After spending the first 4 days I was back in Sitka running around doing errands, I finally made it out on my first hike. As it happened, it was also my first night spent outdoors this summer as well. I hit the Indian River Trailhead around 5pm, intending to go all the way to the falls to spend the night there.

This past winter brought a great deal of snow to Sitka, from what I have heard. This was evident along the trail as well. The plants were not nearly so far along as I have grown used to seeing them this time of year. Further up the trail the salmon berry leaves were just starting to come out when normally the leaves would be out and they would be in full bloom by now. The first patch of snow I saw was not too far beyond the second bridge. Most years there is no snow at all along the trail. Just below the falls there was a large snowbank which went all the way across the river.

On the way up the trail, I heard and saw the coast guard helicopter flying around and I wondered what it was out for. Shortly after I reached the falls, three search and rescue people along with a SAR dog arrived. They were looking for a young woman who had gone out on the previous Tuesday and was due back that morning. The helicopter was a part of that search. I later read in the paper that they had found the missing party camping with friends. I imagine that would be frustrating for SAR people, though I suppose it is better than some alternatives.

In the first couple of miles of trail, there were many stream violets in bloom along the side of the trail. The pink flowers of salmonberry bushes were also fairly common. Skunk cabbage was also in its first stages of spring growth. Perhaps a mile from the falls, I noticed an old snag which looked like it had been home to many woodpeckers over the years. It was a ways off the trail and I went and took a closer look. I didn't really see any evidence that there were woodpeckers there currently. I didn't watch long though, so it might be worthwhile to go look again at some point.

I arrived at the falls around 7:30pm, dropped most of my stuff and then walked around for a bit before going back to the campsite around 8pm. I was a little bit cold and tired at that point, so I decided that I would at least take a nap, if not sleep the whole night. This was my first time using the bivibag which I had purchased earlier this spring. It is insulated on the top and with an adequate ground pad it's supposed to keep one warm down to 45 degrees. On this particular evening I had two things working against me, it was almost certainly cooler than 45 degrees and I didn't really have an adequate ground pad. Even so, I didn't freeze. I found that I could stay reasonably warm by curling up into a ball and pulling the fleece pullover I had on over my knees. The one drawback to this position is that it is not exactly comfortable to spend most of the night like that. Oh well, I figured that this summer would be something of a learning experience for me, and this is just one of those things I get to learn about. Another thing I learned is that if I put up all the things the bivibag has to keep the weather out, they do a remarkably good job of keeping the moisture from my breath in. Which is to say, there was a great deal of condensation on the inside by the time I got up in the morning. It mostly stayed off of me though, so I was fairly dry.

It was overcast when I headed out but the weather called for sunny skies the next day. It was not exactly sunny when I got up, but I could see signs of clearing. Not that it would have mattered too much since I was down in a valley which the sun wouldn't hit until later in the day. I hiked back down the trail and didn't see anyone until after I had taken an hour break and dozed off on the bench by the muskeg about .75 miles up the trail. This seemed a little strange to me since Indian River Trail is so well used and it was shaping up to be the first sunny day in Sitka in a few days, and only the second sunny day in a couple of weeks.

Home | Summer 1999