Song birds, lilies highlight hike to local cabin

Posted: Friday, June 18, 2010

Aweek after visiting the flower-filled meadows in Bridget Point State Park, I was back again, this time on my way to Blue Mussel cabin. In just a week, the three-leaf goldthread was done blooming, rein orchids were flowering at the edge of the muskeg, and shooting stars were past their peak. Chocolate lilies now showed up all through the meadows, and the wild irises were more evident than before but not yet at their peak.

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Courtesy Of Bob Armstrong
Courtesy Of Bob Armstrong

I head an olive-sided flycatcher singing his "Quick, three beers!" near the first muskeg on the trail. Song sparrows, savanna sparrows and Lincoln sparrows sang in various parts of the meadows, along with several yellowthroats. The wispy song of Pacific-slope flycatchers was now common in the forest.

Although there wasn't much bear sign on the way out to the big storm berm at the beach, it was a different story on the trail from the berm to the Blue Mussel cabin. That trail had been well used by bears in the recent past, and some of the scat piles were quite fresh. However, we neither saw nor heard the bruins themselves.

In the forest on the way to the cabin, wide expanses of the so-called false lily of the valley looked like a green carpet on the forest floor, and in some places, the tufts of dainty, white flowers had appeared. Dwarf dogwood (or bunchberry) was now in full bloom, with its four white bracts advertising the dark cluster of flowers in the center of the display. The shrub called rusty menziesia (or fool's huckleberry or false azalea) sported its copper-colored, bell-shaped flowers. They were nicely showy against the plant's bluish-green leaves.

The cabin itself is relatively palatial. This comes stark in contrast to its squalid condition a couple of years ago. The mattresses on the bunks are good and reasonably clean. Big windows let in lots of light and let one get a fine view of the beach. Previous users of the cabin had been more considerate than those who had used the soon-to-be-replaced Dan Moller cabin. There was very little trash scattered around the Blue Mussel cabin.

The rocky "beach" in front of the cabin is interesting, because it is composed largely of large cobbles, mostly white with dark specks, which are totally unlike the rocks on either side. These cobbles are smooth as eggs and are surely derived ultimately from a river. Possibly a former version of the Lace River, coming down from the north?

In the evening, we heard a prolonged series of strange bleats and moans from the rocky point to the west of the cabin. We clambered over the rocks to the point to see if we could get a glimpse of the creature. To no avail, of course, so the mystery remains. I need to know more about the vocabulary of otters and seals and such!

As we sat on the point, we were bombarded (acoustically) by agitated chipping notes in the scrubby spruces behind us. There was a Lincoln sparrow, soon joined by a second one, hopping about in the branches in apparent distress. Obviously we were too close to their nest, hidden somewhere in the thicket. So we departed and left them in peace.

It was a very relaxing evening, watching the tide come in and the whales cruising by. I was thoroughly enchanted by a long series of little rain squalls that seemed to drift out of the Endicott Gap (in the Chilkats, across Lynn Canal), then pause as if to tighten up and get organized before marching, one by one, up Lynn Canal toward Haines.

All this time, we sat in sunshine, until the sun dropped behind the mountains. A mass of dark clouds soon covered the sky, seeming to foretell a wet hike out the next day. But by morning, we had blue skies once more.

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

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