Things in Sitka are well. We had a power outage Wednesday that really did a number my cell phone connection. Even though the power was only down for about 30 minutes, it definitely played havoc with the cell coverage for AT&T. Hence, I’m behind on my writing.
I’ll catch up next week. But I leave you with an item on the police blotter . . . woman reports her car was stolen and then you pause to think, “wonder where it went . . . ” We are surrounded by water and there is only one ferry. Hmmm. Kinda makes you scratch your head doesn’t it.
Have a great week and by the way, the salmon have arrived. Watch next week for pictures. They will amaze you.
There is a lighthouse on a separate island off Baranov Island. In fact, there are lots of small islands off the main island. The people who live there travel by boat back and forth to the main island for all their needs. Melissa found that you could rent the Rockwell lighthouse for $400/nite (minimum 4 nite stay) and I found out the lighthouse is up for sale for $599,000 if anyone is interested in living on an island. I’ll take care of it for you in the off season . . .
Here’s a picture from the main island. Took it while standing on the Centennial pier.
Well, this week Cappie and I ventured to Sea Mart Grocery by bus. It’s $1.00 for seniors and we thought we’d find some better pricing there. And we did, but . . . things are still a bit pricey. We thought you’d enjoy seeing some of the pricing. We ended up getting a cab home as our purchases overshadowed our physical ability to carry them onto the bus and the 2 block walk at the end of the bus line to our house. It was a fun day!
It’s been an exciting week as we watch every day for the salmon to arrive in the river. The rangers have reported they are at the mouth of the river and headed downstream. We should begin to see them any day. It must be quite a site as “Have the salmon arrived?” is the second most asked question. First is “Where are the restrooms?” and I can answer that one in my sleep, with conviction!
Here are some pictures of the Indian River . . .
This week has taken on a normal look. It rained 5 of the 7 days, and Tuesday and Wednesday were sunny and gorgeous. No one seems to mind the rain. Even the visitors seem so taken with the beauty that it hasn’t stressed them out at all.
Cappie & I took the Medvejie Hatchery Tour. This is one of the local salmon hatcheries. The king salmon are returning now and they are really jumping. I tried to get a picture of one in the air but I wasn’t fast enough. I’d aim right and they would jump on my left. I appeared like a crazy woman swinging my camera left and right and faster and faster. A nice man walked by and mumbled “try taking a video dear” . . . aw, the obvious things we miss! The Hatchery provided lunch and they cooked salmon and baked potatoes on the open fire. Yum! It was a great morning of learning and eating.
Work has taken on a little more intensity in preparing for inventory and end of month. I’m enjoying it. It’s great to be able to do things that are productive while having such a great time. My hope is to write some good operation procedures for the crew that will man the store throughout the off season.
The volunteers had a get together for a potluck Mexican dinner last Friday. That was quite fun and we enjoyed a variety of food. While 90% of the volunteers are young (early 20’s), they make a place for Cappie and me and treat us so well. They even bought Corona beer just for me.
We’ve had a great time watching chick flicks this week thanks to Laura’s (or LB as she goes by) brought a stash of them. We’ve watched New in Town with Renee Zellweger (so funny!); It’s Complicated with Meryl Streep (again, a funny one), and The Longest Ride with Scott Eastwood (a tear jerker). Made for a great week!!! Thanks LB!
Took some photos during a walk in the park on the trails. Thought you might enjoy some greenery!
Hope you enjoyed your walk through the park. Now how about some ocean views!
On my off day last week I met a young girl and her dog Tango. She and her brothers have written 3 children’s books about their adventures. Tango’s 8 years old and a fabulous guy. I sent Mike & Tom her books so ask them to take a look if you see them. Pretty awesome little girl and her dog! (her mom too).
My last little side adventure this week was volunteering at the Bishop See’s House for a couple hours. This house was the built for the first episcopal bishop in Alaska, Bishop See. It’s called the “See House”. Was built in 1901. Ann, a local who moved her in the 80’s from Houston, runs the Tea Service. The living room is set up with tables, complete with linens, a silver tea service, etc. They serve Tea and scones (along with coffee and a few cookies.) It’s a comfortable place for visitors to rest. Attendance has been sporadic but we had 20 people stop by while I was there for just a couple hours. I enjoyed the time immensely!
I leave you today with the picture of the dog. He sat so patiently in the back of this small car. No leash at all. He just sat there and watched the people. I am amazed at all the dogs and how well behaved they are. They walk with their owners and they stay in backs of pick-up trucks parked for hours at a time. You can talk to them, pet them, etc. and they never try and leave. I think they were sent here for me!!!!!
Kayaking last Friday in the rain was SO much fun. There were 3 seniors (Don who suffers from macular degeneration; Alice (a ballerina who went to school at Butler), and me. They also had 3 dear young persons so that each kayak had an experienced and inexperienced kayaker in them. We went to Silver Bay and, even though it rained most of the day, was just gorgeous with the cloudy sky and gentle steady rain. We saw jelly fish that appeared to be neon colored when we looked into the water and bald eagles soared above us all afternoon. No sea otters though which was a bit disappointing. I will definitely kayak again before I leave! By the way, note the smile on my face. It is heartfelt! I truly loved the afternoon there.
The pictures below are of our launchsite.
Check out how cloudy and foggy it was. I know it looks dark and yet it was noontime on that day. You just felt wrapped by nature out there on the bay. Simply gorgeous.
A special thanks to SAIL (Southeastern Alaska Independent Living Council) who sponsored this trip along with their guides, Dave & Bridgit.
We have a new roommate in our house, Laura from North Carolina. She teaches 3rd grade there and is here for 5 weeks to prepare a pre-school program for the rangers to give. She is really enjoyable to be around and we love having her in the house. Here’s a picture of her and Cappie at happy hour last night at the local Pub. We three had a really good time!
I attended the Sitka Fine Arts Camp Cellobration under the direction (and participation) of Zuell Bailey Sunday evening. Eight student performers included Carolyn Ronning from Indianapolis who attends the Royal Academy of Music in London. It was outstanding. And the price was $10!!!! If any of you follow Cello musicians I’m told Zuell Bailey is quite well known. I know everytime I mention the Fine Arts Camp I “ooh and awe” and it really is that awesome. Such an unbelievable treasure to have on this island.
Work is going well. I answered twice as many visitor questions this week and most of my answers were correct. The previous week all I need was defer to a ranger (any ranger nearby!) I received a lot of information before I came but I didn’t really take it all in. Now that I am here, and visitors are asking me questions, it has become more important to me so I’m reading more on my off hours. That explains why my personal reading is backing up.
Received care packages this week from Melissa and the grandkids as well as from Aunt Jane. Thanks much! Jane sent raisins in her box, which were great as they are $9.00/lb here. And the kids sent all kinds of goodies that I can use for lunch (or treats for a taste of home.) Taking your lunch here is a requirement as there is only one place to eat that is close to the Visitor Center. It’s a chowder cart that sells the most delicious clam chowder ever. However, it is $8.00 per cup. I limit myself to one lunch there each week and make old-fashioned PB&J on the other days.
The salmon are coming!! That’s the big excitement here. They are in the river but not down to the bridge (in the park) yet. From the visitor center view we can see them jumping. I keep trying to get a picture but nothing yet. I’m too slow and they are too fast. It is amazing to watch them jump 1-2 feet out of the water. The locals tell them I’ve not seen anything yet. They say some salmon can jump up to 10 feet in the air. Here’s my tidbit of learning this week. There are 5 types of salmon and you can remember them by using your hand. Spread your fingers and look at your hand. The thumb is the “chum”; don’t sock your pointer in your eye (sock-eye); look how long your second finger is, he’s the “King”; there’s your ring finger for the “silver” ring, and your pinky of course (pink).
As with anytime we are away from our comfort zone there are highs and lows. This is my third week and there was a little slump mid-week as I felt a bit lonely and far away. However, a call to friends and a surprise emails from far away family and friends warmed my heart. The feelings became another of life’s lessons to me to remember to take time to reach out to friends and family as you never know when that one short email or call will make all the difference for them and raise their spirits high. Thanks to my family and friends for making my spirits soar even when I feel low.
That’s it from here this week. I’m off to explore today and tomorrow. Am scheduled to go on a hatchery tour tomorrow and a concert tomorrow night. Am also going to investigate the Episcopal “tea” house that is open to visitors on ship days (when the cruises come in). I hear they need some volunteers.
On a note of remembrance, today would have been Tommy’s 63rd birthday. We never forget the joy he brought to our lives and we miss him greatly. The gifts he shared with us are everlasting and I thank him so much. I try to find someone (strangers work just fine) to tell a story to about him and we always end up laughing together. And then sometimes, I glance in the sky to see an airplane soaring and remember fondly the adventures he provided Melissa, Jennifer and me. He was a treasured gift for too short a time.
I leave you with a prayer shared by Rev. Plausen (from St. Peters By The Sea) this morning on her daily email:
This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently. And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.
The pace here is slowing some and while not quite ‘routine’ yet, things are beginning to fall into a nice rhythm. Since my days off are Thursday and Friday my week really begins on Saturday for blog purposes. And this week started feeling a little under the weather. For our July 4th celebration the ‘british guy’ had a cookout so he could learn about the American celebration traditions of the 4th of July. It was a wonderful opportunity to get better acquainted with fellow volunteers and I thank James for all the initiative he takes to make these get-togethers happen. Some folks brought their dogs too. You can just imagine how happy I was to find two new friend . . . Ariel and Lady . . . pit bulls belonging to one of the rangers.
Unfortunately, later than evening I became a little under the weather. Not sure if it was the beer I drank or just a touch of a flu bug but it certainly made for a long night. The good news was that by 8 a.m. I was better and by 10 I was at work and all was right with the world again.
I’m on my own now at the “bookstore” and while a few mishaps have occurred, they were small and all has been good. There were over 2000 visitors to the park on Tuesday and Wednesday this week – – – ships were in. The weather was varied, a couple days of sunshine and high 60’s and a few days of cloud and rain, still in the 60’s though. Here’s a snapshot of myself in uniform. Don’t I look like I know what I am doing! (Looks can be deceiving you know.)
The park provides a couple cars that we can sign out and drive if we need to do anything work related. The fun one is the “bubble car” (an electric car). Can’t wait to tool around in it one day soon.
On Tuesday this week Holland America’s largest cruise ship came in to a rainy and on a foggy day. It anchored closer than any cruise ship I had seen so far. It’s also the largest cruise ship running.
You’ll notice the mountains you normally see on a clear are hidden by the fog. Here’s a picture of the same area from a sunnier day this week.
This week I joined along with the St. Peter’s spiritual walkers in the national park. It’s on Monday evenings and is a time of spiritual reflection and reading. The group was varied and it included a Native American who played the flute. It was so inspiring. The ocean water would lap the rocks as we read the scripture, eagles flew overhead, and it was as if all the nature around us could speak. Amazing experience. Needless to say, I’ll be doing this on Monday evenings from now on . . Here are a few pictures from inside the park.
The totem poles are inside the National Park. There’s a lot to learn about them and that’s my current week’s agenda – – – learning about the types of significance of them. They all tell a story.
The Sitka Fine Arts Camp faculty music performance was later on Monday evening. I knew the camp was here but have not had time to read much about it. However, I’m checking out their schedule now at the library as this is an incredible camp. Artists of all sorts come from all over to attend. And the faculty is also a group of well seasoned and talented performers. It was like watching the best of the best perform in a casual and relaxed setting. I’ve never heard the cello or clarinet played so well. And the pianist . . . just WOW! I’ll definitely be attending more of these. And it’s all free to attend. What a deal.
BIG NEWS OF THE WEEK . . . the Salmon are on their way! A boyfriend of one of the volunteers is working as a fisherman and he reported their catch increased from 150 a day to over 4000 per day this Tuesday. Hence, the salmon are coming. Here’s a picture of the Indian River where they will arrive to spawn in just a few weeks.
The week has been full of time spent getting better acquainted, walking and taking in the sights, enjoying the rain, etc. It went by in a blur and I can only anticipate the joy the next week will bring.
I’m scheduled to go kayaking tomorrow with the Sitka Seniors in Silver Bay. That should bring a story or two. They say we will possibly see some sea otters. I’ve also heard that these sea otters weigh up to 90 lbs and can easily turn over a kayak. Hmmm. Me, a sea otter, and a kayak sounds like a recipe for a dip in the ocean!! Will keep you posted.
As a final note – – these items remain on the front porch . . . in case of bear! One to make noise and the other (a toy gun) that will make a popping sound. Was also told to sing as you walk to let the bears know you are there. So, as I leave the house and walk down the path, I sing, “Hi Bear, How are you today. Hope you are having a good day.” Have a great week and be sure to keep your bears at bay.
So much to see and do, so much to tell. I hardly know where and how to begin. So, let start with the house. Those staying in the house are changing as this is the final week for most of those here now. Pam, a retired teacher from PA, left for Skagway yesterday. She spent two years in the Peace Corp and has been travelling all over (she is my age). I wish I’d had more time to get to know her. Kim, who is from VA, will be leaving very soon to backpack until the end of September. She is in her early 20’s. I almost forgot what that age felt like! She is full of energy and loves people. She is quite the hit at the visitor center as she is ready to chat anytime. A great people person! Lizzie is here until mid-August I believe. She works with the museum curator. Mid to late 20’s I’m guessing, very mature and settled. I will enjoy getting to know her over the coming weeks.
Cappie (her full name is Capitola), is a retired teacher from California (LA area). She is a breast cancer survivor determined to spend this year “off” the couch. 2014 for her was filled with chemo and recovery. She arrived on Sunday and we’ve shared a room this week so I’ve gotten to know more about her. She truly is a delight. Full of light and life. Positive, encouraging, determined and delightful! I think we will become good friends over this summer and possibly meet up again somewhere. Like me, this is her first volunteer experience so we are helping each other out and sharing information as we learn it. Here is a picture of her in uniform. She’ll take mine next week so I can post it as well. Doesn’t she look snazzy!
The majority of this week has been completing paperwork (just can’t get out of the basics no matter where you go and this is the government you know), toured the Russian Bishop House (a must see if you are ever in Sitka) and learned about “roving”. Rove work is a mandatory part of the Volunteer position here. It’s also the part that everyone loves. For an hour a day you must go somewhere in the park (walk a trail, meet cruise buses, see a demonstration, meander around, etc.) and visit with visitors. You count the number of people you meet and jot down that number when you return. The hand-held clicker counters are a must have and they are plentiful at the main desk. It was really great fun and I look forward to more of it. My only issue is that when you are “roving” you are in uniform and people ask you questions. I had a gentleman ask me where The Raptor Center was and I thought I knew. As I was directing him, Ranger James came up behind him on his bike and was shaking his head “no – no – no”. He stopped and graciously corrected my directions. Apparently I was directing him into the Indian River! Geez!
On the bookstore side of things, this involves Alaska Geographic, I hesitate to call it a gift ‘shop’. It’s more like a gift ‘rack’. Picture a welcome center in any small park where there is a counter to accommodate your needs. This counter has a shelf display and beside it there is a revolving rack with books about area interests (totem poles, walking trails, etc.), a national park 2015 tee-shirt, a few trinkets (magnets, patches, postcards, raven finger puppets, chocolate bars, etc.). My work for them includes keeping up with inventory, ordering stock, balancing the cash taken in and making deposits, and encouraging visitors to become members of the Alaska Geographic Society which supports the national parks.
I’m learning not just about Sitka history but also Sea Otters, Totem Poles, Native Beading, etc. My thoughts after 4 days of work is how will I ever remember all of this. I know I will though in time. I do have to keep telling myself to relax and not let my OCD tendencies take over.
Another first this week was attending the local melodrama production of The Story of Sheet’ka. The local arts guild production uses local actors, actresses, and set hands. Many of our volunteers participate. This drama is performed twice a year and while the same story, it changes a bit to incorporate current events as well as maintain the original story. One of our volunteer park rangers played Sarah Palin and she was darn good. The price was right . . . Seniors were $10! The entertainment just perfect.
I was given my official key to the Visitor Center and Russian Bishop House on Tuesday with strict instructions to not lose it. There was lots of stories about the one who lost it in years past and how that was not a good thing. I carefully put it away in a safe location, knowing I would NOT be losing this key! The next morning as I prepared to leave for work . . . wait for it . . . could NOT find my key. I looked everywhere. Every jacket pocket, every pair of pants, took the mattress off the bed to see if it had slipped off the bed. Panic was taking me over. Finally I had to step aside and let it go as it was time to leave for work. Fortunately, I didn’t need to use it that day as I sure didn’t want to admit I’d lost it after less than 12 hours!!!! Good news though, I found it in my wallet late afternoon when I went for money to buy a snack. I know I aged 5 years that day.
My days off are Thursdays and Fridays. Cappie and I have scheduled a hatchery tour on the 17th of July and I’m working on getting us a kayak trip set up soon. Going to get a deep sea fishing expedition planned for sometime soon too.
So much to do and so much to see. As I sit here in the library looking out over the ocean my heart is warm with thoughts of friends and family. God is good. He gives us family and friends to warm our hearts, faith to keep us steady, and a beautiful world to enjoy. Blessings to all of you. Happy 4th of July!!
I arrived on Saturday and was checked into my new home. Here are a few pictures of the “bunk” house.
This is the Bunk House.
A view from the living room looking out back and out front.
The picnic table is in the front.
We are in a transition period where the folks who worked April, May and June are leaving and the new volunteers who will work July, August & September are arriving. I was given a temporary room but am moving into my permanent one today (good news is that it’s in the same house on the same floor!)
The first few days of work have been enjoyable. I was acquainted with totem pole carving and history, sea otters, and native beading. The visitor center has master crafters who come in to do beading and wood carving. We are located right on the waterfront which is a sight to behold. We can also watch the commercial plane (one a day) as it comes in to land. Besides learning about the crafts of the area, it seems 80% of my job is about meeting new people, and talking with them. The “store” and I use that term loosely (there is a counter and one revolving rack of offerings). It’s more of an accommodation for visitors wants and needs than a business. The park rangers are extremely knowledgeable and could not be nicer. Here is a few random pics of the area.
This is Ranger James on the right and Ranger Cassie on the right. Cassie is holding a stuffed sea otter whose name is Abaloneus.
This is the Visitor Center at Sitka National Park. On the right I am looking at the main door and the left looking from the main door.
The inland harbor. You can see the cruise ship just across the rock wall.
I began my first full day in Sitka by attending the Episcopal Church here, St. Peters by the Sea. There were 4 of us attending 8:00 o’clock service. The homily was wonderful and included a reading of the lyrics to How Great Thou Art. It ended with the vicar playing a rendition of it on the piano that I will never forget. This will be a memory I will have forever. What a mark it made on my heart. For those of you who might want to re-read the lyrics, they go like this.
O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder, Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made; I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed.Refrain: Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee, How great Thou art, How great Thou art. Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee, How great Thou art, How great Thou art!
When through the woods, and forest glades I wander, And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees. When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.
And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing; Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in; That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.
When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation, And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart. Then I shall bow, in humble adoration, And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”
Two days in Juneau were filled with new sights and some very nice folks. After arriving and getting settled in Juneau on Wednesday evening, I slept like a log. The weather was cool, a bit rainy, and very light. The hotel was actually good but we didn’t begin on a good note. As you might expect, everything is pricey in Alaska. I knew that and was while I found a hotel for under $150 a nite, I maintained certain expectations that were not necessarily realistic. Air conditioning was not working and that was that . . . however, a sweet clerk never once indicated a problem. She found me a fan and I was good. It wasn’t so much that it was unbearably hot, it was more that the air was stifling. I felt pretty silly when I found you can actually open the windows which made it a perfect temperature. I can’t remember the last hotel I was in where you could actually open a window!
I’d also say the level of cleanliness was a but lower than expected. With so much rain mud is an expectation and so things don’t always appear to pass the white glove test. I was a bit put off by this at first but within 24 hours I got over myself and was embracing one of the most comfortable beds I have ever slept in.
On Thursday I was up early and heading downtown to board the Alaska Bound Tracey Arm Fjorde excursion. We left at 7:30 and were out all day, returning about 6:00 that evening. Skipper Steve and his mates, Nick and James, were great guides and educators. I learned so much about the waterways, glacier, animals, etc. It was an experience of a lifetime. I’ve added pictures that I think you will enjoy. Check out the eagle on top of some ice. Note the deep blue of the ice that has broken off. We watched the glacier calving over 6 times. Incredible.
I met a beautiful family on board, The Young’s, who were visiting from Japan. Mr. Young works for the Department of Defense as a teacher of teachers at a military base in Japan. He, his wife, and two daughters (Abby & Maddie) were great company. In fact, they told me about the Alaska Excursions Juneau Dog Sled Training Camp and I immediately booked a ticket for the following day.
June 26, 2015
The Camp was in Tongess National Park and I met up with the driver in downtown Juneau. After a brief conversation with Andrea, our driver, I learned she lived in Carmel, Indiana for a couple years managing an Assisted Living facility there. In fact, her best friend still lives in Carmel and we plan to meet again when she comes to visit. You’ll see her in the green tee shirt.
Lesson learned: never underestimate how small this world really is.
The dog camp was incredible. The workers there are a combination of locals (who have their own dogs and race them) or temporary workers who found the job on my favorite website, www.coolworks.com.
At the camp, we were pulled by a team of 16 dogs on a cart with wheels. This is how the dogs are trained to pull together as a team during the summer months. They trainers determine which dogs like to lead and which are better followers. We saw the gear they use for the Iditarod, and socialized with all of the dogs. The socialization is mandatory for the dogs and they start the process when they are puppies. Part of our time there was spent holding puppies and loving on them.
Could not have been more fun. Here are pictures of Robin (our welcome dog) and the sled team pulling us on our journey.
I was scheduled for a Wings Tour that involved flying over the glaciers and landing at Taku Mountain Lodge for a dinner of freshly grilled river salmon. Unfortunately the weather was too overcast and all flights were cancelled on Friday.
Juneau is definitely a tourist town supported during the summer months by lots of cruise passengers. Jewelry shops are everywhere downtown. They say come winter it’s a bit of a desert town as the only ones left are locals and the downtown tourist shops are mostly closed. There is one McDonald’s and one Subway restaurant about 12 miles from downtown. Seems the locals go here as they are more affordable. Food is expensive but good. Love the plentiful seafood!
June 27, 2015
Left Juneau this morning for Sitka. The ferry is a new experience for me. I was so nervous (my usual state when I don’t know how things work!) I think I have momentary ADD as it seems I lose my ability to focus and therefore do stupid things. Like this morning, I was so uncertain about how to maneuver the loading and board process I felt a bit like a fish out of water. I followed a few people toward the ship and then asked an older lady about the process. She had obviously made a Costco run in Juneau and was unloading a van full of items. She explained what I needed to do and said just to make sure I was at the right ferry. I would find the name on my boarding pass. As I reached for my pass I realized I didn’t have it any longer. Apparently I had either left it on the table in the main check in building or lost it somewhere in between. “Dag-Nabbers” I said, and off I went in search of lost articles. Thanks be to God, after backtracking my 2 block walk, there it was still lying on the bag tag table!
Am on the ferry now, a 4 hour ride from Juneau to Sitka. It has all the comforts of home and a beautiful scenery to watch. We travel at about 30 knots and seen several bears. Unfortuantely, I was not able to get their pictures. Below is the view from inside the ferry as well as one of approaching the terminal in Sitka.