Monday, April 8, 2013

Driftwood

An unusual conversion of events caught us by surprise last Thursday.  The sun came out and our calendar was blank.  What could we do but head out the road?  We grabbed food, dog biscuits, our cameras, painting supplies and books.  We never got past the cameras and Karen’s peanut butter cookies -- and Niko’s dog biscuits.

Traffic was light as we drove the 26 miles out the road.  One of the cars turned off before we reached it.  We pulled over to let the other one pass.  We ended up on the shores of Sumner Strait at the southern end of our island.  There we had miles of beach all to ourselves.  It’s an area where cottonwood with their warty-looking hulls, straight-backed Sitka Spruce, Mountain and Western Hemlock and clumps of alder -- entire trees big enough to shade the streets of urban America -- line the Mitkof Island shoreline. 

Many of these trees once flourished beside the nearby Stikine River.  According to Wikipedia, the Stikine originates 335 miles upstream, high on the lava field of the Spatsizi Plateau of British Columbia.  That makes the Stikine 64 miles longer than New York’s Hudson River.  Due to our wet Pacific Northwest climate, the Stikine’s average discharge of 55,800 cubic feet per second (CFS) dwarfs the Hudson’s 21,400 CFS.  With discharges rapidly rising and falling from alternating deluges of rain or melting of sun-struck glaciers, the river’s channel constantly shifts back and forth across the Stikine River valley.  And as it wanders back and forth large sections of shoreline wash into the River taking with them the trees trying desperately to stabilize the banks.  Tumbling into the river, the swift currents carry them seaward until eventually many of these trees, some riding the waves all the way from Canada, pile up on our rocky shores. 

That’s were we found them.  Despite the sun, a cold wind funneling down the Stikine from Canada convinced us we’d rather capture the day’s painting subjects at home in our warm studios.  So, with a change of plans Karen and I honed in on photographing those with intact root systems whose undulating “branches” once firmly anchored them to the land -- until the land disappeared into the river. 

As we wandered down the beach a sea of logs, often piled several layers deep on top of one another, lay parallel to the ocean.  Living relatives of the beached relics lined the adjacent uplands of Mitkof Island.  They, too, will one day fall, but only the front row is ever likely to feed the ever shifting row on the shoreline. New sculptures greeted us with every step, logs and roots sculpted by wind, water, rocks and battering against one another during high tides, natures sculptures worthy of exhibit in the world’s finest museums.  But, wait, isn’t that where we were last Thursday.


               Somewhere around the corner in the far distance -- the mighty Stikine River


                                  A sea of logs parallels the shore of Sumner Strait


                                        Karen finds a cooperative photo subject


                          Inside a root wad stripped of soil and bark by erosion


                                                         And yet another



                          Nature's sculptures abound on the beaches of Sumner Strait

5 comments:

Carol Swanson McCabe said...

Beautiful stumps...love them!

Don and Karen Cornelius Artwork said...

Thanks, Carol. We wish you two were here to enjoy them with us. Then again, you have the desert variety of sculpted wood.

Cindi said...

Looks like a fun expedition if not a perfect day for plein air painting. I keep threatening to organize a painting day here again, but it has been a busy spring. Maybe after Mayfest. . .

Di said...

Wow, such a lovely photoobject, great shots! Have a good weekend you two! :)

Don and Karen Cornelius Artwork said...

Thanks, Di. And you have a good weekend, too.