Freshly picked wild blueberries, wineberries, and a perfect King Bolete mushroom…
Mid-August in The Chigniks. The river and its spawning tributaries are filled with hundreds of thousands of salmon, its shores thickly blanketed in shades of green rivaling and perhaps surpassing images of Emerald Isles elsewhere. In meadows and bogs a profusion of wildflowers continues to bloom, progressing with the seasons from the irises, chocolate lilies, violets and lupine of spring to the fireweed, cotton grass, goldenrod and yarrow of late summer, yellow paintbrush and wild geranium overlapping the seasons. Salmonberries, their orange and red hues evoking the colors of spawning Sockeyes and Chinook, are nearly over now, gallons carefully vacuum-packed and tucked away in the freezer for the coming winter. Meanwhile, the skies are filled with birds. Our finches – redpolls, siskins and Pine Grosbeaks – apparently had a banner nesting season as did The Chignik’s Golden-crowned and Fox Sparrows. They’ve recently been joined by flocks of canary-colored Yellow Warblers in the midst of their annual late-summer migration through the Chigniks.
Coho are beginning to trickle into the river. They’ll arrive in force later this month, just as the feral raspberries and red currants around the village are ripening. Startlingly brightly colored Red-backed Voles seem to be everywhere, their abundance a boon to the Rough-legged Hawks that nest on a riverside cliff and managed to successfully rear and fledge four chicks this year. Bears continue to amble along the river and lakeshore, but most have moved upstream toward the headwaters of salmon-rich spawning grounds. There are even a few caribou around, moose, and the other evening we watched a porcupine meander up the lakeshore. Now and then a Harbor Seal or River Otter pops its head above the water’s surface to check out whomever might be strolling the shore. Families of teal and wigeons have been taking advantage of thick patches or water crowfoot growing and blooming in the cove near our home. Yesterday morning we were startled awake by the cry of a loon out on the lake.
Blueberries now. A skiff ride across the lake, a short hike along a disappearing trail now nearly overgrown in salmonberry stalks, fireweed, cow parsnip and willows. We crest a hill carpeted with lowbush cranberries and descend into a wide, open area – a remnant of the boggy tundra that not so very long ago predominated this ever-changing landscape. The bushes are small, only inches above thick, spongy mats of the lichen we kneel in as we pick. The berries out here on the Alaska Peninsula are not large – no “lunkers” of the size we picked last year in Newhalen. But lots. And lots. Mushrooms, too. Good ones. They and a few coveted wineberries are added to the gathering. Though we are not far from the village, the only sounds are berries making satisfying plunks in our containers, birds chattering and calling, and, yes, the occasional whine of mosquitoes. In the quiet of the natural world, our minds drift into zen-like states. As we fall asleep that night, blueberries will play on our eyelids like a movie on a screen.
Picking finished for the day, hiking back out, backpack of berries, our skiff anchored along a rocky beach we come to a surprised halt when we see a family of three Sandhill Cranes there – mom and dad in rich, russet-colored feathers, their nearly grown chick in drabber gray. Perhaps they are working the shoreline for caddis larvae. We hate disturbing them, but it’s time to go. As we draw near to the skiff, we see our owls perched in alder and cottonwood snags on the bluff near Otter Creek. All four our present, the adults and their two offspring whiling away the day till nighttime. The young are still in creamy-white down, their “ear” tufts barely emerging, but they are fully fledged now and capable of strong flight. Again, we hated to bother them. They flew off a short distance and watched us load our skiff, start the engine and cruise home.
Slices of boletes sautéed in butter and garlic on zucchini pizza for dinner, a game of Scrabble, a favorite TV show downloaded from the Internet, twilight and outside our windows the nearby whistling cries of hungry Great-horned Owl siblings waiting for a vole or two from their parents.
Lovely! What a splendid day out 🥰
No sleeping pills required .
Your first paragraph is so picturesque, it makes one want to pack up and visit immediately.
Your comment was the first thing I read this morning. Thanks for helping get my day off to a great beginning!
This is so beautiful
Stay wealthy healthy safe and happy
Thank you. You too.
Your recipes are just amazing! Lip smacking! But why did you stop posting?
Thanks for the compliment – and for reading, Aarushi! In answer to your question: Summer is always a busy time for us, but this summer was especially so. In addition to the usual fishing, berry picking, and food packing/preparation for the coming months, Barbra took on graduate level education leadership coursework which has really cut into her time. This was one of our best summers ever for wildlife and landscape photography; editing those photos has been a big (happy) project. Meanwhile, I’ve been working on a book. From late May when we returned to the Lake till now, the days have been flying by. But stay tuned. Last night we put together and shot a terrific recipe for halibut. That article will run in the next day or two.
Woww! I just can’t wait. You are really a person who utilises the time well!😅looking at me, it’s just Netflix, baking and cooking , sleeping, posting on blog, attending online classes( u know Covid is worsening in India) and spending time with family. You really have a creative heart and keep up the good work! Can’t wait!! Event though I’m just 13, I do understand all the tiny joys that all these thing are giving you. I myself joined a course for photography . They are teaching landscape,portrait,night,lighting,motion and depth, and all that!
Wow Aarushi, happy to learn you’ve decided to study photography. You are wise to begin early in life! Stay healthy.
Thank you! But it’s kind of early for me to decide. I mean 8 th grade is still a little early. But thanks for your suggestion and concern. Keep working on your wonderful book(can’t wait!!) and keep posting delicious recipes! See ya