Wednesday, July 18, 2012

round island 1...

will probably be a mixed up tale of our trip out there. still one of the most amazing places i've ever been and it was an awesome feeling having that boat approach the island for a second trip for me. i never really believed i'd return. it's a once in a lifetime experience that i got to have twice. we all met up for the same flight out of anchorage on the 8th. the flight was uneventful except for the fact that 5 bags didn't arrive in dillingham. they ended up stuck in anchorage until the next alaska air flight, apparently pen air and alaska air have broken up and it was a bad break up? so stress from the get go. every trip has at least one glitch and i tried to just write this off as the big glitch and let everyone know that we had 2 flights and 2 boats so those with luggage would just head out first and it would work out from there. of course a trip of this scale is stressful and we all knew without camping gear a trek to round island would be impossible. our first flight wasn't schedule to leave dillingham until 4pm so the timing looked like it would work. above is one of several fox friends we made on the island. i may have taken more fox shots than walrus...they are just so dang cute! they seemed to be willing models as well. they really have no fear of the humans...seem almost like house pets. they did scratch alot which makes me think they probably have skin and ear mites. a few of the rangers have mysterious hand rashes so i was happy to just get close enough and not too close.
we settled into our cabins at kingfisher inn. very comfy and cozy and as it turns out the girl that manages that is the neice to the folks who run tikchik air. they are all from new zealand. super nice folks. was nice to have that communication route open. we let them know of our luggage issues. the inn has a few beater cars that are available for use. we could all fit in the toyota so we headed to the hotel for dinner. folks nice there, but the food was overpriced and not very tasty. we ate at the muddy rudder the rest of the time we were in town. great food at reasonable prices...people really nice there as well. ten years ago when we went to round island we ate at the muddy rudder all our meals as well. something for everyone.
wildflowers were abundant on the island. i was hoping for that going a few weeks later than we'd gone years ago. the fox were a bit more raggedy this trek as well. my other fox pics from ten years ago they seemed to still have a pretty full winter coat. seems like more fox on the island in general from what i recall and many fewer murres.
of course there are walrus. our weather was rainy/foggy/wet with an occasional glimpse of the sun. our last night we had gale force winds. when the winds picked up and the waves picked up, the walrus tended to book, they became my weather indicator. if they return to island weather won't be too bad...wind wise anyway. the island almost cleared off twice it seems. the perk to this is watching the walrus be active often. i think on some days our walrus counts were nearly 1000.
second beach was best chiming that first day or so. chiming is an amazing sound that the walrus make. i miss falling asleep to the sounds of the chimes. you can look up walrus chime on the internet and you will easily find a recording made by one of the sanctuary managers from a few years back. we were actually her first visitors when she was on the island and this year she was back as a relief worker. she played her two recordings for us. they are awesome and i wish i had one of those sleep machines with it on there. the web site where the recording is located on is a utah university site and the recorder of the sounds is diane okonek. i highly recommend you take a listen.
my luggage had arrived as did sue and vals. tikchik got a sattelite call from terry, our boat captain saying he was already out at eagle bay hanging out. they called us with a pick up time of 2pm. we were taking the cessna 185 as the lagoon had been reported as somewhat low and rick, our pilot, wanted to do a test run with the smaller plane. tikchik wanted us to try and unload 50 pounds from our load. they would try and get it on the second plane if there was room. we all got on the scale together, then tossed all our gear on the scale. it was pouring when we had arrived in dillingham the day before and it was still threatening rain. don't think it really rained at all once we got going until after everyone had thier tents up on the island. that makes life so much easier.
our flight was a bit cloudy, but lovely. we could see round island in the distance as we approached eagle bay and the lagoon. we could also see terry on the beach awaiting us. he seemed up for a stretch so we got our gear over from the lagoon to the beach and then wandered about on the beach. checked the outlet for salmon, none sighted. lots of bear tracks and i found a few spine bones, presumably walrus. had a nice chat with terry. it was low tide so he was trying to allow the tide to come in a bit. i was wearing my hip waders so i got the small zodiak ride first. we loaded it with gear and started to walk out into the bay. we walked until i was almost to the tops of my boots then we got in and used the small engine to get to the boat...then you flop yourself on board trying not to fall in the water. one of the pontoons of the little zodiak had been spiked the week before i guess by a walrus tusk. he'd been trying to patch it, but the patch only really works if it gets over 50 degrees and it hadn't so we just had to be careful of that pontoon and he had to pump it i guess at times. after he got me and the gear on board he headed back for val and then sue.
after we were all loaded we headed off to round island. it was a bit bouncy, but no worries on that trip except weather the other bags arrived and if the other group would make it. i knew i'd be stressed until i heard about the boat getting to 3 miles out. terry has to call the island when he is 3 miles out and then he has to slow the boat down and try not to freak out the walrus, sadly, on our first trek out there we must have spooked the walrus out on flat rock. he saw a head pop up first and tried to keep it quiet, but they began to rush off the rock. it will go in the log book i guess. they made quite the splash, but didn't look like any of them were injured. when they are hauled out like that and get spooked they can trample the younger, smaller walrus to death so it can be very bad. again we loaded one by one with terry and our gear into the little zodiak and headed to the island. the three of us got our island orientation by the current manager stephanie sell. she will soon be off to juneau for a desk job, her replacement arrived while we were on the island. actually lots of activity on the island this week. two pairs of day trippers and also the toilet guy showed up, plus a few folks from fish and game were on the island as well.
not sure what happened at the airport, but the pilot and his wife were none too happy apparently with having to wait and nearly cancelled the second flight. they had been kind enough to take everyone to the airport for the stuff, which did arrive thank god. when bush pilots and water taxi's say lets go you just go. i never want to get the reputation for keeping either of these folks waiting. they hold your life in thier hands and also i've heard of people being blacklisted when they cause delays or don't show up on time for pick ups. the industry is pretty small and they do talk to each other. so this was unfortunate and i was able to apologize to denise and rick as we left and they seemed quite kind and forgiving. luckily, they are super nice folks. i decreased my bag weight by giving them the moose jerky i'd brought. i figured we'd be good with the moose styx i'd brought. they seemed pretty happy to get the jerky.
i think they were tightly packed on the boat, but had brought the beaver. they were probably loaded up more as they hadn't had time to go through thier gear and sort out the stuff they could probably leave behind. happy they didn't as bob and tanya brought some good eats out there!! we had fabulous appetizers every night between what everyone brought and the wine lasted several days as well. poor scott rode on the front of the boat and he said his butt was sore for a few days...a nice birthday ride for him. we called that his birthday spankin's.
i used my newly found bones to hold the front flap for a few days, and my hip waders to hold the back of it. sue and i shared as we had many years back. this time we grabbed this platform close to the water where we could more clearly hear the walrus chimes and other noises through the night. eventually, val and i used her rope to more securely tie down the tents. we had gale force winds coming through. everyone had 4 season tents. with those gusts, my tent barely moved. quite cozy inside.
we all got temp tatoo's, mine was coming off before that first day was over. i had a cute puffin...bummed it came off.
the fox greeted us and i swear they followed us around on our island orientation.
the poo poo palace is non functional...well it may be functional now. the toilet guy was there the day we left. i'm sure he had no idea what he was getting himself into when he signed on for this job. stephanies husband had done the work of building it. it will be environmentally friendly and sustainable. it is a bit of an eyesore at this time. the place is a sanctuary and also an archeological site so where you put things is dictated for you. the platforms are actually over the top of old sunken home sites to keep them safe i guess. not sure i'm very good at remember the details of the orientation at this point. you can see the metal tie downs. the island gets alot of wind and all structures are secured to weather through. the cook tent was put up right before we arrived 10 years ago and it was a bit of an eyesore. it's a bit better now with the camo roof material.
the cook tent is outfitted now with a three burner propane stove and there are a few pots/pans and this tea pot for our use. no propane stove 10 years ago so this was a bonus. cooking is the only way to warm the cook tent. there is no wood burning stove and no wood on the island anyway. we had wet weather so i just was out as long as i could, returned, heated water, drank warm drinks and back out again. none of us ever totally dried out, but everyone seemed to deal and no complain. gets tough day after day when stuff just keeps getting wetter and wetter. i think attitudes were great though. the scenery was still amazing and ever changing. there were walrus and fox and puffins galore to photograph and watch.
i quite enjoyed the reflection of the camo stuff on the teapot.
there are several places to walrus watch. beach one probably is most comfortable spot, beach two is nice as well, flat rock is great when the walrus are there as they are close. you can also go to the bird area and see the walrus on the spine. we never had weather to take the trail up the spine or do the summit hike. the trails were slippery and soggy. oddly, 10 years ago we were told we wouldn't be allowed on those trails at all. i was ticked. now that it was allowed, i really wasn't too concerned that it never happened. no doubt, part of it was just being told no. i'm not too keen on heights and the one trail is quite steep. i suspect 10 years ago i would have not blinked about it. i'd guess if we'd had warm, sunny weather and it was available i would have just worked through and headed up. the one day bob and tanya tried for the summit was the day the winds began to kick in soon after they left. you could feel the change and i didn't have an issue saying no to that hike. plenty to see around the island for me.
that first night it was pretty late getting everyone on the island and set up and oriented. we ate a late dinner and tried to celebrate scotts birthday. bob and tanya had managed to get a little cake over safely. they must have taken lessons from our guides last year at gustavus.
i think nearly every day we woke to rain on the tents. i'd wait for a break and then get myself motivated to get out of the tent. day one i walked to the sea lions and then back to the birds. walking keeps you warm and i always enjoy getting my mileage in. the great thing about round island is once you are all there you can just do your own thing. walk, sit, sleep...whatever you want.
looks like the walrus are heading onto the island.
the pictures are obviously not in any order. i'm still loading and looking at photo's. totally different than last time i went. the joy of the digital camera is taking many photo's and seeing what comes out. 10 years ago i still had film and had brought 5-6 rolls of film/day. i had tossed in a few black and white rolls as well, thanks to tanya.
snuck a few photo's of the babies in the rookery. i know i have a photo of a baby in the mouth of a fox somewhere. first one fox goes by with the adult bird, then the next one passes by with the baby. poor birds.
there are seemingly zillions of birds out there. it's another relaxing sound you hear all night.
diane came by and played her recordings for us. couldn't find the longer underwater recording she shared with us. they were just amazing though.
she was pretty excited to hear that we had been her first visitors when she first arrived and seemed even more excited to hear that we had experienced the worms. apparently that happened only in our year 2003. the worms were even sent off to a worm specialist. apparenly, they are from asia really. perhaps they came over on a bird and only survived in the warm summer, never to be seen again. i was quite happy to hear that this wasn't a normal thing and that i needed fear worms under my tent this year.
diane seems to have mellowed with her time on the island since i first met her and i found her quite pleasant and easy to talk to. looking back i can see how you would be hesitant to just let people wander up the dragon spine. it no longer mattered for me to get that shot. it took awhile, but i was over it.
a few shots of camp. my tent is first one on trail after coming up stairs in boat cove.
more flowers. parakeet aulkets i believe below.
the birds were plentiful but i must say nobody was pooped on that i heard of.
i should have loads of wildflower pictures i will load over time. like i said, i don't think there will be any particular order. i will try to just get a good mix everyday. i'm sure the photo's will bring back memories. i take pictures to tell the story of the place as i see it. should be load of walrus photo's. those are the last loaded it seems.
tanya's my flower girl. i'm thinking below are poppies. above are the forget me nots. state flower if i remember right.
today was spent unpacking, washing, changing cat litter....i was in no hurry to do much of anything. did get the dogs to the dog park and not sure i took any photo's at all.
it is great to be home and with the critters. sure miss them when i'm away. i could tell they missed me as well. the cats seem the most needy. even miss breezy is super friendly. of course, i've noticed the nails all need to be trimmed as they have both jumped on my lap several times and left holes in my body.
loads of puffins on the island, both horned as tufted as the puffin above is. they are just cool birds. bob and scott seemed to enjoy watching thier flight activities, which seemed to make little sense at all. the puffins would fly out to sea, loop back, almost land then act like they forgot where home was and loop back out to see again only to repeat this over and over and over again. why, why? we never did figure it out.
below scott and bob join me in observing this cute foxes antics near our cook tent. i had several longer photo sessions with various fox. so i've put in several shots from this first one.
the fox that live near the fish and game home are quite accustumed to human activities and are not scared off. easy to get photo's of them. there seemed to always be a fox to photograph. we never did see thier kits though. would have loved to have seen them as i can only imagine how adorable the babies are seeing how cute the adults are.
as you can see very relaxed. this was a zoom lens, but it wasn't required for fox shots.
love when they do dog/cat like activities. their behaviour seems almost a cross of both. at times they seem dog like and other times they seem more cat like. they made a meowing type sound one night. i got it on a video clip somewhere. the others in the group thought val and i were meowing to get it's attention, but it was the one fox making the noise to the other.
this guy just relaxes in the grass between the poo poo palace and the cook tent.
gotta love a good stretch and yawn

still have lots of photo's to load, pretty happy with the ones i've seen so far. always fun to see how the other folks with cameras out there saw the place. that is the fun part of photography. we can all be in the same place and totally see it different ways.

bob was making little noises behind me to get him to tork his cute!
this time it almost looks like the walrus are going out...hmm.
someone is heading up to second beach. another is looking over first beach.
horned puffins.

these cormorants are sitting on babies as well. harder to spot. there were a few on the island with quite good binoc's. those really get you the look at the babies.
you can kinda see them in these pictures.
i'm sleepy. will try and add more pictures tomorrow night. it will be a slow process...hope you enjoy!


  1. These photos are glorious! Everything is so lush and welcoming. I had no idea the amount of wild life that is Alaska. I look forward to future posts!

    1. Great site, I was there about three weeks earlier, weather was somewhat better same problem with Penn air. The new outhouse looks nice.Stephenie was friendly and helpful. had a great time and it is a wonderful place.