Friday, August 22, 2014

Rainforest Flowers

Our timing is perfect for the floral extravaganza on Kuiu and surrounding islands.  From the deep dark forest, to stream banks or above high tide on the shoreline, flowers are blooming everywhere.  Old friends and new, they are content to pose for their portraits to be sketched.  

In the Beginning

50 years ago the Wilderness Act was signed, and our country began a new chapter of conservation and preservation of wilderness areas for future generations. When he signed the Wilderness Act, President Lyndon B. Johnson said, “If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it."

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Friday, August 15, 2014

An Artful Evening

"Art is in what happens within us, and the photograph is what points to it."  
Sean Kernan (paraphrased)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Why do fish jump?

On longer paddles you have time to ponder, why do salmon jump?  What is easier to figure out is how they contribute to this amazing ecosystem.  The book, Salmon in the Trees by Amy Gulic tells it all right there in the title.  The unique life cycle of salmon drives the ecology of this place.  As luck would have it, our timing is in between salmon runs.... late for spring steelhead and too early for the summer sockeye.  Even during this pause when the fish aren't running, here in Alecks Creek estuary is all the evidence you need.  Huge thriving forest, flourishing and diverse understory, buzzing insects, eagle and bear waiting to play their parts.  You can feel anticipation, the frenzy of life reaching its peak of seasonal productivity.  We can feel the black bear watching us from the forest edge.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

America's Second Best Ideas

Gates of the Arctic NP and Tongass Wilderness, SE Alaska
This year celebrates 50 years of the Wilderness Act, America's ongoing contribution of Best Ideas, along with establishing the National Park System in 1916.  If that was the best, then implementing the NPS- Artist in Residence and Forest Service- Voices of the Wilderness programs must have been America's second best ideas.   After all, artists were integral in selling the whole NPS thing in the first place.  Today the artist advocate and interpreter has a similarly vital role in reintroducing us to our national wilderness heritage as pressures of expansion, commercialism and climate change push against the NPS mandate to conserve, protect and leave unimpaired. 

I'll share more information about this wonderful program and my own experiences in the upcoming Sketch-Journal workshop at the Gig Harbor History Museum, Sept 6 and 7th, 10am to 2pm (take one or both classes)  Call 253 858-6722 extension 5 or stop by the museum to register.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Elena Village Site

There are no signs of people out here now, even the intrusions of air traffic are relatively few (if notable).  Notable mostly because that's part of our job... to write down any and all human oriented contact, we are official "solitude monitors".  I've been known to covet the job of outdoor gear tester for REI, but I gotta say that solitude monitoring is my new favorite job description!

Although our encounters are with critters for now, we definitely are not the only humans to have inhabited this place.  You can see a welcoming beach and the wide green bench of cow parsnip above it which marks the old Elena Village site from a long way out.  A good landing place, protection from storms and a reasonably close water source are the same criteria for locating a village or for finding a good campsite.  This fits the bill, especially in the mild conditions of summer.  Adjusting to the stillness, you can almost make out soft voices and laughter on the bench above high tide that once was home to a village of Tlingit.  Shell middens, sometimes old house posts, sprouting new growth as nurse logs and flat pads of thick moss are what's left to see, but your other senses tell you this is not an empty place.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Wilderness Morning

Close your eyes, hear the sea otter?  Babies are mewing and adults are crunching their breakfast.  A more serene morning would be hard to find. Heading out across Elena Bay, joining the otter, seal and loons.... to see what this day will offer.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

BearBones Beach to Totem Island

Ahhh, summer solstice days, perfect for after dinner excursions... and we're anxious to test the boats.  Here I will reiterate my heart felt appreciation to Nick for volunteering to skipper the Klepper.  If you have ever packed one of these boats you'll know one of the big reasons he deserves good karma for his chivalry.  Plus I don't think his knees ever really fit under the deck combing, most of the time they were sticking up under his chin!  Anyway, maiden voyage a short paddle to a neighboring island to check out an old Tlingit totem pole.  The Tlingit people (say "Klinkit") have lived here forever and there are several archeological sites scattered around.  Their name for themselves is Lingit, meaning "people of the tides".  Their semi-settled lifestyle included extensive hunting and gathering on and around Kuiu Island.  I've always thought that it's too bad our culture doesn't use more poetic names.  Slapping on some old dead guy's moniker, who probably never saw the place is just wrong somehow... but the mapmakers have their way.  Then again, I'm a mapmaker and on mine our first camp is on BearBones Beach with Totem Island just to our west-northwest.

Sunday, August 3, 2014


This is one of the 2 new Feathercraft boats that we had the good fortune to use.  Folds up all tidy into a backpack that weighs in at around 55#.  This expedition boat is similar to the Klepper in the general mechanics of its skeleton, but it uses a plethora of hi-tech materials including; aluminum tubes, hard plastic (HDPE) cross ribs and fiberglass combing.  The hull is welded urethane with numerous strategic reinforcements.  Go to their website for all the techie details!  The boat design has an upswept bow and a "V" hull that both tracks well and is very stable.  It does come with a rudder which (I learned the hard way) is decidedly useful in a cross wind.

This was the maiden voyage for these boats so a calm, no hurry afternoon was welcome.  The encouragement of persistent little "no-see-em but feel-em-plenty" biting buggers did keep the project moving along.  We ended up with some pretty nifty transportation fairly quickly and with only a minimum of bloodshed.  We were anxious to try them out.