If you've been watching our SPOT track on the home page, you may have noticed an unlikely diversion to Boca Raton and Telluride yesterday. It's not a GPS glitch, it's that Collin left Luna and me to go to work for a couple of days (he's in "track mode" when he flies, hence the many position reports). He's expected to be back with us today, and we'll make our way home to Glade Park starting tomorrow.
We are currently in Seattle, so we may have to visit the REI mothership store while we're here!
As many times as we've been to Alaska, we've never seen it quite like this. There's something about looking up from below rather than down from above, i.e. the cockpit of our Cessna 210. We always marveled at just how h-u-g-e Alaska was, what a commitment it took to visit--commitment in terms of time, finances, stamina and so many other things. (And that's when we came to Alaska with you Parkwest folks by air, and could cut highway corners and straighten out the route lines!) But to do this by ground is amazing. We took a car ferry from Haines to Skagway, a distance of 14 miles on the ferry and an hour of our time. By road it would have been 350 miles and a day's travel.
We have made the bittersweet transition back into "civilization," if that is what you call a small city with multiple gas stations, Tim Horton's coffee, and good running trails for Collin. (He's been remarkably diligent in his training for the Half Marathon, and so far had only one serious wildlife encounter.)
Here are some more scenes from the land of Denali and Jack London and all those hard-scrapping homesteaders. We managed to get our grizzly count up to about 15, blacks about 25. Still only the one lonely caribou, and as we make our way south, the chances of seeing more are slim. I think we're becoming wildlife snobs--yesterday I scoffed at a roadside warning for elk, thinking "how boring!"
Those Alaskans waste nothing! We've seen a few different uses for bent propellers. Turns out one of these on the "Propeller Tree" belongs to a friend of ours, who shall remain anonymous.
Despite the afore-composed forecast, there has actually been a lot of rain in Haines, Ah well, such is life in "Southeast," as Alaskans call this part of the state. Yesterday Collin went flying right seat in a beautiful Beaver, the latest machine in the Mountain Flying Service fleet. It was a beautiful loop: Haines - Gustavus - Skagway - Haines. Last night, the two of us finally got our grizzly fix: two young bears fishing away under the moonlight at the inlet. There is a fish weir installed, so it's an easy catch for those guys. Wouldn't a photo or two be ideal? I didn't snap any before Collin's fight, and the lighting was too tricky to capture anything valuable with the bears. You'll just have to believe me!
We could no longer cope with the rain in Hope
We left Kenai as soon as we could
Bob Caskey was wishing we’d join him for fishing
And boy was that fishing day good!
Though the halibut declined to nibble the line
The rock fish and salmon jumped on
Bob, Ed and Collin were all day a-haulin’
Til the fuel in the boat was all gone.
We departed the seas of gorgeous Valdez
And drove over the green, misty pass
Then there was all that smoke surrounding Tok
And the numerous stops for gas.
Our Milepost guide once again lied
About where we could fill our tank
There was a great deal of concern until we learned
Of a trading post at the next riverbank.
Those provocative hares and many black bears
We left behind at Prince William Sound,
Six driving hours of naming wildflowers
Now we’re back on familiar ground.
It's Snag Junction—not Grand Junction
Located east of the Canadian line
We’ll stay here again, tho we’ve already been,
On smoked salmon we will dine.
We expect no rain as we drive down to Haines
To visit our friends, Amy and Paul
After that, who knows which way we’ll go,
It’s wherever The Wild calls.
We've been to the Kenai, in quaint little Hope, Alaska and now we head back north in order to go further south (and east) to Haines. A great salmon show yesterday, watching and cheering on those huge fish as they would leap with all their might to get up the Russian River Falls--most of them failing. There were no grizzlies to nab them, but Collin, Luna and I did see a black bear mom and 3 adorable and obedient little cubs right off the trail. The theme of the week has been: fishing! While we have yet to cast a line ourselves, the Alaskans and tourists are out in droves right now catching their limits of salmon.
For any of you who saw the movie Into the Wild, this was the bus used as Chris McCandless' shelter out in the wilderness. The real bus is still in place, way out on the Stampede Trail, and has become a popular pilgrimage site amongst backpackers. After re-reading some of the journal entries from his last days, I immediately purchased the booklet "Wild Edible and Poisonous Plants of Alaska."
We are happily settled in Talkeetna for a few days. Collin is doing some float flying and I am happy to travel by bicycle for a change. Haven't had to visit a gas station in two days!
Cat Herder (aka Marisa) has been guiding pilot tours in the American West for over twenty years. Keep tabs on your Parkwest pilot friends, National Park news and other tidbits here!