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Sitka Vignettes

Short Observations of Life Around Sitka

sunny 59 °F

My favorite part of the day is when I finally finish the work of the day, and settle down for the evening. Winding down after a 14 hour work day is wonderful, a few minutes for myself before I get too tired and go to sleep. I’m in full work mode right now, I’ve started deck handing on the “Checkmate“, the 30 foot aluminum charter fishing vessel. The hours are long, the work isn’t necessarily hard, but it is busy work. Which means I might get to sit down 3 times day if I’m lucky. So at the end of the day, I’m tired. I don’t have a lot of ambition to take advantage of the recreational outlets Sitka has to offer, one of the downsides of this job. As I said, I like to relax, hanging out in the covered open air deck called “the roost” with some of my fellow staff members. It’s a laid back atmosphere, where we can vent about our day, talk about whatever, but mostly just chill and enjoy the evening.

I work for a lodge/fishing charter operation called Alaska Premiere Charters/Wild Strawberry Lodge. I was asked to write a blog for the company website, and I post twice a week on Wednesdays and Sundays. It will give you an insiders look at what goes on at a charter fishing lodge, focusing more on the fishing, Alaskan landscapes, and natural phenomenon in the Sitka area.
You can read more at:http://blog.wildstrawberrylodge.com/

Since I’m posting twice a week for the lodge blog, I don’t have a lot of time to update my own travel blog. It’s hard to find time for it, which is another downside of this job. The following photos and paragraphs are vignettes of my life in May. I think this is the best way for me to share, to keep it simple yet hopefully effective.

I went on a wildlife tour of Sitka Sound, and one of the first things we witnessed was a “raft” of male sea otters. A raft is a large group of sea otters at rest, normally segregated by gender—the males raft with males, and the females with other females and their pups. I estimated that there were over 100 sea otters in this particular group. It was amazing. We coasted up to the raft and got up to about 100 feet away from them. Some of them splashed and dove at first sight of us, but most were content to float on their backs, bobbing in the ocean chop, or spy on us, raising their heads as high as they could out of the water. You can’t help but smile at their antics, so playful and cute.
Sea otters spend much of their time grooming. They are constantly combing themselves, removing excess hair, untangling knots, and cleaning. The coat of a sea otter is incredibly dense. In fact, otters have the most dense fur of any animal with nearly one million hairs per square inch. Sea otters don’t have blubber to protect them from the cold. You’ll often see an otter spinning in the water; this is to help aerate its fur to improve buoyancy and provide insulation against the cold water.
I was awed, by the experience. To see wild animals en masse, in their element, was fantastic.

The small bay just north of the lodge and adjacent to the cabin is probably one of the best spots to watch bald eagles in Sitka. After processing is done, I like to sit by the shore and see what the eagles are up to. Almost every day they gather around the bay, perching in the tall trees, on rocks, and even on rooftops. I’ve counted as many as twenty at one time around the bay, with eight in one tree alone.
Eagles have excellent vision, easily spying the schools of herring and small perch that swim into the shallow bay to feed. They launch from the tree, swooping down with their talons outstretched and ready to grab the fish. They looks like jet fighters coming into land on an aircraft carrier, making slight adjustments to their flight pattern before they arc their bodies and stab into the water with their sharp talons, more often than not successfully nabbing the fish. Some of the eagles then fly off with their catch in their talons to their favorite roost to eat, while others make a mid-flight transition, taking the fish into their beaks before continuing on to the roost. It seems like they take turns on their “bombing runs,” but occasionally several eagles dive at the same time.

I like to sit quietly, nestled into some of the large boulders along the beach and watch the eagles. My goal is to take a good photograph of an eagle snatching a herring from the water. So far, I haven’t gotten it yet, but I’m hoping my patience will eventually pay off. Even if I don’t get my photo, it doesn’t really matter; I’m still able to witness these beautiful birds showcasing off their amazing aerobatic talent, and that is enough for me.

What is it that goes into an extraordinary sunset? It must be just the perfect combination of atmospheric conditions, paired with strong, low angled sunlight meshing together to form a stunning and lasting crescendo of beauty at days end. Some of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen seem to last forever, changing from a more intense gold at the beginning to the softest shades of orange/pink away from the focal point of the sun by the end. This rare combination of elements is made even more special to me, when I’m in the right place to witness it. What are the chances that I happen to be in the right place at the right time to observe this beautiful phenomenon?
Watching a sunset, invokes deeper thoughts at times. Questioning myself about my own existence seems appropriate, a time to recollect, and ponder. I sit quietly on a throne of stone, while mystic impressions pass through my head. I’m witnessing nature at its purest; a golden sky contrasted by dark gray bands of clouds with the lightest of pink highlights. This is all reflected in a near mirror image by the waving seaside bay, nearly calm, but broken by small parallel waves of the incoming tide. This adds an ethereal element to the scene, a wavering mirror. True magic for susceptible wizards such as myself.
The tide pools of John Brown’s Beach are vibrant and full of life. On my first visit, I reconnected to these wonderful life holding areas. Tide pools are like a mini-ecosystem, and the ones at JBB are very healthy. The most prominent member of the community would have to be the sea star. They are everywhere, in multiple colors, clinging to the rocks, jammed into impossible nooks and crannies. I like coming to JBB in the evening to gaze out west toward Mount Edgecumbe and listen to the waves break over the rocky shore.

Posted by Rhombus 23:45 Archived in USA Tagged photography

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