A sadly neglected blog

A long time has passed since I posted here. I have been blogging for 6 years — or more — I lose track. After a while I wonder whether I have anything more to say. For a time I was writing about my past life, but, sad to say, my memory is less good than it was. Detail is beginning to escape me.

It’s been almost 7 weeks since we came home from Alaska. This island world is so different from the Alaska world; for me there seems to be a disconnect between the two. It was still winter in Alaska — the 2nd coldest April on record. When we got to Lummi the trees were in full leaf and there were many flowers. Our friends said it was one of the warmest Aprils they remembered.

To save Jerry from a very long drive we decided to take the ferry home. Even so we had a 3 day drive from Manley to Haines, Alaska, where the ferry stops. That’s a distance of about 600 miles, and youthful people could do it in one day, but the roads are difficult — the one from Manley to Fairbanks is about half gravel — and we are not youthful. The first day we drove to Fairbanks. It was snowing when we got there. The day we left Jerry and I had spent the morning getting the house ready to shut up. I cleaned and tidied; Jerry did the really hard job of shutting down the water and blowing out the pipes in case it freezes.

House ready for us to leave. Fluffy headed for his sofa.

Then we set off in the snowy landscape for Fairbanks.

The road to Manley, the Elliot Highway

Still plowing the high places

We got there late afternoon and had dinner at Pikes Landing. In summer that’s a stop for tour buses connected to cruises, but it was still too early for that sort of thing. The restaurant was crowded with locals. I was feeling the after effects of a stomach bug I somehow acquired in Manley, and food in general was not appealing. The mounds of assorted deep fried items and huge deserts with cakes and syrup, whipped cream, nuts, ice cream, chocolate shavings and candied cherries were difficult to look at. I managed with a salad. We stayed the night at the Golden North where the rooms are minimal but the people are always pleasant.

The next morning it was snowing as we set off for Haines. About 3:30 we crossed the border into Canada and decided to stop at Beaver Creek. We stayed at Buckshot Betty’s, where there are cabins and a restaurant. Buckshot Betty’s has the advantage of being reliably open year round. Betty owns and runs it, and she works like a trooper. She slogs back and forth from the kitchen where she cooks, to the dining room where she serves and checks in cabins renters. She usually looks harried and distracted and her hair is unruly. She concentrates  intensely on her work ; she doesn’t bother with
small talk.

Since she stays open from early morning to late in the evening she sometimes has help, and I asked after the friendly Australian lady who had waited on us when we drove up a month earlier.

Betty, who seemed out of sorts, said, “She’s still here. I can’t work all the time.”

I thought a compliment might soften her. I said,”‘One reason you’re so successful is that you’re always here.”

“Oh,” she replied, angrily, “So it’s all right that I work 18 hours a day.”

We settled into our tiny cabin and took the dogs for a walk, dodging big piles of melting snow and slushy puddles that seemed to merge into small lakes. The melting snow had revealed a winter’s accumulation of trash and dog poop. Snow mixed with rain was falling from the sky. I looked forward to Haines,

Downtown Haines off season

on the coast, where I was sure spring would have arrived.

The next morning we were underway early. To get to the coast one crosses mountains where the pass is about 3500 feet and the weather can be treacherous. We got over without incident, though there was some snow falling as we descended from the pass. Haines turned out to be less springlike than I had hoped, but nevertheless there was no snow and daffodils were blooming. Because there was an annual meeting that night in Haines of a Canadian group promoting tourism, we were lucky to get the last room at The Captain’s Choice, the most convenient motel in town. We had 2 days to enjoy Haines before the ferry left .

At last we were lucky with the weather. It sprinkled off and on, but for the most part it was sunny and breezy. Jagged snow peaked mountains frame the town of Haines.

View of Fort Seward, Haines

The harbor and long coast look across the water to high forested hills.  There are parks all around Haines with rivers, lakes and forests: home for plenty of bears and eagles.

Along the Chilkat River at Haines

We took a long walk along a rocky beach with snowy mountains in the distance, and there we saw thousands of amazing sea ducks: surf scoters.

Beach and mountains

These black birds with big white, red and orange bills were in the water in huge aggregations near the shore. As a mass of ducks moved forward in tight formation the birds in the lead would peal off in a rolling dive.

Surf scoters diving for mussels

The birds dive for mussels, the main constituent of their diet. I was taking pictures of them when a man and woman came out on the beach and greeted me. We fell into conversation and that’s how I learned about them. His name is Tom Ganner and he is, among other things, a wildlife photographer.

We ate our meals mostly at the Bamboo Room just down the street from the Captain’s Choice. The food there is simple but good. The restaurant is owned and run by Christy Tengs and her husband, Bob Fowler. In the past we have spent time in Haines waiting for the ferry and I had chatted with Christy when I noticed that she had the same last name as the ferry bartender Tony Tengs.

Tony making a bloody mary for me

The 4 night trip back to Bellingham on the ferry was, as always, relaxing and pleasant.

Great weather all the way to Bellingham. The sea like glass in places.

We waited hours in line to board and got on at about 8 pm. There were the usual military families being shifted from Alaska to such distant points as Texas or Alabama. There were about 20 trucks — rigs for carrying sled racing dogs — that boarded that trip, but they were all headed for Juneau, just 4 hours from Haines, so by the next morning only the usual number of dogs were being walked when the ferry made stops. The sled dogs were going to Juneau to take tourists for rides on glaciers in the summer. During the last 48 hours of the Ferry trip there are no stops, so people with pets can attend to them only at “car deck calls” every 6 to 8 hours when passengers are allowed on the car deck. Pets must stay in cars or cages on the car deck. They have to pee and poop on the deck, and since most dogs are house trained, most of them want grass. Jerry and I have tried artificial grass pads on our poodles, but they just ignore the pads. They know perfectly well they are inside, not outside. A community of dog owners forms on the basis of: “Did yours go?” Some distressed owners had dogs that held it to the bitter end. Others, like us, were busy with rolls of paper towels mopping up when the poor critters just couldn’t hold it any longer.

We took long walks in Sitka

Russian Orthodox church in Sitka

and Ketchikan, where the ferry stops for an extended period. I actually got sunburned in Ketchikan. Not many people can make that claim, since it rains there most of the time.

Katchikan in the sunshine. It was hot.

We enjoyed renewing our acquaintance with Tony Tengs, the bartender on the ferry. We had our evening cocktail there each day before dinner.

The minute I arrived home I was plunged into preparations for a dinner I agreed to put on as a fundraiser for the island church — the original island church. There is also an island “Chapel” that meets at the Grange hall. It broke off from the main church a few years ago for political and doctrinal reasons. It is fundamentalist and politically conservative and objected to the mildly liberal leaning of the old island church.

I had agreed to put on the dinner before we went to Alaska. It seemed like an easy thing. All I had to do was cook a nice buffet, then later the party would move to the house of the organizers, Russ and Cathy, for deserts and aperitifs. The idea was to serve mostly outside. About 50 people had said they would come, each to pay $25.

It rained, so the party was inside. I worked for 3 days cooking for it and was exhausted when it was over. Jerry said that if I agreed to do such a thing again he would be angry. The problem was that I felt everything had to be perfect because it was not for myself, but for an organization and people were paying for it. Many of the people who came I knew only slightly, some not at all. So I cooked everything from scratch. If the party had been my party I probably would have bought all the food ready made at Costco. Costco does good ready made party food.

We are already planning our fall trip back to Alaska. I am an optimist. I’m sure it will be a better trip than the “spring” trip when we couldn’t even walk in the beautiful woods because there was so much snow and I was sick for one week out of four. We will take my daughter, Julia, and our friend, Ghislaine with us and we plan to stop at Stewart-Hyder to see bears and glaciers.

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11 Responses to A sadly neglected blog

  1. Friko says:

    Did you start off by saying you were not ‘youthful’?
    You could have fooled me.
    This trip sounds like pretty hard work, although it’s exciting too. A younger person might have balked at it and you are already planning the return trip. What happened to your thoughts about maybe selling up? Too young, are you?

    I can understand your enthusiasm, the scenery is breathtaking and the journey itself is an adventure.

  2. Snow looks so wonderful!
    It’s 98F at my house and our air conditioning is broken. It won’t be repaired until Monday at the earliest … and it’s expected to be 102 and 104 over the weekend. Sigh! I’ve always wanted to visit Sitka …! One of my friends just returned from a 10 day trip to Alaska. She can’t stop raving about it. The fundraiser sounds like SO much work. I don’t think I would ever even attempt to take that on! It’s nice to have you back blogging!

  3. Hattie says:

    Sitka looks wonderful. I really must see that part of the world. Glad your charity buffet worked out, and I know how you feel about doing it right.

  4. Wow. Your energy amazes me. I suspect I would be a basket case. I loved the photos. While we are in winter here, snow is a magical romantic rarity.
    And yes, I would have cooked the buffet from scratch – and had to retire back to my basket.

  5. pauline says:

    Love reading of your travels. It’s like going along with you. I should think you’d miss Alaska a lot if you decided to sell up and stay on the island. As you two age, you’ll just have to find some young sports to accompany you to do all the hard work!

  6. Mike M says:

    I found your blog through another, while wandering on the ‘web’, and read several posts with great interest. I lived in Alaska 40 years ago, Anchorage, but it was close to Alaska…
    I’m figuring Joee Reddington is Joe Sr.’s son? I met Joe a few times in the 70’s, we had a house in Talkeetna, next to the store/gas station and across from the airport.

    Your pictures brought up memories of driving the highway back when it was dirt and gravel from Dawson Creek to the border, I probably drove it 10 times. We always seemed to camp at the same spots on the way up, Muncho Lake, Rancheria river, etc. I only drove it once, mid-winter, the rest were in the spring or fall. I did a post on my first trip up there with my nephews a year or so ago.

    I’m sorry I didn’t find your site earlier. I am now retired, living in Montana. Grown kids and grandkids, my halcyon days rather behind me. I doubt I’ll get back up there, but have many memories. My oldest, now 40, coming out of the house on a 75 degree summer day, muttering ‘hot, hot, hot’ and going back inside, seeing the lights in all quadrants of the sky at midnight, my wife large with our second holding up a silver salmon on a river.

    Did you ever meet Guy or Pat McGee? They moved up there in 1946, Pat was active with hostels and a member of the 99’s, a women pilot’s association. I knew them through their kids, Brant, Kirk and Kim.

    Cheers, and good luck to you.


  7. wisewebwoman says:

    So glad you’re back Anne and with a wonderful travelogue as usual you take us with you. I am in awe of your energy, the trek back and forth is quite monstrous and planning a fall one too?

    I’ve been trapped with that entertainment thing too. We need to pace ourselves a little better, my friend.


  8. annie says:

    Glad your back! You are not alone in blog neglect. I am also. Dinner for 50??? I would say that is a huge undertaking. I was wondering about Alaska, I thought I remembered you writing that you were going to sell the place in Manley?

  9. Rain Trueax says:

    I always enjoy reading what you are doing but understand how you feel as sometimes I run out of words and wonder if I can keep blogging much longer. It is an option for us all whether it’s working or not. I suspect most long-time bloggers go through the question of when to quit. I hope you continue awhile longer though and so what if it’s not often.

  10. Randy Smith says:

    Am behind on my blog reading. Enjoyed this travelogue. I had a great time on my one loop on the Alaska Marine Ferry a dozen or so years ago.

  11. Anil says:

    Such beautiful scenes. So serene. This was a long journey. Lovely reading your account.

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