Sunday, August 17, 2008

Homer Second Day

We woke up at quarter to 7. It was hard to get everyone moving, but we managed to get everyone to eat and get ready for the hike. We prepared sandwiches for lunch and went off to the pier. We were met by one of our guides and the other participants, a mother and her grownup daughter (in the 20+) and a family with 3 young kids and an uncle.

We went down to the dock, which was a feat, as the tide was very low, the ramp to the dock was extremely steep. There a water taxi met us and we all climbed aboard and went to sea. The early morning fog was fast dissipating and it seemed that there was a chance of sunshine later on.

On our way across the bay to our destination we pass by a big rock in the water that serves as rookery for many sea birds(called Gull Bay). This was similar to sights we've seen in Seward, but still it was nice to see the huge number of birds swooping above us and in the water.

We see a puffin in the wild!

Tufted Puffin!

Seagull Rock

Young kittiwake taking off

We landed on a dock that seemed to be sitting in the middle of a wet marsh. Here the second guide waited for us, and we set off to reach land. Turns out that they have a raft that connects the dock to the land. The raft is connected to the dock by pulley and to get it moving we had to pull on the rope. The way it was done was by walking in a circle where each time we hold the rope at one end of the raft and walk with it to the other end. This was a funny ritual and got
everyone warmed up.

Raft at low tide (dock behind, notice the height of the securing poles)

When we got safely ashore, we climbed up to a "field station" where we left most of our bags, and went on a hike toward the beach on the other side of the small peninsula we were on.

The hike took us through forest and wet grassy areas and at last we reached our destination. A large region of a rocky beach that was covered with kelp and seaweed due to the low tide.

Tide pool beach

We divided in to two groups and set exploring the tidal area. And were armed with index cards showing the names of animals.

Ready to explore

We found an octopus (it was hidden below a rock and we could only see a part of its tentacle) many sea-stars, urchins, several types of crabs, little fish, and all kind of worms. It wasn't as nice as some of the tidal pools we knew from California(or, as the kids said, from Maine), but still it was an interesting experience. Our guide, Dan, was very talkative (he wouldn't shut up(and he shouted, as if he was in a class room)) and some of the stories were interesting, others were a bit annoying (he was aiming for 4th graders, although in his group there were us and the two women).

Dan picks up a sun-sea-star

Two hermit crabs

Tangle of stars


At the end of the tide pools we talked a bit about geography, turns out that we were standing on rocks that were scrapped off one tectonic plate by another one when they clashed. The mountains on our west were the result of the continental plate crumpling by the encounter, and
the area on our east was hills that rose from the oceanic plate.



We then visited a site of an old (several hundred years) native dwelling. Not much remained from it except for a rectangular area of of pressed earth.

After that we hiked back to the station, had lunch and enjoyed the sun on the porch of the station. After wasting an hour for this break, we started our next step, a guided tour of the forest. Again, we divided in two, with our group going on the longer trail, and the family with the younger kids on a easier trail.

We set out onto a thick forest of spruce trees with many shrubs and bushes between them. During the hike we got explanation about different plants and habitats (forest, grasslands, bogs) as well as about some of the animals.

Bog flower

Wet leaves

"Stupid Chicken" Bird

From my perspective the most interesting part of the hike was the dense population of blueberry bushes with ripe berries. We (mostly me, and definitely not Roy) snacked on them throughout the hike.

Blue berries (yum!)

The end of the trail was a nice lake in the middle of the forest, there were many water-lilies in the lake and huge dragonflies buzzing around.

Lost and Found lake

After few minutes of enjoying the serene view we started on our way back.

A cute fellow we run into

On the hike we got a very dramatic explanation for the Spruce Bark Beetles, who were the reason for the fallen trees and such(it was a Spruce forest, and therefore most the trees were hi by the beetles). The naturalist, Dan, Explained the 'typical Spruce Bark Beetles' life. The beetles drill into old Spruce trees (since they had the least sap) and entered the tree. After entering the female beetle planted her eggs, exited, and died 2-3 hours later. After some time the larva would hatch and start eating the bark of the spruce tree... and thus again. Dan jumbled up the facts to make the whole procedure seem more dramatic, and made all of us more confused, in the end.

We got back to the station, and started waiting for the second group. They were supposed to return before us, but were nowhere to be seen. In the meantime Dan opened for us two "tables" with shallow aquarium with tide pool animals that we can touch and examine. After a while it turned out that the second group was stuck due to the high tide and could not make their way through. The guides took a row-boat to bring them across the flooded part of the trail and this took a while.

When everyone assembled, we started to organize for our way back. This involved boarding the raft and pulling it back to the dock. Since it was high tide now the land scape was dramatically different. The water reached way higher and the dock was almost 5 meter higher than it was
when we arrived.

Raft at high-tide

This explained the need for the raft and polly system. We did the walk- in-circle routine again and got to the dock.

Round and round we go....

After few minutes of waiting the water taxi arrived and took us all back to town. There, again, the difference the tide made was impressive. The ramp that was so steep before was now almost horizontal.

On the way back, we passed again by gull rock, and this time got to see the second species of Puffins that live here. We also learned that during the winter the puffins look dull and grayish, and only in the summer they have the colorful beak.

Horned puffin

We got back to the camp. Since it wasn't raining for a change, we started a campfire and sat down to watch the sea and the mountains across the bay. Below on the beach some locals had a bonfire among the driftwood trunks. The sun painted the sky and we got some nice sunsets


We had dinner outside and then cleaned up and shower. Getting back from shower I saw the huge full moon rising over the mountains. I run to get the camera and went to the edge of the bluff to take its picture. The sight was impressive in its beauty. I am not sure if I managed to capture it, but the full moon rising is always majestic.


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