Category Archives: fireweed

Digging for Small Beauties

It’s a flat, gray day, the kind of day when I have to dig out beauty from close in things. Aki is having a great walk along the crescent-shaped beach at Auk Rec. Her joy depends on smells, not sights. 

            We move into the woods and then to the tip of Point Louisa. A few months ago we watched seal stalk a small raft of harlequin ducks. Those ducks are gone, moved out to the rugged outer coast waters. The seal is still here looking to nail one of the pink salmon leaping in and out of the water. 

            Turning my back on the seal, I watch honeybees flitting about stalks of magenta fireweed. We won’t see anything more beautiful today. 



Aki and I are walking through one of the grittier sections of Downtown Juneau. Most visitors wouldn’t be impressed with its grit. But it is a place of parking lots, gas stations, and resident hotels. Aki isn’t happy walking through this landscape. But we’ve just dropped off the car for servicing and need to pass through here to reach home.

            I manage to convince the little dog to accompany me to the waterfront where we find a young woman sleeping rough. Her possessions form a fabric wall around her. She may have fallen into a financial hole, but still appreciates natural beauty. A handful of fireweed blooms, carefully arranged in an empty beer bottle, brightens the scene. 

            An adult bald eagle perches on top of a driftwood snag a few hundred meters away. The snag was planted by the city next to a new boardwalk. Rain has soak the eagle’s feathers, which makes it look hung over or like a homeless person in need of a cup of coffee. The eagle ignores Aki and I as we walk under its perch, like it can’t be bothered with the diminutive poodle-mix. 

Feisty Little Birds

It’s another white sky day. Aki and I have just left the Treadwell Woods and dropped onto Sandy Beach. The beach’s “sand” is made up of crushed mine tailings mixed with the detritus abandoned when the Treadwell mines closed almost 100 years ago. 

            The sun is up but is blocked by the smoke. Light from it manages to power through the haze to sparkle on the surface of Gastineau Channel. We can hear eagles complaining from their beachside roosts. But tiny and feisty belted kingfishers are the only birds to show themselves. 

            A kingfisher lands on the top of a busted wharf piling, gives Aki and I a careful look, and turns to study the surface of the channel. Spotting movement, it dives beak-first into the water, raising a splash that would knock it out of any human diving competition. No fish dangles for the bird’s beak when it surfaces.

Not Spoiled Yet


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Aki, you’d think I’ve been too spoiled by natural beauty to be wowed by a borrow pit.The little dog gives me one of her “don’t stop gushing again” looks.

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The poodle-mix and I are walking on top of a dike pushed up by men miring for gravel. The “U” shaped dike has captured a small pond by connecting to a length of gently sloping meadow.  A beaver family has already colonized the pond. The big rodents’ earthworks killed a small copse of spruce trees on the opposite shore of the pond. It’s the reflection of these skeletons on the pond’s surface that’s gob smacked me.


Alder trees, gilded by backlighting morning light add to the show as does the dissipating globs of mist that hover just above the pond’s surface. When I walk without taking my eyes off the scene, I slip and fall where river otters have installed one of their “U” shaped slides. It’s pretty clear that nature and its wild children have claimed ownership of the old barrow pit. Tough skinned spruce roots snake over the top of the dike. Cow parsnip, fireweed, and the other aggressive forest plants color the dike with whites, yellows and reds.

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Little dog, let’s hope that nature never loses the power to repair our messes.

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We just said goodbye to two of other’s humans at the airport. They will be back in a few months. Now we are on a trail that traces the outline of the runway. It’s noisy with jets and prop planes taking off and landing. Some of the prop planes have floats that allow for water take offs and landings. One of these is just lifting off from the floatplane lake, carrying mail and passengers to one of the rain forest villages without a runway.

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The ebb tide has reduced the river and exposed large sand bars. An adult bald eagle lands on one of these. It starts to head over to a dark object and then stops, acting like a burglar afraid of being caught in the act. It freezes until we move, starts again and then stops when we stop. After a minute of this the eagle slow walks over to the dark spot, which turns out to be a fish, wraps in its talons, and slowly lifts skyward.

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All the trailside fireweed plants have gone to seed. Most of their seed down still clings to their stalks, ready to ride on the next strong wind. While I try to take a picture of the white down complimenting the red and orange fireweed leaves, Aki tears down the trail after another of her humans. Then she turns and runs full speed back to me. Sometimes all four of her tiny feet are off the ground.