I took a moment to capture this scene yesterday from the top of the bridge because I was struck by how recently it seems like the sun was setting where it is now still a fair bit up in the sky and continuing its trek toward the west. It will be a couple of weeks yet before it sets in the west behind Mt. Edgecumbe, but already it has moved a significant way from its winter solstice position in the southwest. There it’s possible to watch it sink below the horizon, something I have done several times hoping to catch a green flash where the ocean meets the sky. For now that’s no longer possible from this vantage point, as the sun will pass behind Kruzof Island (and eventually even north of that) before dropping below the horizon until sometime next fall.
As I was walking home this evening, I was once again struck by the view to the east from the town side of O’Connell Bridge. Across the outer part of Crescent Bay, the tide flats and forested lowlands of Indian River, Bear Mountain rising behind the downward rolling slopes of Verstovia. In the further distance, the distinctive rounded tree-covered hump of Sugar Loaf Mountain, and the squared-off peak of Cross Mountain (aka Cupola Peak) rising behind it. From this angle and distance, the snow covered peaks of the highest country on Baranof Island don’t seem to stand any taller than Bear and Cross Mountains which frame them, but the snow and ice that drapes those peaks year round give some indication of the extra 1000+ feet they rise above.
As the combination of warm light and the landscape caught my eye, it occurred to me that it can be easy to take this view for granted. How many times do I walk this way and give little attention? I suspect I’m not alone in doing so. By contrast, crossing the bridge to Japonski Island, the view is dominated by Mt. Edgecumbe rising above the forested lowlands of Kruzof Island and the surrounding ocean. This eastern view is a bit less iconic and perhaps we can be forgiven for focusing more of our attention to the west. That said, sometimes I get a flush of that excitement I felt when coming back to town and seeing those familiar mountains after months away at school. This evening was one of those times, and I am grateful for the gift of seeing this familiar scene with fresh eyes.
Today may be the last day of sun for a while. The forecast shows raining coming in tomorrow, with the long term forecast showing a chance of rain for the next week or more. Hopefully it comes with cool enough temperatures to add a good bit of snow to the mountain peaks so it can feed the streams as it melts in the summer.
With the recent period of cold weather, I thought it would be interesting to take a walk up Indian River trail to check out the ice situation. As I expected, there was very little ice up to the first first bridge, the West Fork was running clear, but the Falls Fork had a fair amount of ice development. We walked up as far as the second bridge and then more or less followed the river down toward the confluence while I looked for sections that caught my eye.
I brought along a set of neutral density filters (which I had not used previously) to make it easier to get long exposures of the flowing water. I was hoping this would emphasize the difference between non-moving ice and the water flowing over, around, and through it. I took quite a few photos, some of which I like (at least so far).
I didn’t get a picture of them, but we saw several dippers along the way, including one along the mostly iced-over section of river between the second bridge and the confluence. It would have been fun to get a picture or video of the one going in and out of the water from the ice, but I was set up for the long exposures, and it would have taken too long to change out lenses and camera settings, so I was content to just watch this time.
It was overcast, but still quite chilly, with a very light snow this morning. The wind seemed to be mostly coming out of the southeast, and seemed a bit biting. Overcast conditions remained throughout the day, and mostly it was not snowing, though later this evening enough snow fell to leave a light partial coating of the ground.
I think more gulls might be starting to show up, as I noticed quite a few picking along the shores of the Channel during low tide this morning. They don’t have too long to wait for an additional food source, as I saw some long-liners gearing up and heard the season starts this weekend.
I was interested to see that Harbor Mountain had enough snow sticking to the trees to make them white while Gavan Hill did not. Later in the day Harbor Mountain looked equally bare and I’m guessing the wind knocked the snow off (and perhaps is why Gavan did not have much snow in the the first place, though at the time I thought it was just different amounts of falling snow).
Walking through Totem Park this morning, I noticed that Indian River is quite low. I guess I’ve not paid close enough attention to say if it’s as low as I have ever seen it (it’s not quite as eye catching as the high water events), but it must be close. I’m a little surprised there isn’t more ice with the cold nights and slow moving, low volume of water. I’ve noticed before that the amount of ice in the lower part of the river doesn’t necessarily correlate with the coldness of a coldsnap, but while prior weather seemed like a good explanation in that case, it’s less clear in this case. I suppose the relatively warm daytime temperatures (at or a bit of above freezing) may have been sufficient to keep the ice off the river.
While on the bridge in the park, it was fun to watch an American Dipper diving down into the crystal clear water as it foraged for food. There wasn’t really time to try to get video of it, but I was tempted.
Later this morning the kids and I went out to the south beach at Halibut Point Rec. We had a try at traversing the little seaside 10-20ft cliffs while the tide was out. I didn’t make it as far as I possibly could, but wasn’t too motivated to keep at it as my fingers were getting numb from the cold air and rock. Connor seemed to have fun trying as well, Xtratufs and all.
I spent most of the time relaxing in the sun (though I did go with Rowan so she could show me the little cedar she found the last time we were all there) while Connor and Rowan ran around playing hide and seek or other exploration games. Unfortunately the wind started to come from out of the south a bit and that combined with temperatures in the 20s that made it a little less comfortable than it has been on other recent occasions. Thank goodness for windproof fleece.
Today’s weather was sunny and a bit cool, with wind in some exposed locations. It would have been a nice day for a longer hike, but I haven’t been feeling 100% lately and didn’t feel like it was worth pushing it, so settled for a walk around the Forest and Muskeg Trail and the Estuary Life Trail, plus a little time at the south beach of Halibut Point Rec.
Along the forest and muskeg trail, the sun illuminating one of the larger shore pines caught my eye. It seemed interesting to me how the green was pretty much restricted to the top. I wonder why this might be the case, as certainly I’ve seen shore pines often growing more fully greened up. That said, it seems like this growth form is fairly typical for muskegs, so it seems like there must be some reason they grown this way instead of in the more triangular-shaped form with branches and needles going down more of the tree.
At the rec I wanted to see about finding the small cedar Rowan noticed yesterday. I’m pretty sure I found it, but it turns out there is also a pretty good-sized cedar nearby as well. I’m not sure, but it may be the only cedar in the park (I did notice there were cedars not far away on the upland side of Halibut Point Road, however). Another thing of interest I noticed was a snag in the woods with at least three holes excavated (I’m not sure whether they were done by sapsuckers or Hairy Woodpeckers). Each of them was directly beneath a shelf fungus that appeared to provide a bit of an awning over the entrance. It seems plausible that this was intentional, though I have seen other trees with shelf fungus and excavated holes, where the holes were not below the fungus.