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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Weekly Post: THE TONGASS: Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees by Robert Glenn Ketchum

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees
by Robert Glenn Ketchum
In 1985, I began a 2-year commission to explore the Tongass rainforest, the largest forest in the United States Forest Service (USFS) system AND the largest temperate rainforest in the world. It was a unique, old-growth environment under siege from industrial logging. The resulting investigative book I published helped to pass the Tongass Timber Reform Bill, protect 1,000,000 acres of old-growth, and create 11 new wilderness areas. This is the story of how that was achieved.





Tuesday, August 15, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #51:
THE TONGASS, #51: The entrance to Gut Bay is similar to Deep Bay in that it is a deep cut gorge, rather than a sprawling river delta. The walls here are closer and steeper than those in Deep Bay, and they are even more vegetated. The Tongass rainforest has many micro-niches, and rainfall amounts can vary considerably from place to place, so I presume Gut Bay must be in a wet zone because it appears so lush. Our captain points out that both of these bays that we have visited are extremely deep water, so at some point in the history of Baranof, there was some very dramatic glaciation that has since retreated leaving these fjords. In some of the bays we will visit, there is the opportunity to go ashore and scramble around, but when there is this much growth on the walls, most of the exploring involves kayaks and shoreline walks. The forest is nearly impenetrable. The eagles and fish are everywhere, though!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #50:
THE TONGASS, #50:  As the fog lifts, and the surrounding summits begin to appear, staff is busy preparing breakfast. As I said previously, in these early hours, the most notable sound is that of fish (salmon) jumping and splashing. This is my favorite picture of the Michael McIntosh, founder of The Boat Company, and co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council (#NRDC). One of the reasons Michael is so passionate about southeast Alaska specifically, is that he worked in a cannery in Ketchikan as a young man, AND he loves to fish. This image is of him, slipping away into the quiet morning, sans guests, to do a little “soul” fishing. I hope he has a great time. I know when he gets back and we pull anchor, our discussion about the forestry issues around the Tongass will renew, so I am looking forward to learning more. Soon we will leave Gut Bay, travel a bit further south along the east coast of Baranof Island, and then anchor for another night in Deep Bay. As I would learn, the whole southern end of Baranof is a fjord wonderland.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #49:
THE TONGASS, #49:  We have a little rain during the night, but it stops before dawn, and when it does, it wakes me. At first I am inclined to just roll over and doze off again, but I figure I am up, so I throw my parka on over my pajamas, grab may cameras, and wander out on to deck to find this happening. The rain of the night before put a lot of moisture into the air and spawned a DENSE fog in the cove before dawn. The day is breaking clear, however, so the warming rays of the sun are burning off the fog and revealing the forest. Did I say PRIMAL (post #47)? I would learn in my years to come in the Tongass, that entering a deep fjord always gives me this primal feeling, and I have come to think of these experiences as going into “cuts” that went down INTO the earth, not simply a “scratch" ACROSS the surface of the planet. Another aspect of this dawn fjord that strikes me is the silence. It is quiet for the moment because the eagles are not yet awake. The one thing I can occasionally hear is the sound that will eventually wake them up - the sound of salmon jumping out of the water and splashing back in. Breakfast will soon be served.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #48:
THE TONGASS, #48:  We anchor toward the far end of the bay for the night, and there is a good bit of boating around in various ways before dark, as everyone wants to inspect the cove, look for game, or go fishing. As with many places that are new, it takes me awhile to absorb everything that is going on: the exploring; the numerous waterfalls; some shorline-scavanging bears we come across; eagles are everywhere (and their shrill cries echo around the fjord walls); and, the forest is dense and studded with very large trees. Back aboard “Observer” having had our evening adventure and dinner, I am sitting outside in a deck chair watching the sunset, and it suddenly dawns on me how big these walls really are. They are so lush with vegetation and so streaked by streaming falls, they are not like Yosemite, so much, as they remind me of the massive Garden Wall across which runs the Going-to-the Sun Highway in Glacier National Park. Gut Bay could be a park by any standard, but here in Alaska it is just another deep cove on the map.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #47:
THE TONGASS, #47:  Finally the massive clearcuts along the eastern shore of Baranof Island abate as we continue to navigate “Observer” south. Michael McIntosh, the owner of the boat, and a founder of NRDC, has been talking to me about the tax-subsidized logging that is ongoing in this forest, and the impact the “harvest” is having on the greater habitat. He points out that we are about to encounter a very “special” bay that has not yet been targeted by the cut. It is called Gut Bay, and our approach to it is rather sudden and not all that obvious. Unlike other river valleys I have seen on this cruise, there is no broad delta here supporting river braids that meander around tidal meadows. This is a fjord. The entrance is a gash in a steep, tree-covered shoreline, and the passage “in” seems very narrow. As soon as we enter the fjord, sheer rock walls plunge down to the water, and they support some trees, but barely. As we progress, the entrance broadens into a large bay, being fed by numerous surrounding waterfalls and inflowing streams/rivers, and the forest is virgin old growth. I have a sense of it being VERY primal, like in this deep forest pocket, somehow we have stepped back in time.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #46:
THE TONGASS, #46:  As my discussion with Michael McIntosh evolves, the clearcuts onshore follow us down the Baranof coastline. Much of our talk is centered on the impact of cutting on the forest and its related resources. Then this barge passes by, and it turns our discussion in an entirely different direction. This barge is towing sawdust chip. THIS is what is being done to one of the rarest, and most significant rainforests in the world. Further, Michael emphasizes that these cuts are not profitable, so the US Forest Service subsidizes the companies that do the work with money from the American taxpayers. NOT very humorously, he notes that most of these trees will become diapers for the Third World, and the really good timber is being discreetly “removed” by the Japanese company involved in the logging. Those “prime” timber cuts are then “exported” and sunk in very cold Japanese waters to preserve them for further use when REALLY great wood is needed. Later, after Isamu Noguchi crafts some of that wood, it will be sold back to us for millions - LOL,..or NOT!!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #45:
THE TONGASS, #45:  Back on board “Observer” after my flight, we depart Baranof Warm Springs and head south, along the eastern shore of Baranof Island. When I stated in post #45 that the clearcuts flowed from valley-to-hillside-to-valley, plunging deeply into the wild old growth whenever a river system could be followed, THIS is just a hint of what that looks like (above). Until this point in our trip, my host and owner of this boat, Michael McIntosh, has been relatively quite and just allowed me to observe. Now, as we cruise the eastern shore of Baranof, and this unfolds before us, Michael begins to discuss “the issues” surrounding the Tongass and the logging leases that have been allowed to harvest it. Some questions are obvious: what does this do to the bear, deer, wolves, and eagles that use this as THEIR habitat? Does this denuding of the old growth cover, dry out the rainforest in ways we do not yet know? Other impacts are less direct, for instance, with 250+ inches of rain per year, will steep, bare slopes be more prone to sliding and eroding? More importantly, does the silt runoff from the cuts that goes into the streams and lakes, affect the multi-million dollar fishing industry? What I did NOT know at the time but would soon learn, was that Michael was a co-founding trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council (@NRDC) and he has quite A LOT to tell me.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #44:
THE TONGASS, #44:  From the last post to this, my flight passes over a section of Baranof Island that is extensively “harvested" with valleys and river systems devastated by clearcut from one bay to another along the coastline. It is stunning, numbing! AND, I am yet to understand what a JOKE this old growth destruction is on the American tax payers who are paying for it. - I will learn more later !!!!! Finally my flight turns inland towards the less disturbed interior of the island. We navigate a valley to a low ridge, and as we pass over this view opens before. Below is Baranof Lake, the source of the huge waterfall at Baranof Warm Springs (post #34). In fact, the waterfall is directly behind that tree-covered hill that is middle-left in this frame. The darker blue water beyond that is the ocean, and Warm Springs Bay where “Observer” awaits my return. The view is SO clear, you can see the darker mountains of Admiralty Island in the distance, and even further beyond them, the snow-capped, glacially-clad summits of the huge coastal range.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #43:
THE TONGASS, #43:  The only clearcuts I have seen until this point in these early explorations of the Tongass, have been at considerable distance and from the water-level perspective of a boat. From what I had heard, the forest harvest was far more extensive than just patches here and there, but I have yet to view that,..until we crest a ridge and drop into this valley with a big river system linking several lakes. From the perspective of the plane, I can suddenly comprehend the scale, and the impact this forest program is having on these old growth habitats. To me this looks like the destruction at a massive bomb site. Although I am unaware of it at the time, as I learn more about “the rules” supposedly protecting the forest but still allowing the cut, I will be able to look at this image in the future and see numerous violations that will ultimately impact slope stability, water quality, and the salmon fishery. I will also learn that this is “typical” to most of the logging sites, as there is little enforcement of regulation, and very little concern for anything other than log production.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #42:
THE TONGASS, #42:  As I saw earlier in the flight, the rugged Baranof backcountry is relatively untrammeled wilderness. Walking in and out would be arduous to say the least. Those who do visit, mostly to fish and hunt, come in by float planes and land on lakes like this. In post #39, I showed an alpine lake that was too small to approach, but a body a water like this is ideal, and this is in a REALLY remote part of the island. There are A LOT of game trails, but little evidence of humans. Also, I am beginning to see that this island, Baranof, is similar-but-different to Admiralty Island that we previously toured by boat. Both are large mountainous island that are heavily forested, but Baranof seems to have more of a granite base, and throughout this flight, glacial carved valleys and lakes have been cradled by walls reminiscent of Yosemite. When this flight returns to “Observer,” we are going to go south on the east side of Baranof Island and explore some of the granite fjord bays and inlets, so I am looking forward to doing that now that I have experienced this bird's-eye view. For the moment, however, something quite different takes place as we cross over the next ridge.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #41:
THE TONGASS, #41:  After cresting yet another ridge, we reach the western shore of Baranof Island and are afforded a stunning clear-day view of the Pacific. The scattering of small islands in the middle-right of this image mark the entrance to the harbor at Sitka. The big island nearer the horizon is Kruzof, which does indeed have a volcano, Mt. Edgecumbe, whose shape is quite noticeable on the skyline. My colleagues and I will return to Sitka many times as this project unfolds, and we will camp on Kruzof later in this blog, attempting to climb Mt. Edgecumbe (which proves an amusing/amazing adventure), so I hope you will continue to follow these posts. For the time being, however, we are about to circle back from whence we came, and after a brief, breathtaking look Sitka, our flight returns to the rugged backcountry of Baranof.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #40:
THE TONGASS, #40:  Another thing made clearly visible by this flight is the geology of Baranof Island. There is a LOT of granite. There are a lot of lakes. Notably, the various valleys are a textbook for better understanding the difference between those carved by rivers, and those carved by glaciers. At the heart of the island, among the steepest summits, many of the valleys have distinctive “V” shapes because they have been cut by the flow of concentrated water, a river. As you progress toward either coast, however, the valleys broaden and have more of a “U” shape because they were carved by glaciers. Like Yosemite, these broad valley floors are surrounded by nearly vertical walls on both sides. In many cases on Baranof, the valleys have filled to become huge lakes, like this one. In other cases, as the glaciers melted back from coastal valleys, they were inundated by the ocean and are now fjords. I will eventually learn that the entire southern end of Baranof is a fjord wilderness, but for the moment, I am just excited to have such revelations about the landscape unfolding in front of my lens.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #39:
THE TONGASS, #39:  As we crest the ridge and fly into this basin this clear blue lake appears, set in the rocky terrain like a sapphire. I gasp so loudly the pilot laughs, and he asks me if I would like a really good position to make a shot. I say “sure,” and with that he circles back for another pass. Just as we are directly above the lake, has says “ready, hang on,” at which moment he rolls the plane on its side into a VERY tight turn that leaves me looking out of my open window, directly down at this. Beautiful? Yes! Yeow? Yes! And, so much for my momentary loss of my fear of flying. As we are constantly reminded when we fly commercially, “even when in your seat during the duration of the flight, please keep your seat belt fastened at all times in case of unexpected 'events'."
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #38:
THE TONGASS, #38:  As we rise to crest the central mountains on Baranof Island, some of the wildest, and most pristine country I have ever seen passes beneath the wing. Slopes rise steeply from valley floors, and lush, scrub vegetation climbs nearly to the still-snow-clad summits. There are A LOT of mountains, ridges, and valleys, and passing over each ridgeline presents another surprise - a lake; a stunning waterfall; some mountain goats; a couple of bear. I am trying to take all of this in and make some meaningful pictures, when I suddenly realize that I have lost all concern for flying in a small plane. This is amazing and I am seeing the world in a way I have never imagined. Just at that moment of personal revelation, we pass over the ridge in the foreground of this picture and discover a small, high-alpine basin to the left. It is quite jewel as you will see.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #37:
THE TONGASS, #37:  In just a matter of minutes, my pilot proved he knew what he was doing. We flew along a ridgeline above a fjord to the end of the valley, where the clouds retreated and the sun returned. Then Baranof backcountry began to unfold beneath us. The valley floors were heavily forested and mostly glacially carved, so their sides rose abruptly and sheer, just like the granite of Yosemite. Once above the treeline, smooth, beautiful granite was everywhere - domes, spires - and then as we near the end of our basin and begin to rise in order to clear a ridge and pass into another part of the terrain, this huge “tooth” of stone offers one last massive granite object to ponder. My pilot comments that he is sure there is great goat hunting down there, but simply no place to land in order to get to them. Lucky goats! Hey, Camp 4! What do you think about this place? I guarantee there are no bolt ladders or discarded climbing paraphernalia any of these walls. The only climbers here are fuzzy, white, and climbing free - LOL!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #36:
THE TONGASS, #36:  Shooting from an airplane is a new adventure for me, so I am still unclear about the process, but I have no time to practice, we are OFF! I am comfortable enough in the co-pilot seat of the small plane and planning to shoot through the side window, when pilot tells me to carefully open it up. Open the window of a flying plane? Apparently it will be OK, so I do, but it seems strange. The noise and the rush of cold air take me aback, but being able to look directly at the landscape with no optical distortions or reflections is fantastic. I have no idea what lens to work with, but quickly learn that wide angles make the landscape too distant, and inevitably they include parts of the plane in the picture. At the other end of tech, telephotos bounce around too much with the movement of the plane, and if you have on a long lens and a lens hood and stick them out the window, the rushing wind will rip the camera right off of your neck. As I am trying to sort all of this out, the pilot is giving me a tour, and he is saying that this side (east) of Baranof Island is carved by deep fjords and has some granite faces that would remind me of Yosemite. As I look down, it is a world of huge summits, BIG waterfalls everywhere, and indeed, many fjord complexes. Unfortunately, by flying south we have now left our cloudless, bluebird sky and we are flying into the frontal clouds of an incoming weather system. I am concerned it will get too dark for me to make exposures, but the pilot says we are about to make a left turn and thread our way through peaks and valleys to the Pacific side of the island, where the sun will return. With that he banks left and flies through this gap. Being over water until now, somehow seemed safe. Without the water beneath me, this was REALLY different, and the fact that visibility was limited did not make me any more comfortable - but WHAT A VIEW, OMG!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #35:
THE TONGASS, #35:  In order to make the shot of people fishing the falls in the previous post, I have taken one of the skiffs from “Observer” and a crew member who is helping to position our boat in the strong current flowing out of the waterfall. Staying in position and staying dry are futile tasks, but we motor and angle, then I wipe and shoot, and it seems to get the job done. After about 1/2 hour of this, everyone is soaked, including those who are fishing, and they reel in their lines and retire to the hot tubs on shore. I head back to our boat for some dry clothes and a camera check, which I am barely completing when we are clearly buzzed by a plane.When I emerge on deck to see this, I am thinking, “Cool, maybe he will land and I will get a shot of that.” The plane heads down bay for several hundred yards, then swings abruptly around and drops slowly out of the sky onto the water, coming right at us. Having NOT been around small planes much, and floatplanes, in particular, I am fascinated to see this happening and do get some shots. The floatplane motors up fairly close to our boat in the bay, and then one of our crew turns to ME and asks if I have my film and cameras ready because this plane has come to take ME flightseeing above Baranof Island. WHAT? To further my project, all involved think I need to have an aerial view of this to really begin to understand the terrain of these islands, and SO, I guess I am going flying in a small plane.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #34:
THE TONGASS, #34:  Besides wanting to see the small community of Baranof Warm Springs, or to make use of their communal hot springs baths, another significant attraction of the bay is the spectacular waterfall that pours down from Baranof Lake. At the moment, salmon are pooling here, preparing for their attempt to ascend the falls and several boats are fishing them.To be polite, it seems each fisherman in turn motors into position and starts casting as the force of the falls pushes them away. As they drift out of the prime area, the next person motors in. I am a good distance away from the falls at this point using a modest telephoto lens, and I am still being struck by a cold, wet wind that covers my lens with spray in between shots. You need full rain gear to be fishing this location. Like all waterfalls, this one is hypnotic to watch and listen to, but as my gaze takes this all in, I realize the AMAZING amount of water that is pouring off of these mountainous islands EVERY SECOND, and feeding this intricate, old growth forest habitat.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #33:
THE TONGASS, #33:  I told you it is a small, seasonal community. You are looking at the entire town. The boardwalk comes in from the dock to a “T” intersection at the edge of dense forest. Boardwalk arms extending in either direction host a dozen small buildings on one side or the other. Some of them are residences, some of them are communal bath houses fed by warm springs. Those living here expect to be visited by tourists and fishermen alike and go on with their lives as though our presence is barely noticeable, other than to say “hello.” At one end, the boardwalk terminates near the bluff overlooking the bay. At the other end it leads to a trail that rises into the mountains, connecting to Baranof Lake, the source of the raging waterfall adjacent the community. The hike is relatively easy, and the lake is beautiful, but from the shoreline view, it is hard to realize how large it is. That will change shortly as my “advisors” aboard “Observer” believe I should go flying. I am not big on small planes.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #32:
THE TONGASS, #32:  What a difference a few hours makes. We awake to low clouds with intermittent rain, but NO wind, and the broad bodies of water that form the passages and canals are mirror glassy. We are leaving Cannery Cove on Admiralty Island to cross Chatham Strait, and visit a very small community on Baranof Island, called Baranof Warm Springs. Baranof Island, like Admiralty Island, is huge, mountainous, and densely forested, It has many bays and coves along its eastern coast which we will explore in the coming days, but for now we are pointed toward Warm Springs Bay. The “town” of Baranof Warm Springs is seasonal, but widely visited when it is accessible. Consisting a just a few buildings scattered upon a tidal bluff overlooking the bay AND NEXT TO THE WATERFALL, most of the buildings serve as communal bath houses fed by natural hot springs. Behind the buildings, a short trail leads to Baranof Lake, the source of the waterfall. Hikers and boaters come here to bath in the hot springs, as do the fishermen, but for the fishermen, FISHING is the other attraction as you will see.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #31:
THE TONGASS, #31:  Cannery Cove, destination achieved! The anchor is down, the dinner is served. The guests all seem to have had a nice day in spite of the less-than-perfect weather conditions (being on this boat is REALLY nice) and everyone is enjoying a bit of communal conversation, most of which centers around our visit to see/meet Stan the Bear Man. Many guests on this trip are approaching Stan’s age, and they are ALL completely amazed that he chooses to live such a demanding and rugged lifestyle, ALONE! Hey, it’s Alaska, and then this happens! Talk about stopping the conversation. Just when we all thought the sun had finally gone away, it could not resist firing off one last flaming round before sinking into the west. This one even has crimson god-rays shooting out all over the sky above us. There was quite a lot of on-deck braying during this final event, and then we all just passed out.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #30:
THE TONGASS, #30:  As we pass out of the entrance to the Seymour Canal, we are momentarily in the more open waters of Stephens Passage and Frederick Sound. The clouds have now lifted completely, although there is still plenty of weather above us. Fog is forming over sections of the forest as the temperature drops, and the setting sun begins to dip into the clear air between the cloud layer and the coastal horizon. At first we are enjoying how the sunrays light the fog, but then something amazing happens. Because of the angle of the low sunlight, it bounces off of the glassy water of the sound and reflects back on to the bottom of the dark clouds. In fact, that reflection is so bright, the illuminated clouds reflect back onto the water in front of the boat. This is SO cosmic a moment it took us all awhile to figure out what was happening. It IS getting late now, so we are headed for Cannery Cove, another protected anchorage on Admiralty Island.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #29:
THE TONGASS, #29:  After the Orca show, the rain subsides, the clouds lift, visibility increases and the sky show begins. We are headed south in the Seymour Canal and the mainland of Admiralty Island is to the west. It is rugged, mountainous, and densely forested with old growth. Tonight, after the rain, the forest is like a black coat, but the summits and the remaining snowfields are alight with reflections of color from the ever-changing sky. We are planning to spend the night in Cannery Cove which is part of Admiralty, but west of Seymour Canal, and so for the moment we are just on deck watching this go by. We will navigate down the entire length of the island, which you can see in the right frame, and then we will pass to the right of that small, barely visible island in the lower, left corner. This will take awhile, but interestingly, as dark as these skies may appear, it is actually still early in the evening and this display of weather and light is going to go on the entire rest of the trip.
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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #28:
THE TONGASS, #28:  Our morning with Stan was terrific. More bear came into the meadow to forage, play, sun, and roll around, but by the time we began our walk back to the skiffs, more clouds were rolling in. We returned to “Observer” in time for lunch, and just before the rain started. By the time lunch was finished, the rainfall had become torrential. Again, I was thankful NOT to be out in, but rather watching it all from the comfort of the fantail windows (that won’t last long - LOL). The plan for the remainder of the day is to lift anchor after lunch and begin navigating back down the Seymour Canal to another location on Admiralty Island called Cannery Cove, where we will anchor for the night. About an hour into our journey, and with the rain pounding down, we picked up an escort that traveled with us for awhile - a large female Orca and her two VERY young, and VERY curious calves. She was fishing. They were distracted by the boat and the sounds it was making, and curious to see what we were. We slowed our cruise speed and she allowed them to come very close. As it was my first such encounter in Southeast, I was amazed at the “dance” established between our boat captain and this small pod - neither felt threatened, all of us were curious, and everyone wanted to have a look at each other. It was an amazing ballet that lasted about 1/2 hour, and then the whales turned away from us and headed toward the shoreline. Perhaps mom caught the scent of spawning salmon. We continued into the grey.
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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #27:
THE TONGASS, #27:  Stan originally lived in his floating home at Pack Creek with his wife, but when she passed away, he was very comfortable living out here by himself. As you can see, Stan is not a young man and it takes a lot of work to live like this. Nonetheless, he thrives on it and even as he has begun to show signs of aging, such as his hearing aid, none of it has deterred his enthusiasm for being here with his bear companions. In the last post, I mentioned his herb garden/strawberry patch, a crudely fenced-off area near his cabin, overlooking the meadow and creek. In one of our conversations, Stan brought up that he expected the bears would finally “get him’” after tolerating him all these years, and he thought he would be okay with that. Because they clearly knew him and seemed to like him, I asked why he thought that would happen and he replied that as he was getting older he “made mistakes.” Apparently one of those was to leave the garden gate OPEN when he went in to pick strawberries one morning. With his attention elsewhere, his hearing aid did not pick up the sound of a female grizzly and her cub who came into the garden. When he stood up from bending to pick, he backed into her. When asked if she attacked, Stan responded, “not this time.” Amazed, I said, “What did you do?,” to which Stan responded, “Oh, I saw it was Mary with her new cub. She knows better, so I just yelled at her, told her to behave, and get out of my garden, and she left!” Then he cautioned, “That won’t happen too many times."
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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #26:
THE TONGASS, #26:  Everyone was excited to go ashore and meet Stan and “his” bears. The weather was clear for the moment, so we ate breakfast quickly, donned our gear, and climbed into the skiffs. We were at a mid-tide, so we had to be conscientious about where we beached the boats, but after finding the appropriate spot, we had a short shoreline walk and then we wound around a small grassy knoll to view a broad, beautiful meadow and cove with a sizable river flowing through it. We were standing at the mouth/delta of Pack Creek. From where we stood, the creek separated us from the meadow which made me feel more comfortable, because, sure enough, there were bears in the meadow. Three bear, in fact, a mother grizzly and two cubs - not exactly a group you want provoke. They barely acknowledged our presence, however, and continued to play and roughhouse without missing a beat. As our gaze broadened from watching the bears play, we realized that tucked into a pocket of this cove was a rambling homestead. This is Stan’s “home.” Stan’s actual house does float, as you see here, but Stan has been here SO long he also has quite a few “auxiliary” structures built onshore and a power generator is hidden back in the forest. Stan has lived here alone for many years, and loves the solitude. When asked if he got lonely he said that groups like us stop by to visit, AND he has “breakfast with my bears” everyday. Just out-of-sight to the left, there is also quite a nice strawberry and herb garden which I will tell you more about in the next post. I would visit Stan several times over the years, and I would return for my second visit in just a few weeks, because friends and I would paddle canoes down the Seymour Canal to begin our traverse of Admiralty Island.
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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #25:
THE TONGASS, #25:  As we crossed Stephens Passage and entered the Seymour Canal the weather continued clearing. Admiralty Island is huge, one of the largest islands in the US. It is also ruggedly mountainous, and densely covered by old growth forest. A great portion of it is now relatively protected because it has been given National Monument status. We are here to meet Stan and see bear, but this island will also afford me an in-depth study of old growth when I return to traverse it by canoe a few weeks from this day. The Seymour Canal is on the east side of the island and runs in a relatively straight line to the north. Further to the east the canal is separated from Stephens Passage by the equally mountainous Glass Peninsula, a thin arm of summits extending from Admiralty. The cruise is beautiful. The summits still have snow caps and the water in the canal is calm and glassy so there are some amazing reflections. The forest is huge. The trees are huge. Eagles are everywhere. As it is getting late, we will not go to Stan’s tonight, so about 2/3 of the way up the canal, we put in at Windfall Harbor for the night. There are bears in the meadow. Dinner is wonderful and the weather keeps getting better. By dusk it has cleared and is getting cold. In the morning we awake to this.
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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #24:
THE TONGASS, #24:  We are now headed to Admiralty Island, the Native word for which means “Fortress of the Bears.” Not satisfied with just “cruising” these bears, WE are going to visit Stan the Bear Man who apparently “lives” with many bear in his “backyard.” It will take some time to get there because we have to cross Stephens Passage to reach the east side of Admiralty, and then we must navigate up the 35-mile-long, 2-mile-wide, Seymour Canal to Pack Creek where Stan lives. En route I have time to consider something I saw back in Wrangell. We have been told Stan lives in a large “floating” home, which is the southeast Alaska version of a trailer home. When walking the waterfront in Wrangell, I saw this, and I was struck by how colorful, orderly, and well kept this “property” was, compared to much of the town behind. This house floats on empty metal drums. The owner may tow this anywhere in southeast using a small boat, and then drop anchor in a suitable place, taking up residence on the spot. Apparently, this is how Stan lives as well, and Pack Creek has been his home for many years.
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Tuesday, January 31, 2017


THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #23:
THE TONGASS, #23:  As we navigated out of Tracy Arm, the weather began to break but the waterfalls and the icebergs continued to amaze all of us. Because this location was protected by designated Wilderness status, it was not really part of my Tongass commission in the sense that it was not part of the timber issue, but this stunning fjord was clearly a definitive example of the spectacular coast range that was the home of the Tongass forest. We were now on our way to visit the literal heart of that forest on Admiralty Island, but in one last parting view, as our boat “Observer” passed over the shallow bar that separates Tracy Arm from the deeper water of Stephens Passage, this iceberg floated around the corner and out of the “upper” arm to wish us goodbye and beckon me back. Yes! That is an eagle sitting on the highest point. Who could resist returning here? Look at the scale of this, and those walls behind - so I did return:  "TRACY ARM WILDERNESS - An Alaskan Kayak "Trip" Through Time" .
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, January 24, 2017


THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #22:
THE TONGASS, #22:  The driving, rainy weather of the day before persisted through the night and greeted us when we awoke with a cold, chilly morning. Undeterred, the crew proceeded with our day, pulling anchor and serving breakfast. Within an hour we were approaching the entrance to Tracy Arm and the naturalist aboard came into the lounge to tell us we should get our warm gear and rainsuits on and go out on deck to watch as we navigated up the fjord. We were told that because of the rain it was going to be especially dramatic because there would be waterfalls EVERYWHERE. At that moment, none of us were really aware of what that meant, but as we turned into the fjord, the first big iceberg drifted toward us, and immediately everyone ran to their cabins to don their gear and get outside. “Waterfalls everywhere” was an understatement! Visiting this fjord many times over the ensuing years, it would become one of the most important wilderness experiences in my life, and I could sense its energy and power that 1st day, standing on the deck of “Observer.” We were just “visiting” however, on our journey today and after many miles of slowly picking our way through the ice, we had lunch, and than began our return. We would leave Tracy Arm this afternoon, crossing Stephens Passage to Admiralty Island National Monument. Once there, we would navigate up the lengthy Seymour Canal to anchor for the evening, and the next day we were going ashore at Pack Creek to visit Stan the Bear Man and possibly see some bears. I guess we are going to get this “bear encounter” thing over with quickly!
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Tuesday, January 17, 2017


THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #21:
THE TONGASS, #21:  About the time we were to return to the skiff that would ferry us back to “Observer,” it began to rain hard. Once again we had to wade relatively deep water to get to the boat and most of us got wet to some degree or another. The wind chill of the skiff added to our collective chilling, so I must say I was SO GRATEFUL to see the warmly lighted decks of our “home” awaiting our return. Hot showers, terrific food, and a warm, dry bed were guaranteed for a night out “not fit for man nor beast.” Clearly I was not yet ready to be camping in these conditions! Our plan was to remain at anchor in this protected cove for the rest of the night, and then we would depart early for a morning cruise to a spectacular fiord wilderness area just to our south called Tracy Arm. Although not part of my Tongass commission because Tracy Arm was already protected by Wilderness designation, this first encounter would leave an indelible impression on me of this remarkable place, and over 25yrs. I would return many times, once to due a 10-day kayak camping trip, the story of which you might enjoy as previously published in this blog.
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Tuesday, January 10, 2017


THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #20:
THE TONGASS, #20:  If you have been reading my blogs, you know that at this point in my career I have visited and walked upon many glaciers so what you are looking at here is pretty tame. However, this is 1985. I have never been to Alaska, a rainforest, a fjord, or a glacier, and after only 3 days “in country” our trusted guide has had us jump into waist-high, ice-cold water to wade ashore from our skiff so we can walk on this glacier. At this point in my life, this is as strange-beautiful as any place I have ever been. For the moment, I am trying to take in the scale of being in a deep fjord, standing astride a tidewater glacier. You probably have noted the three people near the center of this image. Did you see the other two that stand on that same line but way over to the left of the frame?
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, January 3, 2017


THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #19:
THE TONGASS, #19:  The glacier we were visiting was in massive retreat, and the outflow from it had created such a vast shallow wash of sand and glacial debris that even the shallow-bottomed shore boat ran aground a good distance from the beach. Not knowing anymore about how to proceed than the other guests, I think we were all a bit startled when the naturalist from our boat simply jumped over the side into waist-deep water and said, “OK! Everybody out! - Ahhh! Now the wisdom of high-top rubber boots and full rain gear whether it is raining or not. Over the side we all went and waded to shore. There were a few with wet feet, but most of us stayed surprisingly dry, and now that we were on a beach, the sheer scale and verticality of the fjord world surrounding us became very apparent. I felt small in this landscape like no other I had ever explored, and somewhere inside me I could feel a sense of “wildness” much greater than any I had yet to encounter.
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Tuesday, December 27, 2016


THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #18:
THE TONGASS, #18:  A bit hung-over, I arose the next morning, collected my gear, and headed down to the harbor to board the “Observor.” A beautiful, old wooden boat, “Observor” was a converted mine sweeper and what it may have lacked in stylish lines, it more than made up for with spacious comfort, showers, and GREAT food. This was not going to be “roughing it” in Alaska. We did swing right into action, however, and as soon as everyone was boarded, and we left Wrangell for a nearby fjord where we were going to have a walk on a glacier before dinner. Above “Observor” sits at anchor in a deep cove and guests are climbing into the shore launch for our adventure. When you operate a boat of this size in these fjords and passages, you can visit many more places than the traditional cruise ship. On a boat such as this, guests AND staff might only number 30, so trips ashore are intimate, and you can go off on your own in kayaks.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, December 20, 2016


THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #17:
THE TONGASS, #17:  As you can see, like many cities/towns in southeast, Alaska, Wrangell had older historic buildings at the waterfront built above the tidal zone, but over time, most people cut lots into the forest and built their houses on solid ground. Juneau and Ketchikan were visited by cruise ships and their much larger waterfronts had become tourist attractions that grew the hotel and restaurant businesses as well. Not so with Wrangell, however, as it was too “small" for the cruise ships. It had one or two restaurants and one hotel in which I was lucky enough to have a room, but thanks to a big wedding, there was no food service available. Sitting on my bed, pondering my food options, there was a knock at my door. I opened it to find a 20-something couple, who seemed giddy and a little buzzed, and introduced themselves as the bride and groom. They thought it was terrible to have a great party and dinner that took up all the facilities and left me out, so they insisted I join them for the dinner and party. They assured me my Patagonia clothing was appropriate (as it was all I had), and then they asked if I liked music, drank, and danced. They were going to have a live band the husband recruited from a club, when he visited Southern California. These two families marrying were Alaskan born and bred and they came to party. The band was GREAT and featured a 6ft tall, blond, female lead singer in a WILD costume who killed when they performed The Icicle Works, “Whisper to a Scream”, causing the now-married couple to climb up on a cleared dinner table and have a little “performance” dance. Stumbling back to my room shortly thereafter, I began to think maybe this project in the RAINforest was not going to be so bad after all.
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Tuesday, December 13, 2016


THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #16:
THE TONGASS, #16:  As yet, I did not know much about Alaska in general, and Southeast (the Tongass rainforest) in particular. To immerse me in this environment I had been asked to photograph, I was to board the “Observor,” an “intimate experience” cruise boat operated by The Boat Company that traveled throughout the Inside Passage. Having spent several days in Juneau adjusting and buying necessary gear (Xtra-tuff knee-hig boots, etc.), when time came to meet the boat, I had to fly a short distance south to the town of Wrangell. I knew little about Wrangell other than it was relatively small and at the mouth of the Stikine, which I did know to be a huge river flowing to the Pacific out of Canada. I arrived midday on a Sunday and checked into my hotel, but I did not pay much attention when the clerk noted I was lucky to have the last room available as ALL the others had been taken by a wedding party. Instead, eager to explore this new place, I threw my bags in my room, grabbed my camera and went for a walk. It was a beautiful day as you can see from this lingering twilight illuminating Wrangell harbor. I had made a few pictures and since the day was drawing down, I thought I would go back to the hotel, get some food, and organize my bags to board the boat I was to meet the next day. Unfortunately, the hotel was not serving dinner that night because of the wedding dinner, and being Sunday, no other restaurants were open. I sat in my room pondering the purchase of a bag of jerky from the nearby gas station, when there was a knock at my door.
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Tuesday, December 6, 2016


THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #15:
THE TONGASS, #15:  No, this is NOT the same island as the last post. This is ANOTHER ONE that has literally been clearcut from shoreline-to-shoreline. There are a lot of them, and as I would learn, these cuts were not only destructive to the old growth rainforest habitat, they impacted the fishery, enriched the Japanese (and probably several Senators and Congressmen), and turned massive acreage of one of the rarest rainforests in the world (because it is temperate) into tree farms. Aside from what had been logged and the roads created to do it, getting around in the greater Tongass was difficult on foot, so I was about to graduate from my years of backpacking experience in the "lower-48” to a world of water, where everyone traveled by air and by boat. To help me get “my-feet-on-the-ground,” I would first have to get them on a boat, and so Barney McHenry introduced me to The Boat Company. The Boat Company ran a small cruise boat throughout the waters of Southeast, AK, and they prided themselves on being able to take guests unique places to fish and hike. They also were conceived as an educational experience, teaching their guests about the rainforest, the fishery, AND the timber program that was impacting it all. I was told to meet their boat, “Observer,” in Wrangell for a 10-day “introductory” cruise, so that is where we will be next week.
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Tuesday, November 29, 2016


THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #14:
THE TONGASS, #14:  When I was asked about my interest in taking a commission from the Lila Acheson Wallace Fund to photograph the Tongass rainforest in Alaska, I wanted to know if there was a particular reason I was being asked to go there. The council to the fund, Barney McHenry, handed me a dense government document (600+ pages) and said it was a proposed “management” plan revision for the Tongass timber program and the old growth wilderness, and that I should "read through it over the weekend and we will discuss it at lunch on Monday.” Having spent several years working for the National Park Foundation in DC, I can tell you most people avoid a document like this and tell someone else in their office to read it and report back. However, I read through it, and at lunch the following Monday, I told Barney what I thought - no one that mattered would read it. Barney replied, “Exactly! So you need to give this place a presence to make these issues real concerns.” One of those “issues” was that a taxpayer-funded industrial logging program was quickly turning old growth wilderness into clearcuts that took out entire islands, driving out bear and eagles, and damaging the fishery.
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Tuesday, November 22, 2016


THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #13:
THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #13:  The last two posts featured lush micro-gardens to be found throughout the domain of the Tongass rainforest. In the millions of acres of old growth and over 1,000 islands, there are endless small niches were water, light, and biodiversity have all found a perfect intermixing and flourish with extravagance. Then there is this. This is one of a group of islands that is like a lost world. Every square inch is covered with DEEP, spongy moss. Every tree, every rock, EVERYTHING!! Walking around in this is like being being on an inflatable bouncer at a birthday party. There are ferns, lichens, and moss woven into this tapestry to such a degree you could spend a good bit of the day down on your knees with a magnifying glass. In reflection, it always amazes me that such fragile, delicate beauty thrives in a nearly Arctic environment, frequently trampled by some of the largest bears in the world.
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Tuesday, November 15, 2016


THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #12:
THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #12:  Following the last post, I was talking about micro-climate zones of this rainforest, and also the random extravagant “gardens.” I mentioned I even found such lush biodiversity at alpine (about 3,000ft.) in Misty Fjords National Monument, so here it is. Some friends and I had landed on the high alpine lake you see in the background in a float plane and been put ashore at a very nice US Forest Service cabin that also had a boat. For the next few days we would explore the perimeter of the lake and the surrounding summits that could be accessed. As we worked along the shoreline, we came upon this. The deep moss “lawn” running down to the lakeshore was like walking on a sponge, and it was interwoven with lichens and otherworldly plants I had never seen before. Put this image on you largest monitor and study the “stuff” thriving at the base of the tree. THIS is a colony of symbiotic life if ever there was one.
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Tuesday, November 8, 2016


THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #11:
THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #11:  For all of the thrash, Devil’s Club, blackwater, bear, and bugs that make the Tongass rainforest a challenging place in which to walk around, there is this - a jewel-like moss garden surrounding a freshwater spring in the middle of it all. There is no doubt that the old growth trees are the obvious visual icon of this ecosystem, but it is much more complex than just the big trees. As you will see as this blog unfolds, things vary in micro-niches and one drainage may be completely different than the one next to it; one island, completely different from another close by. Then, within those variations, small pockets of astounding verdancy like this. I found lavish micro-environments like this at the TOP of the fjord walls in Misty Fjords National Monument. The most spectacular escaped my lens - in a multi-day torrential rain while camped at the mouth of Le Conte Bay, my colleagues and I had gone for hike to remain active and stay warm. As it neared the end of the day and grew darker, it REALLY began to rain hard. To get back to our camp we had a lengthy beach walk, or we could cut through the forest, which we chose to do. About 10 minutes into our traverse, we came upon an area of mosses, ferns, and other plants the likes of which I have never seen anywhere else - a TRUE garden of Eden. All of it was glistening like jewels from the raindrops. The ground was SO spongy, we sank slowly into it will we stood there staring. Between the streaming rain and the increasing darkness, there was little I could do with a camera at that moment, and I am VERY SORRY TO SAY that I have never had a chance to go back.
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Tuesday, November 1, 2016


THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #10:
THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #10:  This is navigable, old growth forest. Forest researchers also think this is a "summary" image because it "defines" old growth, so bear with me while I explain. An old growth forest offers a forest floor of historic layers from previous trees that have built up generational as they, mature, die, and fall. The falling trees open places in the forest canopy which let in sunlight. The sunlight stimulates growth in the understory (Devil's Club, Skunk Cabbage, ferns, berries). The fallen tree decays, feeding the forest biome, BUT it also serves as a "nurse log", becoming a seed bed and host from which younger trees sprout. In this fashion, the forest develops with many trees of differing age - foresters refer to this as "uneven" age. Somehow, ALL of that is within my frame at the moment. Sunlight is filtering in through the clearing left by the fallen tree on the right side. That rotting trunk has also spawned two younger trees as a nurse log. The understory is profuse, and the Devils Club to the left of the frame has leaves the size of your head. This is also a drier part of the forest and I am following a solid trail. UNFORTUNATELY, this is NOT a trail created by the US Forest Service. This trail was created by inhabitants that are uniquely part of this old growth system, some of the largest brown (grizzly) bear in the world.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, October 25, 2016


THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #9:
THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #9:  Assuming you get through the first dense wall of vegetation and Devil's Club, the forest opens up, but that does not necessarily mean that it is any easier to travel through. While it is navigable, being off-trail is a very tricky gambit. Besides falling through moss covered holes between logs piled atop one another, there are places where the ground is so saturated that it reacts like quicksand and is referred to as "boot-sucking" because it pulls them off your feet if you step into it. HUGE skunk cabbage are everywhere, as you can see here, and not all of them grow in swamp water, the largest are on drier ground. When you do venture through the "veil" off branches at the shore and enter the forest, there are two things you try to avoid or work around - the first are these large areas of blackwater - you CANNOT wade through them; and secondly, try NOT to discover really huge skunk cabbages that are all torn up, a grizzly did that having lunch and it could still be nearby snoozing after the meal.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, October 18, 2016


THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #8:
THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #8:   IMMEDIATELY after the tidal shoreline, the forest begins, and in places where the old growth forest is undisturbed this zone is pretty amazing. An old growth forest has what are referred to as trees of an uneven age, meaning there are old ones and young ones. Old trees fall down making room in the canopy for sunlight, that feeds growth of a dense understory, and eventually, new, young trees emerge to mature and close the canopy once again. This process has been going on for thousands of years in the Tongass and the entire forest is built upon layers of this event occurring and re-occurring. SO, you have come ashore in your boat/kayak, and the above is the first thing you see when you push past the branches of a shoreline tree. Beyond this, the forest "opens-up," a bit, so all you have to do is get through. Note my use of the word "dense" in a previous sentence. Underfoot it is spongy when not slippery. There are often openings between fallen logs hidden by leaves and moss cover that you can step upon and break through. And when you do, stumble or slip, you tend to reach out to grab something in support. Waiting for the indiscriminate hand are the skinny, tall strands you see here topped by the attractive yellow leaves. The "yellow" should be read as a warning flag! This is Devil's Club. This is an amazing plant as it thrives by weaving itself throughout the forest's understructure and then sending up these long stems with leaves to capture light. BOTH THE LEAVES AND THE STEMS ARE COVERED WITH THORNS! These stalks rival a rose bush ANY day. Reach for one while trying to traverse this and it will spike through your gloves. Brush by one hard enough and it will get you through your rain jacket and fleece, and especially, pants legs. HOWEVER, to enter the domain of THE Tongass rainforest, we must pass through, so...
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, October 11, 2016


THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #7:
THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #7:  Another example of the tidal effect and those who use it - this is a warm, summer afternoon near Ketchikan. There are swimmers at a beach cove, people just watching the setting sun, and young kids fishing. No bear or deer at the moment. The kelp tells another part of the story, however. In the next 8hrs. ALL of the foreground, AND EVERYWHERE you see people WILL BE UNDERWATER. Also consider that beach is a godsend and almost always provides unhindered access to the water, but if you had to carry a boat or kayak, and a lot of gear in repeated trips over these rugged, and VERY slippery, kelp-covered rocks, you would NOT BE a happy camper. The tide chart is a fascinating "must read" you visit everyday.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, October 4, 2016


THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #6:
THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #6:  It took a good part of my first summer in the Tongass to get used to the impact of a tidal flux of +/- 18ft twice a day. Since most travel is by some form of boat, the tide chart booklet becomes your bible. If you go ashore and leave the boats, you want to know they will still be floating when you return, and that might be tricky. Kayak camping in fjords (see my 'Tracy Arm' Blog) requires finding locations or ledges that do not submerge your camp on a high tide. On the flip side of these logistical demands, the EMERGED shoreline offers a bounty that attracts many diners. The Tlingit, the 1st Nation of the Tongass, have a saying, "when the tide is out, our table is set," and it is true for many, not just them. There are shellfish, limpets, an occasional crab or squid - one never knows until one hunts and gathers. The bears come here to scavenge many of the same things we do, and deer come for the seaweed and grasses. Human hunters know this, and come for the deer. This tidal zone is a busy, productive place.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, September 27, 2016


THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #5:
THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #5:  So now you have seen the maps and heard my verbal description of the Tongass, but what does that look like on the ground. This is Lisianski Inlet on Chichagof Island, a location you might call "typical." Very likely a fjord now underwater, the inlet is deep and narrow with considerable summits rising on all sides. The forest is uncut old growth that for the most part comes right down to the water's edge. Because of a HUGE tidal flux of +/-15ft a day, there is a rugged, slippery tidal beach of rocks covered with kelp, and there are big meadows of grasses where rivers feed into the inlet. At high tide, the water may come to the treeline. At low tide in a river mouth, you may suddenly have hundreds of yards of rock and mud to cross before reaching the retreated waterline. Here you see kelp exposed in a grass marsh/meadow during a dropping tide. An area like this is a BIG favorite with bears who will scavenge delectables the tide has exposed.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, September 20, 2016
THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #4:
THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #4:  In greater detail, this is the domain of the Tongass. Known to sailors as the Inside Passage, you can see how the connecting channels between the myriad islands and fjords of the Tongass allow a boat to pass without being exposed to the storms and rough seas that are generated by the Gulf of Alaska. In the lower right, Ketchikan is pinned. Just to the right of that the coastal fjord system that is visible is Misty Fjords National Monument. Further north, the town of Wrangell sits adjacent the mouth of the Stikine River. North of there, Hobart Bay marks the entrance to Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness area, which I have featured in this blog. West (left) of Hobart Bay lies Admiralty Island National Monument, and then further to the west, Baranof Island hosts the city of Sitka. North of Admiralty Island lies the state capital of Alaska, Juneau, the only state capital that not connected by roads. To visit you must come in by boat or plane. North of Juneau, and west all the way to the coast is the spectacular Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. In time, because of this project, more wilderness areas would be designated.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, September 13, 2016


THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #3:
THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #3:  So, where exactly is the Tongass rainforest. Above is a map of the entire state of Alaska. To the lower right you can see how the boundaries of the state extend themselves south along the border with Canada and then terminate in a confusion of squiggly red lines - those would be the hundreds of islands and fjords that comprise the domain of the Tongass. As you can see, the tallest coastal mountains in North America face directly into the storm-generating Gulf of Alaska and you might expect a lot of rainfall as a consequence - how about 325" as an annual average in Ketchikan!!!! I was once huddled in a tent in front of the Le Conte glacier while it rained 9" inches an hour for several hours, on-and-off for 3 days!!! We did not have to wash the dishes.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, September 6, 2016


THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #2:
THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #2:  As you can see from the post #1, the sprawl of islands in the Tongass / Inside Passage were blanketed with dense forests. These were referred to as OLD GROWTH as the tree stands had never been cut and had matured to epic size. Undisturbed, the habitat evolved into a rich and self-sustaining ecosystem that supported a diverse understory beneath the trees, stable rivers that hosted significant salmon runs, and the largest population of eagle and grizzly bear in the world. As you draw closer to the coastal mainland, the shoreline rises precipitously and the domain of the Tongass extends into, and up the walls of glacial created fjordlands that pierce the tallest coastal mountains in the world. Clinging to the edges are cities most of us have heard of - Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka - but this world where the ocean meets the "mountains-in-the-sky" has national parks, monuments, and wilderness areas few of us know much about. You may have heard of Glacier Bay National Park which defines the northern end of the Tongass, but there are many others:  Misty Fjords National Monument, Admiralty Island National Monument, and the Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness, which I have also written about extensively in my blog. In fact, because I did this work in the Tongass, there are now 11 MORE wilderness areas here, so read on and learn how the task was accomplished.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, August 30, 2016
THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #1:
THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #1:  My commission to photograph the Hudson River came to me through Barney McHenry, at that time, general counsel to the Lila Acheson Wallace Fund. The resulting Aperture Foundation book, "The Hudson River and the Highlands," my afterword in the book, and the related traveling exhibit made it quite clear that I had an "environmental" point-of-view in the way I perceived the river and its history. While making those photographs, I was introduced to John and Patricia Adams, some "neighbors" near where I was living in Cold Spring, NY.. John was an attorney, and along with another person I would meet in about one year, John had co-founded a legal group whose purpose was to defend the environment. It was called the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The Wallace Fund, NRDC, and The Wilderness Society were collectively concerned about a rainforest in Alaska and apparently all thought it would be a good idea to send me up to "investigate." I HAD heard of the Inside Passage, but I had never heard of the Tongass. I was also not sure I wanted to spend time in a cold rainforest. Then I looked it up: 1,000+ mountainous islands and the largest coastal fiords and summits in North America all blanketed by temperate old-growth forest wilderness, and some trees were rumored to be as big as redwoods. Maybe I should take on this new offer. It was worth noting, though, this was also the largest population of grizzly bear in the world and individual bears there were considered among the largest of the species.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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