Alaska Cruise Report: Ideal Cove and Petersberg

From the National Geographic Sea Bird in Alaska July 16, 2010

Calm seas at our morning anchorage reflected the multilayered sky and every shade of forest green, while distant icebergs from the LeConte glacier provided a white line of contrast in the scene. While some left early for fishing or flight-seeing, others went ashore at Mitkof Island, and learned just why this cove is called Ideal. A boardwalk trail climbs lazily through the forest here, following a stream, to circle two small lakes. We walked through Old Growth rainforest in all its diversity, where trees of every age allow light to reach the forest floor to support a rich layer of understory plants. We admired standing dead trees, home to woodpeckers and owls and fallen trees sprouting coats of mosses adorned with seedling trees, forbs, ferns and fungi. Near the lake, a Sitka black-tailed deer browsed on succulent meadow plants. Away from the streamside, the loudest sounds to be heard were the songs of winter wrens and hermit thrushes, chestnut-backed chickadees and Pacific-slope flycatchers.

After lunch we sailed to Petersburg. We saw signs of this community’s Norwegian heritage, in rosemaling on window frames, a model Viking ship and the Sons of Norway hall. That it’s a fishing town was obvious too: the harbor full of fishing boats, processors on tall pilings along the shoreline, inlaid halibut art in the sidewalks and streets named after famous old boats of Petersburg’s fleet. There was time for walking, or shopping, or biking around town. Time, too, for hikes on the island across the channel (our Zodiacs took us, of course), where a peat bog provided a new place for exploration and a maintained trail, the space and surface, for working up a sweat. Back in the harbor where the National Geographic Sea Bird waited, a guided walk on the dock or a Zodiac trip to see and learn about the commercial fishing boats rounded out the afternoon. Fortunately, we were soon able to replenish our energy with a feast of Dungeness crab, bought fresh today, and to relax with a fascinating talk by Dr. Fred Sharpe of the Alaska Whale Foundation as we sailed once again into Frederick Sound, bound for our next destination.

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