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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

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, July 17, 2018

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #99:
THE TONGASS, #99:  Although the day that Philip Slagter and I fly into Walker Lake and cabin, the weather is terrible, I want to give everyone a sense of HOW BIG the walls around us are, so I am inserting this image of our plane, which in this shot, is actually coming back to pick us up on a beautiful sunny day. That is a big floatplane that seats four people and a lot of gear. It is a small speck in the airspace of this fjord, and we can hear it long before we can actually see it. Even though the day of our arrival it is raining and cloudy, low elevation visibility is excellent, and we land on Walker Lake effortlessly. Our pilot taxis us across the lake to a firm tundra bank on the far shore, where we disembark with all our gear. With a quick swing-around for the plane, he then launches off, back down-valley, returning to Ketchikan. After the noise of his engines fades, all Philip and I can hear is the patter of rain, the echoes of falling water, and the high-pitched whine of millions of mosquitoes.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #98:
THE TONGASS, #98:  Walker Lake is MUCH bigger than I thought with ample room to land. It lies at the foot of a brush-choked and forested valley, surrounded by tall peaks and sheer granite walls, whose summits, at this moment, are lost in the clouds. The terrain is reminiscent of Yosemite valley, but with more growth. There is no turbulence as our flight approaches, and the lake is very glassy, so we circle it once, then drop in. A perfect water landing is followed by a short motor across the lake, and there on the interior shore, is a boat on a gravel beach, and a relatively large cabin, a short walk through the tundra behind the beach. We are home for a few days, and the rain is even kind enough to stop while we schlepp our gear from the plane to the cabin. Little did we know that when the pilot departs, the roar of his engines will awake every insect within 20-miles, and they are all coming to our cabin for lunch.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #97:
THE TONGASS, #97:  Flying in bad weather, through rain squalls and beneath a low ceiling of clouds is a little unsettling, but the Behm Canal, which we are above is broad, and we can see the shorelines below us, even if we can’t always see the summits above. There has not been much turbulence, but GOOD visibility certainly comes and goes. As we have flown further into the interior of Misty Fjords National Monument, colder temperatures are causing fogs to forms as well, and not having much flight experience in Alaska, that makes me nervous. THEN, we arrive at Walker Fjord and turn into it, headed for the lake and cabin at the far end. The fjord has patchy low fog we fly through, but what is immediately notable (and unsettling) to me is that the walls are MUCH closer to us now than when we were out in the canal. Fortunately, there is little time to ponder my concerns because we are almost to the cabin. The lake has come into view, and we are clear to land.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #96:
THE TONGASS, #96:  When Philip and I looked at Walker Lake and Fjord on the map, we could see that we would reach the fjord through a relatively long flight above the broad Behm Canal, and then enter the fjord to get to the lake and cabin. What we did NOT realize is that we would also be flying “deeper” into the heart of Misty Fjords National Monument. Now, on the way in, the miserable weather is not only wet, but it is turning colder because we are getting closer to the interior of the park and Canada. Since leaving Ketchikan, we have passed many side valleys that have been swampy-lush, and teeming with dense bush and trees. This far along in the flight, however, we pass the first valley in which the glacier reaches the shore, and the mountains have more snow showing than plants. Phil and I are pondering or camping idea,..and then our pilot says, “here comes Walker Fjord."
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #95:
THE TONGASS, #95:  As my friend, Philip Slagter, and I fly into Misty Fjords National Monument, the bad weather of the morning becomes more intense. The clouds become curtains of revelation. The pilot can clearly see the canal over which we are flying, and we can see the shores on either side, but often there is little visibility beyond that. Then suddenly,..it will open up! The curtain rises and Shangri-La-like valleys streaming with waterfalls appear briefly out of nowhere, only to be quickly gone again. As our flight progresses more deeply into the monument, summits rise higher and the terrain begins to change from forested glacial valleys, to glacial valleys WITH glaciers. Where is this lake and cabin, and do we REALLY want to go there?
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #94:
THE TONGASS, #94:  It has been raining for many hours this morning, and is at the moment still raining, some times quite hard, off and on. As Philip and I stare through the plane windows at Misty Fjords National Monument below, we are both thinking the same thing, “what are we getting into?” At times, the world outside looks like the Amazon where it meets the Andes, only much colder. It is SO lush! It is SO swampy! There are no trails anywhere, but, rest assured, there WILL BE insects everywhere. Of course, there could always be a grizzly, or two, thrown in for amusement as well. Having never camped in Alaska, Philip and I are embarking on our first attempt, and we have NO idea what it will be like where we are headed with these conditions. It does appear that we are going to get through, though, as the low cloud ceiling remains just that, and we fly on into the murk of weather, ever deeper into the heart of the monument.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #93:
THE TONGASS, #93:  The actual morning of our departure is NOT sunny (last post), but just the opposite,..it is raining sideways in Ketchikan, BUT there is a “high ceiling.” After our gear schlepp to the flight dock in the downpour, the fact our pilot tells us our cabin camping trip to Walker Fjord and Lake is a “go" BECAUSE of the “high ceiling,” causes Philip and I to wonder, "who is high here?", but I don’t say that, and we proceed to load the plane. After liftoff, we ascend to a level just beneath the dense, gray clouds, and we begin to follow the ocean canals. It is not far from Ketchikan to Misty Fjords National Monument, and our flight takes us past numerous fjords mouths and glacial valleys. This is not a bright overcast. The sky is a sullen and rain squalls sweep by the plane windows. The landscape is a stunning, but it is a dark, verdant green upon which I can barely get a useable meter reading from my cameras. I often shoot anyway, because it IS quite a show, despite the less than perfect conditions.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #92:
THE TONGASS, #92:  Exploring Ketchikan is only part of our missions, however, and after a few days in town, my colleague, Philip Slagter, and I decide to depart for our first “official” Tongass rainforest camping trip. We have made arrangements with a pilot we have befriended to take us into a cabin in Walker Cove. The area allows some limited hiking access, deep in Misty Fjords National Monument, and there is a lake with fish, so the cabin also has a boat. The day of our departure is NOT this sunny, in fact, it is raining hard on-and-off, BUT, I did want you to see what the “basic” Alaskan gear carry looks like. One must do this many times in many places - plane docks, ferry terminals, road ends. The first layer is the FULL backpack. The second layer is the FULL daypack worn in reverse. Lastly, random items are carried in ONE bag, and in my case I have cameras hanging off me as well as lenses in cases attached to my waist belt. We don’t use no stinking suitcases!!! We are “ ‘goin mobile."
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #91:
THE TONGASS, #91:  At the other end of Ketchikan from the LPK mill at Ward Cove, is the transport yard and processing facilities at Herring Cove. At the time I make this image, this entire site is BADLY maintained, and VERY toxic, and flooding with rain. It is also managed by people extremely sensitive about seeing someone lurking around with a camera, so after I get off about 5 shots, two VERY LARGE "gentlemen" tell me they are “security,” and inform me that I am on private property and may not take pictures. I respond that I am on a public road, and simply taking pictures of the view as any tourist might. Although they are not happy about my failure to depart, they do not leave the gated yard they are in to challenge me further. With images already made, however, I see NO reason to further antagonize them, and leave. Besides, I might end up running in to them in town, so best not to make enemies.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #90:
THE TONGASS, #90:  As our hike made clear when it passed through an area that had been clearcutKetchikan was a city deeply involved in the complexities of existence in southeast Alaska and the Tongass rainforest. The extended waterfront of many miles hosts fishing boats, luxury yachts, boat and flight-seeing services, and it has just begun to welcome cruise ships. That same waterfront also supports industrial shipping, and is punctuated at either end by the Ward Cove log milling complex, and the Herring Cove transport yard and processing mill through which some seriously industrial products pass (or come to stay). Beyond that, this island has numerous clearcuts, and neighboring Prince of Wales Island is site to some of the most contested industrial logging in all of the rainforest. Needless to say, these industrial sites are in conflict with sightseeing and tourism, and the logging is impacting the fishing industry, so this is a community tugged in many directions. Above, Louisiana-Pacific Ketchikan at Ward Cove, in full swing.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #89:
THE TONGASS, #89:  While Philip, Rosie, and I enjoy the leisure of a sunny, warm day in Ketchikan with a great hike, that same hike also underscores the tensions created by the industrial logging of the Tongass. At the lower elevations, the forest along the road to the trailhead has been clearcut, as have many “hillsides” in, or near town, and nearby by Ward Cove hosts one of the two logging mills in full operation in southeast, the other being in Sitka. Ketchikan is not the main part of the cut being done at this time, however, that effort is focused on nearby Prince of Wales island, so it is clear that POW (locals opposed to the logging call it, Prisoner Of War) is going to be some place that we have to see on-the-ground.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #88:
THE TONGASS, #88:  Rosie’s husband is often away for weeks at a time, working with his construction company building logging roads on Prince of Wales Island, so Rosie makes Philip and me, her new entertainment. We tell her of our flyover of Misty Fjords National Monument (posts #82 - #86 ) and our intention to go back and camp in the cabin at Walker Lake, and she suggests we might like to take a great hike nearby to get a sense of what the terrain would look like. Ketchikan is having an extremely hot summer, with little rain, and there is actually water-rationing. The good news is, the days are warm and dry, so Rosie thinks we should climb one of the summits that rise behind city. There is an established trail, a great view, and Rosie promises the “style” of the trail will be enlightening. We choose a crystal clear, hot day, pack some great picnic items and plenty of water, and are off, up the mountain. The trail is “different” because the environment is normally SO rainy (325” per year), and there are sections of the path that are deeply rutted mud holes, and others that are swampy and passable only because flat boards have been thrown down. Past all obstacles, we do arrive at a beautiful view,..and it is BLAZING. After lunch, Rosie is up for some sunbathing, and remarkably, we strip down to enjoy the warmth and are NOT attacked by hordes of biting flies and mosquitoes.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #87:
THE TONGASS, #87:  Ketchikan is a small town, and it is impossible for people who live there not to notice two guys that are wandering around, one of whom is bedecked with camera gear. Unlike tourists, they are around for many days, and can often be seen next to the roadside or a viewpoint working from a tripod. Any number of people stop to talk to us, curious as to who we are and what we are doing, and one of those is both fun AND fortuitous for us. Philip and I meet Rosie Roppel one early morning downtown, as we were taking advantage of the morning light, and she was riding her bike. Like many of our conversations, this one starts with, “What are you guys doing?”, a question to which we are always careful to respond, as many people in Ketchikan are employed in the logging industry. I answer coyly that we are here to see the Tongass environment which no one has written much about, and we want to know more about the logging because we understand it is controversial. Rosie volunteers that her husband has a construction company under contract to build logging roads on neighboring Prince of Wales Island which is being extensively clearcut, and is one of the most contested areas of logging. Then Rosie asks if we would like to come to her house for some food to which we agree. This is the “View from Rosie’s.” Rosie and her husband live in a very warm and inviting Alaskan home, that not atypically overlooks something other than the Great Alaskan Wilderness. It overlooks his construction company cargo yard,..but you can see the channel from here as well. This image will be published in my future Aperture book-to-be, The Tongass: Alaska’s Vanishing Rain Forest, and it is one of a series of images I attempt, that persists throughout all of my varied projects. I always try to find an insightful “view” from inside looking out.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #86:
THE TONGASS, #86:  After our flyover of Goat Lake, we turn homeward toward Ketchikan and as we take in the last of the great evening light, I ask what our pilot thinks would be a good “first camp” for us. He suggests that he can bring us into Walker Cove, a fjord featuring a lake and cabin. The cabin is at the head of the fjord, where Walker Creek forms a small lake before flowing into the Pacific. The terrain around the cabin is flat and somewhat navigable. The lake supposedly has fish. The setting is dramatic, and there is also a boat available. Philip and I think that sounds like a good place to start, so as we get closer to touching down in Ketchikan, we make plans to fly again in the coming days, and to go camp at the cabin in Walker Cove.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #85:
THE TONGASS, #85:  Besides the beauty of alpine lakes sitting in granite pockets at the top of 3,000 glaciated domes, our flight down-fjord is punctuated by waterfalls. Small waterfalls trickle from snowfields, but some quite robust ones flow forth from the larger alpine lakes. Our pilot suggests we might want to stay at one of the cabins located on an alpine lake, because it would give us access to open granite without thrashing around in the forest below. Since one of those cabins is on a lake we will shortly fly past, he suggests we have enough light left to do a quick flyby and view the setting. The location is Goat Lake, which is relatively large, and hosts a significant outlet waterfall. The cabin is situated on a small peninsula, and we can see the boat. We can also see some of the MOST VERDANT alpine terrain of meadows and dwarf trees I have ever beheld. I am definitely into a return to Goat Lake, perhaps even with my larger cameras. Currently, as this is my first visit to Alaska and the Tongass, I did not know what to expect, and I am only shooting 35mm, trying to get a feel for the task at hand, and whether I can access these places with larger equipment.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #84:
THE TONGASS, #84:  The late light is beginning to fade, so our flight over Misty Fjords National Monument is headed back to Ketchikan. While we fly down-fjord, however, our pilot maintains enough altitude to give us a tour of the lesser elevations in the monument. While not as high, nor as snow-covered as the terrain we flew over earlier, this is the part of Misty Fjords most visited because of the warmer, maritime influences of the Pacific. Our pilot explains that there are many forest service cabins available to the public, located in the fjords and around select lakes. The cabins are situated in places intended to provide access to good hunting and fishing. Most of the cabins, he explains, are for fishing, and those are down at lower elevations, adjacent lakes and rivers. Many cabins also have a boat. On our flight, we also see a number of beautiful lakes in granite pockets at the top of the 2,000-3,000ft. domes we are passing, so I ask if any of these lakes are approachable by plane, and the answer is, “many.” In fact, a number of lakes have cabins to support goat hunting at the higher elevations, not fishing.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #83:
THE TONGASS, #83:  For those of us that enjoy/love our National Park system, and have traveled to, and seen any of them, you recognize in each park, some character of the LANDSCAPE that gives it its presence. Grand Canyon. Yosemite. Great Smoky Mountains, etc. So for me, this moment, and this view defines that presence for Misty Fjords National Monument. There is a huge, ocean-filled fjord beneath our plane, and this glacial valley is draining directly into it. At the far end of the valley are summits in Canada. Of the 2-3,000ft. pyramid-like mountains that march toward us, note the “dip” that separates each of the peaks. Those are high basins, feeding glaciers coming down from side valleys. At lower elevations, these basins host lakes. Our flight is headed home, as you can see the light is fading, but as we fly past this, down the fjord into a warmer, more maritime climate, those lakes and waterfalls will start to appear.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #82:
THE TONGASS, #82:  The light IS amazing! 1,000ft. walls stream with waterfalls. Glacier descend in every direction. Rugged peaks protrude from expansive icefields,..and then our flight begins to descend as we follow a glacier down, out of the backcountry, and into the fjordland of the monument. Misty Fjords National Monument, abuts, and actually bridges the border with Canada, at which point it is all tall summits and vast fields of snow and ice. Moving from the border toward the Pacific Ocean, the landscape is an endless display of glacial valleys, beautiful fjords, dramatic waterfalls, and innumerable lakes. It is as though there are three tiers to this geological spectacle. At the highest elevation, what you experience is what you see above, and in the last post. As you descend, you enter a domain of HUGE granite domes, often glaciated sheer on several sides. These high domes host forests and lakes. 1,500 - 3,000ft. below, glacially carved valleys, many of which have now been filled by the ocean, create a myriad of lengthy fjord fingers, crowned by lush river deltas that feed into them.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #81:
THE TONGASS, #81:  To give me the “big” picture, our pilot heads directly into the heart of the backcountry of Misty Fjords National Monument, so that I can see the scale of it, and understand how the terrain has been created. It is a 70˚, July night in Southeast and we are only at 3,000-4,000ft, but there is still this much snow on the ground. As in the other overflights I have made, I can see the summits of the deep range are covered by glacier-generating icefields. The difference in this flight over this landscape is that the range is more vast, stretching miles back into Canada, and because nearby Ketchikan accumulates as much as 300+ inches of rain per year, these mountains sequester stunning amounts of snow. That massive snow depth has fostered icecaps of great depth, and glaciers that have done some epic carving, thus are born the “misty fjords."
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #80:
THE TONGASS, #80:  The next day dawns very hot and clear, so Philip and I are excited to have planned a flightsee. When we call our pilot, however, he says he WILL take us, but much later in the day as he has a lot of industrial clients he has to serve first. We eventually hear from him around 3pm, just when we are about to give up, but when we arrive at the dock, the day is still VERY clear and he assures us we are going to have a great flight with great light. We load aboard, and I explain to Philip how I hope he will assist me to change out film backs and reload them so I can shoot continuously. With that, we are off! It is Philip’s first flight in a seaplane, and he has yet to see Alaska from the air, so this evening will change what he understands considerably. Because of my previous flightsee adventures aboard the “Observer,” I feel I know what is coming, but not really - this IS Misty Fjords National Monument we are going to explore!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #79:
THE TONGASS, #79:  Dale Pihlman meets my friend, Philip Slagter, and myself at a local Ketchikan dining establishment, and we begin our discussion of why I am here and what I hope to do. Dale offers to take us into Walker Lake cabin in Misty Fjords National Monument as our first exploration. Then he suggests that if we are comfortable with that, after a few days we could re-stock in Ketchikan, and he would take us back out and drop us for a fjord kayak and camp, and he would supply the kayaks. That sounds great to Philip and I, so we make arrangements to do the trip to the cabin in two days, explaining we are going flight-seeing in the morning, weather permitting. Dale asks who we will fly with and when I tell him, I also ask Dale if he knows him to be a good pilot that is familiar with the area. Dale laughs and says he does. However, apparently our pilot took hunters into an alpine lake cabin in Misty Fjords, and when he went to pick them up, they crashed as they were taking-off from the lake. The hunters were killed but “our” pilot walked away injured. Immediately I ask Dale if we should cancel our plans, and he replies, “No, he IS a good pilot, and a good pilot never makes the same mistake twice.” Looks like we are going flight-seeing over Misty Fjords. Stay tuned!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #78:
THE TONGASS, #78:  Philip and I wander down onto various float plane docks to inspect both their prices AND the care of their aircraft. I am still relatively nervous about flying in small planes, but the flights I have had, have all been wonderful, so I am willing to go again. At one point we are reading posted prices, and a man in the small office asks me about my cameras. I explain our mission and he says he is the only pilot in this company, and he has only one plane, BUT most of his clients are logging contract deliveries to other islands, or flight-seeing tourists over Misty Fjords National Monument which he assures us he knows well. He has VERY reasonable prices, AND he will open my window in flight so I may shoot with no obstruction. Not all planes/pilots can/will do that for me. This seems like our guy, so we plan to do an overflight with him the next day if we have good weather. Philip and I are very excited, and so, continue our exploration of the waterfront more leisurely with part of our mission accomplished. Tonight we will have dinner with Dale Pihlman.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #77:
THE TONGASS, #77:  I disembark “Observer” in Ketchikan, find a room in an historically designated waterfront hotel above a saloon, and pick my friend, Philip Slagter, up at the airport. We have also shipped up all of the gear we might need to camp without guide service, and we are here in Ketchikan to accomplish several tasks. We will meet Dale Pihlman, a local fisherman and tour guide, who has offered to ferry us into a camping cabin in Misty Fjords National Monument. We also want to find a pilot to flight-see the same. Dale will meet us for dinner, so Philip and I walk to waterfront, as it serves MANY purposes. There is a lot of industrial dockage, as you saw in posts #75 & #76, and many private boats. Laced amongst them, however, are air service docks for private float plane operators, and we are in search of one of them. In our wandering, regardless of whatever transitions are now occurring in Ketchikan, the presence of fishing and the canneries is everywhere around us.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #76:
THE TONGASS, #76:  For me, this is the shot that captures a bit of the “layered” life of living in Ketchikan. From the water, the industry of the port is very obvious. Not only are there cargo docks, cranes, and warehouses, note also the rock debris and the bald rock faces. Those spots are where rock is being mine for housing pads and road fill. The first line of houses in the trees marks the highway that follows the shoreline around a good deal of the island. Further up the hill are newer homes and apartment buildings, and above that, you can see the entire hillside has been clearcut and now is showing some “repro,” - new vegetation is establishing. The more you look at all of the elements within this image, the more layered you will see that it is.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #75:
THE TONGASS, #75:  Progressing south in the Tongass Narrows as we approach the largest of the southern cities in Southeast, Ketchikan, the substantial strip of shoreline residences finally gives way to the busier waterfront of the actual city. Ketchikan and its harbor serve many people: For those who boat up from Seattle and other southern ports, Ketchikan is the first city they encounter in the state of Alaska; industrial shipping comes here to supply the citizenry, but there is also logging and mining industries that need support as well; and originally, Ketchikan was, and still is, a fishing hub, so it harbors many commercial fishing boats; at the time of my first visit in 1985, the first of the cruise ships had also started to arrive. That is now one of the largest parts of the economy.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #74:
THE TONGASS, #74:  Aboard “Observer,” and on my way to Ketchikan where I will meet my friend Philip Slagter, I have just spent 12-days learning about the Tongass rainforest and the many mountainous islands that comprise its domain. Most of what I have seen has been wild land. I was briefly in Juneau and Wrangell, and previously in this blog, I discussed how both cities grew from their waterfront, creeping slowly up the surrounding hillsides. Now here, as we approach Ketchikan, I am going to see a much clearer picture of life in a southeast waterfront town. Ketchikan is the largest city in the southern Tongass, and is considered a “gateway” to Alaska if you sail up from the south. Ketchikan has a more sprawling waterfront than the other cities as well, because it is situated on the relatively straight, expansive shoreline of the Tongass Narrows, and Shoreline Drive is a well-kept paved road that parallels the coast and wraps around a good deal of the island. In the approach to the central docks where we will tie up, I have several beautiful vignettes regarding the diversity of Alaskan life. This is an outlying “residential” neighborhood. Most of these homes are built on stilts, as high tides will cover these beaches and intrude to the forest edge. Of the many homes here, someone does commercial fishing, and virtually everyone has a small boat. The “marina” created by the log booms might well have been a “community” project.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #73:
THE TONGASS, #73:  Our next morning dawns relatively bright and clear and grows more sunny as we head toward Ketchikan. Over my years and visits to the Tongass, I have learned that if you spend time out on the water you will see both Orca and whales, frequently! Today, however, my first encounter is this whale “sunbathing,” - flopping about on the surface, splashing, waving at us with his/her dorsal, blowing small volcanoes of spray, and it seems to enjoy us, as much as we enjoy it. I take the encounter as a good sign, and begin to consider what I am about to do when I arrive in Ketchikan. I want to make connections to go camping and flight-seeing, but Ketchikan also has one of the two logging mills in operation in Southeast, and I want to see that. Additionally, there is the opportunity to rent a car and ferry over to Prince of Wales Island, which has been extensively clearcut and is very controversial. I am going to have a busy agenda, in a location I know little about. Sounds fun!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #72:
THE TONGASS, #72:  “Observer” will arrive in Ketchikan around noon tomorrow, so for the moment I am enjoying my last evening aboard. In the course of the next 25yrs., my family and I will enjoy the beautiful vessels of The Boat Company many times, exploring the ever-surprising reaches of the Tongass National Forest, truly one of the most astounding PUBLIC resources in all of North America, and available for ALL to visit and enjoy (well except where there are logging leases). On this first trip aboard, however, serves as the base for years of further work which, among many things produces my Aperture book, “The Tongass: Alaska’s Vanishing Rainforest,” and the 1980 Tongass Timber Reform Act, the most significant timber management reform bill inAmerican history. At this moment, though, I do not know any of this. What I do know is that during the last two weeks I took in a WHOLE lot of information, and now I am about to take in whole bunch more. In Ketchikan, I have three missions: to meet my friend, and soon to be camping partner, Philip Slagter, who was flying in; I also want to find a pilot that can take us flight-seeing over Misty Fjords National Monument, in particular; and, it has been suggested to me that I meet Dale Pihlman and talk to him about interesting things to do. He has a boat, a concern about the Tongass (de)forestry management plan, and consequently an interest in my project.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #71:
THE TONGASS, #71:  Out of the LeConte fjord and over the straight, I can see that the tide has been rising while we have been flying, and now the exposed tidal flats are once again covered by water. Weather is rolling through, but it is a beautiful evening, and this has been a most enlightening flight. Hidden by these clouds, there is a world of snow and ice sitting astride the summits of the coastal range, and the dynamic action of the glaciers it generates have shaped much of the coastline of Southeast Alaska and the Tongass rainforest. That seems a cosmic-enough discovery for one day. My flight is heading back to “Observer,” where a warm shower and dinner await before we anchor for the night. Tomorrow we will head to Ketchikan, and a return to “civilization.” For the last 12-days I have been enjoying a relative forest wilderness, and I am starting to like being out in it, more than just cruising through it, so I am planning to meet, Philip Slagter, a friend and fellow artist, who is going to join me for my first unguided camping trip.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #70:
THE TONGASS, #70:  Still at our present altitude, the pilot asks if I want to fly down to the glacial face or not, because he thinks I will find our current position more interesting. Although I would like to fly the glacial face, I have already visited several on this boat tour, and I know that when our pilot has an idea, it has so far been a good one, so I tell him to “show me” what he has in mind. Almost on perfect cue, we round a summit wall and ice-choked LeConte Bay unfurls before us. We are much higher than on our flight in, and instead of seeing just one section of the bay at a time, we can see the entire meandering expanse as it flows its way out into the tidal straight. At the entrance to the bay, some of the straight still has sunshine and clouds are being reflected on the calm waters. As my eye follows the ice back from that point, more and more it seems that I am looking at the sky, and the myriad icebergs are stars. This marks my first intuitive sense that the Tonagss is truly cosmic and connected to the universe in a VERY unique way - a feeling that will be greatly magnified as my project progresses. Now, 30yrs. later, we discover genetic salmon material IN THE TREES - it doesn’t get more cosmic than that!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #69:
THE TONGASS, #69:  Following our loop around the section of peaks and small glaciers, we drop back down over the LeConte icefield, and begin to follow the glacier down to tidewater and the fjord. We are flying at a higher elevation now than when we flew in, so it offers a changed perspective on some things I recognize, but now appear with a VERY different POV. If you will look back at post #65, you will see this same intersection from a much lower angle. In #65, you can tell that our flight is MUCH closer to the surface of the glacier, and you can see these stripes, but certainly not this dramatically. NOW, the different glaciers are clearly defined by the lateral moraine that is trapped between them, the sinuous dynamic of which was less clear from the lower angle. It also dawns on me that I am looking at 1,000ft. of rock wall on the left. The “Alaskan-scale-thing” is still hard to comprehend, perhaps even more so up here. Michael McIntosh has been right. This is a good thing for me to have done to better understand the complexity of the overall Tongass habitat. I have just been to the “top-of-the-world” where it all begins. Thank you, Michael and The Boat Company.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #68:
THE TONGASS, #68: Because the evening weather and light are still in our favor, our pilot knows this flight is for my photographic project and he offers to take us higher, into one of the peak sections protruding from the ice, so that I can see the actual spot at which some of these glaciers are born. We swing out over the icefield in a wide, rising arc, and then he turns the plane back towards distant summits. This particular cluster of peaks has several “small” glaciers, pouring down through various valleys and feeding into the larger glacial mass, now below our wing. When we arrive and encircle the collection of spires and summits, what we see are significant peaks that feature major walls, poking up out of a layer-cake of ice. The snow/ice weight is massive, and as gravity tugs it downward, it squeezes into side canyons and descends like a waterfall in slow-motion,..REALLY slow motion! Every winter adds hundreds of inches of snow to the surface. Every summer creates meltwater that flows beneath the glacier and lubricates its descent. Many mountain ranges in the world have been shaped by this action that can literally carve through rock. I am looking through my lens at some of the most powerful forces on earth, and I can SEE it in front of me. It is quite a night and quite a flight.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #67:
THE TONGASS, #67: It is late in the day, but it is also summer in Alaska and the late light lingers, bathing everything in warm, slanting rays. Tonight, up here, it is no different, it is just that the world beneath the wing looks different. Real different! As far as I can see, even from the elevation in the plane, the field of ice stretches to a vast horizon, broken only by rock summits that poke through in clusters. There are some crevasses and a few few blue pools, but for the most part, the expansive whiteness is just gilded by patterns created by pressure from below, and wind sculpting from above. This is my first time to see such a place, and now I grasp the idea of this ice field spawning a glacier by squeezing some of this ice through a low point where it might begin to flow downward. The High Sierra must have looked like this when Yosemite Valley was being created. Yeow!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #66:
THE TONGASS, #66: I use the term “ice field” when talking to the pilot, and he corrects me that we are not above an ice field YET, this is still the glacier. The glacier is being squeezed from the ice field above, like toothpaste coming from the tube. The massive pressure of the ice field seeks a low point, and then pushes ice out, which begins to flow downward just as water would do. I am still trying to wrap my head around that idea while staring through my lens at the various valleys below me, when the pilot speaks up again. He is excited because his prediction of good weather at the top of the range is proving true, and as we round another rock wall, sunlit peaks and a broken-blue sky greets us. Trying to take it all in, I realize THIS is the Stikine-Le Conte Wilderness. These are major summits of the coastal range, ONLY THE PEAKS OF WHICH ARE VISIBLE, because the entire rest of the mountain lies beneath a seemingly unbroken plain of white - the ice field from which the Le Conte Glacier is flowing.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #65:
THE TONGASS, #65: As we round the rock face to the left of the Le Conte glacier’s tidewater edge, I am not sure what I expect, but I am startled to see the glacier rising in front of us like a staircase, only one with crevasses, not stairs. Until this moment we seemed high above the water of the bay and the face of the glacier, now suddenly the field of ice is quite close below us, and well ABOVE us in front of the plane. In fact, you can hear the pitch of the engine change as we push upwards into higher elevations where there is less oxygen. Glaciers have been referred to as “rivers of ice,” and from this perspective today, I now understand that. Our uphill flight to the top of the Stikine-Le Conte Wilderness passes by several large intersecting valleys, that also host glaciers, and in turn, those valleys have side-valleys from which glaciers are flowing. When one glacier meets another, they “merge,” but they retain the dark moraine and rock rubble banding pushed between them, and the effect creates amazing waves of striping across the field of ice.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #64:
THE TONGASS, #64: As we progress in our flight up the fjord toward the LeConte Glacier, the bay becomes increasingly choked with ice. The mountains around us have grown significantly taller, and there are a lot of waterfalls streaming down the walls, flowing out from small glaciers that are suspended in cirques, just about eye-level with us in the plane. After a few twists and turns, the LeConte comes into view, and above it, I can see broken sunlight on the surrounding summits. I ask the pilot if we can fly lower to the face of the glacier, and he responds that we will do that “coming down,” but at the moment, we are GAINING altitude because he is going to fly us up into that sunlight, and take us out over the Stikine-LeConte Wilderness and vast icefield, because he feels we have a very good weather window. Prior to this, I have been in Tracy Arm (posts $18-23 and), so I have seen a fjord and tidewater glaciers, but at this point in my introduction to Alaska, I have not seen the place from which the glaciers come. THAT is about to change quite dramatically!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #63:
THE TONGASS, #63: As soon as we take off the show begins. I am still getting used to being in a small plane, but the aerial perspective of the Alaskan landscape it affords, is simply astounding. As we approach the mouth of LeConte Bay, I can see how shallow the straight has become, as numerous bars and mud flats are exposed at low tide. Lush wetlands border intricate river braids in beautiful abstractions..except in one place. The bay below our wing remains a DEEP blue, shows no shallows, and holds a good deal of floating ice, which I realize as we get closer, includes some VERY large bergs. This is the mouth of LeConte Bay, and this ice is flowing down the fjord, pulled by a retreating tide. We are now going to make an abrupt turn to the left and fly between two massive granite walls, as we wind our way into the fjord, and toward the LeConte Glacier.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #62:
THE TONGASS, #62: Although a lot of weather rolls through, the day remains relatively rain-free, so we all linger in Petersburg, wandering about their boardwalk trails and enjoying their community. After lunch aboard, “Observer” finally casts off, and we begin a journey south to Ketchikan. Although evening approaches and the weather appears to be growing worse, Michael McIntosh makes a slight detour, again for my benefit. South of Petersburg, just before you reach the shallow delta of the Stikine river and the town of Wrangell, a deep bay opens into the coastal mountains. It is a sheer-walled fjord that leads to the foot of the LeConte Glacier which has descended to tidewater from the Stikine-LeConte Wilderness, a world of icefields and major summits, somewhere well above us. Michael has arranged for a plane from Petersburg to meet us near the mouth of the bay, and although the weather does seem a bit sketchy, he assures me this is going to be a good thing to do, and I should get my film and cameras ready. As you can see here, clouds abound, but it has become VERY calm, so it makes for a simple water landing, and promises a good flight with no unexpected bouncing around. Now, if there is just enough light left!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #61:
THE TONGASS, #61: Like most southeast Alaska communities, Petersburg is built on a shoreline, at the edge of the tide. I will also remind you that the daily tidal fluctuation in the Tongass is about 18ft. In the morning, after breakfast aboard, “Observer,” some activities are planned to hike and explore the town. Although it rained during the night, it seems to be clearing now, so I grab my camera and set off on my own to wander around. Outside of the core of homes, stores, and the waterfront, and road follows the island shoreline out into residential areas. More interestingly, here and there, boardwalks push back into the forest and lead to other houses on discreet coves and canals, not at all apparent from town. Finding this was for me, discovering the look of a true southeast community. There is little “commercial” tourism here, and no fakey main street to accommodate cruise ship voyeurs. These are people living off of, and at the edge of, the ocean. They deal with availability, weather, tidal extremes, and wilderness on a daily basis. They live to fish. They all have boats,..in fact, most have several. AND, they have carved a place out for themselves in this very unique part of the world, that is actually quite civil and thoughtful. As must be obvious, the tide is out this morning, and some of those boats are just waiting for it to return.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #60:
THE TONGASS, #60: If you have never been to a town like Petersburg, one that is so dedicated to a fishing economy, it is hard to explain the vibe in the air. It is alive with work, and smells, and sounds. Everyone is busy doing something. Well, except for these birds. They are just waiting for the next sound of splashing from the processing waste pipe, and then they will return to their feeding frenzy. Speaking of which, it is just about that time for us, the guests of the “Observer,” to have dinner as well. With night falling, we retire to the fantail to dine, then after dinner, many of us go ashore. I wander streets lined by VERY tidy homes, many of which display Norwegian flags or Viking banners, and eventually I find myself in a warm, friendly bar surrounded by drunk Norwegian fishermen and their friends, all of whom know each other well. Over the ensuing years I will spend in the Tongass, I will come to realize that Petersburg, is unique - a tight-knit community of people that resists commercial tourism, mining, and industrial logging, and are quite literally living off the land in a very sophisticated way, WITHOUT destroying it!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #59:
THE TONGASS, #59: This blog now returns to the tale of my first journey into the realm of the Tongass rainforest, aboard The Boat Company’s, “Observer.” Although my story now continues, use the resources previously provided in this blog, and please contact your representatives about the terrible bill, H.R 232, encouraging them not to vote for it. As I have shown, it will impact many beautiful bays and valleys on Baranof Island, where we have been cruising, but it will also impact many other locations as well, and today we will navigate past some of those on our way to the fishing town of Petersburg. Departing the shores of Baranof Island, we head east, across Frederick Sound, and around the north end of Kupreanof Island, which is where Petersburg is located. There are many proposed clearcuts in the current bill, H.R. 232 that would occur on this island as well. Of all the communities in southeast Alaska, Petersburg is famously a truly Norwegian fishing village. Fishing is most of the economy of Petersburg, and as a consequence, the city is one of the most prosperous in the Tongass. I am excited to see it, because the only other city I have been to so far has been Wrangell, and Wrangell is more industrial, and extraction-based, including logging, so I want to see in what ways the towns appear different. Most of our day is spent crossing the sound, and our arrival in Petersburg is in the twilight. First, and VERY notably, the port is wildly alive, throbbing - literally throbbing! Canneries and packing houses are all processing the day’s catch, as boats line up to deliver. People and voices can be heard on the docks, mixed with the cries of gulls that are swarming about everywhere. Fish waste from the processing is dumped back into the ocean and the birds and other marine life are in a feeding frenzy.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #58:
THE TONGASS, #58: My blog has diverged for the past few posts to address a dreadful bill that has been introduced by Alaskan Congressman Don Young. Don would like to take 2-million acres out of the Tongass - a NATIONAL forest = public access - and give it to the state, who would likely log it for revenue dollars - a corporate forest = NO public access. Worse, the bill not only targets the Tongass, if H.R. 232 passes, it will affect EVERY NATIONAL FOREST in every state. Do you really want to give up 2,000,000 acres of YOUR national forest system in YOUR state? Please read those posts and use the links to contact your representatives and tell them to vote NO ON H.R. 232! It is hard to believe this criminally stupid management of the Tongass, is still going strong after 30yrs! Well so am I, and here is why. For me, discovering the Tongass was a life-changing experience, and as a consequence, I have spent a great deal of time in my life trying to assist those that would protect this forest and use it in a more appropriate way. My reason for doing this is so that future generations can enjoy what my family and I have. My children have visited twice and I hope they will come back for more. Perhaps through an experience they might have, they will remain connected to the natural world. (Above, left - my daughter with a starfish nearly her size; on the right, both my son and daughter, rock scrambling in their rainboots on Baranof Island; in the bay behind my son, The Boat Company’s “Liseron” awaits our return.)
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #57:
THE TONGASS, #57: Before I return to the story of my first journey into the Tongass, please be sure to read posts #53-#56. Post #56 is a map of proposed clearcuts on Baranof Island (where my blog has been touring), but I said the overall impact was even GREATER than that, so if you will bear with me once more, here is the bigger picture: On this map, Baranof Island looks like a downward spear point and lies directly right of the Pacific Ocean wording. Red indicates the proposed 2-miilion acre “transfer of land” from within the intact Tongass rainforest ecosystem, to that of state forest land, thus allowing state management for the “benefit" of the coffers of the state. It is not coincidental that the shapes of these proposed transfer areas, exactly configure lake-river-valley habitats with high density of old growth forest. If this bill becomes law, and these parts of the Tongass are transferred to state management, what do you think is going to happen to these trees? As importantly, the bill is NOT CALLED the Alaska State Forest Management Act, it is called the STATE FOREST MANAGEMENT ACT. Were it to pass, it would be applicable to all states that might want to convert 2-million acres of NATIONAL forest land, back to state control, for use as they see fit. I often hear those that oppose the federal government “regulating” land, disparage “wilderness" and “national” designations that might restrict some uses, as “locking them out,” when in fact, exactly the opposite is true. THE PUBLIC has open access to ALL lands designated as “national,” and although there may be some restrictions for appropriate management reasons, NO ONE IS EVER LOCKED OUT. If a portion of these open lands transfer to the state, take my word for it, YOU WILL BE LOCKED OUT. First by the logging or mining, and then by whatever development or toxic catastrophe follows. The result is that if you hunt, fish, camp, ride horses, backpack, climb, photograph, or recreate in nature in some way, you will be substantially WORSE OFF if your state chooses to do this. DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN. Use the resources I have provided with links in this blog. Read the bill. Contact YOUR representatives. Tell them you do not want YOUR NATIONAL FOREST lands given away to the state, and to VOTE NO ON H.R. 232. This not just about the Tongass. National forests in EVERY state are at risk.
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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #56:
THE TONGASS, #56: I do NOT joke! This “lovely” clearcut, that pretty much wipes away this entire valley and lake-river ecosystem, was subsidized with tax dollars. The companies involved with this logging are “leasing” national forest land - land that theoretically belongs to all of us collectively, for the GREATER public use. They do pay for their permit to log, but it is a laughable fee, and using the arguments that the wood is “only" pulp quality, and the harvest is very far from the market, they have successfully lobbied to get their road-building costs subsidized by tax dollars, the premise being the state will then have roads in place to develop these lands after the logging is done. This tax giveaway to these few select companies has gone on for more than 40yrs., and has cost between $30million - 50million PER YEAR, some years, even more. Over these many years that I have been involved with the Tongass, I have seen costs and jobs analysis on both sides many times, and even that many years ago, tourism, recreation, hunting, and fishing have always promised more economic potential than massive industrial logging. Nonetheless, generations of Alaskan politicians, including Congressman Don Young, are seemingly happy to piss away our collective public wealth, derived from this beautiful, productive rainforest, for the sake of lining someone’s pocket. Clearly someone makes money doing this, otherwise, why is it being done? This proposed bill Don Young wrote, and which I have made available to you in this blog, also includes an extensive list of people you might contact. Pick those that represent you, and write/call/text them and tell them not to vote for this. The Tongass is a national recreation treasure designated as such for PUBLIC use, not private corporation wealth accumulation, and payola to their political friends. It is time to stop this assault on the Tongass. If you continue to follow this blog, I will show you many more reasons, why, not the least of which is that there salmon in the trees.
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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #55:
THE TONGASS, #55: If you listen to those who support the cut, you are told it has been designed in a way to allow the animals connected corridors between cut patches and virgin forest so they always have some place to go. You are also told valuable fisheries have been protected by buffer zones of trees. So, here is how that plays out in reality. Before you is an island - the dark green patches, of which there are very few, are what is left of virgin forest; the light green patches are older cuts that now have dense vegetation growing back into them; the raw, brown zone is an ongoing logging operation. Where exactly have the animals that lived here gone? There WERE a LOT of bear and eagle, probably some deer, and maybe a rare wolf or two as well. Not likely they are all living in the few tiny patches of untouched timber left. Oh that’s right! We don’t have to worry about them because they were all killed by the loggers as the cut progressed - you know, fresh meat in camp, and you gotta control those dangerous bear. This was once part of the most unique rainforest in the world, a NATIONAL treasure. It is now a dead zone. How about that little line of “buffer” trees that follow the shore. They are not buffering much on land, BUT THEY HAVE BEEN SPECIFICALLY ENGINEERED so that they limit the view of the clearcut when seen from passing boats. So thoughtful! Most importantly, we are destroying this rare forest habitat and connected fishery to make pulp. All these trees are turned to pulp in Japan. I believe industrial logging this forest to create paper products is criminal, and I hope my readers will hold their representatives and Congressman Don Young accountable. These are some of the most spectacular NATIONAL public lands in which I have ever had the pleasure of fishing and recreating. They are part of OUR collective American wealth. Who is making money on this? Did I mention ALL these cuts are taxpayer subsidized?
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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #54:
THE TONGASS, #54: When you look at the map (previous post), it is difficult to judge the scale of these extensive clearcuts, so I will offer you some of my “flyover” imagery because it gives you a better sense of the impact these cuts have on the entire landscape. In previous posts I note that these logging operations consume entire river-valley-lake ecosystems, which not only affects animals living IN the forest, but it affects the fishery as well because torrential runoff changes water quality. In this shot, logging has come up one side of the valley and will ultimately wrap itself entirely around the lake and continue the “harvest” all the way back down the other side. There are regulations about not cutting on slopes deemed to steep as it promotes landslides and siltation in salmon streams during rain events, but those rules are regularly ignored because there is little, to-no, enforcement. You may also notice a thin line of threes at the shoreline - this is called a “buffer zone.” Really! It looks like someone is trashing the Garden of Eden to me!
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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #53:
THE TONGASS, #53: If you have been following this blog, you know that it is a re-telling of my first adventures in the Tongass rainforest which started in 1984. I was brought into this project to create images and a book that would be used to drive the hopeful passage of the Tongass Timber Reform Act (1990). I did that and the bill passed, protecting SOME parts of this forest, but not all. There have been battles and skirmishes ever since, over individual bays and valleys, and although some logging has been halted, other cuts have proceeded. In the anti-environment sentiment of our new administration, one of the Tongass’ oldest enemies, Alaskan Congressman Don Young, has felt empowered to attack it again. He has drafted a TERRIBLE bill that will NOT ONLY affect the Tongass, BUT POTENTIALLY EVERY NATIONAL FOREST IN THE UNTIED STATES. This destruction of one of the most unique habitats in the world DISGUSTS ME, so I am inserting a “current information” break in this historical blog story. In previous posts, we have been cruising the eastern shore of Baranof Island, visiting various coves and deepwater bays. Baranof is a HUGE island and you can see most of it on the map above. So here we are, nearly 35yrs. after my first visit, and the war on the forest is back on. The red areas above indicate MASSIVE new clearcuts proposed, were Don Young’s hideous bill to pass. This is JUST Baranof. Wait until I show you the entire map. I am ALSO going to provide you with the wording of the actual bill, and a COMPLETE LIST OF PEOPLE TO CONTACT if you would like to do something about this. #RESIST
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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

THE TONGASS:  Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #52:
THE TONGASS, #52: In a really deep fjord, it may not be simple to anchor, so “Observer” motors to the very end of Gut Bay, where there is a waterfall of some considerable volume that has deposited enough silt to form an underwater delta at the head of the gorge. The silt bottom provides a place to anchor, but the trick is placement of the boat. If you get in too close, you might end up in the mud at low tide. I am still getting used to the idea that the tide rises and falls about 15ft., twice a day, and in a fjord, that tidal shift is a very unusual thing. Until this journey, I have never seen seaweed and starfish on vertical walls that are ABOVE MY HEAD. This image is high tide, and you can see that the water has risen to the very base of the trees. At low tide, those trees will be UP on a wall of rock that is covered with what looks like the growth of tidal pools. Viewing rich sea life in this way from a kayak, and watching starfish crawl across vertical walls WELL above you is a strange experience, and as I would soon learn, one that I will have again and again in my journeys throughout the Tongass.
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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!
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!!
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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'."
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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.
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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
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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
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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
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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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.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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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."
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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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.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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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.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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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.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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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.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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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.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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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.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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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.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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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.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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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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