flowers

Supertunia

This is a petunia hybrid I bought a few weeks ago for our deck basket. Its original pot was about 4" across with three or so 9" flowering stems. Now it's a lovely, sprawling mess of streaked purple flowers. I also put four impatiens in to fill out the basket, but they're hardly necessary.

The hybrid's actually called a supertunia. I didn't just make up a silly pun (this time).

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Pansies

Springtime means pansy season rolls around. Andy put together this hanging basket (one of five baskets we put together around the outside of the house) with brightly-colored, cold-hardy flowers.


When I watered all the new pansies in, I noticed a large drop of water balanced on one of the larger yellow flowers, so I decided to try for something artsier than my normal photos. I think I did OK, given the fact that I used a kit 18-55 lens for this.

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Myrtle

My favorite woods run at the Branford Supply Ponds has a section of trail that's surrounded on both sides by acres of myrtle on the floor of the woods. I imagine somebody planted a little of it a long time ago and it just took off. Some combination of the mild winter and the early warmth brought out all the purple flowers at once. I was out for my run, and at the end, just as I stopped running and started walking for my warmdown, I found myself in the middle of this misty forest carpeted with purple flowers. It didn't seem quite real. So I posed the dogs and took a couple of pictures with my phone. Total luck that it came out so well.



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You Guessed It: Glacier


This is Cathy Connor, a professor of geology at University of Alaska Southeast, the campus which Bread Loaf Juneau calls home. She took us on a walk up to Mendenhall Glacier to talk about the local rocks and, specifically, the glacier's role in shaping the landscape.

We took the same trail I hiked on 6/24, except this time it was raining with a gentle intensity that defies clichéd descriptions of rain. It was neither driving nor pouring; nor was it lashing, tempestuous, or torrential. It did not come down in sheets nor did it let fall cats and dogs. The closest I can come to an accurate description is "a soaking rain." There was a lot of water falling from the sky, and though it was not joined by a great deal of wind, it saturated every fiber of both clothing and being after a little while.

It was temperate enough that I made the decision to forgo my raincoat. I didn't want to spend the walk fighting to stay dry with the hood up and the blinders on. I decided to be endued with water and to trust my high-tech clothing to block enough of the chill glacier winds.

It worked.

The rain swelled this waterfall outside its usual track with rain, but this Monkey Flower (from the much-debated Mimulus genus) was growing in the middle of the original waterfall's course.


The glacier has receded visibly since the last time I was here. Summer is a time of faster recession, for the obvious reasons, and a glacier melts and calves particularly fast when it meets water like this.

Still, to see the areas on bare rock retreat a good ten feet and the area on the water retreat even more than that in only three weeks made it easy to believe that global warming is melting the glacier faster than a normal post-ice-age retreat.


Charles has a gift for striking photogenic poses; here he is a few feet up the shore from the lake. The white ice is called firn, and the lower, blue ice is true glacier ice. It's blue because it has had most of the air compressed out of it. When it gets re-exposed to the atmosphere, it slowly expands, aerates, and turns white again.

A snowflake is a typical ice crystal; a freezer ice cube is a whole series of small crystals stuck together. In a glacier, the immense pressure, together with the melting and refreezing that typically take place, forces the smaller crystals into alignment, and they join up into larger crystals. Cathy commented that the blue, compressed ice has more of a mineral quality to it; the ice crystals are positively enormous, and you can see the water's true color.

Hiking with a geologist put me in geology mode, and I found this really neat rock. Cathy says the red bits are garnets and the black are probably tourmaline. The exposed rock and moraine right next to the glacier are a hodgepodge of rocks from a vast array of eras and areas, brought to the surface both by tectonic process (Alaska is getting higher) and by the immense power of the glacier.


I wasn't too much in geology mode. We got a good look at a Spotted Sandpiper, who flew back and forth, piping. He was probably trying to protect his unfledged hatchling, who made a break for it from one small stand of alder bushes to another.

We didn't stay so long at the glacier that the cold breeze coming off of it made me truly miserable in my wet high-tech gear. I was just comfortable enough to be truly content. Then a brisk walk back to the trailhead and off to a long, hot shower. I may have been philosophically inclined to get wet, but that didn't mean I had to stay that way.

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Trip to Haines, Entry #2


First, my sincere apologies for not writing in several days. It's the middle of the term and the workload has come down on me a bit severely this past week. Hopefully things will lighten up, but until they do, your kind forbearance is begged.

One of the highlights of last week's trip to Haines was our quick power-hike up Mt. Ripinsky, the highest peak on the small range that divides the Chilkoot and the Chilkat rivers.

It was our first day in Haines, and we wanted to be back for dinner, so we only had three hours to hike up and down the 3.2 miles and the 3000 vertical feet to the south summit.

Three hours wasn't quite enough, but let me first point out to you the mystery of this sign, which says the Ripinsky trailhead is 3/4 of a mile to the right, at "PIPE GATE." Now, if a "pipe gate" is some thing I should know as a well-educated individual, feel free to chastize me, but I had never heard of one before. Turns out, it's a gate made out of a pipe. This might not seem like much of a mystery to you, but it stymied seven graduate students and a tenured professor, so make of that what you will.

This ubiquitous and beautiful flower, commonly termed fireweed, is also known as willow herb or Epliobium augustifolium. It acquired the first name because it colonizes fire-razed areas quickly, and its scientific name appears to refer to the fact that the flower begins to bloom from the bottom in mid-July, and, like a clock, counts down the days of summer as it blooms to the top. I'm told that, in August, the flowers turn white and finally die, making the "fire" in the name truly appropriate however much the "weed" remains a misnomer.

At a few hundred feet above sea level, the forest was very typical of what you see in southeast AK—the temperate, spruce-dominated rainforest. It can take a hundred years for a spruce to grow to even the skinny specimens you see here, which makes the current, dramatic deforestation of Alaska's old-growth woods very troubling. It takes a long time to regrow an 800 year old tree (at least 800 years, it turns out), so they aren't a "renewable resource" in any meaningful sense of the word.


Another thousand feet up and the trees start to become dwarfed by the seasonal winds. The weather's also dramatically different. From sea level, things are overcast. By 1500 feet, however, you're starting to break into the clouds themselves.

You may be pitying me on account of the weather, worrying that my hard work to hike and my rare opportunity to be in this place were compromised by the lack of views and the wet weather. Not so, good friends; mist carries its own holiness.

The mist gives the path and the trees an unearthly feel, and it frosts the lupines with the delicate jewels of clear water droplets. Part of me is sorry that the pictures can't share that reality properly, but part of me recognizes that the beauty is inseparable from the place and the moment, and that neither place nor moment can truly be carried back.

It's exactly that ephemerality that gives the beauty much of its poignance and power.


The mist swirls, and the eye and mind are able to fill in the trees and flowers, the heather and mosses and the lodgepole pines. What shows up on a camera as a flat gray impediment to sight gives, in reality, an elusive and constantly shifting beauty to the scene. I would not have traded that sublimity for a clearer, drier, warmer day.

The moisture kisses the skin as it kisses the lupines; it embraces the intruder and makes him part of the landscape.


Perhaps we look a little more "wet" than "kissed," but you're going to have to trust my words and our smiles.

Here you see me with Zoe, my hiking parter for the majority of the trip.

This is, perhaps, the time to mention that a prevalence of bear scat on the trail indicated that bears use the trail extensively for travel and forage; though all evidence of their presence seemed to date back to last summer, their footprint on the place still added a certain dread to the aforementioned holiness.




Some people hike for the views; some hike to bag the peak. Now, I just hike to learn my size and place and try to bring back some humility with me, either engendered by a sweeping vista and my own sense of smallness in relation to it, or by, as in this case, a visit to a quiet, sacred Eden, walled off from all care by mist, but full in its smallness of danger, resonance, and startling beauty.

Zoe and I didn't make it to the top. Two hours' hiking put us perhaps about 1/4 mile and less then 500 vertical feet from the summit, but we had already overstayed the time, so we reluctantly turned back. I suspect her regret stemmed from the same place as mine: we didn't need to hit the peak for its own sake, but we wanted to steal a little more time in the clouds before having to float back to earth.


We rushed down and were still almost forty-five minutes past our stated return time. No harm done, though, since the point of the whole weekend was to experience the area and learn what we could, not to rush from landmark to landmark or hold meetings and keep deadlines.

Almost out, we stopped at a bridge to collect stragglers and take photos. You've got Il Professore Mark Long in the foreground, then Evelina, followed by me, Zoe, and Charles.

Alas, the signs of civilization crop back up one at a time. Not too many, though.


Our intrepid vehicle, a Ford Excursion, borrowed from the University, that carried us all around Haines. It brought us back to the Chilkoot camp.

The University is a government institution, so wherever we went, our business was made official by our license plate. That includes a sojurn up Ripinsky, apparently.

Many thanks to Palmer for the bulk of the pictures in this entry. There's also one by Zoe.

There's still more to recount of Haines, though I'm nearly a week back. Fortunately, the week has been full of work, study, and other thoroughly unjournalable pursuits, so once I catch up on Haines, I'm up to date.


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