Day four of our Alaska trip (the third full day in Alaska) was busy. Dorothy had to work so we dropped her off and then went into town. We started by going to Evergreen Bowl and walking around a bit. That’s where this photograph was taken. After that we took some pictures of her mom’s old house, across the street from the Governor’s mansion. Then downtown for a little while to do a little shopping and also spent some time in the library. I took pictures of the mural on the parking garage that features Cathy, her aunt, and her aunt’s great grandson. There is a new park that runs from near the bridge to Douglas towards the Coast Guard dock and we went there for a while. It’s probably nicer when the fountain is running but it was nice. Finally we went to Evergreen Cemetery to find a few grave markers. My memory of where Cathy’s grandparents are buried was pretty good. We also found the markers for her mom’s sister and her husband. We had a few more to find but had more opportunities later in the week.
Tagged With: Alaska
As mentioned in my earlier post for today, it was a busy day. In the afternoon we went for a walk with Brian and Lisa around the airport. It’s a pretty place and it’s not like the busy airports we’re used to from the DC area with planes taking off and landing one after the next all day. It’s a relatively quiet place except for the occasional plane and we had a nice time outdoors. If you need a reason to go to Juneau, here’s one. It’s beautiful regardless of the weather. The clouds were high enough today that we could see the mountains pretty well. We didn’t have a clear day the entire ten days we were there but if you need clear skies to enjoy a place, then maybe it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. The airport walk is an easy one, with virtually no hills to deal with. Very nice for a mid-afternoon walk. Highly recommended.
We have a very fond and somewhat funny memory from the winter of 1986-87. It was on a relatively mild day in February when Cathy, Brian, Lisa, and I drove out to the glacier. There was eight to ten inches of snow on the ice on Mendenhall Lake and there were kids sledding on the hills of glacial moraine. Brian, Lisa, and Cathy walked out into the snow on the ice wearing boots and their bathing suits. They took off the boots and settled on a blanket laid on the snow (which naturally sank into the snow when they sat down. I took a handful of photographs of them, pretending it was a lovely day. Actually, for February in Juneau, clear skies make it a lovely day, regardless of the temperature. Anyway, here’s Cathy, 32 years later, in front of the Mendenhall, although she was dressed more warmly today than she was on that day in February.
This photo wasn’t taken by me, but I’ve already posted two photos from today that I did take, so I think I can get away with it. I don’t appear in many photographs and for the most part, that’s my preference. Nevertheless, I’m trying to learn that if I want to expect others to let me take their picture, I need to be willing to return the favor. Dorothy took this with my camera and while I don’t think it’s a particularly good photo of me, it’s at least evidence that I was there. Nugget falls is larger than it looks in this photo. The reality is that we’re quite a ways from it. If we walked so that we were right below it, you’d see how high it really is. I have a few photos like that, but this isn’t one of them, so you’ll just have to trust me, or better yet, go visit it for yourself.
We came to Juneau expecting rain. The weather for the last few weeks has been rain for about six days out of every seven. We woke up this morning to a clear, blue sky. After breakfast, we headed out with Brian, Lisa, and the dogs to the airport flats. This is the delta of the Mendenhall River, which has basically silted up most of the channel separating Douglas Island from the mainland. There is still a small channel that’s still got water in it, even at low tide, although an annual ‘Mud Run’ crosses the channel, so it’s not terribly deep. The flats are a good place to walk the dogs and we enjoyed being out. I got a nice photo of a savannah sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) and we saw lots of lupine as well as many chocolate lilies (Fritillaria camschatcensis). They are pretty, in a brown sort of way, although I can’t recommend their fragrance, in particular. They are native to eastern Asia, Alaska, Yukon Territory, British Columbia and the far northwestern contiguous United States.
On our second morning in Juneau we walked to False Outer Point. There is a causeway to Shaman Island that is walkable during exceptionally low tied and we happened to come when it was above water. We calculated that we had about a half hour before the water would rise to the top of the causeway. As it turns out, we miscalculated by about ten minutes and we had to wad back in about four inches of water. But we didn’t mind. We didn’t really get to explore the island very well in the 25 minutes we were there, but we did see a pair of black oystercatchers (Haematopus bachmani), which was a real treat. One was standing on one foot on top of a rock. The other one (this one) was moving around, presumable finding things to eat. The rocks around the island are covered with mussels, which is a large part of an oystercatcher’s diet, so it makes perfect sense that we’d see the here if we were going to see them at all. Am I glad yet that I brought my long lens? Yes, yes I am.
As you might guess, although I take most of the pictures with my camera, Cathy took this shot. We had driven to the end of the road and then walked to the shore just past Echo Cove. This is as far as you can drive from downtown Juneau. It was sunny and hot, which is unusual for Juneau, but we enjoyed being out. Cathy and Lisa were down near the water and Brian and I sat higher on the rocky beach and started balancing stones. It’s a fiddly thing but soothing in its own way. We each managed to get a respectable cairn built and Cathy took a few pictures as we worked on our final stones. The horse flies started to bother us, so we headed back to the car and back to town for the evening.
After breakfast and some time writing in my journal this morning I decided to see if I could get some pictures of eagles. I know the people living in Juneau are so used to them that they don’t even notice them much of the time. We have a pair nesting less than a mile from our house (as the eagle flies) but we’re still excited to see them. When trying to decide what to bring on this trip, I was determined to bring my new 150-600mm zoom lens. I had to rearrange my camera bag and leave a few other things out, but I’m glad I brought it. Today was my first opportunity to get a really good view. There was a large dirt pile, probably 25 or 30 feet high, behind a gas station and in the tree tops beyond that were eagles. My presence made a few of them nervous and a couple flew away, but others, including this handsome bird, stayed and let me get some really nice photos.
Cathy and I went to the glacier this afternoon. By ‘the glacier’ I mean the Mendenhall. We had been in the valley at a cemetery looking for the grave of one of Cathy’s mom’s siblings (we found it) and since we were close, we decided to head to the glacier and see what we could see. It was mostly cloudy, but not raining and still quite pretty. There are arctic terns (Sterna paradisaea) nesting on the shore of Mendenhall Lake and I was able to get a few decent photos of them. But my favorite is this one of a common merganser (Mergus merganser) with ducklings on its back and following it along. There were ten ducklings in all, although you can only see nine in this photo.
Cathy, Brian, two dogs, and I hiked up Mt. Roberts today. We started from the trailhead on Basin Road (elevation about 280 feet above sea level). The trail goes up pretty steeply but we’ve done it before, so there were no surprises. A few people passed us when we stopped to rest at a log bench but we passed a few others, so we were not the slowest hikers out there.
We made it past the upper station of Goldbelt Tram at about 1,800 feet elevation. We continued up to Father Brown’s Cross, know to Cathy’s family at Muriel’s Cross. Father Brown put up the original cross in 1908 but it has been replaced many times over the years and a bunch of these times were by Cathy’s cousins, who happened to own a lumber yard and hardware store, putting them in a good position to do that. Muriel, Cathy’s aunt, was the matriarch of that branch of the family so they refer to it as Muriel’s Cross.
Brian took the first of these photos. Then he and the dogs headed down, running back down the way we came up. He had to pick up Lisa, who had been working. Cathy and I continued higher up and I took quite a few wildflower photos as well as a nice panorama of Mounts Juneau and Roberts.
We took the tram down. They make that harder than they used to do. You must have a receipt from the restaurant or the gift shop for at least $20. But they don’t have it well advertised, so we waited in line and then had to get out of line and wait again. There really isn’t anything we wanted from the gift shop, but they don’t give you the option of simply paying them $20, which seems kind of stupid. My advice would be to look for a receipt left behind by someone who already had a round trip ticket.
The sky was cloudy when we headed up but it got clearer as we went up. I should have worn a short sleeve shirt and was quite warm in flannel. Nevertheless, we really enjoyed ourselves. This is one of our favorite hikes, even though it’s steep and it is one of the more crowded trails, especially above the tram. It’s worth it, especially when the sky is clear. The view is wonderful.
Brian was working this morning and Lisa took the dogs for a walk. I got a call from Lisa saying she was coming back from her walk and there was a bear in the front yard. I grabbed my camera and went outside. By the time I got there the bear was crossing the street in front of the house just up the street. I got a few photos of it from behind and then it turned and I was able to get two of the bear in profile. I got in the car to try to follow it as it moseyed up the street and but it turned off onto a trail towards Lemon Creek. I went past the beginning of the trail and then turned around, only to have the bear come out of the trees and cross the road again and go under a fence and through another yard. I headed around the block and saw it again. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get any more pictures except taken through the car windscreen, so they aren’t terribly good. After taking the last couple, a guy who was hanging out on a balcony asked me, “you came into this neighborhood to photograph bears?” I sort of explained but I think he thought I was crazy.
Although this bear is brown, it is an American black bear (Ursus americanus). They range in color from a fairly light blond, through this beautiful brown, to entirely black. Those that are brown are often called cinnamon bears.
We went to the glacier again today, this time taking the short walk to Nugget Falls. When we lived here, the glacier came to about where we’re standing in this photo. It has receded quite a bit since then, which is a little sad, but glaciers have advanced and receded throughout history. Underneath the glacier are the remains of huge trees, frozen for quite a while, showing that the glacier has been considerably smaller than it is now for many, many years at some point it its history. It will advance again. In the meantime, Juneau may need to stop advertising it as a “drive up glacier.” It’s still quite impressive and worth going to see. One hike I wouldn’t have minded taking is the West Glacier Trail, which is the first real hike I took with Brian after we first met. I’d love to have photographs showing the difference in the glacier in 37 years. Maybe we’ll need to visit at least one more time. I also wouldn’t mind going up East Glacier Trail and Nugget Creek Trail. It’s more wooded but very pretty. We never went up that as far as Nugget Glacier, which would also be nice to do, some day. There are more trails in and around Juneau than can be hiked in two weeks, though. You have to pick and choose.
When you decide to go to Juneau, you are making a tacit agreement to deal with rain. Depending on your source, there are between 180 and 235 days of rain per year in Juneau and there are only about 80 days described as ‘sunny’ per year. With the average high temperature in July, the hottest month, being only 64.1° it’s not the place to go to get a tan. That being said, we arrived late in the day on June 17 and didn’t have any rain the entire first week. Today was the first day we had to walk in the rain if we were going to walk. We drove with Brian, Lisa, and the dogs out to Auke Rec and walked to Point Louisa. The tide was out and this picture of Cathy gives you an idea of what the day was like. Actually, it wasn’t raining hard and we had a really good time being out. The tides in Juneau are pretty significant and where we were standing when this photo was taken will be under quite a few feet of water at high tide. The rocks are covered with barnacles and there are quite a few mussels, although not as many as on the rocks around Shaman Island, where we walked to on the 19th.
We took a long hike today. It was overcast and threatening rain but we only actually had a little drizzle for part of the hike. We started at the end of Basin Road. There are two branches at the lower end of the Perseverance Trail. The one we took is shorter but steeper. There is a door covering an entrance to the Ebner Adit and a very cool wind was coming out of it. I found that useful when we returned, because I was fairly warm. The first part of the trail is fairly steep and by the time you get to Ebner Falls, the first photo presented here, you’ve climbed 815 feet in about 0.7 miles, an average grade steeper than 1:5, although parts are closer to 1:3. The trail gets a bit easier at that point. You cross Gold Creek a few times and eventually get to the Granite Basin trail.
We passed a work crew on the trail. The near side of Gold Creek has been undermining the trail a bit so they were building gabions and filling them with rocks to stabilize the bank. It looked like hard work. One of them noticed my camera. I was carrying my 150-600mm zoom with the camera on it, mounted on a monopod. I also had two additional lenses, my 100mm macro and the 17-40mm zoom. She asked, “Are you going on a photo shoot?” Laughing to myself, I said “No, just taking pictures of whatever we see.“ She asked if I wanted to take their picture and when I said I would if they wanted, the all got excited. I took a few shots of them and got an email address to send them to. Oh, they also complemented my hat, which they said was ‘sick’ (which I’m pretty sure they meant as a compliment).
About a mile and a half up that trail, you take the left fork to stay beside Gold Creek. Another 0.6 miles or so and the Granite Basin Trail branches off on the left. This starts with five switchbacks and climbs quite steeply. After that the climb is a bit more moderate. We got to a point where there was a large snow drift covering both the trail and the entire value below the trail, with the stream going under it. Eventually we got to the cataracts below Granite Basin and stopped for a few pictures. We continued up into the basin but didn’t really go much further than that.
We had climbed from about 370 feet to about 1,750 over the course of about 4 miles (and then back again, totaling about 8 miles). It’s a beautiful hike and Granite Basin is really pretty. I remember the first time we hiked there the fireweed was in bloom, which was particularly nice. It’s not the easiest hike in the Juneau area but it’s one of my favorites. If you don’t mind a bit of exercise (and possibly crossing a bit of snow if you aren’t late in the summer) then I highly recommend this hike. It’s not a bad idea to bring water and a snack. The weather can be significantly different in Granite Basin from what it is at the start of the trail.
Cathy and I took a walk this morning with one of the dogs. We went up a trail along the west bank of Lemon Creek until the trail petered out. If the water wasn’t quite so high we’d have been able to continue but as it was, we had to turn around. We decided to go look for some eagles and we sort of hit the jackpot today.
I’ll be honest, as majestic as bald eagles ((Haliaeetus leucocephalus), they are basically scavengers. Sure, they will catch live fish and that’s beautiful to watch. But they will also eat dead and dying salmon that are running up the streams to spawn. When the salmon are running, eagles are easy to find around the mouths of those streams. However, we are a bit early for salmon, so the best place to find eagles right now is at and around the city dump.
There’s a gas station on Glacier Highway in Lemon Creek, next to the Western Auto and Marine store. At the back of the parking lot behind that gas station is a tall mound of dirt with weeds growing on it. Just beyond that is a line of trees, separating the parking lot from the landfill. The top of that mound of dirt is an excellent vantage for seeing eagles this time of year (or probably any time, be especially when the salmon are not so plentiful).
Taking pictures of birds on the wing is difficult with my huge, 150-600mm zoom lens. That’s especially true when it’s zoomed all the way out. Just finding a moving bird in the viewfinder is hard enough, but then getting it focused and the shutter fired before the bird has moved too far away or is seen only from behind is even more difficult. That being said, I’m quite pleased with a few of the shots I got of eagles flying. The first and last of the photos here are examples.
The second shot is of two trees across Glacier Highway with a total of ten birds in them. The third photo is of an eagle perched on the corner of a building. This bird let me get quite close, which surprised me a bit. I guess he knew he could get away before I could get to the top of the building. Anyway, while bald eagles are not at all rare in Juneau and the locals get fairly blasé about them, and even though we have a nesting pair within a mile of our house in Maryland, we’re still excited to see them.
Cathy, Brian and I took a walk with the dogs through Switzer Meadow and then on a loop beyond Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School. Most of that later trail is in the woods, some of which is relatively young. The whole area was probably clear cut less than 100 years ago, so there are few if any trees older than that. Some areas seem to be pretty scrubby and one area looked like it was a homeless camp or party spot not too many years ago. It’s hard to tell because wood decomposes very quickly in this wet environment. It’s still a pretty walk for the most part and we enjoyed being out with the dogs.
Today I have a pair of HDR photos, both taken from the beach near False Outer Point on Douglas Island. The first of them is Shaman Island, which we walked to at low tide on Monday. The tide was much further in this evening and you wouldn’t know that you could ever walk to it. In fact, the tide was coming in quickly. This image is two images stitched together using the Hugin Panorama Photo Stitcher and each of the source images for that are HDR images made from three exposures each.
The second photo is looking north northeast at the western side of False Outer Point with Spuhn Island visible to the left of it. The seaweed covered rocks in the foreground were quickly covered by the incoming tide. This is a nice beach to visit and it often very quiet and peaceful. It’s a short hike through the woods on the Rainforest Trail, which is a loop that takes you through some lovely temperate rainforest. In fact, if you happen to go to the Tongass National Forest page on Wikipedia and scroll down to the second photo on the page (which you can also see here), that’s a photo I took on this trail in September 20, 2004.
It was a fairly wet day today, one of the few rainy days we’ve had in our two weeks in Juneau. We went to church this evening (yes, on Saturday evening) and then Cathy and I drove to Skater’s Cabin on the southwest corner of Mendenhall Lake. Built in 1936 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, it can be reserved for group use for $10 per hour. It is about 200 yards from the West Glacier trailhead. The West Glacier Trail was one of my favorite hikes when we lived here, although it’s fairly steep in places, including what Brian and I call the Aztec Stairs, climbing about 750 feet in a little over a fifth of a mile of trail (a 63% grade). There are literal steps cut into the rock. I suppose technically that part of the trail is the Mount McGinnis Trail, but it’s all one trail to us.
Another of my favorite trails in the Juneau area is the Dan Moller Trail on Douglas Island. We went up this with my parents and Albert in 1987 and one of my favorite pictures of my folks was taken from the top of the mountain, looking down on the cabin from above. This was also, I think, the first place we saw sundews in Juneau. There are two main species here and this is Drosera rotundifolia, the round-leaved sundew.
They are surprisingly common and at the same time, almost entirely overlooked. They grow in places that are constantly wet and at the same time sunny (or at least not shady). The slightly dryer parts of muskeg, where it’s almost constantly wet is generally the place. Once you see them, they seem to be everywhere, but until you’ve had them pointed out, they really aren’t very noticeable. The False Outer Point Trail is the other place we saw them. I understand that they are quite common on the Spalding Meadows trail, but we only did that on cross-country skis when the ground was covered with snow, so it wasn’t a good time to see them.
The sundews are not the only thing about the trail that I like. The combination of trees and open, meadow-like muskeg with its abundance and variety of wildflowers and plants is relaxing and beautiful to me. The Labrador tea (Ledum palustris), with its tiny, white flowers, the bog candle orchid (Platanthera dilatata, and many other little flowers are all over. None are terribly flashy but all are lovely in their own way. The usually dark water, the bright greens of the meadows, the darker green of the trees, the blue of the sky (when you are lucky enough to have a blue sky in Juneau), all combine to make a really pretty scene.
We also hiked a few miles on the Treadwell Ditch Trail, which is a relatively easy trail because it follows the contour of the land. It’s pretty, too, although quite different to the Dan Moller Trail, in spite of their very close proximity to one another. We also got a good view of downtown from the early part of that trail.