Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Alexander Archipelago

Arch-i-pel-a-go, the name rolls off my tongue more adventurously than just "an island chain."  The southern most islands of SE Alaska are called the Alexander Archipelago.  This group of about 1,100 islands are the tops of a submerged section of the coastal mountain range.  Named for Tsar Alexander of Russia, they extend about 300 miles, from Glacier Bay south to the Dixon Entrance.  The folded and fjord-ed shorelines separating them from the mainland form the spectacular "Inside Passage" of the Alaska marine highway system.  

The Alexander Archipelago wolf (canis lupus ligoni) is a subspecies of the gray wolf unique to this area.  The wolf, like the spotted owl has become a key player in the fight to preserve the old growth forest of the region.  As recently as March of this year the Fish & Wildlife Agency has agreed that there is cause for concern.  Much as I'd like to stay out of the politics, the wolf is linked to the trees, is linked to the salmon, is linked to the bear, is linked to the insects, is linked to the birds and the bugs and berries and…. well, you get it.  It's an ecosystem, a life web where every link is important.  We are not separate from that linkage, since we all breathe the same air, drink the water and share the sunlight and rainfall, we need every part of the web intact and functional for our physical well being…. and that isn't even considering our soul and the value of wilderness to our quality of life.   

"People joke about tree huggers, but no one laughs when old-growth woodlands are described as cathedral forests. We stand in awe amid columns that soar toward the light. The air takes on weight. It feels preternaturally close and still, yet behind the silence, is alive with faint rustlings, as in the moments before a hymn begins. I wondered whether groves of grand trees didn't in fact inspire the design of humanity's first temples and later edifices: the architecture of praise."   By Douglas H. Chadwick, check out the whole story here  National Geographic   
The issue of logging old growth in the Tongass is happening right now, it's for us to decide.  It will be unconscionable if we are the generation that dooms this old growth rainforest to extinction, whether it's by ignorance or by apathy.   I guess that's my cue... whatever else the opportunity provides, it definitely feels like a privilege to able to go into the wilderness and report back with all the means at my disposal.  The sketchbook & camera get packed first!
I'm anxious to start showing you some visuals of the real deal, but right now it's time for some packing.  All thats gotta go in 2 bags, yikes!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Countdown to Wilderness

It's countdown week!  Tying up major JWD's (jobs with deadlines) and gathering the gear for my Tongass artist residency adventure.  

Here are some fun facts about where I'm heading;  The Tongass National Forest, at 17 million acres, takes up most of SE Alaska.  It is a temperate rainforest, the earth's largest still remaining somewhat intact.  It encompasses coastal mountains, glaciers, fjords and islands of the Alexander Archipelago.  Approx. 75,000 people live here, most in cities like Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg and Ketchikan.  Tlingit, Kaigani Haida and Tsimshian native groups have a long history in the region.  (The name, Tongass, comes from one of the groups of Tlingit people that live near Ketchikan.) 

It's the biggest managed US forest and soooo there's rather a lot of politics involved.  This is all I'm gonna say about that… I believe that it is time for all old growth forest to be listed as endangered and off limits to logging.  Beyond that, I'm much more interested in the natural history and the intrinsic value of the place as it is, without being muggled up, so that's what I'll be focused on.  

I will be visiting a very small portion of this large ecoregion, first stop Petersburg,  then by float plane another 50 miles SW to Tebenkof Bay Wilderness on Kuiu Island in the Alexander Archipelago.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Border Patrol

FernWood borders have been under threat of late.  Politely, but determinedly keeping track of the neighbors logging has kept Arne and I on our toes.  So now what was green and growing is red and ravaged... and all for a bit of toilet paper.  It's quiet again, mostly, and the birds are back.  That half a tree my "neighbor" owes me,  he can never repay it.  His karma may bite one day.  I still hold onto a wee small seed of hope that we will wake up from our Collective Confusion... equating value with money, looking with seeing and ownership with stewardship... before our Collective Karma has it's way.  Meantime, Arne and I remain happily on duty patrolling the oxygen farm.

Monday, June 9, 2014


Sam was a happy old dog, now living in that puppy pasture of memory.