Thursday, September 3, 2009


Frankly, I haven't really been inspired by anything lately. (Is it a faux pas to blog about not knowing what to blog? Emily Post?) Let's blame September, the bitterest month in a Southeast Alaskan year. Days are getting shorter at a rate of 5 minutes a day. You're still high from the summer wonderful, but knowing the curmudgeony hell that is to come. Also, if you work for Uncle Sam, September 30 is the end of the fiscal year. When all your reports are due.

My current report count by September 30: 4. Bleah.

We have added some arbitrary house deadlines to the mix. We need to get the house insulated by the time it starts freezing. This could be December or October depending on the year. I can feel my skin crawl with insulation as I think about it. Let's not think about it.

Because I'm an avoider, I spent the last 3 days working on trail construction projects in the alpine. The weather has been perfect. No rain. No bugs (because bugs are as much a part of the weather here as cloud cover). Sunny. Bittersweet. My summer is ending, field season is drawing to a close. The alpine is turning.

We don't get fall colors in our trees here, we get them in our muskegs and alpine areas. Yesterday was fall on the Harbor-Gavan trail.
I'm at the shelter, near the highest point of the trail. This looks over into Indian River, Mt. Verstovia, and Billy Basin. There's still snow on the highest peaks even after this intensely sunny, warm summer.
The tundra through years of frost-heaving have intensely patterned ground. The uplifted areas support shrubby heathers while the low lying areas support the yellow and red deer cabbage. Rocks are moved to the surface from years of freeze-thaw. My dumb camera can't even begin to capture this place. From here, I could see series of alpine ridges, hanging valleys, rock scarps and steep forest terrain bent, twisted, eroded by water. Glaciers, rivers, rain, avalanches formed this complex topography.

I also saw my first ptarmigan. Alaska story alert! Chicken, Alaska got it's name because nobody could spell ptarmigan. Yep.

They are sitting on the trail. I thought they were grouse at first. I think they're in their summer plumage (browns) but when they fly away, their wingtips are white. They change colors to suit the seasons as a survival mechanism (Guessing here. I'm a physical scientist so I don't know much about the critters. Correct me if I'm wrong.)
See how perfectly they blend into their surroundings? I wish I could just disappear like that sometimes. I saw them on Harbor Mountain but wasn't quick enough with my camera. There was a whole covey of them, wandering among the yellow cedar. Is a group of ptarmigan a covey, like quail? Or are they a murder, like crows.

I'm trying my best to stay above the funk that I know descends this time of year. My own personal cranky cloud. Gah.

1 comment:

  1. Go steal the happy lamp I gave to Jay!

    Beautiful pictures. Love that trail.