From the National Geographic Sea Lion in Alaska, Monday, May 24, 2010
The National Geographic Sea Lion glided over glassy waters and past the drifting icebergs from La Conte Glacier on its approach to the appropriately named, Ideal Cove. As the morning’s events played out, it seemed that effortlessness and convenience would be the day’s theme.
High tide made for an easy landing on the shoreline along Ideal Cove on Mitkof Island. Entering the forest was like walking through an open door. There is not as dramatic a transition from the beach into the forest as we had experienced yesterday. Here, the growth of different aged spruce and hemlock allows more sunlight to penetrate the forest floor so there is a more even dispersal of understory plants. Dappled in adequate sunlight, the plants happily keep to themselves, allowing forest visitors easy passage. Moreover, a sturdy boardwalk extended deep into this magical world making the trip all the more pleasant.
The forest was also inviting in that it was alive with the gleeful songs of a number of migratory birds. The winter wren seemed a bit overly competitive serenading us all during our hike. Not only is it one of the tiniest birds, this year-round resident, perhaps, wishes to out-shine those who spend cold winters in warmer locations. The pleasantries continued in getting nice close-up looks of perfect forest specimens of fern-leaf gold thread, skunk cabbage, rosy twisted stalk and blueberries plants galore.
Ambling along over the wooden walk, we were fortunate to cover a good distance for our allotted time out. This afforded us the opportunity to visit a diversity of habitats. As we left the old growth forest, we entered an open, field-like environment with stunted trees and pools of water. We quickly learned that this is the famous Alaskan bog or Muskeg. Here, plants that have adapted to a nutrient poor environment were introduced to us. Most interesting was the round leafed sundew, a carnivorous plant whose leaves covered in jewel-like sticky droplets trap unfortunate insects.
After lunch, we headed to Petersburg, a classic Southeast Alaskan fishing village on Kupreanof Island. Some of us opted to see this majestic land from above and took flight-seeing tours in either a helicopter or a floatplane. Others decided to enjoy a stroll or bike ride through town or along the harbor. Also offered was the opportunity to take yet another hike to a bog across the channel.
To top off a nearly perfect day, we took pleasure in feasting on locally caught Dungeness crab after hearing a stimulating lecture by humpback whale researcher, Dr. Fred Sharpe.
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