Saturday, June 25, 2011

What Happens When It Doesn't Rain

            Well, I said I would update my blog the next time it rained.   Strangely, it still hasn’t rained – we are going on a week now with no substantial precipitation.   This is good, but it also feels weird to have no rain in the rain forest.   Also, the mosquitoes have arrived in force, and have laid siege to the camp.   Hanging around outside the Iceberg Lodge is turning into an exercise in stoicism.     I’ve been sporadically using bug dope; even though I usually don’t – Alaskan mosquitoes don’t generally carry diseases, and I don’t like applying chemicals to my body -  but I’ve been getting so many bites on my hands that they’re now slightly swollen.   The worst places are the loading dock and the back deck of the lodge, where we gear up clients before going out on trips.    
Yesterday, I lead a trip with just two clients, and I just grabbed enough gear for them off the deck and brought it into the lodge, so we could be inside and escape the predatory incursions of the mosquitoes for a few more minutes.   The bugs on the trip itself weren’t too bad, because there’s usually a little bit of wind near the glacier, especially when its sunny.   (This bit of glacial air conditioning is called katabatic wind.   Basically, the glacier, and the Icefield it drains from, are big enough to chill the air above them.   Since hot air rises and cold air falls, there is usually a cool breeze blowing down from the Icefield and away from the glacier.   The hotter the ambient air temperature away form the glacier is, the stronger the katabatic wind will be.)   

            The kettle ponds on the trail to the glacier are very low, and the muddy parts of the trail have turned into rock-hard expanses of dirt.   The plants aren’t taking it very well – the salmonberry bushes and red currants look wilted.   And the lupine near my room in camp is withering.   I am wondering if this is going to affect the berries this year.   I am beginning to understand why this area needs all of the rain – when the plants don’t get it, you can tell they aren’t doing well.   

            News flash: with all the sunny weather, the daytime air temperature is now actually warm!   Unfortunately, I can’t take off too many layers of clothing, since exposing more skin to the mosquitoes isn’t a good plan.   (They can bit through my base layer; fleece or rain gear is the only thing that seems to stop them.)   I was in camp building a bookshelf for my room out of leftover scrap lumber, and barely got through getting the thing together before I had to get inside for a little while.   I’d been bitten so much that it felt like half of my face was swollen.   I went out to the beach later with a book, and enjoyed the breeze.   The one great thing about mosquitoes here is that they aren’t around at the beach – there’s too much wind coming off the water.   

            I’m having trouble deciding whether I like the persistently sunny weather or not.   True, it isn’t raining, so I don’t have to deal with the cold and the wet on every tour – but dealing with the mosquitoes in camp is turning into just as much hassle.   Last summer, we had perhaps two days with really bad mosquitoes – mostly because it was so unrelentingly cold that all of the bugs died before Solstice.   The guests definitely seem happy with the sun, and a TV crew that was here filming last week was ecstatic at the weather, and I’m certainly a fan of anything that gives the Lodge good publicity.   (They were filming for a show called Motion; stay tuned for information on when the episode will be aired.)   

            However, this is supposed to be a rainforest, and after a week of no rain, it’s obvious that the plants aren’t doing well.   Also, the bears are on strike.   Bears do not like hot weather, and on very sunny days, they apparently retreat back into the forest and hang out in the shade.   They’re easier to spot as on cooler or wetter days, when the bears nonchalantly wander around the shores of the lagoon.   (This is great, because guests can see them from a building, or a canoe.   I’m a big fan of bear sightings from a canoe.   Since I’m steering the boat, I have a comforting amount of control over how close clients get to the bear.)   Several groups of clients have come and gone and not seen any bears at all, which is unusual.   Even more unusual, I haven’t been seeing any bears lately, either – and even when the guests aren’t seeing bears, the guide staff is often still running into them when we’re setting up boats, or just walking through the staff area.     

            So, I’m working somewhere warm and dry, that’s infested with mosquitoes, and has no bears.   This is not the Iceberg Lodge I remember from 2010…

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