Friday, June 15, 2007

Cascade Creek and Petersburg

We take the zodiacs to a rock beach. We decide to go on the hike with Lee--a naturalist we haven't been with. yet. We're off on a search for the Oregon Rough-Skinned Newt.

We start by hiking up to a waterfall than has more than it's normal amount of water going over it--they had much more than their average snowfall here last year. Up about 90 rough forest service steps (these steps definitely do not meet code--some are around 20 inches high). After a short hike, we cross a bridge to a very small muskeg area. In about 2 minutes, Lee finds a newt.

It is dark brown on top, very orange on it's underside. It rears up on its hind legs and tail when threatened.A warning sign. Their skin is very poisonous. People have died from having them land in their drinking water. Lee uses latex gloves to pick it up.

After spending some time with the newt, we head back. We take a side trip along a very rough trail that goes to an area. It is a very rough trail, all of our group turns back and joins a group that is going back to the beach--all except our family, the staff vidiographer and Lee. Over branches, around logs, around mud. We see moose, bear, dear and otter tracks in the mud. We get to the area that was clear-cut but it has rapidly overgrown with Sitka Spruce, cottonwood and alder. We don't have a clear view to look for moose so it's back to the beach.

After lunch we stop in Petersburg. It takes about half an hour to maneuver the ship into a very small space on the municipal dock. This gives new meaning to parallel parking.

Petersburg is a small coastal town settled by Norwegian anglers. It reminders me of Grand Marais Minnesota but with an industry in addition to tourism. In fact, tourism is not a huge part of the economy--there are two canneries/fish processing plants and a smaller coop processing plant. There is a large fishing fleet--purse netters, gill netters, crabbers, long line fishers. When we first get off the ship, we spend some time with a naturalist wandering through the fishing fleet. We then take a float plane up to see a glacier from the top.

Flying low over a glacier in a small plane you really get an idea of the size. Huge. Flew over ice-falls (the solid water equivalent of rapids)--large chunks of ice and huge (I may be over-using that word) fissures in the ice. It is a tidal glacier--one that terminates in the ocean. Lots of icebergs at its face and all the way out to the mouth of the fjord. There are an unbelievable number of seals with new-born pups on the icebergs. It is a safe place away from all predators (including killer whales).

Back to Petersburg. I take a bike and ride around town. Go out to see muskeg--large number of different small plants--a whole different scale than the glacier.Petersburg has a large number of small apartment buildings for a town its size--probably for the seasonal workers in the fish processing plants. The Alaskan Public Housing Authority even has a fairly large office here. The quality of the houses varies greatly--some new large homes, some older (probably 1930's homes very well maintained, some not maintained at all--all next to each other. Not unusual for a small town. End my bike ride at the Java Hus--read the local paper--they have a labor shortage in the fish processing plants.

Back on the ship for a presentation by the Alaska Whale Foundation--a nonprofit research organization. The Lindblad expedition leader makes a fundraising pitch at the end of the presentation. Great scheme for getting people to donate. Every one who donates at least $250 receives a travel voucher from Lindblad for a discount on a future booking.

Spend some time talking to one of the naturalists who is building a house using traditional Japanese style timber framing.

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