Ketchikan / by Caroline Van Hemert

We learned two surprising things recently... 1) It IS possible to get a sunburn in Ketchikan. 2) When the air temperature rises above the water temperature, it's time to go swimming!  Really.  We saw about three dozen kids in bathing suits playing in the water along the coastline as we rowed into town.  With a projected high of 51 degrees for Ketchikan and the local buoy reporting only 45 degrees, the critical threshold was apparently met. And we thought we were tough!

We are officially back in the U.S.--nice to return to AK but we'll miss the fantastic Canadian hospitality.  After the stormy weather, the skies cleared and we had a friendly tailwind and lots of sunshine to take us through the last stretch of exposed coastline.  We saw a small pod of orcas before leaving Dixon Entrance, plus lots of porpoises and several large seal haul-outs along the way.

On the bird front, there seems to be a sudden flurry of movement with fewer stationary foraging flocks of ducks and gulls and many more migrating overhead.  The last storm likely offered a boost to many migrants heading north, but no doubt blew a few others off course. I am astounded by how many hummingbirds we see or hear everyday, especially given the lack of buds or blossoms.  Our northward migration requires a whole lot more equipment than a set of tiny wings!

We met an interesting couple just before leaving Prince Rupert who are very involved in bird conservation on Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands).  Their re-sightings of brant banded on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta and of many other species on their way north or south from Alaska offer a  clear reminder of the connectivity between these areas.  We're now less than 300 miles from Juneau and what initially felt like a staggeringly large distance is shrinking quickly.