Lucky Chance Circuit, Sitka AK

img_6a Backpacking the Lucky Chance Circuit was lucky for us in so many ways – we were blessed with sunny Sitka weather, and helped by skippers and their boats transporting us over water to the trailhead.
img_1 A great group of friends was keen to go exploring, and fortunate to be successful in route finding through the wild SE Alaskan landscape (with the help of technology)!
img_2 At times making our way through the leafy forest felt more like gymnastics (with a backpack) than hiking, as we twisted and turned over and under stumps, and dodged fiesty devils club thorns.
img_4 We emerged out of the spruce/hemlock/cedar forest, onto an open muskeg populated with artfully sculpted trees with views of our dynamic destination ahead.
img_5 After pausing at Pinto Lake, a tantalizing ridge urged us to continue up.
img_6 Nearing the high point, we clambered over rocky outcrops.
img_8 Our reward was the perfect ridge-top campsite. Looking east over Silver Bay we saw twinkling Sitka lights in the distance.
img_8 Views to the east encompassed epic mountain masses, bearing reminders of glacial times passed.
img_9 Awed by ever changing light, our cameras were barely put away, before again being pulled out. A paradox of Lucky Chance is its troubled gold-mining history. Yet we experienced great richness, awed by brilliant sunset light, and later the yellow-green glow of a northern aurora.
img_11 In the morning we awoke to be floating above a white puffy blanket, with protruding peaks like baby birds’ beaks.
img_12 A curious early mountain goat peered at us from above, we’d also sighted bear and deer.
img_13 Gently the mist lifted. The mountain lakes were bathed in morning light.
img_16 The highest peak on Baranof Island is 5390, named for its elevation in feet.
img_17 Dipping and rising summits extended as far as we could see. At our feet, tiny alpine plants formed delicate tapestries of similar intricacy.
img_14 Our adventuresome group glowed in this alpine setting, a lucky chance to be in this place at this time, together.
img_15 Colors of the water-land-scape were astounding: brilliant blues and verdant greens.
img_18 Continuing our cirque, we wished to prolong our time up high, transcending present and past.
img_19 The sun rose strongly in the sky as we gazed towards our descent, including remnants from the mining era of the late 1800’s to early 1900’s.
img_0723 Next day back home, I woke to a misty morning. The veiled mountains held many more mysteries to be unfurled.
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Southeast Alaska Sketches

Creating these artworks connected me to the wild areas in Southeast Alaska where I sketched. I plan to share them through notecards and at art shows. I hope they bring you inspiration too!

From Shelikof Beach Cabin, Kruzhof Island
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On Starrigavan Beach, Baranof Island
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Misty Evening, Totem Park, Sitka
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Anan Bay, Southeast Alaska
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Mt Edgecumbe from Gavan Hill
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Sitka – My Second Full Moon

I’ve seen my second full moon rise over the snowcapped peaks of Sitka. Etched in the clouds, a streak of golden light swelled to a shimmering globe.
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Through the dense tall tree trunks, I’ve glimpsed the silhouette of a small Sitka deer, as he startled and disappeared. In my ridgetop tent, I’ve been woken by a clucking ptarmigan, with snowy white plumage, a handsome black head and red beak. Through the night, the landscape glowed in shades of silvery gray.
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As the red blush moon sinks into the sea, fresh light brings focus to the day.
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In May, my second month, the forest understory shows off its green plumage like a peacock’s emerald tail. I walk among carpets of starry mosses, colorful lichens and sun sparkling leaf sprays. In soft moist bogs, tentative stalks burst into bold skunk cabbage soldiers. Like the spring forest, I sense a deeper layer, a growing connection to this landscape.
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A magical place is the promontory of Totem Park, where forest meets ocean. Tentacles of water ebb and flow rustling pebbled beaches, discarding ribbons of red-brown seaweed, broken white clamshells and white-washed wood.
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Where the Indian River estuary joins the sea, there is a wealth of sound and activity. A merganzer duck family paddles around a floating log, watched by bald eagles perched on tree tops high above. I hear multitudes of birds’ sound – calling, screeching, wings flapping, and sometimes just a whir as they pass by.
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The aliveness of this place enraptures me. I pause mid-stride while running, watching as an eagle swoops or a sunray lights the water gold. From stillness in sketching, I step out to tidal pools where orange-tentacled seastars stretch and scrawny crabs scurry.

Stories are told in the sky, amongst full purple clouds, fine mists or petulant rain. The ever-changing light of endless days beckons with magical messages.
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At day’s end, animals and people come together clad in raven feather cloaks, drumming, swaying, singing earth’s song,
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Sitka – First Impressions

It only happens once, the time I first discover a place. When I feel naively open, like soft pink petals of blossoming salmonberry and all is fresh like the new leaf green of its foliage. My senses are alert as I deeply inhale salt smelling air and catch shrill seagull sounds in the sky. The differences from my home in Colorado are stark.

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South East Alaska is a land by sea, islands among sea, lakes on land. Colored in shades of grays, greens, and sometimes blues; ancient, ever-changing.

There is no clear order, no neatly layered bottom rooted in deep soil, nor tree trunks pointing up straight to a clean top line of sky. Instead, massive spruce and hemlock rest across the forest floor, their upturned shallow-wide roots a living green wall supporting brilliant green lichens, mosses and ferns.

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Base twisted roots entwine, pairing massive trunks as families of trees. I wonder where does one begin, another end? There is not death, instead rebirth, regeneration, the fallen becoming grounds for fresh new growth. The forest is verdant, deep, alluring. Spirits of ancestors whisper.

The sea feels expansive with mysterious edges where land and water meet, punctuated with coves, rippling waves, big black boulders, coastal curves and crevices.

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Water pools and laps among small dark pebbles, falls cascade straight down towering dark cliffs, white froth bounces playfully over gray smooth worn rock. Creeks so clear that pebbles shine below, the surface glimmers in cyan blues.

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This landscape doesn’t hold still to be captured (on paper), it paints itself, in watercolor, always fluid.

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The sky is not a flat blue backdrop. It is part of land and sea, alive with flocks of calling seagulls, with white-headed black-bodied eagles that spiral and soar the thermals, with multitudes of wings that shimmer in the light. The sky holds water in many forms – fat puffy clouds, mysterious sweeping mists, fogs draping snow-capped peaks and silhouetting forests. Water vapor always moving evoking ever changing panoramas, bonding to earth with falling rain. A spiral of life like the ancient petroglyphs inscribed on rock.

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Sitka is my moody muse. She dulls me with her endless greys then pierces me with unexpected searing shards of light. The sun emerges as a magical gift. It transforms earth and sky. Energy abounds, changes to evening’s pink and orange frolic, and lingers long in night’s deep blue twilight.

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A place evocative, where hundred year old trees hold knowledge of times past, sculpted totems tell stories and voices of ancestors are still heard. In town, the round Russian church, rectangular bishops house and elegant once-college campus speak of the more refined.

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A place where people-time pauses – small shops that still sell everything from milkshakes and toys, to hard candy, kettles and tea cloths.

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There are many stories to unfold.