Saturday, December 27, 2014

'Twas the Week Before Christmas

It's the week before Christmas and all through the sky, the clouds have now parted and the rain it has lightened.  Note:  There's still no snow on the ground, so it looks like Ma and Pa will be having our first non-white Christmas!

With no snow to shovel, we've just been hanging out around the lodge. 

Coming back from the townsite with Christmas goodies from Keith and Jackie.

Christmas Spirit!

We took advantage of the dry weather to clean out the chimney in anticipation of Santa's arrival.  (The fact that the chimney wasn't drawing as well as it should had nothing to do with it.)

 With the top section off, I took the brush up so I could clean out the rest of the chimney.

As you clean down the chimney, you keep adding pieces of the handle until you reach the damper.

Cleaning out the top section.

 And back up to the roof!

All done!  I'm not sure how Santa squeezes through the cap, but he does!

Good help is hard to come by.

Big Tides

We had some pretty big tides in the week before Christmas.  The highest tide was 19.4 feet and the lowest was -3.5, so the range was almost 23 feet.

 If you look closely, you can see the ramp to the float is actually higher at the float end, so we had to walk up to the float!

 The ramp on a more normal tide--the low lows were at night so we couldn't get a good shot of the -3.5 tide.

 The high tides are a good time to pull logs off the beaches.
This is a "volunteer"--a log that was actually floating free out in Chatham Strait.  This is a beauty--a "high floater" which means the wood is pretty dry.  It's great not having to work a log out of the sand and gravel and down the beach!

Resupply Logistics

We arrive here at the lodge in October with enough supplies to last us seven months (we head back to Sitka in May).  Occasionally a float plane will stop in and we get our mail and some fresh produce.  Harris Air is the company that flies the floatplanes (either a DeHavilland Beaver or a Cessna 185) out of Sitka.  Weather here is often not good enough for the plane to make it in.  A couple of weeks ago we got a notice that a plane would be stopping, so Blain and Mo (who are staying at our house in Sitka) dropped some groceries and our mail off at the Harris Air.

I called Harris the morning of the flight with a weather report which was actually pretty good.  An hour later, a snow squall moved in and the visibility really dropped.  I called Harris back, but the plane had already left.  The visibility got even worse, and I suspected that the plane wouldn't make it in that day.  I was down on the dock, optimistically waiting, when I heard the plane--I could see its landing lights, but the white plane was invisible in the snow.

Here's the plane approaching the dock.  Our pilot Rob reported that it had been a rough flight over with lots of wind in Chatham Strait and he had been in and out of squalls all the way from Sitka. The only snow he encountered, however, was here in the bay.

Unloading supplies for us and our neighbors Keith and Jackie.  Keith and Jackie are the caretakers at the Baranof townsite and I run their stuff over in the skiff after the float plane leaves.

With our stuff unloaded, Rob headed out before the weather got even worse.  His next stop was Hidden Falls, a salmon hatchery about 14 miles north of us on Chatham Strait.

Off he goes!  Of course, as soon as he was gone, the weather lifted and it was fine the rest of the day.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Looking for the Perfect Christmas Tree

One would assume that living in the middle of a temperate rainforest, it would be easy to find a good Christmas tree.  That might be true unless you're looking for a tree with the persnickety Miss Jennifer.  "Too Big!"  "Too Small!"  "Too Sparse!"  "Too Dense!"  "Too Skinny!"  "Too Wide!"  After looking at every tree in the bay, we finally found one that was acceptable to Jen.  We noted the location and waited for a good day to go get it, but for a couple weeks, it was too rough to land the skiff.

 We finally woke to a calm day and set out as sunrise to get the tree before it got rough.
 One of us climbed up to the tree, cut the tree, lugged the tree back to the skiff, loaded the tree and secured the tree while the other watched and shouted helpful suggestions. (Ahem!  One of us had to stay with the skiff to be sure it didn't go aground on a falling tide)
 The water gets really clear around here in the winter after summer's plankton blooms die off.
 Heading back to the lodge with the tree.
 It really was a spectacular day--one of the nicest we've had this winter.
 Offloading at the lodge.....I wonder who gets to carry that spikey tree up the beach?
 Stalling before lugging the heavy, awkward, spikey tree up the beach.... (Whiner...)

 Did I mention all of our snow has melted?  The snow line is at about 2000 feet now--in a normal winter we'd have lots of snow right down to sea level.

The supervisor admiring her tree. 

Final product--Rick's side.  (Rick's side doesn't mean Rick got to decorate it or have any input.  Rick put one ornament on the tree and Jen later moved it.  Rick's side means the crappiest side of the tree facing where Rick sits most of the time!)
Final Product--Jen's side (Guess who gets to look at this side the most?)!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

December Wildlife

There has been a lot of bait in the bay this year.  The last few days, there's been an incredible amount of activity out on the water.  Gulls, kingfishers, merganzers, scoters, goldeneye, sea lions, and seals have all been busy feeding on large schools of needlefish.  The other day, we went down to the dock to get some Sprite to put in our Christmas tree water and found three harbor seals working a school of needlefish in the crystal clear water between the dock and shore.  We watched them herd and feed on the fish for hours.  All of these photos are made with the seals still beneath the surface, but the water is so clear that you can barely tell.

 The seals would circle the school of needlefish to bunch them up, then swim right through the bait ball grabbing as many as they could.

 Between gulps, they'd rest on the surface.

 The answer to the age-old question, "Does a seal shit in the water?".

   You can also see that our sunflower stars in Warm Springs Bay are still healthy--for the time being, I'm afraid.  Starfish Wasting Disease has already infected the starfish over on the Sitka side of the mountains.  Back to the seals--they are so graceful and acrobatic in the water!
 Reverse somersault.

 This adult seal was actually standing on the bottom!  If you look here, you can see that only the seal's head is above water.  In the summer time we'd only see his head bobbing upon the surface.
Now he's floating his entire body for a break.  Then it's back to work!
The gulls and other birds got their fair share of the needlefish as well.
I've never seen a needlefish that looks like a turkey carcass!
 We have a large group of river otters (called a romp, bevy, or family of otters) that live in the bay.  We're on their daily circuit and we often see them swimming and feeding in front of the lodge, romping on or below the dock, or climbing on the rocks along shore.  One winter--when we had a LOT of snow--one otter slid down the snow right outside the lodge window!
 This Belted Kingfisher hangs around the lodge and has been getting his fair share of needlefish too.
When Jen showed me this photo she asked, "What actor does this remind you of?" My reaction was immediate.  "Jack Nicholson." Pretty apropos, since "The Shining" is our training video for care taking!

Still hoping for a White Christmas!

Our wet, warm winter continues.  We've never had so little snow so late, and the 16 inches of rain we've had so far in December has completely melted the 11 inches of snow we had a couple of weeks ago. 
Baranof Falls is really running high now after all the December rain!  The flow to the left of the waterfall is not common--we only see it when there has been an abundance of rain.  Normally at this time of year there would be such a low flow coming over the falls that we could see a lot of rock.  
 Sadie Creek (next to the lodge) is also running high.
 The water's been coming pretty close to the bridge over Sadie Creek.

One last shot of the creek. 
As of today, all the snow around the lodge has melted and the snow line is back up around 2000 feet.  We still have a couple of weeks to go and are hoping to get some snow before Christmas, but there is none forecast for the next week.
Feral likes a big breakfast before she goes hiking!
When we did have some snow a few weeks ago, Jen, Feral and I hiked from the lodge up to the lake.  Some people think you can't hike with can, but it slows the process down even more than hiking with Jen and her cameras. 

 Baranof Lake a few weeks ago.  In a normal year, the lake would be frozen by now with a lot more snow.
 Frozen Alder cones.
 Frost pattern on the windows at Melinda's newly remodeled cabin in "town" (as we call the townsite at Baranof).  This is about a half mile from the lodge.
 Feral telling us she's ready to go home!
 Looking for the trail.
 Rest Stop
 Feral explores every nook and cranny.