One of the highlights of our Alaskan cruise was that our itinerary took us into Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. I honestly didn’t grasp the significance of our ability to get into this park via the ship until we started making our way through the bay itself. Cruise ships are limited to one or two a day into the park and throughout our trip there we were the only large ship I saw entering the bay. We saw several fishing boats and smaller touring boats but for the most part the bay was very quiet from ocean vessel traffic. We were also boarded by NPS rangers and received an audio tour over the intercom system the entire time!
As I began editing the photos I realized I took so many photos and I’ll share quite a bit here but I’ll spare you an overflow of glacier photos. More than likely these posts will just be a photo tour with little writing in them. The park from the vantage point we saw it is really magnificently stunning and the entire time I kept thinking “Just drop me off on that shore over there. Pick me back up in a week, a month…a year??”—because the park looked so ripe for exploring. Doing a paddling tour of the bay and camping at different rocky beaches each day or few days sounded very enticing as well.
Here’s a brief history of the bay over the last few hundred years—in essence, the bay itself as it is now is very recent. As late as the late 1700s the bay was not very deep but a hundred years later the glaciers had begun retreating and the bay was significantly deeper than it had been. And by deep, I mean by length (and probably actual depth, too) but how close it was to the shoreline along the Inside Passage, versus how far back it goes now. And of course the glaciers are still retreating and who knows where they will be, or even exist, in another hundred years.
I’ll be sharing additional photos throughout the week!
After we left Yakutania Point we continued on our way down the trail northward, not quite sure where exactly it would take us. If all else failed we could turn around and follow our steps back the way we came.
I have to say after being cooped up the last few weeks all these photos make me want to do is spend a month outdoors. It’s really too bad that we’re losing the end of our good season and the only good place to be shortly here in Texas is somewhere near a body of water.
I really thought these were wild strawberry plants and was excited to see them out there on the beach. But turns out, I was wrong. It’s Scots Lovage, Ligusticum scoticum, which is scattered world-wide at that latitude.
And then we said goodbye to Yakutania Point and this wonderful surprise adventure we had in Skagway. If you find yourself in Skagway I definitely recommend checking out this trail system and spending some time on it!
Late last week Forest and I hit up the empty lot across the street to see what kind of nature we could find. Turns out there is quite a bit going on in that little lot!
That’s it for this round of Neighborhood Nature! I really need to get my camera out and take photos of the blue jays and cardinals in the yard—they’ve been busy lately! And I saw a red-headed woodpecker in the backyard today and that would have been nice to have captured.
What kind of nature are you seeing these days?
Let’s go on a virtual hike since most of us aren’t venturing out any longer.
During our brief foray into Skagway, AK we asked some of the rangers in the national park visitor center in town if there was a hiking trail nearby. We’d exhausted our patience for walking up and down the main drag in town and really needed to do something before we got back on the ship for the evening. The rangers gave us some vague directions to get to a hiking trail just past the airport and when we found this sign we knew we’d made it to the right place.
The point proved to be fairly popular but not overly crowded with other cruise visitors venturing to the point and another group of young 20 somethings having a picnic around the corner from the point.
We continued our hike on the trails after but that will be for another day.
I’m going to abandon my typical platform for writing these and just free write, ok?
It’s been a fairly typical spring here in the greater Houston area, mild with bits of warmer days and tinges of humidity popping in here and there. Last night we received a cool front that dropped highs back down into the 60s once again and brought rain and thunderstorms along with it. And for someone who has pretty much been a homebody for the last two weeks, and in general, (exceptions have been two quick trips to the office to use my desktop up there) the rain is making me even more of a homebody.
Despite being home every day, I’m working during the largest chunk of these days. Which means I’m not doing all the chores or projects or reading that those who aren’t working from home but are still at home, or don’t have kids, are doing. I do a little here and there of course and Forest and I take a long lunch and some decent breaks, but I’m not as idle as I wish I could be. That means these lazy days at home on the weekend are still savored. Though, I am reaching the point where I could eat out every meal for the weekend. Eggs Benedict and hash browns for breakfast, chips and salsa and plate of cheese enchiladas for lunch, and wash that down with Chicken Bryan at Carrabba’s for dinner. Yep. Let’s do it! All of this means, we aren’t eating out. I know people are getting to-go and drive-thru but we’ve decided not to risk it, despite the urge for changing it up around here. I’m also craving hikes or just driving old country roads. If it had been warm and not raining this weekend I probably would have looked for a place that might have been without crowds and gone for it but that will have to wait until next weekend.
So, what are we doing? Well, two weekends ago we dropped a nice chunk of change to have our well repaired. That meant part of the garden ended up being trampled/driven on by the well truck. Chris also decided to fix up the well area and pour a concrete pad and get a lot of the metal components off the ground and away from the dirt so that everything will be much better off in the future in addition to building a proper well house around it. He’s been working on that slowly when he can so that is still a bit awry out there. Work days, I’ve been working upstairs from the couch so I can have a good view outside but also watch tv while I work if I am catching up something recorded. Forest stays downstairs for an hour or two and then has started coming upstairs to play or watch tv. The first week I attempted to make him do some worksheets from a couple of books my mom had given me from when she had done preschool work with my niece and nephew but after that first day I’ve pretty much given up trying to make him do any sort of lessons. Now I make him draw or be creative in any way possible and we’ve watched several Super Simple Draw videos on YouTube/Amazon which he enjoys. And he’s been doing some ABC Mouse here and there but don’t get me wrong, there’s lots of tv time going on during the week. I wish it wasn’t like that but if not I typically have not only a soon to be 16 year old cat in my lap but also a 5.5 year old, too, in addition to my laptop computer. The last few months we’ve even let him out in the backyard to play in his treehouse semi-unsupervised so I’ve tried encouraging him to do that while I watch from the window but he’s used to having friends and people around people at daycare which only makes him want a playmate during this time. Which, you see where this is going—isn’t feasible when mom has to work. During this time Chris has been splitting time between the office and at home. There are just a couple of people still trying to work from the office just because it is easier, I think. And Chris has been doing that some, too. Plus, he’s had a couple of field visits. I’m actually still surprised at how many people are still wanting field visits done.
I haven’t been into ‘town’ in 2.5 weeks and Chris went once more for a few supplemental groceries about 1.5 weeks ago. The last time I was at the store was 3 weeks ago tomorrow. He came back from that last trip to the store and said it was pretty surreal, which I had felt somewhat during that trip 3 weeks ago so I’m sure it was even moreso later. He’s done a few other errands in regards to getting the well up and running so he’s seen how busy things are and of course while traveling a few areas around the state for those field jobs. Me, my circle of life encompasses a few blocks around here. I did manage a two mile bike ride at lunch the other day and that was the widest area I had really seen and that was still only houses!
Other parts of our days include spending time outside as much as possible. Forest and I have been having lunch in his treehouse during the week. Then we wander the yard and see what we can see. Forest will play and sometimes I garden. Most of the time I’ve just been sitting and watching. We take walks in the evening to check out the leaf cutter ants or go for a bike ride around the block. I pull some weeds or see what is going on in the garden. Really, we’re taking it slow. Sometimes we go to the studio where we spend anywhere from thirty minutes to three hours there.
My reading has been mostly non-existent this last month. Going from listening to a ton of audiobooks and reading other books the first two months, that plummeted this month. No gym time means no audiobooks, and working from home means no audiobooks. That also means podcast listening has plummeted as well. The two books I did finish these last few weeks were Know My Name by Chanel Miller and Untamed by Glennon Doyle. The first is about the Emily Doe assault case against Brock Turner a few years back. Chanel Miller is Emily Doe and this is her story about the assault, trial, and afterwards. I highly recommend reading it and give the book 5 stars. The second book I was disappointed in. I’ve cursory followed Glennon over the last decade and enjoyed her Love Warrior book a few years back and thought this would be equally as good. Instead I found the essays a bit lazy. About half of them or more are recaps of things she’s talked about before or I’ve seen written elsewhere. The rest are some newer essays that were fairly decent but I still found them to be underdeveloped. Honestly, this felt like a rush to get a book to press. I’d say Hard Pass on buying it but if you like Glennon do look into checking the book out from the library.
I’m still making my prints! I sent a few out to some friends. I may do another round of that in a few months. I’m debating doing the 100 Day Project—a creative project every day for 100 days. Last year I tried 100 days of blind contour drawings but only made it a month before I got bored. I think I will probably pass on that project again but we’ll see.
That’s about it. Trying to stay sane while the world crumbles.
I had only been whale watching twice before: once in Maine after we finished the AT and the second time when Chris and I went to Seattle for our 10th anniversary trip back in 2012. Only the trip in Maine did we actually get to see whales (and puffins!).
This trip I was more optimistic that we’d have luck seeing whales considering we’d seen them several days across our sail from Vancouver. Ideally we’d hoped we’d see orcas on this trip but it turns out that their numbers are actually fairly low in this area and it can be hit and miss, mostly miss, to see them while on a whale watching tour.
Our tour left Auke Bay and traveled out into Favorite Channel where we watched several humpback whales and a few seals in the waterway. Typical of most tours everyone crowds to one side while watching the whales and you kinda have to wait on the other side and hope that the whales will show up over there, thus allowing you the better vantage point in seeing them. Forest was a bit cranky on part of this trip which also made me a bit cranky as well. Part of it was the cold wind and part of it was that he just couldn’t see the whales since he was on the shorter end of the tour guests. We tried to make room for him and lift him up to see but he was fed up a few times. Plus, it wasn’t an area he could run around in safely—the last thing I needed was a soon-to-be five year old in the Inside Passage.
Overall the tour was worth it, for the whales and for the magnificent views! The view of Mendenhall Glacier from Auke Bay was quite stunning and one of my favorite aspects from that trip!
Continuing in the theme of “OMG, that was this year?” because apparently March has turned into January and is now the longest month ever (beware, I think April is going to be double in length as well)…let’s rewind to a month that blitzed right on by—February. Ah, we were out and about, seeing family and friends, taking hikes. And now? We look fondly back at photos and miss all of that time we spent out of doors (or eating in restaurants, or not being paranoid about the grocery store. Hm, I think I need to write an updated pandemic post…)
So, back to our chilly afternoon hike at Tandy Hills Natural Area in Fort Worth to see the trout lilies (Erythronium albidum). As I mentioned in a post from February where I shared photos from my phone, we hadn’t been to visit them since before Forest was born, so at least six years ago. Things have changed since then. Namely, the population we knew of is still in existence but being shaded out by native and invasive vegetation, namely privet. It really is too bad a controlled burn couldn’t happen on that property as it would really ignite a spectacular wildflower bloom there.
And the second change is iNaturalist. That led us to finding different populations of trout lilies that we didn’t know of. Of course it doesn’t take much to really find them, just walk the trails and go explore and you’ll see them. But a peek at iNaturalist helped us out in guiding us to some great populations in the area. That said, I still obscure my coordinates when I log them on iNaturalist.
The flower themselves are dainty and yet strong, reminding me of ballerinas. Honeybees were buzzing from flower to flower, collecting pollen to take back to hives. I could have just sat under the trees among the leaf detritus for several hours, reading, taking photos, and watching the pollinators buzz by.
And to think that these patches of flowers exist so close to I-30 and a network of historic suburban neighborhoods. You can only imagine what was on this prairie before all of that!
Considering we’ll be staying close to home for the foreseeable future I figured it would be nice to start a new theme here—Neighborhood Nature! I definitely encourage you to join along if you’d like and showcase what you see around your own neighborhood.
Yesterday evening we went out for a walk and right off the bat I rescued a caterpillar crossing the road. I took a few photos of course and later when I tried to identify it on iNaturalist nothing seemed to fit. I opened my caterpillar book and still had a hard time thinking any of the potential families that I knew would fit. Then my book haphazardly fell open to a page with a green caterpillar in a different section and so I flipped back to it. Sure enough it appeared similar. I went back to iNaturalist to look at that species and of course that one wouldn’t have been suggested because only one other person had shared a photo of the larvae, everything else had been the adult moth. The single photo looked similar enough so I went to Google and checked a few other sources and I do believe my caterpillar book was correct— Roland’s Sallow, Psaphida rolandi! A cute little addition to the inventory of the area around here.
Our goal for the walk was to head down to the park to check on the leaf cutter ants, Atta texana. They have made a huge mount off to one side and there are several trails that the ants have created leading to various trees that they are harvesting leaves from. It’s pretty cool and Forest loves to check on the leaf cutters that we know of in the neighborhood. —This is a video, not sure why it isn’t posting as a video.
These two moths were on the house one morning last week and were different enough that I thought I’d take a few photos of them. iNaturalist easily identified them for me so that was helpful!
What nature is going on in your neighborhood this week?
It’s looking more and more like our hike at Lake Somerville State Park two weekends ago is going to be our last hike for a good while. Last weekend we had camping reservations at a state park just an hour from here on the west side of Houston but opted to cancel due to the rain forecast. It was a good decision but I was already concerned about using the bathrooms. Most state parks do a decent job of cleaning up every morning but still…you can only control the surfaces you know, right?
And even up to this weekend I thought that maybe we’d get out and go somewhere less busy to hike this coming weekend, however it is looking like a few things are happening: a) too many people out on trails so we’d have to drive a bit further to get away from people, which is doable. b) imminent lockdown orders. Several counties in Texas are working their way into lockdown mode and though Houston/Harris county hasn’t gone that way yet (later edit as I drafted this earlier—they are now on stay-at-home-mode) (we are a county north and usually follow right after—also an edit: our county says they don’t want to do this yet because they still have faith people are going to be smart *snort*), Galveston county to the south of there did go on lockdown yesterday as did Dallas county the other day. It isn’t long before it happens to us. Which is fine, but still…I’m going to miss getting some hikes in this spring. But I’ll gladly give those up if we can get this damn thing under control sooner.
Every evening I find myself saying that I really need to finish reading the book I’m reading but then my lizard brain just reaches for the phone to endlessly scroll the latest on the virus and to find out which politicians are really idiots (that, of course, we already knew but boy, do these seal the deal. Dan Patrick I’m looking at you. Also, WTF Rand Paul? You’re a damn doctor!). So, I’ll take a breath and revisit these wonderful sights from our hike—and in the meantime I’ll be walking in our neighborhood and seeing what nature is doing around here.
Pointed Phlox, Phlox cuspidata—this is a nearly endemic species to Texas—all sightings on iNat are in Texas, though USDA Plants Database suggests it can be found in western Louisiana and areas of OKlahoma.
Suffice to say, my nature will consist of taking notice of everything in our neighborhood and in the backyard and when I do get out to drive to the store I will probably be in awe of the changes going by that I’m not witnessing on a daily basis.
As we walked around Skagway and then over to Yakutania Point to go for a hike in the afternoon, we noticed a ton of these wooly bear like caterpillars. They were everywhere! I didn’t identify them until I got home a few months ago and put them into iNaturalist. A more northern and western species, the larval stage of these moths feed on “poplar and willow, but also feed on alder, basswood, birch, maple and oak.” The adults are variations of brown with some patterning like so many moths out there and their larvae are definitely the most colorful thing about them!