May 17, 2018 - National Geographic Quest
This morning we had the pleasure of waking up to yet another orca sighting! Early and already bright at 6am, we took our posts on deck to observe these remarkable creatures. With a backdrop of snowy peaks and coffee in hand, the morning could not have been lovelier. The burst of sunshine energized us for our afternoon adventures of kayaking and forest hikes.
We arrived at Pavlof Harbor, featuring a stream quite favored by salmon and trout for spawning. The tide was out when we landed on the beach, so after stowing gear above the high tie mark, we began a hike into the forest. Ecological succession is visible even on the rocks above tide, which are covered in hardy crustose lichens. The edge of the forest is a tangle of thick alder trees. Sun-loving and fast growing, these Sika alders are sporting pendulant flowers, releasing wind-borne pollen before even the leaves bud.
A journey into the forest reveals a cooler environment, as towering Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock gently shade our path. The old growth forest here is a balance of aged trees with an understory of ferns, mosses and fruiting shrubs. In addition to the greenery, there is an assortment of decaying trees featuring shelf fungus. To our delight, keen observation leads to the discovery of the nesting cavity of a red-breasted sapsucker.
And then came the bears! After a journey to the lake and back, several of our party were lucky to spot brown bear- one swimming, one grazing on the beach. It was a full day which also a remarkable talk by guest speaker Dr. Andrew Szabo from Alaska Whale Foundation on the ecology and conservation of whales in Alaska.
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