Thursday, 21 June 2012

Lindblad in Alaska: Ideal Cove and Petersburg

Guests hike to the lake through forest and muskeg (bog)

by Gretchen Pederson, Lindblad Expeditions Natural History Staff  

Ideal Cove and Petersburg

19 June 2012 

Mitkof Island is not only where the fishing town of Petersburg is found, but is also the location of a scenic trail between Ideal Cove and several lakes – Sand, Hill, and Crane, so named for the sandhill cranes that pass through here during migration. The calm, dry morning was ideal for a hike through lush temperate rainforest to the first of these meadow-trimmed lakes and beyond. Ferns, brambles and dwarf dogwoods known as bunchberry carpeted the ground along the plank walkway that paralleled a rambling creek, stained brown by tannins from the abundant vegetation. A marshy shoreline skirted the lake. It was dotted with bright-magenta blossoms of shooting stars, yellow Caltha-leafed avens, and white clusters of fringed bog-bean flowers. Pacific wrens, sapsuckers, Steller's jays, and hermit thrushes proclaimed their territories with raucous calls and bursts of song. One group opted for exploration by Zodiac instead of on foot. Eagles stared down from their perches at the passing boat. The tide was out, exposing sea stars and other intertidal creatures for close examination.

Once everyone was back aboard, the ship headed for Petersburg, and our Photo Instructor offered a presentation on photo techniques and composition.

The officers carefully maneuvered the National Geographic Sea Bird into the inner harbor just after lunch to allow an entire afternoon of activities. Flightseers climbed into float planes for tremendous views of the LeConte Glacier and the abundant icebergs and harbor seals within the fiord. Bicyclists took off to explore the surroundings at their own pace. A few chose to visit a trail to a muskeg, or peat bog, on nearby Kupreanof Island. In addition, people walked the docks to learn more about fishing boats and their gear or to practice recently gained tips on photography. One of the highlights here is beneath the floating docks, where an abundance of invertebrates make their homes. Giant plumose, painted, and powder-puff, anemones (pictured) cling to the surface along with mussels, sea cucumbers and feather-duster worms. In addition to the guided walks, there was time to wander the streets of Petersburg to take in the Norwegian heritage and local color of this working community.

After recap we left the dock, and the galley presented a fine feast of fresh Dungeness crab. Once we had eaten our fill from the bountiful platters, we gathered in the lounge for an illustrated talk by Dr. Andy Szabo, Director of the Alaska Whale Foundation, about humpback research that he and his colleagues are conducting in Southeast Alaska. Eventually it was time for Andy to depart in his skiff, while we continued north for tomorrow's adventures.