Whether sifting through sand, or scrambling over a rocky shore, it's about finding treasures in every day. 

Pollen Cloud

A yellowish cloud rises on afternoon thermals and drifts for miles. It is spruce pollen released in warm spring weather here in Southeast Alaska.

A cloud of pollen rises from spruce trees.

Tree pollen has been coating everything from vehicles to spider webs for a few weeks. It has piled up in corners on the deck of the boat and has made yellow rings around puddles.

Pollen collected in the water at the edge of a lake. Doesn't it make fun patterns?

This doe has a yellow ring of pollen in each nostril.

The pollen has even accumulated in the nostrils of deer. The does have yellow pollen crust in their noses. The one above is in that patchy, awkward-looking, itchy stage of shedding, too, and her neck looks like she has just about scratched it raw. Sometimes it's not easy being a deer.

I don't know if the pollen interferes with a deer's excellent sense of smell.

This Sitka blacktail doe sees me, and is scent checking. Then she licked her nose and went back to eating.

Deer tongues only go so far in de-pollening the nostrils.

In eddies of the Thorne River there are swirls of the stuff. The ring of pollen on the rocks even shows that the river dropped an inch.

Male spruce flowers.

Warm, dry weather this year has made it a big pollen year, as happens once in awhile. The spruce trees are just about done sending out pollen now, though, and are on to the work of making female, seed bearing cones and firming up those soft, light green spruce tips.

The male flowers usually grow on lower branches and the female flowers on the upper branches.

Sitka spruce grow for 20 to 40 years before flowering.

That's enough spruce tidbits for today. What this whole post is actually about is the pretty eyes and eyelashes on that first doe. Okay, maybe it was about pollen, too.

Purple tinted spruce cones

Wishing you beautiful and fun observations in your day,

Alaska Beachcomber

Second Growth; On the Bones of the Elders

When looking at stumps my intrigue is both the forms and the story. New, fresh stumps are quite boring, but given time and decay and overgrowth they become fascinating.

Tree roots drape over stumps and flow into the earth, mimicking  the curves of their ancestors. The new and the old, the variety of textures, patinas of mosses, lichens and fungi, and the very slow motion change, meet my eyes as individual and collective beauties.

The notch in a stump, where a logger inserted a springboard to stand on as he wielded his chainsaw, and a hollow log laying where it fell because it needed to be out of the way but wasn't marketable, speak of loggers who handled dangerous work; who's clothes filled with wood chips which stuck to their sweat.

The politics of logging have rattled through Southeast Alaska for many decades, at times causing major economic earthquakes. This post is not a judgement of what is right or wrong on the subject, just observations for your contemplation. It is visual history of great trees that stood for hundreds of years, people who wanted to make a decent living for their families, seedlings finding opportunity to use the nutrients of their predecessors, the trees' struggle to stabilize themselves as their initial food source wastes out from under them, and the amazing growth of trees in this temperate rainforest.

I welcome your constructive comments. Click on the images to enlarge them.

The top of this stump is eight feet across. The thick second growth is called 'dog hair.' Forests here reseed themselves quickly and thickly, and the second growth is often thinned to allow faster growth for the remaining trees.

With sticks in my hair from a day (or two) in the woods,

Alaska Beachcomber

Other foresty posts: A Short Walk in the Forest, Forest Bridges

More on logging in Alaska: Logging Mental Health Land in Southeast Alaska, Logging in  Alaska; Falling a Big Spruce

Beach Totems and Bonsai

Bird Beach Totem

Beach Totems only come out when there is a special alignment of tide, sun, wind and earth. You can only see them with high tide, calm water, good light, and the right arrangements of rocks.

It is like looking at cloud pictures. You might see birds or turtles or teddy bears. You are likely to see lots of crazy faces. One of the fun things about Beach Totems is that the bilateral symmetry makes all kinds of faces.


Beach totem stone totem Southeast Alaska

A little snow helps to bring them out, too!

Last year I was in the Wrangell Museum Gift Shop and was intrigued by gift cards of Stone Totems by Teresa McIntyre of Three Bears Cove. I bought some of the cards, and wondered if I would ever be lucky enough to see a Stone Totem in the wild. I found totems made of beach boulders, so I call them Beach Totems.

Here is the beach...

Beach totem stone totem Southeast Alaska

...and here is a totem. Some are shorter than others.

It is a treat to see beach totems.

The day before I saw bonsai trees. It hadn't snowed yet. It rained though. Oh, there was plentiful rain. I was hiking around in a muskeg, enjoying the gnarled forms that some of the pines make.

 Many of the pine trees that grow in the muskeg are stunted, twisted, and bent. They are hewn by hardship. Poor nutrient availability, high acidity, and other factors make it a difficult environment for them.  This little tree is under two feet tall, and it might be over one hundred years old. You can click the image to enlarge it.

Shore pine (Pinus contorta)

Some of them, like the one above, dance. What do you think? Cha-cha tree?

Below is a bonsai-to-be. It already has two tops.

I did not adjust the colors on this image. There are places in the muskeg in the early winter where the moss is the most beautiful reds. Luscious.

As you, my dear friends, go about your day, may you see wonders in everything you look at,

Alaska Beachcomber