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Photo by Bob Armstrong
A large dragonfly, called a lake darne,r eats a yellow-jacket headfirst.

On the Trails: Bits of luck at Camping Cove

Posted: September 6, 2012 - 11:03pm

Fall has somehow arrived in Juneau, without there having been much of a summer. The cottonwood leaves have bronzed and yellowed. The fireweed is done blooming in most places (the stand by my house never had a chance to do so — deer ate them all).

Despite a chancy weather forecast — well, if we waited for a sure thing (beside rain), we’d never go out at all! — four friends headed for Camping Cove near Mab Island. Two backpacked in. But one friend and I chose to kayak from Echo Cove, in order to avoid the nasty trail of mudholes and wet roots that I’ve come to loathe. That choice put us at the mercy of fickle weather, potentially stranding us in the cove if the weather kicked up seriously.

As luck would have it, however, we had sunshine and millpond water conditions all the way from Echo Cove to Camping Cove. We rode the tide most of the way, almost effortlessly covering the distance in a couple of hours. Our hiking pals didn’t even have time to make tea to greet us — we came around the corner into the cove long before they expected us.

That night we sat around a campfire, watching the moonlight on rippling waters. How often do we get a chance to do that in Juneau??!

The next day was spent poking around in the woods for a while. Then, the two hikers decided to squish and splodge their way over to Cowee Creek and back. We kayakers lazed about in partial sun, and increased our pile of firewood for another campfire. This was not to be, however, because in the late afternoon the wind picked up and a storm blew in. So, the next visitors to this nice state park cabin will have a good stash of firewood. But it was interesting to watch that storm creep toward us over Lynn Canal.

It stormed all night, but by wake-up time, the wind had petered out and the rain subsided to a spit or two (except when we were loading the kayaks, when it poured, just to get the gear wet). The marine forecast indicated winds switching from south the north about noon, and we wanted to take off in time to round Point Bridget before that happened. Again, we rode the tide, up Lynn Canal, passing Point Bridget just as the wind changed, a bit before noon. So, it was an easy paddle into Echo Cove. What luck!

The heavens opened again, just in time for us to unload the boats and haul gear up the beach to the waiting car. Our hiker friends soon arrived to check on us. They had walked through the downpour and were drenched. So, wet but pleased, we loaded the boats on the car and headed home for hot showers and tea (or something a tad stronger).

The report on wildlife viewing for this little trip is rather thin. A few seals and sea lions: the seals just bobbing up to stare briefly with their big, dark eyes, the sea lions loving to come up to the stern of the kayaks to emit startling snorts. A kingfisher and an eagle worked the cove, the eagle eventually grabbing something small. A big porcupine trundled through camp, looking suspiciously over its shoulder at the cabin, where we peered out the door. A mouse or two shared the cabin with us, causing us to hang our food from the ceiling. The best show was provided by small dragonflies. One coursed regularly back and forth over the beach grass by the cabin, occasionally indulging in aerial combat with a neighbor. It also made spectacular swoops high in the air or just over our heads, often capturing some unwary insect.

 

• Mary F. Willson is a retired professor of ecology.

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