After a memorable day shared with whales and icebergs, Captain Shawn Nettles took the “Sea Lion” for a quiet after dinner twilight cruise into a narrow fiord. This was a wonderful way to unwind in the peace of the wilderness, shared only by a small fishing boat.
The time; 9.15 pm. Summer twilight.
The ship’s lights came on and it was time to think about bed.
What adventures would the morrow bring?
We anchored overnight in a quiet cove and everyone, including all of the crew, had a really good night’s sleep. So, we were all up bright and early, ready for whatever the day held. While we enjoyed our breakfast and a chat with new friends, “Sea Lion” cruised back up Frederick Sound, to a very special place named Ideal Cove for the first activity of the day, a walk in the forest.
There was only one way to get to the shore, and the forest, and that was by DIB. These inflatables were stored on the ship’s roof, right above our room. They had to be winched down each time we had a shore excursion. Our lady bosun, Nicky, was in charge of these boats and of the kayaks which would be used later in the expedition.
Lee Moll, was the first leader ready in a DIB to take walkers over to the shore. Lee, was our expedition plant specialist and has been leading walks here for many years. She was especially helpful with her extensive knowledge of the area.
Loading a DIB was quite simple really, especially in these calm waters. The DIB was nosed into a loading ramp at the back of the ship, and one of the crew handed each passenger down into the craft. Before leaving the ship, we each had to ‘log off’ our name on a board (and, of course, remember to ‘log on’ when we came back to the ship!) David is already on board this DIB, in the shadow on the left. Jason, one of the expedition leaders, is his driver.
Ideal Cove it was named and ideal it was…
a blue sky, a warm day and a new activity; a forest to explore
and, for David, plants to find.
Once on shore, after a wet landing in boots, life jackets were left in a pile, cameras and binoculars were made ready and the walk began into the depths of the conifer forest. So let’s go with David and experience the forest and its plants through his photos.
(Plants are named and notes added to the best of our knowledge.)
The very first thing you’ll notice as you enter the forest is that a great many of the conifers are festooned in a shaggy, cream coloured moss. Known commonly as Cat-tail Moss, it is indeed common. It’s botanical name is perhaps less well known: Isothecium myosuroides.
In the dimness of the forest floor, fungi can often be found…
these elegant fungi are non edible toadstools.
A single file boardwalk protects this fragile environment.
Beside the path are low growing plants like this Cornus canadensis, known as Dwarf Dogwood or Bunchberry. The short stalked leaves are particularly lovely; 4 to 7 of them in a whorl.
Four petal-like white bracts protect the central umbel of flowers. Each flower has an explosive pollination mechanism. When the petals of mature but still unopened flowers suddenly reflex, they ‘catapult’ their pollen loads into the air.
The fruit of the Bunchberry are bright red berries, fleshy and quite sweet. Bears love them! And this was bear territory so the group needed to keep a good look out for bears on this walk.
Another delicate toadstool cap. You have to get down low to really see these…
and taking photos down to low is something that David does really well.
We can enjoy the results.
This ‘shelf’ fungi, attached to a tree, was much more at eye level height.
Shelf or bracket fungi are resilient and may live for a very long time. They gain nourishment from the host tree and may in fact contribute to the death of that tree, feeding off the dead wood for years to come.
Many types of sphagnum moss can be found in these forests; this one, known as Shaggy Sphagnum, is Sphagnum squarrosum. The leaves, which are formed in dense, shaggy, rough rosettes, can absorb a great amount of water. Plants such as these are very common in the forests and were used by native Alaskan peoples as baby diapers (nappies) and bedding, by women for personal hygiene and also for the dressing of wounds.
This berry is probably well known to most as a popular fruit for the table. However, the ones we eat are much sweeter and larger than these native blueberries, a Vaccinium sp. In David’s words, “ours have been horticulturally tinkered with to satisfy our sweet tooth palettes”. But the locals enjoy these native blueberries… and so do the bears.
The boardwalk is covered with the netting used by purse seine fishermen to catch fish; an ingenious use of a ‘ready to hand’ product in this area. It’s use makes the usually wet boards safer for walkers. And speaking of walkers, where are they?
It looks as though David’s been so busy checking out the plants, that the rest of the group has gone ahead! Time to catch up. And time to finish this post and resume from here next time.
Jennie and David
All photographs © Jennie Thomas and David Young of jtdytravels
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