One Season Into the Next
Alaska is a place that keeps an expedition guide on their toes. The potential for wildlife doesn’t always come through but we can still help to create an unforgettable connection with Alaska through our knowledge of the land.
As the warm season goes on, one can observe a sharp change in scenery. When we first arrived in May, guides had their flora guide books out. New spring growth pushed through and there were more wildflowers than one could prepare or study for. It was actually a bit overwhelming. Fireweed, lupine, shy maidens, shooting stars, beach pea, labrador tea, bog orchid, chocolate lily, western columbine and the list goes on.
For those months, it’s a great opportunity to get familiarized with the plants and get into the groove of everything new. June fades into July and the wildflowers are phased out for wild berries. Elderberry, salmonberry, nagoonberry, crowberry, currant, cranberry, strawberry, several types of blueberry, thimbleberry, trailing raspberry, red huckleberry and watermelon berry are just a few.
One can expect to see some of these berries into August and regardless of their variety, they’re easy to remember because they all taste so good. Unfortunately, there is a time when the berries also fade away and are replaced by salmon season.
Beginning in August, we can expect to find salmon in different watersheds until the end of our season. It’s a very significant part of our travelling time as salmon are a pillar to supporting the rich biomass this landscape boasts.
Although salmon are present for only a short period of time, they’re one of most talked about topics. People are interested in salmon biology, fishery management and their place on the food chain.
However, the real challenge we face comes when fungus season rolls around. Over the season, the guides manage to become encyclopedias on everything that is Southeast Alaska. We cram our brains full with facts and information and when we don’t think there’s anything more to know, the land reminds us otherwise. End of season rain storms roll through the area and bring a bloom of unidentifiable organisms, including many types of fungus.
The differences between zygomycetes, ascomycetes and basidiomycetes are fuzzy. There are about 230 identified species in Southeast Alaska and we simply don’t have the capacity to remember them all. There are handfuls one can expect to see but this season, we came across some fungi that were not even listed in our fungus guide book.
Southeast Alaska is an amazing place and there is so much to learn just from the land itself. The interpretation material we use through the season constantly changes and reminds us that we live and work in a dynamic environment that is ever changing over the course of millennia, decades, months and even days.
That’s why I love Alaska. No day is the same.