Monday, June 26, 2006

The rain in Sitka mostly falls, and falls, and falls

6-25-06 SITKA: We arrived at our last stop in the early am. Judy had us all packed and ready to go the night before. After breakfast, we had a city tour starting with the Russian Orthodox Church which has lots of icons. Then we did the raptor center which is similar to VINS but has more eagles than owls. The Sheldon Jackson College Museum has a huge collection of native art and artifacts. Sitka gets 100” of rain per year. We can attest to that, a lot of it came down on our tour. However, I would guess that 100” per year makes it one of the dryest spots in SouthEast AK. Finally to airport for flight to Seattle and then Newark.

Basket Bay

6-24-06 PAVLOV COVE AND BASKET BAY: Our last full day in Northeast Akaska. It is typical weather for here, calm, 50’s and showery with cloudy, overcast skies, low lying clouds and fog. We have not seen the moon or any star in a week. Low tide has been in the am and high the usual six hours later with a rise and fall of about 6-8 feet. We have seen very little current except in Cross Sound by the Inian Islands where we were riding the Pacific rollers. Sunrise is about 4 am and sunset at 10 pm, twilight is about 2 hours long before and after. At one am last night, the midpoint between sun up and down, it was not dark, but still dusk.

This morning we kayaked again in Pavlov, yes that Pavlov, Cove. Judy and I are pretty good now in calm, flat water. The water, sea water, is quite clear. The cove is on the eastern side of Chichagof Island in
Chatham Strait. We paddled up to a low waterfall, took pix, watched fish jump and then back to the boat for a lecture, lunch and a short hop to the next stop, Basket Bay, about which the staff are being secretive, but hinting that it is great.

Basket Bay had to be done in the afternoon at high tide. Many of the staff had never been there. It is a small squarish bay with a river input at one corner. There are unusual grey rocks all about the banks. Entering the river immediately discloses a cave, short with a open back, actually a tunnel. There are fallen trees and rain forest growth beyond the tunnel. It is a limestone formation. At another spot with a deep, narrow river-cut ravine bedding can be seen in the limestone at the entrance to the ravine. The bedding is vertical indicating that the whole formation has been tipped up on its side probably when it was accreted to Alaska. The limestone shows a lot of karstic, water caused, erosive changes.

Before the captain’s farewell dinner, one of the naturalists, David Stephens gave a lecture on Tlingit, native, art and culture. He showed us reproduction pieces that he makes that were beautiful—museum quality.

Glacier Bay

6-23-06 GLACIER BAY: We arrived at the entrance to Glacier Bay National Park at four am to pick up a ranger/guide at six am for the day’s voyage. We cruised north in Glacier Bay from the entrance almost to the Canadian border, about 80 miles, and back. Our first waypoint was South Marble Is. It is a polished rock in the middle of the bay and isolated from land based predators and so home to gulls, cormorants, murres, puffins and sealions. Miraculously, the day was dry with a bit of sun, but cold from the ice and from the ship’s apparent wind.

Glacier bay is a fairly narrow fjiord with steep sides periodic branching and hanging valley and another glacier in each valley and branch. We saw the same progression of vegetation and water color changes we previously saw.

At Tidal Inlet we picked up two Orcas and followed them for a while southward along the shore. They, like the other whales we have seen, dive and stay down several minutes and then surface and blow three or four times and then dive back down. One of them, a mature male, has a scar on its dorsal fin near the top of the trailing edge. The scar was shown in a book about that pack when they were in California waters. The other orca was either a female of immature male.

After we dropped the Orcas, we went past an igneus intrusion called Gloomy Point which is a shear surface rising from the bay with small shelves and scattered patches of greenery. We saw Mountain Goats, cream colored and high up on the cliffs, mostly lying around, perhaps cud chewing. There were some isolated goats and a herd of about ten in one cluster. Quite content to be on the face of the cliff.

Just after leaving Gloomy Point, we saw a moose, anterless, walking along a distant beach and were sneaking up on it when we saw a mama brown bear with two cubs near the water climbing a different formation. The cubs were wandering around and wrestling with each other. The mom would turn around and scold them and they would scurry up to her. We watched them climb the whole face and go around the top. Orcas, goats, moose and grizzleys, it was an amazing hour!

The destination glaciers, Margerie and Grand Pacific, are at the north end of the bay. Margerie is more active, bluer, fissured with seracs and calving six feet of ice daily. The other is covered with a thick terminal moraine giving it a brown appearance and is actually growing. Almost all the other glaciers are receding. We saw a few calvings, the ice bergs and ice floe with a few Harbor Seals and new pups. There were hundred of Kittiwake gull nests on the sides of the cliffs and lots of birds on the water around the glacier. When the glacier calves, water at the base is stirred up and fish are stunned and rise to the surface. The birds swarm the calving for the stunned fish.

On the trip back south, we had a lecture on Sea Otters which ended at the Beardslee Isands where the Sea Otters were feeding in kelp beds. After dinner, we had a nature hike and sailed off at 11pm.

Birds and Lions

6-22-06 IDAHO INLET & ICY STRAIT & INIAN ISLANDS: In the morning, we kayaked in still air and still water around a round island, Shaw Island, outside and then inside kelp beds and saw a sea otter. Next was a walk through the rain forest uphill to a bog. There was a bear trail and a great view from the top. We saw no bears today, but fairly fresh bear scat and fresh tracks. Lots of the flowers some of which we saw before and some new ones.

In the afternoon we zodiaced around the Inian Islands in the Pacific swells. Low islands were covered with Stellar sea lions all with something to say. It was a loud basso chorus. The sea lions share these small rocky knobs with seabirds, and we saw gulls, coromorants, oyster catchers and guillemots. As usual there were many eagles both mature and immature. These islands are on the edge of glacier bay. We caught a glimse of the Brady Glacier to the north. While almost all the glaciers are retreating, this one is advancing. More humpback whales in the evening with a sunset through the clouds.

Bearing Up

6-21-06 HANUS BAY: Today we had rain and lots of wind in the morning for Judy’s first kayak experience. It worked out fine. We were taken from the ship to the beach at Hanus Bay. We used a double kayak and paddled behind the beach to a sheltered river delta and waterfall and then tried the open water into the wind. After the kayaking, we went for another guided hike along the river to lake Eva. The trail was muddy and slippery. We saw a bear on the trail ahead of us. It swam across the lake to escape us. I caught it with a picture and later got a couple of its foot prints. We had seen a bear beachcombing from the ship before breakfast. That makes three so far. The island we are on, Baranof, seems appropriately named. We were soaked to the skin from rain and the hike by the time we got back aboard. Very exciting stuff.

In the afternoon we cruised north in Chatham Strait to Point Adolphus and dinner. We saw more whales, sea lions, porpoises and eagles. Same old stuff.


6-20-06 PETERSBURG: We had an early morning start with a visit to Kupreanof Island for another nature walk through the rain forest and muskeg [peat bog] on National Forest trails with board walks over the muddest parts. The rain forest has two tree species, hemock and Sitka spruce, unlike tropical rain forests that have dozens of tree species. The bog has only stunted pine and yellow cedar in the transition between bog and forest. On the forest floor there are bunch berry, skunk cabbage, chocolate lily, ferns, devils club, etc. The forest growth is heavy with mosses growing on everything and dead trees trunks, nursery logs, are covered with new growth. The muskeg has even more moss.

At mid-morning, we went up in a small plane to fly over glaciers. Yes, Judy did it! It was dramatic. The fast moving, Le Conte glacier has a very fissured surface with seracs, and the slow moving neighbor has a smooth surface like a parking lot. We saw many seals on the ice with new pups. Where they had recently given birth the ice bergs were blood stained. They come to the glaciers to give birth to avoid the orcas. The fjiord was packed solid with bergs.

After the planes there was a bit of shopping in Petersburg and a visit to the eagle hangout near the fish cannery. We saw several immatures and adults.

Next we left Petersburg, “Little Norway”, via the Wrangell Narrows and Frederick Sound and had a lecture on Alaskan birds by the AMNH scientist, Carol Griffiths.

Humpback whales appeared and entertained us for hours, before and after dinner, several of them in bunches, close by and far away from the boat. They surfaced and blew dove showing tail flukes and occasionally rolled on the surface displaying pectoral flukes. The tails showed white scars which made each whale individually identifiable. The weather was almost pleasant in the afternoon. There was a occasional patch of blue sky.

Dawes Glacier

6-19-06 STEPHENS PASSAGE: The ‘Sea Bird’ set sail last night about 11:30 pm. I awoke about 6 am and went up on deck to see a narrow fjiord, the Endicott Arm, with floating ice and harbor seals with new pups basking on the ice bergs. With the ship’s apparent wind, it was freezing. I retreated for warm clothes. After breakfast, we took zodiacs from the ship through the floating ice to the base of the Dawes Glacier. We saw the glacier calving with a big splash and a big wave and a few seconds later a loud crash. The glacier had medial and lateral moraines looking like dark stripes of debris painted on the blue ice. The sides of the fjiord as very steep with hanging glacial valleys entering from the sides with waterfalls and secondary glaciers high up some of those valleys.

The vegetation goes from none at the glacier to lichen, to alder shrubs and grassy stuff to spruce and finally hemlock forests as you get further away from the retreating glacier. Some of the ice was incredibly blue. To get through the ice field, in spots, we had to push ice out of our way. It was thrilling.

After lunch we cruised back out the Endicott Arm. On a flat island made from a terminal moraine we saw a brown bear [grizzly] with three cubs, all of then eating beach rye grass. We also saw more eagles and a bunch of sea birds. Late in the afternoon, we went ashore in Wilson Cove. Some of us kayaked while Judy and I did a short hike, guided by a naturalist, through the temperate rain forest where we were meals for mosquitoes. After dinner we headed south in Stephens Passage for Petersburg.

Alaska Trip

6-18-06 JUNEAU: Our flight from Seattle to Juneau was uneventful after the usual sorts of delays. The Seattle airport obviously grew faster than the planners planned and is a hodge-podge of different buildings for all the departure gates. I got a decent picture of Mt. Ranier as the plane was climbing to altitude. They should have named it Mt. Snowier. Mt. Saint Helens is behind it in the distance to the south. The plane flew over lots of islands with snowy mountain tops and water but mostly cloud cover. As we landed in Juneau we saw the Mendenhall Glacier from the plane.

Lindblad took all the luggage, put us on buses and drove us to the glacier. We saw glacier melting into a tidewater bay, icebergs, eskers, polished and striated rocks from the glacial advance and a waterfall. A lot of the water is cloudy and whitish due to rock “flour” ground off the bedrock by the glacier and released form the ice as the glacier retreats. The area at the base of the glacier is a temporate rain forest with deciduous plants and trees. We saw a beaver dam and familiar flowers such as lupin.

When the glacier closed, we had a quick tour of the Alaska State Museum and then on to the ship for orientation and dinner. The AMNH group is only about 8 folks out of a boat load of around sixty-five, mostly westerners. After dinner, Judy and I walked around Juneau. It has lots of souvenir stores, jewelery stores, saloons and is generally fairly tacky. There was a lot of Russian stuff, nesting dolls, enameled boxes, consistent with the Russian influence as the first Europeans in Alaska. Judy bought nothing! I saw an interesting fur bikini, priced at $69.00, that Judy wouldn’t try on. We got back to the ship at sunset, ten pm, followed by a long twilight and sunrise at four am. Lindblad’s ship is the ‘Sea Bird’. She has four deck with about 30 small cabins and draws 8 feet. She has an enthusiastic crew. They do a nice job, don’t juneau. That was Judy’s pun.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Seattle Skyline

Old Boats

Pike Street Market


6-17-06 SEATTLE: The first day of our Alaska trip. Actually, yesterday we flew from Newark to Seattle getting in here late enough to check in and crash. Fortunately we didn’t crash before getting here. Prior to leaving Short Hills, I did notice that the first of the cream rhodos had opened.

This morning we set out from the Olympic Fairmont and walked down hill to the waterfront. We shopped the Pike St. market. It has lots of flowers and food stalls and all the ususal souvenir stops. Next we went to the aquarium. It had good mammals, otters and seals, but is not in the Monterey aquarium class. After a seafood lunch on a pier, oysters and crabs, we went on a harbor cruise. As we left the sun came out for the first time. The harbor is called Elliott Bay and is part of Puget Sound. Before we embarked, we saw an old sail boat, a maxi from the 1980’s, “Obcession”, that I remember from some of the races I did back then. Now the boat still has all the racing gear on deck, giant winches, fore sail lead tracks and cars, coffee grinders, a mast with five spreaders, two spinnaker poles, double helms and reduplicated instruments, but is rigged with a roller furling jib and a main with lazy jacks and working as a harbor cruiser. A Kentucy Derby winner now pulling a hay wagon, but still sailing.

On our cruise, we saw a huge luxury ship cast off for Alaska, a giant container ship come in from China, coast guard ice breakers, a bald eagle, the Seattle skyline and the Olympic range off to the north. When we approached Seattle from the east in the air yesterday, we saw a huge mountain poking up through the clouds to the south-Mt. Rainier.

After the cruise, we hit an antique store for a few trinkets, an old bottle and old scale. Then we visited a show for a marina loaded with wooden yachts, all beautifully restored. Finally, a trek back up the hill to the Fairmont for dinner, calamari, tuna, crab cakes. Tomorrow Air Alaska to Juneau.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

North for the Solstice

6-15-06 SHORT HILLS: I saw the first lightening bug of the season tonight. New blooms: Linden tree has been out for a few days. Still waiting for the cream colored rhodos.

Tomorrow Judy and I go to Seattle and Sunday north to Alaska. If possible, I’ll cotinue to post.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Adam and Eve

Sex with Holly

6-13-06 SHORT HILLS: Beautiful day-warm, slight breeze, dry and sunny. This garden is now all in shade. The trees are flourishing with all the rain and the only sun reaching ground is dappled through the leaves.

New blooms: hydrangea and asian hollys. These hollys like the English holly are either ladies or gentlemen. I will post two pictures; your assignment is differentiate the sexes. You may refer back to the previous exercise.

Al Zarqawi was bombed in Iraq a few days ago was originally reported to have died instantly, and then the news had him still alive for a few minutes after government forces arrived on the scene. Yesterday they said he lived for almost a hour after the bombing. By tomorrow, and in spite of the autopsy, it will probably turn out that he is still alive and that bombing is actually good for your health. Will it become a new spa treatment?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Shade Garden

Forget-Me-Nots and Centauria

Yellow Flags-Water Iris


6-12-06 SHORT HILLS: We left Vermont in the rain after getting another 1.70” with more falling. It did let up enough to let me put down more of the black plastic cover over the rampant mint in the pasture. I am hoping to supress the mint without resorting to herbicides.

Yesterday we spent the afternoon and evening at Alison’s book party and Anna’s madrigal sing. Today is resting up for the Alaska trip starting Friday. Tomorrow I have an eye check. No new blooms in NJ. Some pix from Vermont.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Luck of the Iris

6-9-06 VERMONT: This morning we went to a rainy auction in Cavendish, VT. It is a pretty town south of Woodstock with a lot of stone houses. Judy bought a childs Windsor rocker. When we got home, I repaired a toilet and when the rain let up, scattered some grass seed on the bare spots and sprayed the caterpillars on the viburnum. I used the big string trimmer to clear some tall grass along the road and in the pasture. I was going to add more cover to the mint suppressor but got rained out again. NJ tomorrow.

New blooms: one each of all three irises, bearded, water and siberian.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

When it Rains it Pours

6-8-06 VERMONT: We came up on the devil’s day, 6/6/06, with solely light traffic, thanks, Satan. There was 1.1” rain in the gauge from the week we were away. Everything, almost everything, looked great, fresh, growing, dewy and vibrant. The Judd viburnum actually has been breakfast, lunch and dinner for something and looks depressed but does show a bit of new growth. Maybe it will survive. Many of the Wentworth viburnum have also been eaten and look dead. More of the devil’s work no doubt, 666 inch worms at his behest. So whats the deal, are viburnums God’s favorite or something to be singled out like Job? I used the afternoon we arrived to do a bit of work, speaking of jobs, using the string trimmer out front, in the drive and around the fence roses and weeded some nasty devils.

New blooms: lilacs, more azalea, more blueberry, barberry, burning bush, native roses and fence roses, more viburnums, columbine, may apple, false solomon seal, hesperis, centauria, lupin, more cranesbill, and Jacobs ladder.

Yesterday I got out in the morning and did a few hours of pruning between the house and garage before it started to rain hard and then retreated inside to do some other chores. We had dinner with the Hileys in Lebanon.

Today we had another 1.15” in the rain gauge and after threatening all day it is raining again now. I got in a full day finishing the pruning and weeding I started yesterday and moved on the the native roses and the terrace beds, and the beds framing the lower yard and delivered another huge load to the burn pile. The wet half of the yard, south of the pond remains a swamp.

Wildlife: rosebreasted grossbeak and goldfinch on the feeder today. The bugs are out in force, repellant essential for survival.

Monday, June 05, 2006


6-5-06 SHORT HILLS: Several rainy days have delivered almost 3” here and about 1” in Thetford where we are off to tomorrow. The ground is soggy, but the vegetation loves it. Mushrooms are popping up all over the yard. Between showers I have continued to prune and trim, but most of the work is done here for the moment. The rhododendrons look better this year than they have for a few seasons. They do not tolerate drought. A nice wet summer would be great.

New blooms: honey suckle vine, first of the asian hollies.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Can you tell the sexes apart?

Sexual Secrets Revealed!

6-1-06 SHORT HILLS: Summer weather continues. Yesterday I did a bit more pruning, enough for another dump run, and refertilized some shrubs, mostly those that had been distressed. Today I transplanted six small burning bush volunteers to the pool area to replace disappearing junipers.

Sexual Secrets Revealed! The English holly trees are either male or female. The flowers are out now and the female flower has a little green ball in the center that grows and matures after pollination and becomes the red berry after the first frost. The male flower has four upright pollen stalks. Pictures suitable only for mature readers please.

New blooms: privet.