledge and fend for itself. Breeding success is low and chick mortality is high. We were entranced by these little birds each day of the expedition.

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Harbour Seal ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130977

Every now and then, a round grey head would pop up on the surface, have a quick look around and then slip quietly away again beneath the surface. This was a harbour seal. They don’t stay long on the surface and are hard to photograph in the wild because it’s not easy to predict when they will resurface. They stay down for quite a while as they seek fish, squid and shrimp. In 2010, an aerial survey of harbour seals in Southeast Alaska estimated that there were 60,000 harbour seals in these cold, fish rich waters. They are a delight to observe.

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Shore Reflections 4 ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130987

These are tidal waters, so the DIB drivers put out buoys to mark rocky areas that would become shallower as the day went on. The forest reflections were lovely.

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Return of the kayakers ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P113098.

Happy kayakers gradually came back closer to shore.

Their time afloat was almost over.

It would take some time to collect the kayaks and take them back to the ship.

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“Sea Lion”  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130977

Sadly, it was time for me to go back to the “Sea Lion”; the Dibs were needed for other tasks. Meanwhile, David was still on shore doing a beach walk while he waited his turn to return to the ship. So next time, we’ll wander along the shore here at Pond Island with him.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright JT  of  jtdytravels

If you are enjoying this armchair travel series, please pass the site onto others.

www.jtdytravels.com

More of our travel stories are on

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© JY of jtdytravels; P1130915

Ah yes! What a morning; waking up to this stunning view from our room … clouds reflected in a glassy sea inside a sheltered cove. Not a bad start to a day! And now we were up to Day 3 of our expedition exploring the islands and coves of Alaska’s Inside Passage aboard National Geographic/ Lindblad’s ship, “Sea Lion”. But where exactly were we?

Kelp Bay Map

Kelp Bay Map

Overnight we’d sailed, from Petersburg, north back up Frederick Sound, past where we had seen all those whales, turned west at Five Finger Lighthouse and sailed down the main shipping channel until we could turn north into Chatham Straight and on to Kelp Bay. We were still within the wilderness of the immense Tongass National Park.

Pond Island Bay

Pond Island Bay

Our activities for the morning would centre around Pond Island Bay.

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This was the first day for kayaking and there were many excited people on board just waiting to explore the shore line on their own in a kayak. I had chosen to explore a little further afield by inflatable DIB and David had chosen to do another forest walk. Before anyone could take part in any of these activities, the kayaks had to be lowered from the roof and taken ashore.

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© JT of jtdytravels; P1130920

David’s walking group, taken by Lee, was the first to go ashore.

That’s David in the blue jacket with his trusty brown backpack at the ready.

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The need for boots is clear…

this was the usual style of wet landing in icy waters on a pebbly shore.

Tongass National Forest, Alaska

Tongass National Forest, Alaska

David’s walk was yet another walk and plant hunt in Tongass National Forest, the forest area that we had been exploring ever since we left Juneau.  Established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907, Tongass is the largest National Forest in the USA. It covers approximately 80% of Southeast Alaska; 69,000 square kilometres, or almost seventeen and a half million acres, and it encompasses more than 5,000 islands and more than 16,000 miles of shoreline. In fact, it covers all of the area known as the Inside Passage except for the Glacier Bay National Park (which is the large white area just west of Juneau on the map).

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The Tongass is part of the world’s largest remaining coastal temperate rainforest even though, during the past century, substantial portions of the large tree, old-growth forest have been harvested. There is much discussion today about how to protect and conserve the remaining high-value forest; high value for the environment and all the wildlife within the the forest and its waters, but also high value timber for the foresting industry.

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Shelf fungus ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110053

As we have seen on David’s other forest walks, shelf fungus is not hard to find.

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Fungus  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110045

Wherever there’s debris from logging, or just from trees falling after big wind storms as happened here, mosses grow and, with them, fungi. This fungi, which forms quite a sculptural group, was missed by most of the walking group. Fortunately for those of us doing an armchair walk with David, he is very observant. People who actually walk with him are often amazed at what he sees, and photographs.

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Hypopitys monotropa  P1110051

One very small, strange looking plant that David saw, but most others missed, was growing down in the mosses. This plant is commonly known as Pinesap, and that maybe because it’s a saprophyte which ‘saps’ the juices of its host, in this case the pines under which it grows.  It’s scientific name is Hypopitys monotropa from the Greek hypos, meaning beneath, and pitys meaning tree. That all makes sense; but what about monotropa? That refers to the flowers which all face one way; and they do.

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Here at Pond Island, many trees were unfortunately uprooted in a large windstorm. This is a natural phenomenon in forests. But in other parts of the Tongass, there has been a great deal of logging done over many years and the status of the Tongass will be degraded if logging continues unabated. So what are the pros and cons in the discussion about old-growth vs. second-growth? Our naturalists gave this answer.

In old-growth forests, uneven aged trees provide a broken, patchy canopy that permits sunlight to penetrate and support a healthy plant community on the forest floor. Any old-growth forests sustains the health of watersheds and aquatic systems, regulates water temperature and moderates flooding. Here in Alaska, this healthy water creates habitat for fish and wildlife.  The high quality water habitat supports many fish such as the five kinds of salmon, the mainstay of the local fishing industry. It also provides a healthy environment for harbour seals and sea birds as well as a high quality land habitat for brown bear, black bear, wolves, deer and squirrels to name a few of the forest dwellers. Dozens of bird species are also associated with old-growth forest habitats, including Bald Eagle and Northern Goshawk. Other birds such as woodpeckers,Marbled Murrelets and Brown Creepers nest in old growth tree cavities.

On the other hand, after harvesting old growth forest, the area is replaced by a dense even-aged stand that inhibits sunlight and thus understory growth, resulting in relatively sterile habitat that will not support many of these species. To log or not to log old growth? To me it’s what is known as a “no brainer”!

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Squirrel ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110083

And while we are talking about the need for old growth forests for forest dwellers… this cute squirrel is one of them. In spring, squirrels feast on the new tender buds of spruce, hemlock and alder. As is the case with all squirrels, they also feed on seeds and nuts.

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A squirrel midden ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110102

In autumn, they ‘squirrel’ away cones and seeds in chambers in their tunnels or in their forest floor middens. The midden is covered in holes where a squirrel has been busy planting its food treasures.  Not all squirrels have tunnels; some make nests in the trees or in holes in old growth trees. Although seeds and nuts are their main food source, squirrels also cut off fungi and take them up into trees to lodge in crotches of branches to eat later.

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Conifer forest ©  DY of jtdytravels; P1110061

Within these forests, as we have seen on these walks with David, there is a wide diversity of vegetation types, ranging from lichens, mosses, liverworts, and ferns to flowering plants and shrubs to large trees that can be centuries old; some more than one thousand years old.

We hope it remains so always for many more people like us to enjoy; and, more importantly, for all of the birds, flora, fauna and fish that are dependent on it for their well being; and for the health of the air that we all breathe.

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Tsuga heterophylla P1110060

Tongass National Forest is made up mainly of Conifers, cone-bearing trees such as hemlock, and spruce, cedar and shore pine with Alder on the forest edges. But two trees are the most abundant; Western Hemlock, 70%, and Sitka Spruce, 20%. So what’s the difference? 

The leaves of the Western Hemlock, Tsuga heterophylla, are are blunt-tipped, soft, shiny, and flat unlike the sharp needles of the spruce. Hemlock leaves are light green to medium green on top, with two whitish parallel lines beneath.  They grow from two sides of branch, parallel to the ground.

The cones of the Western hemlock are brown, oval-shaped, about 3 cm (1 inch) long and have thin, papery scales. They hang down at end of twig. These hemlocks can grow to between 45 and 60 meters  in height (100 to 150 feet) and .6 to 1.2 meters (2 to 4 ft) in diameter. If left unlogged, they can live anywhere from 200 to 500 years.

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Picea sitchensis P1110112

The cones of the Sitka Spruce, Picea sitchensis, are quite different; they are the usual conifer cone shape that most of us are familiar with.  They are light orange-brown, usually found in the top quarter of tree, hanging down from branches, with papery scales. 

The sharp needle like leaves of the spruce are dark green and grow on all sides of branches from woody pegs. This is a characteristic common only to spruce.

These trees may live between 500 and 700 years; some have been known to be 1,000 years old.  At maturity they reach between 46 to 67 meters (150 to 225 feet) in height and 1.5 to 2.5 meters (5 to 8 feet) in diameter. 

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The remains of a logged forest  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110100

This part of the walk is quite a mess after the storm.

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Indeed, it was often more like a scramble than a walk;

climbing under and over logs…

it was for the fit and adventurous; not for the faint of heart!

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Corallorhiza maculata ssp. maculata © DY  of  jtdytravels;  P1110090

While scrambling through the forest, David found a rather lovely saprophytic orchid, known as Coralroot, Corallorhiza maculata ssp. maculata.  It’s similar to the white-lipped Corallorhiza maculata but this one has magenta spots on its lip, hence the variation in name.

These orchids derive their nutrients from the decaying matter in the rich humus of moist coniferous forests such as this one. Because they don’t need to make their own food, they lack the green colouring of most plants.

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Alnus rubra ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110059

The Red Alder, Alnus rubra, is usually found on the edges of the forest and is quite different from either the spruce or the hemlock. It’s a fast growing deciduous tree that only lives for about 50 years. It helps to fix nitrogen into the soil and thus helps smaller plants to grow on the outer edges of the forest.

The leaves of the Red alder are broad, pointed at both the base and the tip and they seem to roll over. This is the difference between the Red alder and the more common Sitka alder which has sharp toothed leaves that are not rolled over. (David photographed the Sitka alder at the Mendenhall Glacier.)

The cones of the Red alder are small, hang down in clusters and they stay on the trees during winter. The cones contain winged nutlets that the squirrels enjoy.

Red alder wood is considered by many to be the best wood for smoking salmon and other kinds of fish; another reason for it to be logged. The wood is soft and is used for carving items such as feast bowls and masks. The red bark makes a red or orange dye;  the differences in colour can be attributed to either the age of the bark or the addition of substances like urine!

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Pond Island Bay © DY of jtdytravels; P1110054

Finally, David and his fellow walkers emerged from the forest. They looked out into the bay where the kayakers were still having fun and where I was exploring the water’s edges in a DIB. 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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After our hot walk up the hill to the muskeg plateau, I was ready for a rest while David went off to explore some of the small town of Petersburg. He was intrigued by a building that we could see from the ship, one that had a viking ship beside it. David has been fascinated by the stories of the Vikings ever since his exploration of the Viking Islands a few years ago. The story of that trip is written up with photos on our other travel website www.dymusings.com.

Map of Petersburg by Google

Map of Petersburg by Google

A quick look at the town map shows that it is developed on a grid system of roads. It would be difficult to get lost! This is it. The only roads are within the town area. There are no roads from here to any other part of Alaska. The only way in or out is by water or by air.

The red marker was David’s first goal; the Memorial Park and Hall but he would explore further. As we looked at the streets on the map we noted at least five different types of church for a town of this size; Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Bethesda Fellowship. They were not actually on his list to find; he was looking for a book shop. We had seen a very good book on plants of Alaska and, as usual, we should have bought it when we saw it!

Norway Hall Petersburg

Sons of Norway Hall, Petersburg

Located along Sing Lee Alley, the Sons of Norway Lodge building dates back to 1912 when 60 charter members borrowed money and sold $5.00 shares to enable them to construct the hall. Their aim was, and still is, to share and promote the town’s proud Norwegian heritage.  In 1984 the hall was placed on the USA’s National Register of Historic Places.

The hall has been at the centre of the community. It has been witness to many wedding receptions, parties, dances, potluck dinners and coffee get togethers. 

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Fishermen’s Memorial © DY of jtdytravels; P1100537

Built on pilings over Hammer Slough, The Bojer Wikan Fishermen’s Memorial Park stands in front of the hall and was built in 2000 in memory of the many fishermen from this small town who have lost their lives at sea.

It was here that David found the viking ship, the Valhalla. It was built in 1976 in New Jersey to celebrate the Bi-Centenary of the USA. After appearing in many parades across the USA, including a Tall Ship Parade in new York, it was bought by the Petersburg Little Norway Festival Committee. The Lodge is now responsible for the boat’s maintenance; it stands proudly in front of their hall.

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Fisherman memorial © DY of jtdytravels; P1100538

Bojer Wikan, a long-time fisherman who promoted the idea of the memorial park, is remembered by this impressive bronze statue. He represents all fishermen.

Memorial plaques

Memorial plaques

Many memorial name plaques have been placed on the column beneath the Bojer Wikan statue and many more on the low wall that surrounds the park. Reading those plaques is a salient reminder of dangers that face the fishermen, especially in days past when ships were less seaworthy and help in the form of radios and rescue helicopters were not available.

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A backwater © DY of jtdytravels; P1100528

After visiting the memorial, David’s walk took him on into the town.

There are reminders everywhere that this is a fishing village.

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Ranunculus repens © DY of jtdytravels; P1100530

Gardens aren’t a great feature of this town, at least in the part David walked through. But there were occasional plants giving some bright colour like this Creeping Buttercup; Ranunculus repens. This plant is not native to Alaska and, as in so many parts of the world, it has become a weed, finding a root hold in disturbed soil along road sides in settled areas.

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Crow  © DY of jtdytravels; P1100534

Apart from seabirds, we hadn’t seen many land birds; but every town has crows!

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Petersburg Street© DY of jtdytravels; P1100544

Petersburg is not filled with souveneir shops; there are few tourists here.

David was still in search of the local bookshop.

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Rosa nutkana © DY of jtdytravels; P1100543

He not only found the bookshop, but it had a small garden with a group of rose bushes in flower; the Nootka Rose, Rosa nutkana. This native rose grows from northern California into Alaska. It’s named after Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island, where it was first described.

The Nootka Rose is undoubtedly a very good rose to grow here. The attractive five petaled pink blooms have a subtle sweet perfume. They appear from May through July. The round, red rose hips, stay on the plant throughout the winter, giving colour throughout most of the year.  The plant is hardy, grows in both full sun and partial shade, can tolerate flooding and drought and grows well in many different soil types. And, here in Alaska, it’s pest free. What more could you want?

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Museum © DY of jtdytravels; P1100546

The Petersburg Fisheries museum is housed in a rather attractive building.

Unfortunately, time did not permit a look inside.

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Plaque © DY of jtdytravels; P1100547

A plaque commemorates the founder of the town, and of the fisheries, Norwegian Peter Buschman. The plaque says that he “built a canner on this site in 1897. The business prospered and, as a result, the town of Petersburg grew up around it.”

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Totem poles © DY of jtdytravels; P1100553

Petersburg has two 35 foot high red cedar totem poles. They were carved in 2000 by Tlingit master carver Tommy Joseph and are placed in a small park directly across the street from the Municipal Building and Buschmann Park. They bring all sections of this community together, the original peoples and the “newcomers”.

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Creek view © DY of jtdytravels; P1100557

The tide was coming further in as David made his way back to the ship. Reflections of these old buildings in the slough were quite picturesque.

Rubus spectabilis ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100551

Rubus spectabilis © DY of jtdytravels; P1100551

On the way, he was able to sample a yellow variety of Rubus spectabilis. 

Salmonberry comes in both reds and yellows; equally tasty.

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Bridge over creek © DY of jtdytravels; P1100559

Even the old bridges need to be kept in good order here.

They are the only means of getting from one part of the town to another.

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Hieracium aurantiacum © DY of jtdytravels; P1100562

Here, by the roadside, David found another introduced plant, Hieracium aurantiacum, known in Alaska and western USA as the Devil’s Paintbrush.  It was probably introduced to these areas as a garden plant by immigrants from Europe who would have known it as Orange Hawkweed. It’s one of Europe’s native Asters. Lovely as it is, it’s an extremely invasive plant, a weed, if we take the usual definition of a weed as ‘a plant out of place’.

Orange hawkweed is not just a problem in Alaska and the USA. It’s on the ‘Alert List for Environmental Weeds’, in Australia; a list of 28 “nonnative plants that threaten biodiversity and cause other environmental damage”, especially in alpine areas and the temperate tablelands in eastern Australia. The problem is that it quickly fills spaces that are necessary for the regeneration and survival of native species. It squeezes out the native plants.

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Fishing Decorations © DY of jtdytravels; P1100564

Back down at the marina, David found buildings decorated with fishing floats…

evidence that this place is home to fishermen.

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“Sea Lion” at Petersburg Dock © DY of jtdytravels; P1100565

“Sea Lion” awaited his return; and so did I.

Like you, David’s photos were my window on the town of Petersburg.

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“Sea Lion” maintenance © DY of jtdytravels; P1100568

While we’d been out exploring during the day, crew members had been doing maintenance; a never ending task especially when the ship is in port. All crew members have to multi-task!

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© JT of jtdytravels; P1130777

When everyone had returned to the ship, we farewelled Petersburg and set sail back out of the channel towards another wilderness destination.

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Island homes © JT of jtdytravels; P1130889

Near the head of the channel, this small home was bathed in late evening light. Very soon, we were turning north into Frederick Sound and sailing off into the twilight after another very special day in Alaska. But there was another treat to come! Down in the dining room, a feast of freshly caught Dungeness Crab with grilled corn awaited us. It was indeed delicious.

More anon

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

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Muskeg bog plateau © JT of jtdytravels; P1130820

Once we had reached the border between the forest and the wet boggy Muskeg Plateau on the hill above Petersburg, the walking was much easier, the steps were not so steep and we had a different lot of plants to look for and photograph. The first one was obvious. All the way along the side of the path were the fluffy white seed heads of cotton plants, Eriophorum. 

Eriophorum chamissonis ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130833

Eriophorum chamissonis © JT of jtdytravels; P1130833

David and I have seen various cotton grass species in many wet boggy areas in Europe, especially in the peat bogs of Ireland.  Eriophorum chamissonis, is one of the two cotton grasses common in the muskegs of this part of Alaska. This species has a solitary spikelet at the tip of a rounded slender stem. The plant grows from spreading rhizomes, so if conditions are right, they can spread rather quickly.

In fact, cotton grass is so extensive on these muskegs that, in a good year, the whole plateau can look white like snow because of the fluffy heads.

Blechnum spicant ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130816

Blechnum spicant © JT of jtdytravels; P1130816

One of the plants growing just at the border between forest and bog was this upright fern commonly called Deer Fern; Blechnum spicant. I’ve read that some indiginous peoples used to chew the very young leaves as hunger suppressants! Others used the leaves to treat skin sores. Apparently, the people had noticed that the deer, who love to eat this plant, would rub their antlers on the leaves after their antlers had fallen off.

The problem for us as plant photographers here in the muskeg was that plants were often just tantalisingly out of reach; we couldn’t step off the boardwalk onto the grass to take photos as it was very, very wet; and, in any case, our footsteps would harm the environment.

Moose fotsteps in the bog ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130842

Moose footsteps in the bog © JT of jtdytravels; P1130842

Of course, the native animals didn’t use the boardwalk, as these moose footsteps show… at least we were told that they belonged to a moose. That’s all we saw of any moose.

Our naturalist, Caroline ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130828

Our naturalist, Caroline Jezierski © JT of jtdytravels; P1130828

A single file line up of walkers is not the easiest place to give a talk about muskeg bogs. However, our very knowledgeable and delightful naturalist, Caroline Jezierski, solved the problem… she found a dryish patch off the boardwalk so that she could talk to us all about this very different environment. So what is muskeg? The name is used in Western Canada and Alaska to describe peat bog that is formed, often over millennia, by an accumulation of slowly decaying matter in undrained or poorly drained land. Because of the wetness and lack of phosphates and nitrates in the soil, trees are scattered and generally stunted. 

The land behind Caroline clearly shows the line where the muskeg, on the plateau, meets the forest, on the downward slope of the hill. It’s all about drainage and decomposition.

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Reflections in bog pool © JT of jtdytravels; P1130821

Muskeg forms in areas that have abundant rain, cool summers and very poor drainage. It’s permanently waterlogged with stagnant pools. The soil is acidic and relatively infertile, preventing the growth of the large trees to 33 m (100 ft) such as those we’d seen growing further down on the slope where drainage is more normal.

Down there, in the forest that we’d just walked through, the soil is drier and, when a plant dies there, it is attacked by bacteria and fungi and rots away relatively quickly. But here in this bog, dead plants decompose differently.  Cool temperatures and less oxygen in water-logged soils combine to cause bacterial and fungal growth to markedly slow down and so the whole process of decomposition is much slower; so slow that, over time, as plant debris gradually accumulates, it forms peat and eventually becomes a muskeg environment of specialised bog loving plants.

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Bog plants © JT of jtdytravels; P1130826

It was hard to believe the notion of cool summers as the sun beat down on us that hot afternoon. But this was a dry summer; many of the bog pools were drying out and conditions were too warm and dry for a normal month of June. The roots of these bog plants would soon dry out if normal conditions didn’t soon return. The balance of nature is very much effected by changes in climate and June had been the driest month on record for the area.

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Dry bog pool © JT of jtdytravels; P1130852

This ‘pool’ was already too dry to support any of the usual bog plants.

Dry, warm summers might be good for visitors to the area

but they are not good for muskeg plants.

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Jake’s Seat © DY of jtdytravels; P1130838

At this point in our walk, there was a small rest platform for which a number of us were very thankful. I was also grateful to the family of “Jake” who had placed a wooden seat on this platform. I took the opportunity to rest for a few minutes and take in the scenery.

Stunted tree ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130869

Stunted tree © JT of jtdytravels; P1130869

The main group continued with the walk across the plateau towards the higher slope where the forest began again. Someone thought they could see an eagle’s nest. With fewer people on the board walk, David took the chance to get some photos of the plants that he found growing in these boggy conditions. Good plant photography can’t be rushed and, with most bog plants growing so low to the ground, you really do need a bit of space to kneel. David’s results were well worth the effort as we shall see.

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Eriophorum angustifolium © DY of jtdytravels; P1100500

The well named Arctic Cotton, or Cotton Grass, Eriophorum angustifolium is the other local species of Cotton grass plant on the muskeg. It, too, enjoys wet roots in peaty bogs. But,unlike the single headed  Eriophorum chamissonis, which I’d photographed earlier, this plant has 2 to 8 fluffy spikelets on each stem, drooping in a cluster.

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Fauria crista-galli © DY of jtdytravels; P1100518

This Deer Cabbage flower, Fauria crista-galli, had several small visitors!

David says he didn’t actually see the mites when taking the photo…

they are really very tiny!

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Drosera rotundifolia © DY of jtdytravels; P1100503

My favourite muskeg plants were the Sundews; insectivorous plants that thrive here in the bogs where nutrients are low. These are Drosera rotundifolia, which are very small plants and you really do have to get down to see them clearly. But to see them was well worth the long, hot hike up that hill.

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Drosera rotundifolia © DY of jtdytravels; P1100502

A close up of the stunningly beautiful Round-leaved Sundew; Drosera rotundifolia. The leaves are covered with sticky gland-tipped hairs that capture and digest insects. How amazing is the evolution of plant species! I always delight in finding plants like these.

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Drosera anglica © DY of jtdytravels; P1100508

And this is another species of Sundew found in a nearby bog pool.

This one is the Great Sundew;  Drosera anglica.

It’s much less common than the Round-leaved Sundew; Drosera rotundifolia

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Drosera anglica © DY of jtdytravels; P1100516

A close up of a Great Sundew;  Drosera anglica.

Different shaped leaves but the same mechanism for catching insects.

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Linnaea borealis © DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100484

Another very low-growing plant is Linnaea borealis or Twin Flower. I enjoyed seeing this delightful pink flowering plant which David had seen on an earlier walk. It seemed quite at home growing amongst the sphagnum moss on the muskeg.

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Sphagnum sp. © JT of jtdytravels; P1130872

Various types of sphagnum are the most common plants on the muskeg.

They are the original colonising plants of these areas and

they help to provide some nutrients for plants such as the Twin Flower.

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Unknown flower © DY of jtdytravels; P1100489

This is one flower we found that we haven’t been able to identify. Although David does know many plant names, when he is out of area in places like this bog in Alaska, many of the plants are new to him. We’ve had to search our books and the internet to name many of the plants in this Alaskan diary. We find that Images on Google is a great place to go to help in verification after a first effort at naming. Sometimes, however, we come up with a blank. If anyone can help with the correct naming of this flower, please leave a comment at the end of the post.

Platanthera dilitata ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100495

Platanthera dilitata © DY of jtdytravels; P1100495

The lovely White Bog-Orchid,  Platanthera dilitata, was much easier to identify. The waxy flowers of this orchid might be small but they are very fragrant, smelling, some say, of a mixture of cloves, vanilla and mock orange.  The plant is poisonous and extracts from it were used by some indigenous groups to act as bait for bears. Pretty but poisonous!

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© JT of jtdytravels; P1130848

While David was photographing all of these low growing plants,

I was enjoying the sculptural shapes of stunted trees.

And this one had a small visitor.

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Dragonfly © JT of jtdytravels; P1130859

A dragonfly; it seemed to take little notice of me or of my camera.

I was able to observe it closely and was delighted by those delicate, gauzy wings.

Sometimes it pays to be on your own… take time … and be still..

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Linnaea borealis © JT of jtdytravels; P1130873

Just as we left the plateau to make our way back down the hill, I noticed this patch of Twin flowers, Linnaea borealis. The small piece of wood beside them gives some idea of relative scale. They are tiny; but so beautiful.

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Rubus pedatus © DY of jtdytravels; P1100498

Back in the edges of the old growth forest, David found this perennial trailing plant that likes to grow on moss, Rubus pedatus, or Five-leaved Bramble. The leaves, as the name suggests, are divided into five toothed leaflets. They give the plant its species name, pedatus, or foot. The fruit forms a small juicy flavourful cluster, like a raspberry.

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Interesting leaf shapes © DY of jtdytravels; P1100519

More interesting leaf shapes caught David’s eye. A quick photo and after that there was no chance to photograph anything. The rest of the group seemed anxious to return to Petersburg and have time to explore there.

So it was a very quick and anything but an easy descent on those unevenly spaced and sized steps of the boardwalk. With my brand new bifocals, I was having a bit of trouble gauging the distances down the steps and there were no hand rails!  I was grateful to my companions, teenagers Alex and Rachael, who told me not to hurry and promised help if I should falter!

I was quite relieved to reach the level path in the lower forest that lead us back to the shore.

 

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Back to the jetty © DY of jtdytravels; P1100526

While we’d been out walking, the tide had come in quite a way. At least the ramp down to the pontoon would not be nearly so steep, but still steep enough.

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The view back to Petersburg © DY of jtdytravels; P1100527

While waiting for our DIB, David took one last view of Petersburg and the mountains beyond.

No wonder they call it ‘little Norway”!

More anon

Jennie and David

All Photography copyright ©  JT and DY  of  jtdytravels

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Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 4.56.42 PM

Petersburg Area Map by Google

From Petersburg, marked in red, we crossed the channel in our inflatable DIBs to a private landing pontoon on Kupreanof Island. From here we hiked into another part of Tongass National Forest to seek out some more of the native flora of the region.

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Kupreanof side of the channel © JT of jtdytravels; P1130786

One of the tricky parts about taking this whole expedition was that most landings were, of necessity, wet landings, requiring “wellington” or “mud” boots to negotiate the landing from the DIBs into icy waters and onto rocky shores. I chose to do none of the wet landings as I was being extra cautious of the slippery, wet, rocky shorelines. Why? My travel insurance didn’t cover any problems with my knees since it had been less than 24 months from my latest knee operation. Without cover, medical help in these parts would have been extremely expensive, to say the least.  I had other adventures which I shall write about later.

However, as no boots were required for this walk, I chose to join David and experience the forest with him. There was just one slight problem… the tide was well and truly out and the ramp from the landing pontoon to the walkway at the top was exceedingly steep! I took a very deep breath and inched my way a little nervously up the wet, wooden ramp.

©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130787

© JT of jtdytravels; P1130787

At the top, we divested ourselves of our life vests and just left them on the grass in amongst a patch of yellow buttercups. It was a wonderful feeling to be able to trust that they would remain there until our return!

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Myosotis sp. © DY of jtdytravels; P1100522

A patch of lovely Forget-me-nots, Myosotis sp., also grew close to the path.

These are not native but were introduced to America from Europe…

Somehow; sometime; by someone.

A forest weed!

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Rubus spectabilis © DY of jtdytravels; P1100525

Before we left the shoreline and entered the forest shade, we were delighted to find some the  bright red berries of Rubus spectabilis, Salmonberry. We just had to try them and indeed they are quite tasty… as well as being a spectacular berry, as its name suggests.

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© JT of jtdytravels; P1130788

Our first stop was at a small wooden ‘kiosk’ where Caroline showed us the map… that’s an important part of forest walking, just in case you lose your way. Not that that was likely to happen as it was a single file pathway and board walk for most of the way.

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© JT of jtdytravels; P1130790

I was most impressed that this trail facility had been built by the students in the High School’s construction class; each student has been recognised for their contribution.

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© JT of jtdytravels; P1130791

And I was further impressed that this project was a collaboration between several sections of the Petersburg community. That, too, was recognised by a plaque.

©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130789

Forest Path © JT of jtdytravels; P1130789

This is a National Forest and, as such, logging can be undertaken in a controlled way. The trees along this path by the shore were quite young… reforestation in progress.

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Ferns © JT of jtdytravels; P1130792

The path was edged with ferns.

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Lysichiton americanum © JT of jtdytravels; P1130794

Lysichiton americanum, Cabbage Skunk was also much in evidence.

The large leaves of this plant were used to wrap things in…

long before paper and plastics!

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© JT of jtdytravels; P1130804

Skunk leaves are not only large, but quite sculptural as well.

This one was close to perfection.

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Large sculptural leaves © DY of jtdytravels; P1100476

There were more wonderful shapes and textures in the leaves of the understory.

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Toadstool © DY of jtdytravels; P1100521

This was a great area to look for fungi.  How elegant is this?

Yes. David was down on his knees again for this shot.

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Menziesia Ferruginea © DY of jtdytravels; P1100481

Another example of the delightful False Azalea; Menziesia Ferruginea.

 David had found one of these on his first walk.

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Start of Kupreanof Trail © JT of jtdytravels; P1130796

After following the path parallel to the shore, we came to the start of the board walk that would take us along the Kupreanof Trail, up through the old growth forest to a boggy, muskeg plateau on top of the hill. It was a bit of a huffy, puffy walk with a great many steps of uneven height to negotiate, but there was plenty of interest to see along the way.

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Moss covered dead wood  © JT of jtdytravels; P1130797

There were several dead or dying trees along the way. When a tree dies and falls in a forest, it continues to play an important role by creating a light gap in the forest which provides the opportunity for new life. To begin with, here in this damp environment, the fallen trunk is quickly colonised by mosses. Then, as it rots, it becomes a ‘nurse log’ on which the next generation of forest trees will germinate and begin to grow. The forest floor here was littered with fallen limbs and trunks overgrown with moss, giving the place a slightly eerie feeling.

©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130798

The Boardwalk © JT of jtdytravels; P1130798

The boardwalk was still single file but at least it was two planks wide.

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Lush understory growth © Jt of jtdytravels; P1130805

Further up the hill we came to some lush forest with lots of healthy understory growth.

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Moss covered dead tree trunk © JT of jtdytravels; P1130808

Moss had certainly taken up residence on this small, dead tree trunk.

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Cornus canadensis © DY of jtdytravels; P1100482

This was a beautiful example of Cornus canadensis; Dwarf Dogwood or Bunchberry.

©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130811

Moss encrusted conifer © JT of jtdytravels; P1130811

The higher we climbed, the more daylight we began to see.

In this clearing, a brown moss had taken hold on almost every branch of a tall conifer.

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Feathery Moss on a Conifer © JT of jtdytravels; P1130845

This tree, a little further out of the dense forest,

was covered in lichen and a cream coloured, feathery moss.

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Muskeg plateau © DY of jtdytravels; P1100487

Up another flight of steps and we had finally arrived at our destination for the afternoon, a plateau of boggy muskeg with quite a different group of plants to enjoy and photograph.

We’ll look at them in the next diary posting.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright ©  JT and DY  of  jtdytravels

More of our travels can be found on

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Map showing Petersburg © JT of jtdytravels; P1130582

Map showing Petersburg © JT of jtdytravels; P1130582

After lunch on Day 2 of our exploration of Alaska’s Inside Passage, we cruised back along Frederick Sound towards the small fishing town of Petersburg; it was the only town we would visit on this trip. As you can see, we hadn’t travelled very far, but that was the real purpose of this expedition; to take the time to slow down; to really explore and enjoy this wilderness environment far from the busyness of daily life.

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Frederick Sound © JT of jtdytravels; P1130763

Once more we were awed by the majesty of snow topped mountains.

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Ice chunk in Frederick Sound © DY of jtdytravels; P1100284

Chunks of ice continued to float by; strange, natural sculptures.

Ice chunks such as this were a very important part of the story of Petersburg.

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© JT of jtdytravels; P1130773

As we turned into a narrow channel off Frederick Sound, a group of houses came into view and a small fishing boat passed us on its way out. Petersburg’s reason for existing is fishing!

The town was built here in this beautiful but isolated part of the wilderness for two reasons; an abundance of fish in the icy cold waters and an abundance of ice.  Before the days of large scale refrigeration, those ice chunks that come from the LeConte Glacier were used to keep the fish fresh until it could be canned or sent fresh to market.

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© JT of jtdytravels; P1130770

The waters here are tidal and some buildings along the edge are on poles.

Many houses have steep roofs because of the abundance of snow.

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Bald Headed Eagle © DY of jtdytravels; P1100566

As we entered the port, our attention was taken by a bald eagle.

They are truly magnificent birds.

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Eagle on navigation buoy in harbour © JT of jtdytravels; P1130780

It landed on one of the navigation markers as we went by.

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Successful dive for a fish! © DY of jtdytravels; P1130781

As we came closer, it began to feast on its catch.

These eagles are not like the town scavengers we had seen in Juneau.

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© JT of jtdytravels; P1130881

The waterfront at Petersburg is lined with fish processing sheds in which over 45.5 million kilos (100 million pd) of fish and shellfish are processed annually; canned, smoked and fresh. That’s a lot of fish from one very remote, small village!

The types of fish caught here include all five species of salmon; king (chinook); coho (silver); pink (humpy); sockeye (red); and chum (dog).  Other fish include halibut (a bottom feeder), ling cod, Pacific cod, herring and several species of rock fish. Shellfish such as Dungeness Crab, King Crab, Tanner, shrimp, scallops and clams are also caught in these cold waters.

Just reading that list makes my mouth water. We ate salmon cooked in a variety of ways of during our trip but, on this night in Petersburg, we were promised a fabulous feast of Dungeness crab.

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© JT of jtdytravels; P1130884

One of the sheds is adorned with a Viking Ship emblem, and for very good reason. This fishing village was founded more than 100 years ago by Norwegian fisherman, Peter Buschmann, after whom the village is named. He arrived in the area in the late 1890s; that’s after the start of the gold rush in the Juneau / Skagway areas. What this astute fisherman noted was the possibilities of this fine harbour tucked away off Frederick Sound with its abundance of fish, an abundance of ice floating by in the Sound and an abundance of timber for building. With other Scandinavian fishermen he set up a sawmill, a homestead, a dock and and a cannery. Today the village is known as ‘little Norway” and is still populated by people who are largely of Scandinavian origin.

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© JT of jtdytravels; P1130784

Building and boat repairs are other important occupations in the village.

The boat on the right will certainly need repairs!

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© JT of jtdytravels; P1130879

Most fishing boats are kept in good condition. They need to be. Fishermen’s lives depend on the good maintenance of their boats. Not long before we arrived there, one boat that had not been properly repaired went down. Fortunately they had done a safety drill before they left port and their radio call brought the rescue helicopter to their aid. All of the men were winched to safety… the last man just as the boat sank from sight. But imagine what it was like in days past, when there was no rescue helicopter; a great many men were lost while fishing.

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© JT of jtdytravels; P1130880

The marina is filled with fishing boats of a variety of sizes and purposes. Three different kinds predominate; trollers, which bring fish in using lines with baited hooks; gilnetters, which use large curtain-like nets to entangle fish; and purse seiners, like the one we saw earlier in Frederick Sound, which let out a large net drawn in a circle before closing it at the bottom like a purse. Their goal is salmon swimming near the surface.

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Port of Petersburg © DY of jtdytravels; P1100471

There were plenty of smaller boats in the marina as well… the main way to get anywhere here is by water. In fact, apart from flying in, the only way to get anywhere is by water. A ferry system connects Petersburg to Juneau in the north and Ketchikan in the south.  Small ships, like ours, bring visitors to the area although none of the big cruise liners come here… the port is far too small.  Leisure fishermen and hikers arrive by sea plane or by daily commercial flights to Petersburg’s small airport. So although commercial fishing is the mainstay of the economy, tourism does play a part. Fishing tourism is particularly popular here in summer.

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“Sea Lion” docked in Petersburg © DY of jtdytravels; P1100565

Finally Captain Shaun brought the “Sea Lion” into our dock for the day and our DIBs were prepared for one of the afternoon’s excursion. While some chose to fly over the glaciers, others took a bike to explore the area. Others met with some of the old ‘sea salts’ of the town to learn more about life in this port. We chose the option of a walk and a plant hunt.

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View to afternoon walk site © JT of jtdytravels; P1130874

For this walk, we first had to cross the bay in the DIBs and then climb that hill on the other side. Our goal was to walk up through various areas of forest until we reached a muskeg bog up on the plateau.  We were promised that we would find some very interesting plants… and we did.

  More of that walk in the next post.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels please pass the link on to others.

www.jtdytravels.com

More of our travel stories and photos are on

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More of our travel photos are on

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Tree hosting lichen and moss © DY of jtdytravels; P1100423

Up until this point on our walk with David in the forest at Ideal Cove, we’ve been looking down at small plants, mosses and fungi under the trees; but if we look up, we’ll see that many lichens and mosses have taken up residence on the branches.

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Beware of prickles! © DY of jtdytravels; P1100392

And while we’re looking up and out instead of down, it’s worth being very aware of the prickly plants in this forest. They don’t know not to grow over board walks!

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Streptopus amplexifolius © DY of jtdytravels; P1100429

Back down in the understory of the forest, David found this Streptopus amplexifolius, an unusual plant, commonly called Clasping Twisted Stalk. The base of each leaf surrounds or clasps the stem which kinks and twists after each leaf. The buds and bell shaped flowers hang down below the leaves at each leaf axil. They can only be seen by lifting the large leaves.

Another common name for this plant is Watermelon Berry, which refers to the water-melon coloured berries. Although the berries are very juicy, they are not very flavourful.

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Coptis asplenifolia © DY of jtdytravels; P1100431

Another interesting plant which grows on the forest floor is Coptis asplenifolia, commonly known as Fern-leaved Goldthread. Its a delicate, evergreen herb, with fern like leaves.  It grows from gold coloured roots; hence the common name. The photo shows the unusual seed head; a ring of up to twelve seed filled capsules on an upright stalk. Each time a capsule is hit by  a raindrop, a seed is ejected. Because these plants are slow colonizers, when found in a place like this, they signify that this is an old growth forest.

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Aster sp. © DY of jtdytravels; P1100432

This delicate pink aster was a surprise find in the depths of this forest.

It’s not a garden escapee! There’s not a garden for many miles. It belongs here.

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Fauria crista-galli © DY of jtdytravels; P1100434

Fauria crista-galli is commonly called Deer Cabbage. The flowers certainly look attractive but they have a very bad aroma; a pretty sure sign that they are pollinated by flies!

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Platenthera unalescensis © DY of jtdytravels; P1100438

Platanthera unalescensis, is one of the Alaskan Rein Orchids. You need to be fairly observant to find this delicate plant with greenish flowers. It grows in dry to moist coniferous forests, so is happy in the area that we’ve been exploring with David.

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Linnaea borealis © Dy of jtdytravels; P1100440

The boardwalk crossed boggy, undrained land, known in Alaska as muskeg. It’s characterised by sphagnum moss vegetation and David found the very small  plant called Linnaea borealis growing in the mosses. Since the plant itself is less than 10cm tall and the drooping flowers are only 2-5 mm long, this was another case of needing to get down to ground level. By doing that, David was able to actually look into the flowers and show us that the bell is darker inside than out. It’s a shame that he couldn’t bring us back the smell of these flowers, too, as they produce a very fragrant perfume. All in all, a truly lovely plant.

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Linnaea borealis © DY of jtdytravels; P1100437

The plant is so lovely that it was said to be the favourite plant of Linnaeas, the Swedish botanist who became famous for introducing to science the system of using binomial Latin names. And so the generic name for the plant is Linnaea, in his honour.  The plant’s specific name is borealis, meaning northern. In Alaska the plant is found only north of Ketchikan.

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Linnaea borealis © DY of jtdytravels; P1100436

Twin Flower is the common name of Linnaea borealis and that’s very apt. Each upright flower stalk divides into a Y; and each branch of the Y bears a single, delicate, bell shaped flower. The stems themselves are rather hairy, slender, semi-woody. The plant is evergreen and spreads across an area from runners. Seed is also dispersed when the fruit, or dry nutlets, which have sticky hairs, catch onto the fur of animals and the feathers of birds.

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Lysichiton americanum © DY of jtdytravels; P1100444

Another plant very common in the wet, boggy muskeg is Lysichiton americanum. It’s common name of this plant with huge, rubbery leaves is Skunk Cabbage. The tiny flowers of this plant are arranged on a fleshy spike called a spathe. Deer enjoy eating these spathes and brown bears dig up the roots to eat. They don’t seem to be put off by the ‘skunky odour’!

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Carex lyngbyaei © DY of jtdytravels; P1100447a

Another very common plant is Carex lyngbyaei, Lyngby’s Sedge. They are grass-like but they are not grasses. The leaf base of a sedge forms a triangle in cross section while the the leaf base of a grass is round. The whole of this plant is rich in protein and is a very important source of food for bears, especially in spring before the berries fruit and the salmon run

Still no sighting of a bear today, though.

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Moneses uniflora © DY of jtdytravels; P1100448

Moneses uniflora is a member of the Wintergreen family and is also known by the name of Pyrola uniflora. It’s common name is Shy Maiden, coming from the greek derivation of its name monos, meaning one and hesia, meaning delight. And delightful it is. However, it’s a difficult flower to photograph as it grows low to the ground (only 3 – 17 cm tall) in the shade of the deep forest. This was yet another time that David needed to get down to ground level.

Another common name for this plant is Wax Flower because of the single white, waxy flower that grows from a rosette of roundish leaves. However, the common name that I most like for this demure flower is Shy Maiden, for obvious reasons!

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Menziesia ferruginea © DY of jtdytravels; P1100441

A much larger plant, a scraggy shrub, is Menziesia ferruginea often called Rusty Menziesia, from the species name, ferruginea which refers to the rusty salmon colour of the flowers.  But this common forest shrub is also known as Fool’s Huckleberry or False Azalea. It seems to be masquerading as something other than itself!  The urn shaped flowers are somewhat similar to the huckleberry flower in both colour and form, hanging down. But when this plant is in fruit, the flower stems turn up and the fruits are not delicious berries, but very dry inedible capsules.

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Rubus spectabilis © Dy of jtdytravels; P1100442

One plant that certainly did have edible fruit was the Salmonberry, Rubus spectabilis. Found close to the edge of the forest, they made a tasty bight for weary walkers on the way back to the shore line. They certainly look inviting and taste something like raspberries.

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Fern © DY of jtdytravels; P1100397

Some forest plants are easy to overlook simply because they are common… like ferns. These plants form an important part of the understory especially at the edge of the forest. They maybe common… but are really rather lovely.

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Fungi © DY of jtdytravels; P1100451

Something else on the forest floor that many people walk past without so much as a glance is fungi. But how stunningly simple and beautiful are these; another down on the ground photo!

Forest walk ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100457

End of the forest walk © DY of jtdytravels; P1100457

I’m sure there were more plants to find and photograph, but, as always happen in a group situation, someone calls ‘time’; time to go back to the ship.

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Fucus distichus © DY of jtdytravels; P1100462

But even as David left the depths of the forest and stepped back on the rocky shore, he found yet one more plant to share with us all, the Rock Weed, Fucus distichus. This brown alga grows in clumps or tufts from a basal ‘holdfast’ that anchors it to the rock. It lives in intertidal zones. When covered with water, this plant is erect, very stiff and cartilaginous. However, as shown here, when out of the water the fronds don’t stay erect but fall against the rocks.

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Ross Weinberg, Vidiographer © DY of jtdytravels; P1100466

Sitting amongst the Rock Weed, and also waiting to go back to the ship, and lunch, was our expedition’s professional videographer, Ross Weinberg. His task wast to prepare a video diary of the trip for everyone…. and he did an excellent job including places, people and some of the fun that we shared.  David often uses video but, on this trip, he chose photography to enable us all to share his plant hunting expeditions by means of this diary.

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‘Sea Lion’ awaits in the bay © DY of jtdytravels; P1100458

And so, the first walk of the expedition came to an end. It was time for lunch!

More anon

Jennie and David

All Photographs ©  David Young and Jennie Thomas of jtdytravels

More of our travel diaries can be found on

www.dymusings.com

More travel photos on

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

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