White wildlife weekend

I have an entry written about Fish Camp, but I’ll save that one for later in the week because I can’t wait to share my weekend with you!

I had an unscheduled four-day weekend available, so … I TOOK it!  I spent Friday on household chores and then decided to wait until Saturday morning to leave since it gets dark so much earlier now.

We have had a spate of terrible wind and rain storms throughout southcentral Alaska this month, with winds gusting to over 100mph.  Downed trees have done immeasurable damage to power lines, fences, roofs, and even vehicles.  Some folks here in Anchorage were without power for nearly a week as crews worked to find and clear all the lines that were hit. 

Meanwhile, the rains were accumulating steadily and swelling the small streams which began swelling the big ones and then suddenly we had flood alerts all over the place and homes that were already on the edge being lost to the erosion of the river banks. 

The tame looking Matanuska River has been eating at the banks under homes and has claimed several over the last year

All of this is to say that I had good reason to want to go up and check on the Cabin!

After many little delays, I finally made it out of town by 2pm.  The sun was shining and warm, lifting white mists off the wet mountains as I arrived at the camp.  I spoke to a neighbor as I drove in and was reassured that they had had little of the extreme weather other than persistent light rains. 

Erosion is a constant battle on this portion of the trail – even without the rain!

The trail did suffer a bit from the softening effects of the rains, banks sloughing off in big chunks, even depositing an abandoned bird nest that must have been tucked into the bank somewhere.  The Cabin however was in tip-top shape, surrounded by a carpet of gold leaves. 

Beautiful but treacherously slick underfoot, especially because many of the exposed roots are buried in leaves

My evening row to retrieve my small pile of gear put me in full view of the two hills at the east end of the lake, where I observed a large flock of Dall sheep on the nearer peak. 

Dall sheep, also commonly known as “those little white spots in the middle of the picture”

Sunday morning was a chilly one at around 40F outside.  Fatso was soon crackling merrily as I ate my oatmeal and stared out the window at the lake.  The young loon has most of his size and is now quite capable of taking care of himself, though he still follows mom around part of the time.  His plumage will take another couple of years to fully develop the beautiful summertime checkerboard tuxedo of his parents.  His light colored bill and light throat make him look like a winter adult right now. 

The swans have moved back in.  As my neighbor had told me, they have appropriated the loon nest for their own.  When the weather lifted and the wind died down, I took the boat over to “Loon Lagoon” to get some photos. 

The telephoto makes it look much closer than it was! I was on the far side of a 20-30 foot wide swath of lilies with another 15 feet of open water in addition

Although they adopted a slightly tense posture and eventually left the nest, they actually circled around and approached me where I was anchored in the remnants of the lilies. 

Checking me out. Very little telephoto here by the way…he really came quite close, but never acted aggressive…no hissing or fluffing

Curiosity satisfied, they then glided away with no apparent haste or unease.  I pushed the rest of the way through the lilies and stole some swan feathers from the water around the nest.  I guess I should research whether I’m allowed to keep them…  Anyway, I feel like I should work to shoo these big bullies away from my loons’ nest, but I can’t help enjoying the sight of them gliding around the lake. 

If you look closely in the first swan pic, you can see some of the feathers I was able to steal later!

The rest of Sunday was dedicated to firewood.  I went back to one of the big trees I had worked on before and limbed and cut away another 10 foot section.  Then I cut down a couple of very small dead spruce (about 15 feet tall, but only about 2-3 inches at the most in diameter) and limbed the top 10 feet of the big tree that was still laying where I left it last time.  After taking a total of 3 10 foot sections, there’s still about 30 feet left lying along the trail.  That was a pretty big tree for a black spruce.  At a diameter of nearly 6 inches the 10-foot section I cut away this time was almost more than I could drag – especially as I forgot to leave a short limb as a handle.  The rest of the tree is going to have to wait for a bigger chainsaw and a stronger person to drag the sections away! 

I got everything back to the sawhorse with a minimum of grown-up language, but by then I was ready to call it a day.  I feasted on toasted cheese sandwiches and enjoyed a quiet evening with my Kindle.

Monday morning I hustled to split the last of the rounds from my last trip and then cut up the big section I had dragged in.  Although it’s long-dead wood, it will be easier to split if I give the rounds a little more time to dry. I stacked everything in the shelter and then cleaned the Cabin and packed up to leave.  As always seems to happen the sun came out as I was pulling the boat out of the water and locking the oars up inside. 

I’m not expecting to get back up here before mid-October, so my next big chore is to figure out how to work my new little propane heater.  It occurred to me that this weekend’s wildlife was mostly white…in fiction that would be a foreshadowing of snow to come.  Brrrrr!  I’ll be needing that heater for sure!

 

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Categories: wildlife | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “White wildlife weekend

  1. Pam

    Great Pics! Couldnt help but notice the sign on the trail “Danger Target Range”???

    • Yeah, the camp – a bible camp mind you! – has a target range. Fortunately it almost never gets used when I’m there.

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