21 August 2006 Prince William Sound

This is Prince William Sound -- lush spruce forests down to the waters edge; massive glaciers flowing down from the mountains to the waters edge; deep blue waters of long narrow fjords.

Oh, I should say that this is Prince William Sound on about 1 in 2 days. On those days, the sky is just a little paler blue than the ocean, which has a slight ripple on it. But the next day, the sky and water could be equal shades of gray, and the wind could be whipping the ocean into waves 2', 3', 6', and 8' high.

The latter were the conditions on the day we had scheduled to get dropped off by a charter company at the Paulsen Bay cabin. The charter operator called into the office from about 12 miles out to tell us that the winds from the north were whipping up waves 6' - 8' high and that he suggested we come back the next day. The cabin faces north and he thought that unloading on the beach would be difficult. So we came back the next day. I took this photo about 30 minutes after arriving. A slight breeze from the south caused a slight ripple to move across the small bay. The glaciers of College Fjord, about 15 miles to the north, seemed only a few miles away.

But even on a day like this, the weather can be fickle. We assembled our folding kayaks and headed deeper into Cochrane Bay, the arm of the Sound we were on, to see some birds and the sights at its end. A little headwind going that way, but we looked forward to a tailwind on the way back. At the end of the bay, we saw a pair of black bears fishing for pink salmon and a large flock of gulls hanging around for salmon bits and we waded a braided glacial stream to see a waterfall. When we returned, the wind had shifted from the northeast and we had a headwind going back to the cabin.

The north winds returned in full force the next day, along with heavy rain, and we hunkered down in the cabin. I awoke to the sound of heavy rain and slid deeper into my sleeping bag with that delicious feeling that there was just no reason to get up. One of our traveling companions, visiting from Cincinnati, spent much of the day trying to interest the spawning pinks in a lure. Paul and I did puzzles, read, napped, and ventured out in the afternoon to pick ra

19 August 2006 Anchorage

After 10 days of rain (yes, I'm counting), the sun finally broke through a few times today. This is the evening sky (after a little hail); but the clouds were broken when we woke this morning and then in the afternoon, the sky over west Anchorage was clear. We've had a cool and cloudy summer, but the last 10 days have finally delivered all the rain that we incorrectly felt that we were getting. We're still down on moisture for the year, but already ahead for the month.

When I say it has rained the last 10 days, that's not been constant. But the sky has been cloudy and if it's not raining now, wait 20 minutes and it probably will be. OnThursday, I decided to ride my bike home from work. From my office downtown (which is roughly in the northwest corner of Anchorage), I could see the mountain slopes behind my house on the southeast side. The clouds were high and it hadn't rained all afternoon, so I thought I had a pretty good shot at making the 12 miles without any precipitation. I talked to Paul at about 5:45 to let him know my plan and to confirm the weather at home. He said it started raining 5 minutes after he hung up. The rain hit me at about mile 4 and continued to soak me with a steady downpour to within a few miles of home. I couldn't see the mountains the entire trip.

The weather today was even more wacky and changeable. Sun peaking through this morning but strong winds. The weather radio predicted gusts of 35 mph, and the birch trees often bent to the point I thought they'd break. By late morning a low cloud was engulfing west Anchorage and heading rapidly toward our house.* By noon it was pouring. Then two hours later, clearing skies on the west side had us all singing again. After running some errands, I came home thinking I could harvest some vegetables and take care of some weeds and slugs (which have loved this weather). It started to rain almost immediately. At 6:20, the sun was shining so I headed out to pick raspberries and strawberries. At 7:20, a heavy rain mixed with hail chased me in. I took this photo from the deck around 8:30.

Tomorrow morning we head out to Prince William Sound, one of the wettest places in this part of Alaska. And it's having a particularly wet summer. A kayaking trip there last year inspired us to buy heavy duty rain gear. We've rented a cabin for 3 days and our drybags have 3 games, 1 book of hard Sudokus, and 2 long novels, just in case.

* We're at about 800 feet on the east/mountain side and Cook Inlet and sea level are on the east side. Our house faces west-northwest, so we've got a decent view of the west side of town from our deck.

8 August 2006 Chulitna River

We rafted the Chulitna River for 4 days/5 nights with Talkeetna friends. We put in near Broad Pass on the clear waters of the East Fork just after noon on Sunday. Later in the afternoon we stopped briefly at the confluence of the Middle Fork for the fly fishermen to try their lines. Several of us bathed in the pool in front of our first camp site and dried quickly in the warm morning sun on Monday. Not far downstream the silty waters of the West Fork joined the East Fork. We camped at the mouth of Ohio Creek on Monday night. Despite much eating and imbibing that evening, the rafts left heavier the next day with buckets full of colorful rocks. On Tuesday afternoon we ate lunch at a gravel bar and swam in a clear water pool fed by small streams off the hillside. We dubbed the day the hottest of the summer.

We woke to light rain on Wednesday morning and darkening skies. We had camped just above the Fountain River and planned to explore by foot for a while before breaking camp. But the arrival of rain prompted us to break camp and leave quickly, perhaps too quickly as most of us hadn't gaged how cool and wet the day would be. We were a cold bunch as we rafted into a head wind and driving rain. The rain had lessened when we pulled over near the Coffee River and set up a tarp over the kitchen area and a large screened tent. We had called Wednesday the wettest day of the summer because the rain didn't stop after we left camp, but Thursday would prove to be wetter. Thankfully the wind lessened and with the previous day's lesson, we were better prepared. Half the party took out at the bridge near mile 135 of the Parks Highway where a truck had been left at the Princess Lodge. The rest of us continued to float to Talkeetna, where the rain was light and the air warmer.

30 July 2006 Anchorage Garden Tour

On the last Sunday of each year the Anchorage Garden Club hosts a free tour of local gardens. The gardens are located throughout the city and range from new flower beds created by novices to well-established gardens tenderly cared for by master gardeners. A few years ago we decided to ride our bicycles from garden to garden. We found it a wonderful way to combine several favorite activities -- biking, gardening, touring homes, route finding, and exploring new parts of our town. Now biking the garden tour is a marital tradition that trumps just about any other activity happening on that Sunday, no matter what the weather. This year we pedaled 27 miles around town and saw 13 gardens. Eight of those were in one neighborhood. The rain that had threatened since morning arrived in the later afternoon as we received a private showing of one backyard garden. We rode home in a downpour.

(In the photo, Paul is sniffing the blooms of some Maltese Cross which was almost as tall as he.)

29 July 2006 Birches and Masts

Where do the birches end and the masts begin?