Unexpected weekend sunshine sent us on a road trip north of Juneau to a little beach near Sunshine Cove. We sat several hours on a rocky outcrop, watching and listening to the abundance of the wakening northern world. I took the opportunity to practice drawing the textures of foliage on the little salt-battered shoreline spruce.
Seems to me that Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) are the defining tree species of Southeast Alaska's forests. Although western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) are more abundant, spruce are more prominent. They grow where we like to go: along coastlines, on riverbanks, on the outwash plains of glaciers. And they follow where we've been: old village sites, abandoned mining ruins, forgotten roads.
My favorite spruce are the ones that colonize this region's uplift meadows (extravagant, lush parklands created as former tidelands are lifted from the sea by glacial rebound). These "wolf spruce" are sturdy, cheerfully-symmetrical little trees, bristling with vigor and growing almost fast enough to watch. I drew this one (and a cone from an older cousin) a few years ago near the Brotherhood Bridge, north of Juneau.