Aug 15, 2014 - National Geographic Sea Lion
The mystic fog hung over Thomas Bay this morning as we approached our first destination of the day: Cascade Creek. Located on mainland Alaska and containing many species of animals not found on the islands that we have been visiting, like moose and black bear. The indigenous Tlingit’s called this place Kushtaka for the “Otter People” and the subject of many legends, including the encounter with mythical creatures by prospectors at the turn of the last century in the “Strangest Stories Ever Told.”
On the shore we watched a pair of harbor seals peruse the river outflow for salmon while a pair of belted kingfishers worked the waters from a tree snag sticking out of the beach. The hike was quite pleasant along a well-constructed boardwalk over dense rain forest terrain to the thunderous falls of Cascade Creek. The forest at the falls is so saturated that very little grows in the mist; however the surrounding forest is lush with a variety of mosses, lichen and trees. Above the falls, we had the opportunity to stand above the river on a footbridge and witness the power of the water work its way from the mountain to sea.
In a nearby bog wetland we found one of Alaska’s amphibians: the rough-skinned newt that was on its migratory path to a nearby lake. This salamander has lungs and spends much of its time in the water and contains a highly toxic tetrodotoxin that spares them from being eaten by any predators.
In the afternoon, we crossed Frederick Sound to the working fishing town of Petersburg, named after Peter Buschmann. This place retains it Norwegian fishing heritage as one can tell by the abundance of boats and the olfactory scent of fish and crab, or as the locals call it, “the smell of money.” Many options were available from a dock walk learning about the various types of fishing vessels to naturalist-led muskeg bog walks observing many different type of plants in this special habitat.
As we departed Petersburg, the precipitation lifted to expose bright sun on the colorful buildings of this beautiful town as the fishing vessels made their way home to port. As we cruised north into Stephens Passage, we encountered a few male killer whales as the sun set on this fabulous day.