Revisiting Indian River Valley Cliffs and Smoky Sunset

A low level marine layer moved in overnight and slowly lifted through the morning, before burning off completely late in the morning. Clear skies through the afternoon and into the evening, though smoke haze was apparent. The official high reached 70F again.

Yesterday’s official high of 73F tied the record for the date (originally set in 1994 – I would have been in Sitka at the time, but I have no idea what I was doing that day).

After getting my radio show done this morning as the marine layer was breaking up, I went to the park to check for moths.

Today had enough tourists for Lincoln Street to be closed. There were plenty of people at the park as well. I didn’t stay long.

The Gray Catbird nest was quiet when I stopped by, but the adults are still around. I’m beginning to wonder if the young haven’t survived, but if so, I don’t know why the parents would still be hanging around the nest.

This afternoon I headed out for what I thought would be a relatively short outing.

It’s been over 10 years since I last visited the cliffs at the base of Verstovia a little ways up Indian River valley. Until today, I had never visited them in the summer (a fact I hadn’t really thought about previously).

I crossed the river not far up the trail. With the dry month we’ve had, water levels were low and the crossing was easy.

I found a collapsed shelter. I was impressed by the bark work that had been done for the roof (though I don’t know how effective it was in practice).

Walking through a muskeg I hadn’t visited in years, I noticed signs of recent bear activities. Given how close it is, it might be a convenient location to place a trail cam?

It looked like earlier this summer a Forest Service crew went through doing boundary work. Multiple trees were blazed, and one dead one near a blazed tree was cut down. It looked like bears had been chewing on one of the sections of the cut tree.

A Cedar Waxwing that flew up to a tree was a bit surprising to me. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one away from development. [Update: on a subsequent visit to Beaver Lake, I remembered I had seen them up there earlier his year]

I followed a bear trail out. In hindsight it was not the best route as I ended up spending more time in scrubby forest than I would have liked. Even so the trail wasn’t difficult to follow. What finally put me off of it was the sounds of a large animal moving through the bushes not far away. The vegetation was thick enough that I couldn’t see what it might be. From the sounds of it a deer or bear.

I took that as motivation to cut more directly up to larger forest where I could see better.

I missed the spruce grove. It was probably lower down the valley (but I think not too far).

I remembered that on previous trip(s?) I had missed the cliffs, when I passed below them and didn’t notice them above.

Had I not been favoring further up the slope and really trying to make sure I didn’t miss them, it would have been easy to miss them again today. There was much more obscuring vegetation than on previous visits (which had always been in the winter or very early spring).

On this trip I visited more of the cliff band than I think I have previously.

I was curious about where my brother and I had previously tried picking our way up through the cliffs. I remembered a >ledge we had gone around on, but couldn’t quite remember how we got to the ledge. (It’s been nearly 20 years, plenty of time to have memory fade. Plus we were there in icy conditions – so things looked different.)

A deer trail that kept quite close to the base of the cliff was not something I expected. In parts there is probably good eating, so I imagine that’s part of the reason they go there.

I poked around especially looking at bryophytes growing under the abundant maidenhair ferns.

I took pictures of many things, some I recognized, others I think will be new for me.

Rhizomnium magnifolium was especially lush in places.

I found some Fissidens, will try to determine if it’s the usual species (Fissidens adianthoides), or one of the other ones.

There were three or four sections of cliff separated by fingers of trees coming up the base. The first section (down valley side) was quite dry. Others were wet. The furthest up valley one I visited had a nice view looking out over the lower valley with Mt. Edgecumbe in the distance.

I was surprised to find some Thalictrum growing. I saw no sign of flowering. The plants much bigger than the alpine ones I’ve seen (always in the alpine). Perhaps this is T. alpinum growing in a more favorable habitat, or maybe T. occidentale. I’m not sure if these are identifiable with just leaves.

I was also surprised to find a Malaxis monophyllos growing below the cliffs. It’s first I’ve seen in years – they can be found on several islands, especially south of town. In those locations they like to grow above the splash zone in meadowy areas. This is the first I’ve seen upland.

I noticed different looking leaf miners in Erigeron and in Symphyiotrichum.

As it was starting to get late, and I had made a pass by most everything I was comfortable getting to, I started back.

I followed a trail back down. It took me by the resistant volcanic ash water feature I’ve previously seen.

I visited a clearing I don’t have memories of being in before. I’m pretty sure I specifically made an effort to visit each of the clearings, so I think my memory of it just faded.

A reasonably nice bear trail took me to the river, where I crossed and hopped back on Indian River trail.

Back at the car, I curious about the sun. It before sunset, but I wasn’t seeing shadows.

I drove over to the airport to look. Smoky haze from Canada had moved over and was sufficiently thick to make the sun deep red, and possible to look directly at without discomfort.

I considered stopping at the bridge to take pictures, but there was not much foreground of interest in the direction of the sun. Sea Mart was my next though, though in hindsight I probably should have just skipped the airport and gone to Sea Mart to start with.

Later this evening the moon was yellow and Not very high in the sky. It should more or less follow a path the sun takes in winter near solstice, but it seems like the sun is usually a bit higher. I will have to try and remember to check if the weather cooperates next December/January.

I didn’t do a great job of labeling collections in the field, so it might be a challenge to associate them with photos/observations. I didn’t have time to work on them this evening, so will try to set aside some time tomorrow while memories are still relatively fresh.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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