As the pitter-patter of rain comes down on roofs and windshields, I remind myself that the rain makes everything happen here amidst heavy sighs. Living in a temperate rainforest is not for the faint of heart, as people often forget that we are, in fact, a RAINforest. I am blessed to have had the opportunity to work in the tourist industry for so many years, as I have been able to experience my home through the eyes of tourists for many summers – answering their questions, and experience their wonder and amazement. But we also experience their frustration as well; frustration that the postcard was sunny but it’s been raining all week. They are often impressed to see such dense and lush vegetation everywhere, and the plethora of wildlife to be found. But yet they get so frustrated with the rain.
I have to admit, I have been guilty of this myself. I plan a ridge-line weekend hike, and then clouds move in and hold the peaks in a misty embrace; I hope for a sweet camping trip sans rain flies, but the clouds lose their battle against condensation and the rain falls down. But for all the beauty that Southeast Alaska has to offer, she has to make the magic happen somehow. We have such lush vegetation because there is plenty of water (I’m sure California wishes they had some rain right about now as they spray paint their brown yards green in their D4 drought *1). Our flower and berry season has been amazing for the bees and the birds this spring and summer – as we all know plants wither and lose their turgidity when they don’t get enough water, while taking on the neglected slump of thirst. In addition to helping our terrestrial flora and fauna, the rain also washes nutrients from the land into our water system. The plankton and fish feed on it, and in turn the trophic levels feed on them, all the way up to our apex predators the orca and humpback whales that our relatives fly from all over the world to come and see while crashing on our couches. And the fish! Holy smokes the spawning rotting fish! Without the plentiful rain, they would have a pretty difficult time swimming and flopping upstream, throwing themselves over waterfalls to spawn. Our healthy black and brown bear population, not to mention our opportunistic scavengers the seagulls and eagles too, would find themselves on merger times without the fish, possibly hitting up more trash cans or crashing a few dinner parties.
As we flip our calendars from August to September, and count down the days to September 15th, we should be even more grateful to live in our rainforest ecosystem. Though we all shudder when remembering our “2014 Winter That Never Was”, the deer population should be doing wonderfully this season. After such a mild winter with plenty of exposed ground and bows to nibble on all winter, the die-off should have been minimal. The newborn fawns were welcomed into the world with beautiful warm sunny days in May that graced their little spotted backs while nibbling on tender shoots and leaves that didn’t have to fight feet of snow to grow. The bucks should have full bellies as they begin to rub their velvet and get ready to battle each other in preparation for the rut. The does should be busy nursing their fawns and storing fat reserves to get them through another winter, with either with their fawns by their sides, or creating the next generation.
All thanks to our rain.
Courtney Wendel has lived in Juneau since she was a year old, her parents being farmers from Iowa. She has a twin brother and an older brother, and learned to enjoy the outdoors at a young age by following the boys into mischief. Graduating from JDHS in 2006, she attended UAS to receive her Literature of the Environment, BA English degree in the spring of 2011. She is proud to call Juneau home, with her beloved cat and dog. When not at work for the Department of Transportation, she spends most of her time on the diverse trail system hiking, running, or camping with her spotted pooch and adventure buddies.