Friday, February 17, 2017

Stormy Weather

This was the last sunset on the last sunny day we have had now for a week.  We had a winter storm come raging in last weekend with a day of snow followed by several days of very high winds, torrential rain, and temperatures in the 40s.  Ahh, winter in SE AK can test the strongest of wills and constitutions.  Offering flights to Hawaii and Mexico (and now Costa Rica) was a brilliant business move by Alaska Airlines so vitamin D deprived, seasonal affected disordered Alaskans can get over the hump.  This latest storm brought winds of up to 80 knots in nearby Clarence Strait and some gusts here in Wrangell of at least 50 knots.  Things have quickly thawed out and for several days there, it was a wet sloppy mess.  Clear skies are coming up in the forecast though!

The winter this year has been our coldest and windiest in a long time.  We have had many weeks of temperatures below freezing, even down into the single digits, but not much snow which is concerning for summer water levels in all the salmon spawning streams.  I did not get to go up the Stikine this winter (although I have spent many, many hours wishing I was up there) but from what I have been told and seen in photos by some who have been up there, the river froze up much better than it has in many years.  Here are a few photos I was sent of the lower part of the river taken from a helicopter.

In this bottom photo, the mountain in the center right is Farm Island which is where I was fortunate enough to purchase a plot of land bordering the Forest Service wilderness boundary.  This blog will have many more posts regarding Farm Island in the future!

The stormy weather wasn't too conducive to a good time of being outside taking photos but it did give me some time to contemplate topics for future posts and photo projects, I'm also open to suggestions regarding things that whoever might be reading this might be interested in.  Spring is coming!

The recent storm kept me close to town and mostly under the cover of a roof over a warm house but I did get out for some rainy forays to one of our local nature preserves - Muskeg Meadows Golf Course.  I'm not much of a golfer, (if you just thought of the "obviously you're not a golfer" line from the perfect movie, The Big Lebowski, make yourself a White Russian and know that I think you are the best) but Wrangell's 9 hole golf course is a great place to do several non-golf activities.  The cart paths are excellent walking trails, a couple of the fairways give good access to a good clamming beach, there are interesting plants and birds to check out, and occasionally you might see a bear or a moose.  There isn't much golfing going on there this time of year so it can be a peaceful and interesting place to enjoy some SE AK nature.
Like these guys:

These are interesting plants called clubmosses which are mosses that really like to go out on a weekend night and dance until the early hours of the morning while wearing various glow-in-the-dark accoutrements.  These guys party!  Silliness aside, these plants aren't really mosses, they are vascular plants like the majority of plants you see daily.  A vascular plant has a system of pipes through which water and nutrients are transported, (remember xylem and phloem from basic biology class?), and are things like flowers and bushes and grass.  Real mosses do not have these well developed pipes which is what keeps them low and usually in wet places.  Mosses and other plants called liverworts are not vascular plants but are called bryophytes.  These clubmosses reproduce by releasing spores from those yellowish cone-like things growing from the top of the plant.  This particular clubmoss is called a stiff clubmoss, Lycopodium annotinum, and is a pretty common plant here in wetter areas of the forest.  A couple interesting things about this plant:  looking up Lyco- in my Latin and Greek references, tells me that it means "wolf" while pod means foot.  A deduction of my own based on that information is that Lycopodium means wolf foot.  (Martin, if you read this and find me to be wrong, let me know!)
Another interesting thing comes right out of the plant bible of this area, Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast, which tells me that the spore powder of this particular clubmoss was used as a drying agent for wounds and a treatment for nosebleeds and diaper rash.  And even more interestingly, "the spores may also be used today as a dusting powder for condoms"  The next time you wrap that rascal, thank this little party animal!  Personally, I would refrain from sharing this information with the other person involved in that situation until sometime well after business time has ended.  Unless obscure plant facts are what gets your partner "in the mood"!  A dusting powder that also is used as a drying agent could lead to serious injury in this context so be sure to thoroughly read the directions on your condoms before usage.

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