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.
Then we set off in the snowy landscape for Fairbanks.
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
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 4 night trip back to Bellingham on the ferry was, as always, relaxing and pleasant.
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
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.
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.