Project 52 #16, Part 2: Swan Song Trail

Have you ever had one of those moments in life where you feel like you need to pinch yourself to make sure whatever you’re experiencing isn’t a dream? When we stepped out of the forest trail onto the shores of this ocean inlet sparkling in the sunshine, and saw the mountains rising snowy and majestic beneath the blue sky before us, that’s exactly how I felt. If it had been a movie set, the soundtrack would have been by John Williams. The scenery was that epic.

We followed the shoreline of the inlet out to where a World War II-era EC-47 airplane had to make an emergency crash landing in 1968 due to engine failure. The landing was successful enough that all four passengers survived, and the plane didn’t burn up, leaving us with a little piece of history in an unlikely place. Fifty-four years later, it’s a bit more worse for the wear, but it makes for a great place to take a snack break on an improvised plane wing picnic table. The kids had a blast climbing around on it, and little Jonathan cried when it was time to go and kept calling, “Bye, hair-plane!” for a long time after we left.

Along the way, we were thrilled to see and hear sandhill cranes (too fast for my camera), and not thrilled (but also not surprised) to find fresh bear tracks in the mud. I spotted a new-to-me variety of shorebirds, pictured below. Two of our party nearly lost a boot in the muddy tidal flats, so that was a new lesson learned about the ocean.

“[You] set the earth on its foundations, never to be moved.

You covered it with the deep like a garment; the waters stood above the mountains.

At Your rebuke the waters fled; at the sound of Your thunder they hurried away—the mountains rose and the valleys sank to the place You assigned for them—You set a boundary they cannot cross, that they may never again cover the earth.” (Psalm 104:5-9)

P.S. Yes, I know I already did a post #16, but this time you get a bonus! We went on two different excursions this week, taking advantage of the gorgeous weather, and it just felt like the photos of them needed to be in two separate posts.

Project 52 #16: Finding Spring

One of the main things I’ve noticed about spring in southeastern Alaska, is that it is slow in comparison to what I’m familiar with. In Minnesota, we have a long, cold, drawn out winter, generally followed by a fast and furious spring, barely a month or two between the season of snow-on-the-ground to the heat of summer. It always felt like the world was exploding when spring came, and if you blinked, you’d miss it. Here, it feels different.

Spring is a full season here, not just a brief commercial between winter and summer. It’s much more contemplative and thoughtful. The daffodils poke up gently, then slowly rise. The pussy willows blossom gray, then linger for weeks before turning green. The temperatures rise very gradually, almost imperceptibly. You have TIME to take pictures of things here. I appreciate that feature.

Another thing to get used to is the effect of the ocean and mountains on the season. I drive a few miles across the mountains to the western side of the island to find that the flowers and foliage there are a good week ahead of ours on the east side. The violets along a mountain trail are barely poking up, while the violets along Gravelly Creek are wide open and blooming, and it’s all a matter of elevation!

While some signs of spring are the same here, like pussy willows or the return of the robins, there are some delightful new ones to enjoy, too. We walked a trail on the western side of the island this week, and got to see a few of them up close.

Salmonberries blossom early, and they are a delightful shade of pink!

Herring eggs wash up on shore, tiny jewels amidst bits of seaweed. Zach dared me to eat one, and so I popped a clump in my mouth and then he said, “No, stop, don’t do it!” Haha! Guess he didn’t think I would actually go for it. Harvesting herring eggs is a tradition started long ago by the natives here, and they are considered a wonderful seasonal delicacy. He just didn’t know if it was okay to eat ones washed up on the shore or not.

The skunk cabbage blossoms are a startlingly showy yellow flower, that remind of me of giant calla lilies. They are the bright splashes of spring yellow to the boggy ditches here that the marsh marigolds are in Minnesota. They do, indeed, have a fragrance reminiscent of skunks, but thankfully fainter. My two-year-old son was mostly fascinated by the fact that there are little bugs inside the flowers.

And finally, we have the devil’s club just beginning to bud. This is one of those crazy fascinating plants like stinging nettle that you can handle only with gloves (check out those thorns, which they say are nearly impossible to pull out of your skin and must be left to work their way out on their own), but apparently boasts amazing healing properties. I bought some locally-made devil’s club salve to try, so we shall see if the claims are true!

What I’ve been reading this week: The book of Judges, which is one endless cycle of the children of Israel falling away from the Lord, receiving the consequences for their sin, then repenting, followed by God mercifully sending someone to rescue them from their affliction. There are some great, inspiring stories, and also some really sobering ones—all great commentary on the sinful predictability of humankind, and a God who is both just and merciful.

“…may all Your enemies perish, O LORD! But may those who love You shine like the sun at its brightest.” (Judges 5:31)

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Project 52 #13: Dark and Light

What I’ve been thinking about this week: “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”” (Mark 10:27)

About the photos: I was watching whale spouts and sea otters while I was taking these photographs. None of them came close enough for me to get decent pictures, but it was beautiful to see the ocean alive with marine life while the sun and the rain danced against the backdrop of the mountains.

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Project 52 #9 Snowy Peaks and Hiking Views

“If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. 

Your threshing shall last to the time of the grape harvest, and the grape harvest shall last to the time for sowing. And you shall eat your bread to the full and dwell in your land securely. 

I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid. And I will remove harmful beasts from the land, and the sword shall not go through your land. 

You shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword.  Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand, and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword. 

I will turn to you and make you fruitful and multiply you and will confirm my covenant with you. 

You shall eat old store long kept, and you shall clear out the old to make way for the new. 

I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. 

And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.” (Leviticus 26:3-12)

While it’s important to remember that this is a specific promise to the Israelite people, what I found beautiful about this passage was what it told me about the high value that God places on obedience and following His ways.

This is still true of God, by the way, and we’re not exempt from this principle. We have our own promises of the blessings of obedience. Here’s just one of them:

“Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23)

About the photos: Most of our snow at the lower elevations has disappeared—and finally some of the back roads and trails are accessible again! I was so excited about this and the beautiful sunny weather that I hiked two trails this week. You can see part of the town of Thorne Bay in the first overlook photo, and a bird’s eye view of the town of Craig on the other side of the island in the last photo. I was literally looking down at soaring eagles here. Also pictured, a couple of the highest peaks on Prince of Wales where there’s snow year-round!

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Project 52 #8: Snow, Ice and Sun

“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 

For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.  And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 

And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.  And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 

But the one who endures to the end will be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:6-14)

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that this passage in Matthew just “happened” to be a part of my Bible reading plan this week. As we hear real, live reports of war in our world, it is a great comfort to know that God is in control and no matter what happens, in the end He is the victor.

Meanwhile, I pray for our brother and sisters who must suffer and rise to challenges that I have never dreamed of, living in the sobering reality that this world will never know true, lasting peace until Jesus is King.

P.S. Need a little reminder of spring for these last days of winter? I recently found a post full of springtime photos and a few thoughts on transition from 2021 that I never got around to publishing in the flurry of getting ready for our move. I hope taking a peek at it will bring a bit of extra beauty and encouragement to your day!

Project 52 #7: Sunny Shores

“Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever.  The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14:13-14)

“Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?

You in Your mercy have led forth the people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them in Your strength to Your holy habitation.” (Exodus 15:11,13)

I’ve been soaking in the story of the Exodus this last week. How wonderful to remember that this God of the Israelites, who parted the Red Sea, is the same God we serve today—and He’s still in the business of redeeming people. Praise His name!

About the photos: The kids and I have spent a couple days playing along the shore this last week, soaking in some overdue sunshine! Can you spot the bald eagle in the tree on the island? There is pretty much always an eagle sitting on that tree on that island, sometimes two. There were a couple trees by our house in Minnesota that the eagles habitually perched on, as well, and I love that moving 1700 miles away didn’t change the fact that I still get to live within daily sight and sound of these beautiful big birds.

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Project 52 #4: Rolling Mists

Watching the rays of the sun rise up through the dark, burst through and dispel the morning mists across Thorne Bay is one of my favorite things ever. If I can, I always pause what I’m doing to watch, because watching the light win is motivating. It’s a good way to visualize how my day as a follower of Christ should be lived:

Victoriously.

Triumphantly.

Actively remembering that no matter how much evil seems to loom large in the world around us, someday Jesus is coming and then the darkness will be conquered forever.

“So it will be at the end of this age.  The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness,  and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Matthew 13:40-43)

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Project 52 2022

Every once in awhile, I enjoy challenging myself with a joint photography and Bible reading project (like the “Savoring Summer” challenge I did while reading through the book of Romans). This year I’m going to try something a little more long-term, because I want to re-read through the Bible in a year, something I haven’t done in a little while! So I’m going to do what is often dubbed a “Project 52”, which is simply committing to take and publish one photo per week for an entire year. With my weekly photo, I will include a verse or two that were the highlight of my week’s reading, and possibly accompanying thoughts if I have time and feel so inspired.

Anyone else want to join me and help keep each other accountable? I’ll personally be using the Old/New Testament plan from Bible Gateway if you need somewhere to start—or they have several other options like reading straight through or chronologically! (And if you have an entirely different goal for your Bible reading this year, I’d still love to have you share in the comments what you’ve been reading and learning!)

Let’s encourage one another to get into the Word and stay in it this year!

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:16)

At the Edge of the Ocean

The ocean is a whole new world for our family. It’s beautiful and mysterious, vast and wild, incredibly fascinating and a little terrifying. It actually boggles my mind to think about the depth and breadth of it, and the unknown quantities of hidden creatures it contains. I have taken the kayak out on a couple sheltered bays, but I think it will be a while before we’re brave enough to venture out into the big water on our own. The unpredictability of the wind and the waves and the hazards of fluctuating tides, rocks and shoals are daunting to say the least.

One thing we have wholeheartedly embraced, though, is the adventure of beach combing. It feels like a safe way to experience the ocean. We get to feel the spray, smell the saltwater, even get our feet wet—but without much risk. Because of the tide fluctuation the shoreline is a moody, ever changing, wonderfully unpredictable landscape and you never know what you will find. Every time we go, there is something new to discover.

An abalone shell.

A sea urchin.

Purple starfish.

A nudibranch.

Sea anemone waving their arms in shallow tidal pools.

Far out, an orca blowing.

Crabs scuttling along rocky bottoms.

A mink, fishing for his seafood breakfast.

We have seen and learned so many new things in the last few months, and I know we’ve barely scratched the surface of what there is to discover!

“O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.

Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great.” (Psalm 104:24-25)

Twelve-Mile Arm

The weather was so beautiful during the last week of October, we decided at the very last minute to take the kids on a little overnight “cabining” adventure. The Tongass National Forest is home to several remote rustic cabins that you can rent, and we’ve been eager to check some of them out. We chose this one on a sea estuary called Twelve Mile Arm because it’s one that you can hike into, versus the many that can only be reached by boat or floatplane, and it was just right for us!

Accomplishment #1: We found the place, which was about an hour and half away drive from Thorne Bay, without getting lost.

Accomplishment #2: No one twisted an ankle packing all our gear down the trail in the dark, with no small thanks to the loan of Joel’s wheelbarrow and Jason’s flashlights.

We roasted the classic hotdogs and s’mores, read bedtime stories by flashlight, and the kids slept like logs on those hard bunks in their sleeping bags (don’t ask about dad and mom!). The little wood stove kept the place cozy and someone had left a nice pile of firewood for us to use. The next morning, we did simple things like sit on the porch while sipping hot coffee and poke around along the shoreline for treasures (including the remains of someone’s hunt, as pictured below!). The inlet was like glass, which made for some fabulous kayaking. I saw a jellyfish, and we all saw a pine marten. South-bound geese were flocking up and calling loudly across the water, and it was incredibly peaceful.

We were so grateful for the chance to slow down and spend some time together while experiencing this place for a short but sweet 24 hours!

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.” (Psalm 24:1-2)