The day started out lazily, with everyone in the bunkhouse sleeping in after our busy Saturday. I spent most of the day reading, writing, and finishing organizing my room. It’s really hard to stay organized, because A) I will be moving downstairs in about a month and don’t want to fully unpack, and B) there’s nowhere to put anything. Nonetheless, it looks and feels a little more like home now.
Around 3pm, everyone was getting pretty restless, so 4 of us decided to take a walk down to a local seafood distributor.. It was a decent walk down the road toward the airport and just past the cemetery in the industrial outskirts of town. Old gold dredgers littered the sides of the road, and giant shipping trucks roared past us, spraying mud into the air.
It was cool and rainy again, the sky displaying every shade of grey.
As we walked back I smelled the distinct aroma of a wood fire; every yard was a junkyard full of rusty pieces of metal and equipment, and old oil barrels, some draped with drying muskox hides. At one point I looked over to see an old man gold panning in a homemade sleuce in his front yard, a fire ablaze to melt down the gold he was recovering. It struck me again how important gold mining is to this town.
Well, as we arrived back at the bunkhouse, I saw Seth heading out with binoculars around his neck. “Are you going birding?” I asked, possibly a little too enthusiastically. Fortunately, he had been looking for me before to go, so I was back just in time.
Luckily Seth knows Alaskan birds much better than I do, so I learned a lot. He pointed out White-crowned Sparrows and Hoary Redpolls before we even got to the marsh. Once in the marsh, after spotting a little ground squirrel we also saw a Long-billed Dowitcher, some Western Sandpipers, a Raven, an Arctic Tern, and some Mew Gulls.
We hiked for about an hour, across a stream, over a road, around a lake, through lots of mud, and back through the marsh, identifying Red-throated Loons, Red-necked Phalaraopes, Grey-cheeked Thrush, Glaucous gulls, Long-tailed Ducks, and a Fox Sparrow among others. Less than halfway through our hike, it started pouring rain. Well, as pouring as it gets here — rather than the big raindrops we get at home, this was more like a cold heavy shower that evenly soaks you head to foot.