I promised myself that I would add one of these stories here every time I told one. I tell them at one point or another throughout the summer. There will be no chronology - not yet anyway - nor will there be much of a schedule. You never know; I might add a story every day and I might not. This is my life. Every day is an adventure.


Friday, October 3, 2014

Watching the Seasons Change

I went for my walk today - I do like my walk, and now that it's more than likely the bear(s) have moved on, I can actually walk rather than ride the 4-wheeler. When I'm driving, I miss all the little things, like birds tweeting, tracks along the trail, being able to stop and just listen once in a while.

I learned something today though, something I hadn't really thought of before, but should have suspected. The course of a river is sculpted by more than gravel, waterlogged trees and rocks. Clay can do it too.

Over the years since living out here, I've watched the river change. It's a very slow change and most of it didn't affect me very much. I mean, the water comes up - I go to work. The water goes down - I stay home. The water freezes - I wait for the water to thaw out and come up again.

The big river has gone through some evolutions over the years. Up past Lake Creek, the river has eaten away at a corner, washing away the bank a little or a lot over time, the cut band up there says this, but I never really paid much attention to it - I don't know anyone who lives there anymore. What I see is marked by where the planes park when they land out there. When I first started working at Riversong, they used to park right out front, on the other side of the island out there, and to help ease the traffic, there was another place a few yards upriver called Magic's beach. At some point trees and sand gave away and the current was pushing harder against this bank. Magic's beach went from a sandy beach to a nearly unusable cut back in a single year and got worse after that. The already shallow landing site across from Riversong got shallower so the owner found a new parking place for his traffic at the bottom of that island. They had to retrieve their guests by boat anyway and it was simpler to go directly down inside of the island rather up and around. Eventually that too grew too shallow and muddy. Now, most of the planes land on a narrow muddy, sometimes sandy spit at the bottom of the island where Magic's beach used to be. I don't work out there anymore so I don't know where Riversong's traffic is landing, but I think it's at the same place. Their traffic has been lesser over the last two years though - things have changed.

Closer to home: When we first moved here, there was an island in the slough out in front of our trail. During the bulk of the year, it is under water. It's presence makes it impossible for us to get a fuel barge in here because it would be where his engines would need to be idling in order to maintain parking during offloading. This island was created because the water, for some reason I have yet been able to determine, swirls around it all the time, at least until the water goes down far enough that it no longer makes it around the downriver end.

Also, where our little creek empties out into the slough, there used to be quite a point reaching nearly all the way to the other bank. Since we parked our boats inside this creek, going in and out meant making something of a hairpin turn around that point and to miss the island. Recently, probably because of our traffic back and forth nearly every day, the point began to wear away. When the water gets down low, like it does every year shortly before freeze-up, it would also wear away at this point. A few years ago the top layer of grass washed away and that was the beginning of the end of that point. Last year at this time, it was completely gone. I liked that point; I liked walking out on it because it gave me a little better view upriver - not much, but a little. Unexpectedly, during the course of the summer, a healthy lump of sand was piled back up there. It isn't exactly in the same place though, and when the water went down this year, it didn't flow around the other side of it like it had always done in the past. This year the current leaving our little creek curved past that pile of sand on the close side. It cut away more at what was left of the point, which was next to nothing anymore. During the summer months, the water cutting around the outer island kept bashing into the bank that used to be the foundation of that once-upon-a-time point, shaving away at it.

Today I went down to see how things had progressed. The water flowing from our creek was, and had been, cutting away at this odd pile of sand. I would guess it's about half gone now; it's as if Mother Nature had changed her mind and now wanted the island gone. Of course all this sand has to go somewhere. You guessed it. That island out in the slough gets bigger every year. Not taller, just bigger.

So what was it I learned today? About clay? Where I thought for sure the water would continue to carve it's narrow little slot down to the gravel like it has done every year I've lived here, it has moved over. It's not Mother Nature being fickle apparently there's a thick foundation of clay down there. I knew there was clay, I can see it. I fight with it every time it gets soggy. That stuff is really slimy when it gets wet enough. So this clay may not last against the current like rock or gravel would, but it's protecting my parking lot for a little while longer. Interesting.

Another interesting thing: There is a clay here in Alaska that when fired makes a creamy item laced with red lines. This has always fascinated me because, as I understand it, there is no way of telling where the red lines will end up - they are invisible in the raw clay. A couple years ago I discovered a pottery maker on Facebook. Anyway, I asked them about it, about how I might be able to tell if what I had here was this kind of clay. Or even how to tell for sure if it is clay and not just slimy, silty buildup. They offered to test a sample if I could send them some, so all year I've been trying to figure out the best place to collect a good, clean sample. I think I have. Time will tell. Just like with everything else I need to mail from here, this too will have to wait until such time as I can mail something - probably some time next summer. I'll be sure to keep you posted on the outcome.