Saturday, July 31, 2010


This morning was filled with low-key activities that included yard-saling, laundry, eating and taking a walk with my Mountain Boy and my dog along the salmon and bear viewing area at Mendenhall Glacier.
Bears and salmon are on the minds of everyone in Juneau at the end of June.  Salmon because we are in the middle of spawning season, and bears because they are now everywhere and sightings are becoming common.
I have seen five bears in the past five weeks - a young bear eating grass by the side of the highway, one two year old running across the highway from one yard to another, and three young bears crossing the highway near an overlook.
All were young bears (between one and two years old), and all were seen off Glacier Highway between my house Out the Road and Auke Bay.
Bear sightings are common now.  Just in the past week I have heard stories of bear sightings right in the center of town, of a bear sleeping in a downtown park, and of a colleague seeing a momma and three very small cubs out near the Glacier while walking her dogs the other evening.
Hand in hand with bears that Juneauites share this space with, are icons of these creatures, that are also common throughout Juneau.
These two pictures were taken in the Valley while we were cruising for yard sales this morning.  Both bear statues were in people's yards..........
I took this picture while walking downtown the other day.  The vehicle was on a side street, packed with luggage both inside and on top, and displayed the now-familiar sticker in the window of someone who had just gotten off the ferry.
These travellers' stuffed bear was obviously running lookout, and was cute enough that I had to take a picture of it.
A picture in the Juneau Empire newspaper yesterday of the same sow and three youngsters my colleague crossed paths with - crossing the road just outside of the park at Mendenhall Glacier....
Treasures bought at yard sales........
A triagle now hanging in the kitchen.........
I bought the pottery piece on the bottom shelf (second from the right) this morning, but these are all yard sale buys (from both Tennessee and Juneau).  All amateur pottery, all worth.....not much, all things I enjoy.
And the fishing basket that we bought last week.  It's going to find a new life as a magazine rack in our house...
Even though they were calling for rain, it surprisingly turned into a really sunny and very warm evening yesterday, and after work my Mountain Boy, my dog and I spent some time at Lena Beach after work.
We walked for a while and then I sat in the sun and watched LC while he skipped rocks across the water in the cove.
He did it for a long time, and I watched him for a long time. 
For people like him and for people like me, skipping rocks is never just about skipping rocks......
On the way to work yesterday I made a stop at the Skaters Cabin to check over everything that was there.
I rented this cabin a month or so ago, and tonight we are having an employee
bar-b-q there.
This cabin was constructed in 1936 by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
It is a beautiful natural stone structure located on the shore of Mendenhall Lake across from both the Mendenhall Glacier and the Mendenhall Visitors Center.
It is also close to the West Glacier Trail and accesses Mt Mcginnis trail, both of which I have hiked over the past couple of months.
The last time I was at this place was July 4 weekend, when I kayaked from the shore near the cabin across the lake to the glacier. 
It was very cold that day (the coldest July 4 weekend I have ever spent), but it was also the first time I had kayaked since leaving Tennessee, I was dressed and geared out for the cold, and I had a great time.
Groups rent the cabin almost every weekend for birthday parties, graduation parties, even wedding parties.
But aside from those occasions it is empty and open and accessible to the public.
It is a beautiful cabin that overlooks a very beautiful and quiet area.
One more picture of my introspective Mountain Boy at Lena Beach.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

It Will Be OK

There is a radio station along the shore of the Gastineau Channel that I pass on Egan Drive every day as I drive into work.
For the past couple of weeks I have noticed huge numbers of seagulls and eagles in the mud flats each morning. 
It has been fun to watch as I speed by every morning - trying to count the "cottonballs" - the white heads of the eagles - as I pass.
Late yesterday morning I was driving back from the Valley after a meeting.  The meeting finished earlier than expected and I had another meeting scheduled in town. 
With some time to kill in between seemingly endless meetings, I decided on the spur of the moment to stop at the radio station, try to make my way down to the mud flats and take some pictures of the action.
At the back of the radio station parking lot is a tree line, and I parked the car there, intending to find a way down to the chaos of birds down by the water.
There was a pathway through the trees, and I easily found my way down, and proceeded to have a wonderful and unexpected adventure.
I have never witnessed a salmon run before yesterday.
There were many hundreds of huge and ugly salmon thrashing in the water, and struggling to make their way upstream. 
And there were many hundreds of seagulls and other types of birds swirling and swooping and crying in the air, and more hundreds of very animated birds in the mud and in the river.
I was excited, mesmorized, enthralled by everything that was happening, and I tried unsuccessfully to capture everything I was seeing in front of me in pictures.......
Douglas Island in the background - and a riverbank that was easy to navigate on foot as I walked, enjoyed, and snapped pictures.........
The radio station antennea.......
There were dead salmon all over the riverbank.......
Last night LC and I met down at Statter Harbor in Auke Bay after work, and ate dinner (as we often do) at the Hot Bite. 
This little shack offers typical burger/fries/fish and chips types of meals.  The food is plentiful and very good, is offered at a good price by Juneau standards, and unfortunately will close for the season at the end of September....
So we will make the most of this place for the duration, where we can eat at tables outside when it is nice, and eat inside when the weather is cold and rainy, which has been often recently....
When we were done eating we took some time to walk, talk, wind down from the day, and enjoy the harbor.
I love this harbor.  It is beautiful and picturesque. 
The water is often calm, the boats are wonderful and exciting to see, and mountains surround this cove.
I have to be outside after work.  I spend most of my day, most of my days, still doing two jobs and still trying to make sense of chaos.  I do it.  But being outside at the end of each day keeps me grounded.
And so does LC.
I have been here in Juneau a little over six months, and my Mountain Boy has been here about six weeks.
I think he feels ungrounded much of the time right now, trying to find his own way in this very new place.
It takes time.  It is all so new.  It will be OK.  It will be OK.  It will be OK.
The sea pronounces something, over and over, in a hoarse whisper; I cannot quite make it out.
~Annie Dillard

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

More Eagle Beach and One More Sunny Day

Some more pictures from Eagle Beach taken yesterday during the first sunny day we had seen in a few weeks.
Above is the same eagle that I posted yesterday.
We began following him while he was standing for a long time in a small pool of water on the beach.  Both LC and I slowely walked closer and closer to him snapping pictures the whole time, until we eventually got too close for comfort and he took flight.
He travelled only 50 feet or so until he landed again, this time on a log.
It was here that my Mountain Boy and this eagle got to know each other better, while I stood back afraid to move in fear of scaring him away.
Both LC and I knew that this was special.  That it may well be the one and only time we will be allowed to experience an eagle in the wild so close.
Why this beautiful bird allowed LC to get so close I will never know.
But I held my breath, kept Jamie close to me, took a few pictures of the encounter - but mostly watched these two interacting wonderfully with each other - LC softly talking and the eagle watching intently and I suspect also listening intently.
My Mountain Boy taking pictures at the mouth of a stream of fish spawning and trying valiantly to swim upstream in the very shallow water.  I saw three dead salmon along the sides of riverbanks who were unsuccessful in their quest.....
Walking along the beach.  The tide was lower yesterday than I have ever seen it, and I have been to Eagle Beach both alone and more recently with LC and Jamie many times. 
The low tide allowed us to walk a long way out, and also to see views of the glacier and the mountains I had never seen before.  So extremely wonderfully beautiful.
We saw many footprints in the sand.  Not too many human footprints surprisingly, but many different types of birds. 
We also saw many dog prints, a few bear prints and also some wolf prints.
I have wondered for a long time what bear prints and wolf prints actually look like.  I had seen the prints on the internet and also on informational boards that are common at many parks in the area, but still had a difficult time identifying what I was really looking at - there are just too many very large dogs floating around this town and all the prints looked (to this amateur tracker) like those belonging to those oversized Alaskan mutts.
But once I actually saw bear and wolf prints in real life, I recognized them easily.
People walking on the beach across the river at the Boy Scout Trail.........
One more eagle standing on the beach.  This one spent a long time in the sand protecting the fish he had in his possession, from other would-be predators.  A little raven standing beside him hoping for any left-overs...........
I really really love this picture.  A young eagle......
Today was another beautiful summer day in Juneau.
Another gift.
By the time I was rushing home this afternoon the temperature gauge outside the UAS Bookstore in Auke Bay read 72 degrees.
I can't even remember how many days we have had over the last five weeks that have been cloudy, rainy, foggy and 52. 
No matter.  Today was beautiful.  And I rushed home so I could go walk down from my house, to the rocky beach at the end of our road with my guy and my dog......
LC had spent the afternoon buying a new chain for the bike I borrowed months ago, and that we just have never gotten around to fixing and finally returning.
When I drove into the driveway this afternoon my family was standing in the yard with a clean bike, and one that had an intact chain. 
I will return it tomorrow and thank them for allowing me such extended use of their mountain bike.
That bike opened up the world around Juneau for me, not long after I arrived in town and before I bought my old $900 Buick. 
My first explorations of Douglas, Thane and Out the Road all took place on that bike.
And that bike, after I moved out here to the country, allowed me to explore, stay fit and be outside......
LC grabbed his fishing rods and I grabbed a pack full of water and snacks.  And then I grabbed my excited dogs' leash (somehow she always seems to know when we are headed out someplace).
We all walked down the gravel road and arrived at a quiet and beautiful cove......
And then we walked down one more quiet gravel road. 
The entire walk from the house to the open channel is only about 10 minutes, and I feel very lucky that we have such a beautiful place so close to where we are living.
At the end of the second gravel road is a short, mossy and pine-needle filled trail that I love to walk on, and that leads to a beautiful overlook.........
The beach is completely filled with rocks both large and small.  As soon as we arrived at the beach we were greeted with a small makeshift and rustic bench consisting of rocks and a piece of driftwood.
And yet one more small alter.........
While LC was fishing I walked along the rocky beach, enjoying the view and the beautiful day and the freedom of being outside in the sun and the sky and the water.........
And while LC was stil fishing I made my first rock alter.
I smiled at myself while I was sitting on the rocks searching for interesting rocks that wouldn't topple my little tower over.
There was no budget or employee issues or politically correct language to be concerned about.  There was simply a rock tower that I was trying to build in the sun.
It turns out that I am not very good at building such things.  I am not creative enough, and have little patience for such things when the rocks don't fit the way I want them to.
Having said that though, there was something extremely cathartic about taking part in this ritual building.
I am not good at it, but it doesn't matter.  It just was what it was - simple, enjoyable, relaxing, reflective.
I understand a little better now the compulsion that Juneauites seem to have for building such things on rocky beaches throughout the city.........
I found this heart shaped rock in my travels today, and it came home with me at the end of our short adventure.
Although he got a few bites, this was the only fish that my Mountain Boy brought into shore today.  This small, spiny fish was gingerly removed from the rig and released safely back into the waters of the cove.
The sun shining through the trees up towards the overlook and the trail we came in on.
My normally quiet and content dog spent most of our trip to the beach at the end of our road whining, barking and howling in protest, at the indignation we had placed on her - tying her to a rock.
She was not pleased, and did not hesitate to let us know about it........
Before we left the beach, unsuccessful in fishing but both of us having a really great time anyway, LC added two rocks to the alter-monument that we had noticed when we first arrived.
One last picture of my Tennessee dog.
She has settled into her new life amazingly well, and all the worry about her travelling and us disrupting her life seems to have been for nothing.
She seems to have permanently outgrown her car sickness, and now goes almost everywhere we go.....
Our happy Alaskan dog.